This has always been one of my favorite photos of George’s Gateway Club because it sets the time in casino history so well. The cars show their age, and the simple fact that you could park right next to the building is significant to me. The early ’50s presented a simpler way of life – and gaming too. Inside the club, there was one bar, one restaurant, one craps game, one roulette table, five 21 tables, and less than 100 slot machines.
You can probably also see that the building itself is actually a converted Quonset hut. Strangely enough, George Sam Canon, who owned a bar and dance hall in Colfax, California called …(drum roll please) the Quonset Club, decided during the winter of 1948 to dismantle the hut piece by piece, pack it up, and haul it to South Shore Lake Tahoe on a couple flatbed trucks.
He and his partners rebuilt the club with those huge signs proclaiming the casino to be George’s, but he actually only held a 50% interest. Nonetheless, George was certainly the boss. By 1950 the club had 60 employees, including several family members like George’s wife Anna and their daughter, Barbara Anne, who according to friend Steve Passalacqua, actually stripped the bark off the wooden log beams used in the rustic dining room with a draw knife. Although under 21, she also made change for slot players, paid jackpots, worked in the cage, and became a dealer when she did turn 21.
The Gateway was a summer business, but George Canon tried hard to make Lake Tahoe a year-round resort. When he sold the Gateway to Bill Harrah in 1955, he and his partners started the Heavenly Valley ski resort. After selling his share of the business in 1960, George operated George and Tex’s Gateway club in Jackpot, Nevada until it burned. Afterward, it was rebuilt as Diamond Jim’s.
Back at the lake, Bill Harrah also rebuilt, first turning the Gateway into Harrah’s Lake Club before switching sides of the highway with Harvey Gross (Harvey’s Casino) and opening Harrah’s Lake Tahoe – eventually building the high rise hotel in 1973. Lake Tahoe had some of the greatest casinos in Nevada – and they are still going strong!
Thanks for reading – Al W Moe