Harrah's Swap Meet & Car Show

Rediscovered Harrah's Badges bring back memories.

Drake father and son


How many people out there remember Bill Harrah’s swap meets held in Sparks, Nevada in the 60’s and 70’s? They started 50 years ago in 1965 and lasted till 1978, the year Mr. Harrah died. I was recently cleaning up some stuff and came across a bag of old Harrah’s Swap Meet badges. This collection of badges was given to me by my Dad shortly before he passed away. Maybe some of you remember my dad Bevely “Bev” Drake. He loved to collect old stuff like this and just couldn’t bring himself to toss any of it. I guess living through the depression gave a lot of folks this habit of wanting to hold on to things. Well, finding these badges really brought back memories of those wonderful times attending Harrah’s Swap Meets back in the good old days.

In the mid-sixties I was working in the aerospace industry in southern California. I was already a car buff; something my Dad had passed along, so attending the Harrah’s swap meet became an annual road trip I looked forward to every year. I would pack up my family and our gear and head out right after work on Friday. My good friend Bill Norton, who owned Valley Ford Parts, would round up his family too and we’d make it a caravan to Nevada. It took all night to drive to Reno and we would go straight to the swap meet location and get a good place in line to get an early start on our exciting weekend. After our day attending the swap meet, the families would always enjoy swimming in the motel pool and going out to dinner.

Bill Harrah had a reputation for being a class act, and putting his heart into his many undertakings. Both his car collection, that numbered 1,400 vehicles at one point, and his Hotel/Casino empire were world renowned enterprises. Bill Harrah passed away on June 30, 1978 just days before his last swap meet got underway. They still have a swap meet as part of Reno’s ”Hot August Nights”, but it’s just not the same as the one’s hosted by Mr. Harrah and still remembered by a few of us old timers.

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