25 Fremont Street

Las Vegas, NV


Pioneer Club  1942-1956

New Pioneer Club  1956-1967

Famous Pioneer Club 1967-1983

Pioneer Club  1983-1995

Today Vegas Vic still stands tall on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. But he watches over tourists entering a gift shop within the walls of once was the famous Pioneer Club.
I took the photo to the left in April 2012.
Today Vegas Vic still stands tall on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.
The iconic Pioneer Club
opened April 10, 1942.

Although the location remained the same and Vegas Vic became a famous Las Vegas symbol around the world, the owners, operators and even its name would change across the decades until the Pioneer Club closed for the last time in 1995.

In 1998 the property was converted into a souvenir store.
Below are the names of the various owners and the slight changes in the naming of the Pioneer according to the Fuller Index, newspaper archives, and other sources.

Pioneer Club:
April 10, 1942 to January 14, 1948 : Chuck Addison and partners Bill Curland, Tutor Scherer, and  Farmer Page, of California.
(slots, 21, craps, roulette, faro, keno, pan and poker)

Pioneer Club:
January 15, 1948 to 1956
Tutor Scherer et al.
(slots, 21, craps, roulette, faro, keno, pan and poker)

In 1951 Vegas Vic was built by the Young Electric Sign Company and added to the building.

New Pioneer Club:
December 28, 1956 to July 23, 1958
Milton Prell, A. F. Winter, Joe Hall, L. B. 'Tutor' Scherer
(slots, 21, craps, roulette, faro, keno, pan and poker)



New Pioneer Club:
July 24, 1958  to June 28, 1967
Thomas Callahan, Harvey S. Morse, Harry Goldman, Sam Diamond, Abe Nabat, Oscar Agron
(slots, 21, craps, roulette, faro, keno, pan and poker)

On August 21, 1958, it was announced by Milton Prell's Prewin Foundation, Inc. that the Milton Prell's Pioneer Club would be sold and renamed the New Pioneer and operate as the New Pioneer, Inc. with Al Parvin, President of the Flamingo, and Sam Diamond, a casino employee as the principal officers.

 The  Prewin Foundation, Inc had purchased the Pioneer Club in 1956 from principal owners Tutor Scherer, Farmer Page, Chuck Addison, and Bill Curland.

In June 1961, Milton Prell’s Prewin Inc., which was a holding company for his Sahara Hotel, the Mint, and the Lucky Strike Club, along with his 25 stockholders, voted to merge the three clubs into the Sahara-Nevada Corporation.  The move was said to be undertaken in order to facilitate expansion plans.


On Sept. 22, 1958 the gaming control
board approved a plan for the operators of the Las Vegas Flamingo Hotel  to take over the
New Pioneer Club from the Sahara Hotel operating group.
Operators A. (Al) B. Parvin for 82 per cent and Samuel Diamond for 18 per cent interest with total investment of $250,000.

Famous Pioneer Club:
June 29, 1967 to December 31, 1982
Margaret Elardi is listed with 100% ownership in Fuller's Index Plus.
But licenses for the Famous Pioneer Club were approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission on
June 29, 1967 for Margaret Elardi, Wendall Tingley, and Frank Schivo for nine table games and 192 slots at the New Pioneer Club in Las Vegas. 
{from Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada) · Thu, Jun 29, 1967 · Page 19}
(slots, 21, craps, roulette, faro, keno, pan and poker)

Pioneer Club:
January 1, 1983 to 1992
Mike Ensign, Bill Richardson and David Belding 
(slots, 21, craps, roulette, faro, keno, pan and poker)

Pioneer Club:
1992 to 1995
Steve Burnstine and Marc Curtis.
(slots, 21, craps, roulette, faro, keno, pan and poker)

In 1998 building was bought by Schiff Enterprises who retained the outside of the club and opened a souvenir store inside.

The New Pioneer Club owners bought the Hotel Elwell located
at 200 South 1st and renamed it
the New Pioneer Club Hotel
from Aug 17, 1965 through September 30, 1968 and offered slots, 21, craps, and roulette.
Fabulous Las Vegas Magazine, which reported all of the entertainment in Las Vegas every week, always had a very large Christmas issue.  


These “New” Pioneer Club ads are from the 1962 and 1964 Christmas issues.
The ad above is from the 1945 Murphy’s Las Vegas Classified Directory.

The ad has a different look than later advertising which relied more heavily on the Vegas Vic character. It features the old prospector and his burro.

It’s noted that “Tiny” Biggs is the floor manager and Joe King is the Lounge Manager. 

Owners are Tutor Scherer, Farmer Page, and Chuck Addison.  
Bill Curland is not mentioned.
1945
Sixty years before I took the picture above, another photographer was taking his own photo of the newly opened Pioneer Club. 


The column of photos and advertisements below are each dated in RED so you can follow the changes to the Pioneer Club over time.
1966
There's more Pioneer Club!
"View of the Pioneer Club, downtown Las Vegas. 
Beckley's sign on top of Pioneer Club is shown. 
Tutor Scherer took it over 1941 in partnership with Farmer Page circa 1942."
The caption on this 1942 archive photo reads:
"View of the Pioneer Club, downtown Las Vegas.
Beckley's sign on top of Pioneer Club is shown.
Tutor Scherer took it over 1941 in partnership with Farmer Page circa 1942."
1942
Pioneer Club in Las Vegas
1943
1949
Your Host magazine was yet another short lived entertainment magazine in Las Vegas. This is a full page ad for the Pioneer Club from May 1950.
1950
In 1951 Vegas Vic was built by the Young Electric Sign Company and added to the building.
This photo from 1951 gives a good idea of the relative size of the head on Vegas Vic!
Vegas Vic is installed on the Pioneer Club in 1951.

The Vegas Vic character had been used in Las Vegas since the 1940's in promoting it's "Old West" character.
1951
1951
ca. 1952
1958
This a tourist photo of the Pioneer Club at night. It was taken in 1966 and it also shows the Club Bingo and the Golden Gate. Club Bingo opened in 1962.
1966
Pioneer Club expanded to take over the space previously occupied by Club Bingo after it closed in May of 1983.
This is another tourist photo from 1966 showing the Famous Pioneer Club, Club Bingo and of course Denny’s restaurant!

The Pioneer Club expanded to take over the space previously occupied by Club Bingo after it closed in May of 1983.

Vegas Vic welcomes visitors to the Pioneer Club and becomes an icon of Las Vegas advertising.
1955
In the 1966 photo above you might notice the word “Famous” above the Pioneer Club sign.  Famous Pioneer Club was used in slogans and ads all the way back to the 1940's but it was still just the "Pioneer Club"
The plainly named Pioneer Club became “New” Pioneer Club from  July 24, 1958  to June 28, 1967.
Then its legal designation became “Famous” as the Famous Pioneer Club from June 29, 1967 to December 31, 1982
Then it went back to the plain old Pioneer Club from January 1, 1983 to 1995. 
The name changes were hardly noticed by the patrons and were for licensing and legal reasons.
Every day was “New” and the club was always “Famous” in Las Vegas.


Cheating scandals downtown were rare but the Pioneer Club, under owner Margaret Elardi, was embroiled in one in 1968.

On Friday July 19, 1968, the Pioneer Club was closed by Nevada Gaming Commission agents who said the club removed face cards from a blackjack deck.


“The board called a shift boss, a dealer, owner Margaret Elardi and manager Wendell Tingley into its office for an investigative hearing last Thursday. (July 18, 1968) Then about noon Friday, Frank Johnson, control board chairman, said he told local enforcement agencies the casino would be closed by the state later that night — the first closure in recent Las Vegas history.”
{from Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada) • Sat, Jul 20, 1968 • Page 10)

July 30, 1968 the Nevada Gaming Commission fined the club $1,000 and allowed it to re-open. Wendell Tingley had his gaming license revoked and he resigned. Mrs. Elardi denied any knowledge of the cheating.

“The owner, Mrs. Margaret I. Elardi, paid a $10,000 fine Tuesday and was allowed to reopen with slot machines only.
Frank Johnson, control board chairman, said Mrs. Elardi can get other games in the downtown casino either by selling the club or getting investors to join her in applying for a new state gambling license.”  
{from Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada) • Wed, Aug 7, 1968 • Page 37}

Margaret Elardi expanded her gaming interests and also became a community benefactor.

Margaret Elardi was approved Thursday June 23, 1968 to buy the Frontier hotel-casino in Las Vegas, part of the gaming empire started by the late Howard Hughes.   Mrs. Elardi operated the Pioneer Club in downtown Las Vegas for 16 years before selling it in 1982 to concentrate on her Pioneer Hotel and Gambling Hall in Laughlin.

In October 1987 she sold the Frontier to investor Phillip Ruffin, after battling striking culinary workers for 6 ½ years.

Later in 1984 she endowed the Margaret Elardi Nevada Scholarship Program for Valedictorians at UNLV.
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