Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Reno Harold's Club 1949 “Silver Dollar” Buick Super Eight Woody Wagon

Harolds Club in Reno was the first themed casino in the world, and for a while, it was also the largest.

 Harold Smith, the son who ran the gaming side, gave the place a Wild Western theme, which ran from the billboards to the wagon-woven carpet to the Silver Dollar Bar, which had a bourbon waterfall and over 2,000 silver dollars embedded in the curving countertop.

 Then for the 1949 expansion, to celebrate the opening of the Roaring Camp Room, Smith created the Silver Dollar Buick Super Estate Wagon.

Harold covered the top-of-the-line Buick with silver dollars, 430 of them, to be exact. Except for the odd parade or promotional appearance, the car enjoyed pride of place at the entrance to Harold's Club for years.

Sometime in 1949, Life photographer Michael Rougier shot a whole series of pictures of Smith and his brand new Buick, the man in the photos is Raymond Stagg, who was the driver and caretaker of the car.

The club even had Pigeon Hole Parking for about 20 years until parts started breaking that couldn't be replaced

Harold's Club was sold to Howard Hughes' Summa Corporation in 1970 for $11.5 million.  Winnings from Harolds, he said, were siphoned off to help the other Hughes casinos in Las Vegas.

In December 1994, the casino was sold to Gamma International Ltd. and closed three months later. The casino was then sold to Harrah's Reno in 1999 and demolished.

When men marched off the war, the Smith family became the first casino to hire women dealers. And it was the first to have a female floor boss.

It started a scholarship program for a boy and a girl honor student out of every high school in Nevada to attend the University of Nevada, "But they had to be children who could not afford to go to college," The Smith family spent millions of dollars on these scholarships, he said.

In the late 1950s, its seven bars sold more liquor than any other hotel or business in the nation.

Read the extensive article about it in Life Magazine, starting at page 117

Eventually the station wagon came to rest in the Martin Winery in Napa

there was even a movie made in the casino, with Kim Novak, Brian Keith, and William Conrad


  1. "But they had to be children who could not afford to go to college,"....

    Wish more - politicians and businesspeople alike - could see the potential of those who just have the rotten luck to be born poor.

  2. I remember Harold's Club. They were the big deal. So glad to see the Buick has been preserved -- although, from the black and white photos, it doesn't look like it was that color of blue back then. It looks more "tan," if you get my drift.