A Walkable City & Alabam the Toilet-paper Man
Everyone has seen something that looked like something but which they are sure couldn’t really be. In front of the historic L.A. Water and Power Building in Boulder City stands Alabam in glorious bronze. Now, most bronzes commemorate very special well-connected people. This is because making any bronze is very expensive and usually reserved for presidents, kings and county commissioners. You might drive buy this particular bronze statue hundreds of times and think, that sure looks like a guy holding a bunch of toilet paper, but keep telling yourself, ” Nah, can’t be toilet paper.” Who would make bronze toilet paper? Boulder City, that’s who.
It is an homage to the common man willing to do whatever it takes to get by, and with a great attitude. This is why one should walk Boulder City. Alabam the Toiletpaper Man was the “sanitation engineer” responsible for cleaning and putting toilet paper in the latrines for Hoover Dam’s 7,000 workers. He was called “Alabam,” though that was not his real name, because everyone got a nickname when there were so many Johns and Roberts. He was probably from Alabama, or maybe not. A story was told that Alabam was once found trying to fish out his jacket from the latrine. When told that it was probably ruined, he replied, “Don’t care about the jacket, but my lunch is in the pocket.”
But since we’re walking we can also take a closer look. Stephen Liguori, the sculptor of Alabam, has given us a fascinating story. A proud aging face of a man that has a job and a purpose. Dungarees and a well used handkerchief tell the story of the fashion of the common man — and what may be the most amazing depiction of toilet paper the world has ever known.
Walking changes one’s perspective on everything. The early residents of Boulder City didn’t have a lot of cars. It was the Depression. Public transportation was basically to transport workers at the Dam. The rest of the time they hoofed it. The town was a very walkable place.
The Walking Tour is the product of the Boulder Dam Museum, located in the Boulder Dam Hotel. It’s debuted just in August and only has 11 locations, but each stop can be accessed via a QR code which takes you to a photo relevant to your location and a map showing you where all the locations are. The narration and the photos are from the Museums archives and it’s amazing stories. Check it out. I am.
— Allan Goya
Photos by GOYAphotography