Many years ago, more than I would like to admit to, my former wife Carol and I enjoyed country western dancing. We often went to Sam’s Town located on Boulder highway at least twice a week and The Cowboy Club in North Las Vegas at least once a week. We mingled and became friends with an older crowd. The self proclaimed leader of this older crowd was an elderly woman we called “Ma” or Sam’s Town Ma depending upon whether she knew you or not. Ma’s full name was Jackie Makler. She rarely if ever danced but sat overlooking and presiding over all who passed by her booth and acknowledged her presence. Her husband Al always was with her and they generally sat at the first booth on the left of the dance floor (before it was remodeled) as you entered the dance hall.
Al always looked for another woman to dance with whose first name was Kelly. Ma couldn’t dance because she was over weight and had enough problems just walking. Kelly would often arrive late and Al would wait patiently for her so he could have someone to two step with. Most of the younger crowd loved the line dancing and didn’t care much for the traditional two step or waltz.
One time while Ma and I were sitting alone, Ma started to tell me about Kelly and what a great dancer she was. I remember Ma telling me that Kelly and her husband had been in Las Vegas for many years. They had operated a dance studio and now both were retired. No sooner had Ma finished sharing her information. In walked Kelly who appeared to be irritated and smiling at the same time. Ma inquired as to what was wrong. Kelly proceeded to tell Ma, while I intently listened, that her husband had purchased a roulette wheel with the corresponding roulette chips. She did not care so much that he purchased this “thing” but it was in the middle of her beautiful living room. She told her husband she wanted this ‘thing” moved as soon as possible. We three laughed and moved on to a different topic. The year was sometime in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.
At that time, little did I know or care but the Kelly who hung with the dancing group at Sam’s Town was Kelly Gellette. Yes, the Kelly Gellette who was married to the man who I would become good friends with in the 1990’s, chip dealer/collector Jim Gellette.
Now that makes for a nice story but the story is far from over.
The roulette wheel and chips that Jim purchased came from a gentleman who lived in California. A man by the name of Myron Eichen. The roulette wheel and chips were from the Dunes. According to chip authority James Campiglia, the roulette chips were issue number four, Christy and Jones, white inlay with the name Dunes and the number “1” prominently displayed upon the white inlay. There were racks of each of the five colors.
Jim Gellette sold the roulette wheel and the chips were dispersed by him throughout the years to various dealers and collectors.
In 1994 I retired from the Internal Revenue Service. I decided to start to play poker more often than I had in the past. I had played for many years and when I first started to play the poker game I enjoyed was called……. two down and five up. Today it is called Texas Hold’em. Anyway, I started to play during the graveyard shift at Texas Gambling Hall and Casino. At that time there was no Texas Station. During the course of many months I met a gentleman who for whatever reason became my friend. Richie is the type of person one just instantly likes. He’s infectiously happy and enjoys life to the fullest Today we still are good friends and I see or talk with him often. His full name is Richard Schwartz but everyone calls him Richie, Rich. Anyway, one day while playing we were sitting next to each other in a hot and heavy 10-20 Hold’em game. Some way the conversation turned to collecting old time Vegas memorabilia. I casually mentioned I collect casino chips. Richie said it was too bad we had not met years earlier because he had gotten a roulette wheel and corresponding roulette chips from his brother-in-law, kept the items for years and finally sold them to an old time Las Vegas chip dealer. I about dropped my jaw so low it almost hit the green felt table.
Richie where did you get the roulette wheel and roulette chips from? “I told you my brother-in-law Myron Eichen.” Richie said with a big smile that indicated, in a nice way, a question as to whether I was senile for asking a question I supposedly knew the answer too. Tell me about it Richie I pleaded.
Richie said Myron had purchased the Dunes wheel and chips from an antique dealer in California. Myron often purchased such items if the price was right. Myron’s wife Joan did not care for the amount of space the roulette wheel took up so she asked Myron to get rid of it. Myron called Richie and asked if he would like it. Of course I’ll take it Richie told Myron. Myron had the wheel and chips delivered to Richie who kept it for years. Richie’s daughter “Breezy” played with the chips stacking them, building houses with them. Etc. Finally one day Richie needed some money and ran an ad in the local paper to sell the wheel and related chips. Who answered the ad? You guessed it…..Jim Gellette. Jim purchased the wheel and remaining chips that were intact. (Inlays were missing from Breezy playing with the chips as a little girl). Jim paid Richie $3,500 for everything.
Where’s the wheel……I don’t know. I should have asked Jim before he died but I didn’t. Where the chips...The chips are are scattered throughout the collecting community. What do the chips actually look like? Here is a scan of one. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.