The Manhattan Project

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Carol Roberts's Interview

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Carol Roberts's Interview

Carol Roberts moved to Hanford with her family in 1944 after her father was hired by DuPont to work as an electrician on the B Reactor. In this interview, she vividly describes life in Richland during the Manhattan Project. Roberts mentions local segregation, dust storms, the housing, social opportunities, and the challenges women faced in raising a family. Roberts champions the role of women in local history, including Leona Marshall Libby’s work on the B Reactor. She also details the founding of the local hospital and library, and recounts the takeoff of the “Day’s Pay,” the bomber funded by Hanford workers as part of their contributions to the war effort.
Manhattan Project Location(s): 
Date of Interview: 
September 13, 2012
Location of the Interview: 
Hanford
Transcript: 

Cynthia Kelly: Start by telling us your name and spelling it.

Carol Roberts: Okay, my name is Carol B. Roberts. C-A-R-O-L, initial B, as in Bobby, R-O-B-E-R-T-S. I came here in June 1944 with my mother and my sisters because my dad had been sent by DuPont out here. That is how I came to be such a smart aleck.

Kelly: Where did you live before?

Roberts: Boulder, Colorado. However, I grew up in Southeastern Colorado from one coal camp to another. My dad was an electrician in the coalmines. I guess he was very, very good. DuPont heard of him and hired him. He was one of the few that had access to all of the areas of the town. When he came here, he landed in Pasco. He drove his own car. Nobody knew what was going on. But he was finally sent to the transit quarters, which is now the Red Lion Inn, Hanford House. He was then contacted and sent out to the B Reactor. He worked the electrical part as they were building the reactor. Then the reactor went into action. September 6, 1944, I think it was. It may be the sixth was the surrender date, I cannot remember, but it was September anyway.

My sisters and my mother and I did not come until June, because my sister was a senior in Boulder High School and we wanted to wait. Our house was not ready anyway. We waited until she graduated. They told us that the van was coming to move our stuff, and we had to move into the hotel. We were there for three weeks, all expenses paid. It was okay for a week, but you know, hotel living is not all that great, even way back then.

Anyway, we were put into a Pullman car with everyone else, women and children. Their husbands worked on the Manhattan Project, and they were being sent. We had our own special car. You had breakfast from 6:00am to 9:00am, and then did not have any more meals until 4:30pm. Then it was 4:30 to 8:00 that they served meals. Well, when you have got a bunch of kids, they want to eat.

We stopped in Boise for some reason, I do not know. They had vendors that were selling sandwiches and stuff on the platform of the depot. So I said, “I will go out and buy whatever we can so we can feed these kids.”

Of course, the porter was told not to let any of us off the train. We tipped him $5. That was a lot of money then, you know. I came in with a load of sandwiches. So we got the kids ready. But we did not let them eat at 4:30, we waited until 5:00 and then they ate.

As we were coming along in the train, I saw this huge body of water, and I thought it was a lake. I asked the porter. He said, “I do not know the name of the lake.” Then I found out it just kept going and going and going. It was the Snake River! So I learned geography right away.

My dad met us in Walla Walla. The train had to stop in Walla Walla, and my dad had to tip the porter again to get us off the train, because we were supposed to come all the way into Kennewick before we got off. Then we went to Sacajawea Park, but the gates did not open until 6:00 in the morning and this was something like 4:30 or 5:00. So we snuck under the gate because my dad was very impressed with the park. We had breakfast at the Pollyanna Café in Kennewick. It lasted for a long time, but I do not think it is there anymore. I cannot remember what is there now.

Then we came to our place at 316 Casey [Avenue]. We got out of the car. My mom did not want to come. I mean she battled this all the way. We got out of the car, and of course, dirt, sand, all over our shoes. My mother started to cry. She said, “Johnny, you have brought us to a lot of places, but this is the worst one yet.”

Then to add to our grievance, her grievance, we walked into our half of the A house and there was no electricity, no water, and we had to go stay at the transit quarters for three days. That did not make my mother feel good either, you know. My dad said, “It is just for a short while, and then we will go back to Colorado.”

She did not want to leave my sister, grandmother, and uncle’s graves. But like Daddy said, “I have to take care of the living, I cannot think of that.” It was a privilege for him to be chosen to come out here, it really was. I can remember the day after we arrived, the Richland Theater, which is still in same place, opened.

When we finally dropped the [Hiroshima] bomb and knew what we were doing here, we thought, “Oh, this is great, the war is over.” Of course, the war in Europe was over on May 6, and this was August. But the Japanese did not surrender. We waited, and waited, and finally they dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, and they still did not surrender. What are we going to do? I mean we are standing here waiting.

The movie had scheduled Song of Bernadette to play. I had waited for that movie. And right in the middle of the movie, we heard this bang and the lights went out. Uh-oh, the Japanese are bombing the United States! But the manager told us to be orderly and we all walked outside, and we were told, “Wait a while.” It turned out that lightning had struck the power lines, and that is why we were in the dark. We went and finished watching the movie. 

There were all kinds of funny things like this that happened. Finally, the Japanese did surrender on August 14, but the official was September 6 [misspoke: September 2], when [General Douglas] MacArthur accepted the surrender from Emperor Hirohito.

That phase was over. Then it was: now do we go back home, or what do we do? Some people did go back home, but then wanted to come back. Some of them did come back. But my dad felt that he wanted to stay and my mom said, “Well, I will stay as long as you, but I want to go back home as soon as I can.”

And Daddy said, “Yeah, you will.”

Well of course, we never went back because my dad had a good-paying job and did not have to move every six months when the coal veins were depleted. The funny part of it is that my mom always said if anything happened to her, she wanted to be buried by my sister and grandmother and uncle. But, before it was over, my mom did not want to go back. She is buried at Sunset Memorial [Gardens] where she wanted in the end. So she lived here all of her life from there and finally adjusted. She said all of her friends were here, so that is where she wanted to stay.

But a funny part is, we moved here into the A house and my friend from Boulder – her husband was working here – they waiting for their house to be finished so they could move. But Maureen did not want to wait. So, she and her son, who was fifteen, moved into our basement, and stayed for about a month until their prefab was ready. They liked it so well. They’d been here about a year. Harold was in school, and he worked in the mess hall as a busboy. So they moved into their prefab.

If you want further information about prefabs and stuff like that, Jason Archibald is an architect here in Richland. Down across from HAPO [Community Credit Union] is his office. He has made a video of the previous buildings and what they look like now. It is a fascinating program, really. You sometimes have to scratch your head to think, “Where was that?”

My dad loved to garden, and he was given permission to go out to the abandoned farmhouses out in the areas. He brought home plants and shrubs to plant around the A house. He planted just a branch of a weeping willow tree and that thing took off! I do not know whether it is still there. But it was a few years ago when I went. It was huge and beautiful. My dad was very excited one time when he came home. He had found a persimmon tree out in one of those places, and he was going to have persimmons in Washington State, believe me. Well, it did not happen because he needed two trees to pollinate to get fruit. But anyhow, he was proud of his tree.    

Our neighbor, in the other half of the A house, was the city planner. Mr. Brown was also into growing things, and he found a linden tree and planted it in the backyard. So he and my dad just really took good care of that linden tree. [Laughter].

As I mentioned, my friend from Boulder – her husband was sent here. She had a 15-year-old son, decided she did not want to wait until their prefab was ready for occupation, so she and Harold stayed with us until their house was ready. They were very impressed. They went back to Boulder to close up their house, and put it up for sale when Maureen’s husband had a heart attack and died. So they could not come back.

The point I was going to make was that after she went back to Boulder, Harold worked in the mess hall while he was going to school. On Thanksgiving two years ago I got a phone call, asking if I was Carol Bubner Roberts. Okay, why do I want to answer this in this day and age? Bubner is not a very popular name, and I do not know where any of my dad’s relatives are. Somehow or another we lost contact, I guess, because there were not very many to start with. So I said, “Yes, I am.”

It turned out to be Harold, and he had got nostalgic for the old days. He is eighty-two and was a Professor of Chemistry at Florida University. He called and it has been fun recalling those things. He has given me a remembrance of some of the things.

But what I remember about that mess hall is, across from it, was salt tablets that you could use with the heat. Then there was two water fountains. One said “Whites Only.” The other said “Negroes Only.” That’s the way it was. The company was very good about providing entertainment. We had Kay Kyser and all of the popular bands come out and play for us.

One time, Marian Anderson – she was a black woman and a very superb vocalist – could not stay in the transit quarters because she was black. She was put up in Pasco. I always felt that was the meanest thing. She was not able to sing either in Carnegie Hall [misspoke: DAR Constitution Hall], but then Eleanor Roosevelt got her scheduled in, well, one of those places back there.

The blacks had their own community out in Hanford. Then, after Hanford was torn down and everybody dispensed, the blacks mostly moved to Pasco. They could hold a job if they could find one in Kennewick, but they could not be on the street after 6:00pm.

My dad, he was the most unprejudiced person I think I have ever known. Except my dad was German, and when my sister started going out with a Polish boy, a “Polack,” he quit his job and moved to Denver. That is how DuPont found him. Because he got the job with Remington and they sent him out here. He never said anything against Ernie, but we all knew what happened. But Dorothy and Ernie still managed to get together. Ernie would take the bus up to Boulder to see Dorothy on the sly. You know how it goes. She did not marry him though; they soon parted after she came here.

We stood in line no matter where we went. I remember the men’s dorms were full, and so my dad stayed in the women’s dorm across the street from where the Yakima Federal Bank and Loan is. It became the Sadler’s Hotel after people could buy property. So they kept it just the way it was. But now, of course, it is the beautiful Yakima Savings and Loan building. So things kept going. The dorm where my dad stayed turned out to be the police headquarters and the jail. So we made use of everything that was going around.

Then Safeway opened. At first, we had to go from Jennifer’s Bakery – I do not know if it is still Jennifer’s Bakery – on up to Ninth Street. There was the grocery store, the meat department, the beverage place. Anyhow, it ended up with the post office on the corner. So we stood in line at each one as we went shopping to get what we needed. We had to have ration books so that we could purchase meat. We had red stamps, blue stamps, gas stamps, shoe stamps. And it worked out.

The first Christmas we were here, our neighborhood was very close. They decided that we would pool our sugar to make candy and cookies and that sort of thing. But the thing that I was noted for was that I had made my little sister – she was only seven – a kangaroo with a baby joey in its pocket. She took it to school one day, and lo and behold, everybody wanted one. Well, where are we going to buy material for this? Those that wanted a kangaroo brought me a skirt that they could no longer wear or a jacket. Those kangaroos were made out of most anything. I remember I even made one out of a pair of overalls. Anyhow, that was my contribution to the Christmas neighborhood fair.

But Mrs. Bodendistel was a teacher, and she made the best peanut brittle, I am telling you. So that was her contribution. Mrs. Brown, who lived in the other half of our A house, she made chocolate chip cookies, and they were really good. You know, we did not get to have chocolate chip cookies as much as we do now. But I do not eat them.

Hanging clothes was another feat. We had what you call reel clotheslines. You stuck the post in this hole and then it had four limbs, I called them, with strings strung through them. You started with the narrow ones close to the middle, and hung socks and things like that with clothespins, some of them clip kind, but the others you pushed them down this way. The   were on the outside, because they were big. Well, that was fine, until we had a windstorm. They would grab the sheets and everything, and pull that reeling clothesline out of the ground into the dirt, because our lines had not been in yet.

One day, I remember we had just got our furniture arranged and everything was going great. The temperature was 103, I am told. Well, all of a sudden, the wind started to blow, and dust blew everywhere. It came through the cracks in the windows, all over our clean doilies and stuff like that that we had put on the furniture. Garbage cans were going down the road. You could not see 15 feet in front of you; the dust was so thick.

My mother got to whining and crying, and saying, “Daddy will be home in a few minutes, and we will not be able to cook dinner. He expects his dinner on the table as soon as he comes in the door.” Well, I do not know if that was true, but that is what my mother said.

So always thinking, I said, “Well, we will just cook our dinner in the furnace.”

So we went down. We found papers and stuff, and we put them in the furnace. We did not have our coal yet. They had not delivered the coal for the furnace yet. I took a frying pan and put eggs in it, and we had fried eggs and soot toast for dinner. My dad never said a word. He just ate what was there and put up with it.  

We did not have telephones. The telephones for emergencies were on special corners on each block. So in case of emergency, we had to call first aid, hospital. It was a hospital, because it opened June 4, 1944, just before we came.

One day, the little ones were playing out, and this one boy threw sand in the other kid’s eyes. I tried to wash it out, but I could not. So, I carried him all the way to Kadlec [Hospital] – which was not named Kadlec yet, it was only the Richland Hospital – to the first aid station there. They managed to get all the sand out of his eyes.

Colonel Kadlec was the public relations person here. He felt that the people in Richland should have their own hospital. Of course, that meant they were employees’ families, because only employees’ families could live in Richland until the houses were sold, you know. So anyway, he got the hospital built. It was kind of like M*A*S*H on TV, a military style hospital. He took sick, and three weeks after the hospital opened, he died in the hospital. People say that he died from overwork, being exhausted and everything. But I do not know for sure. That is just my memory of Colonel Kadlec. They decided to name the hospital “Kadlec.” And you know where it is today.

So anyway, it gets a lot of news right now with its battle with Kennewick. I do not know if it should be, but it is. If we wanted a doctor, I remember that there was one woman that was very – she was very opinionated. She felt that she had a right to everything because her husband worked here. He did not have an exclusive job. He was not a supervisor or anything. But, he worked for the Manhattan Project.

Her little girl got sick and she called the doctor at his home and told him. He said, “Well, bring her in.”

She says, “No, she is too sick, I want you to come here.”

He said, “I am sorry, I cannot do that.”

She finally bundled up her daughter and took her to the doctor’s house. She was very elated, because when she got to the doctor’s house, her daughter threw up all over the carpet. Showed him he should have come to her house. So those are the things that made it interesting.

The hospital had a maternity ward where they went and had their babies. The only thing is that it was clear to the back of the building. So when a woman is in labor, and they bring her to the front door and get a wheelchair and have to push her, it is almost like a block. You know? I imagine it was pretty hard thinking that baby is going to come before they get there. But they got good care. It cost seven dollars a night for the room. Of course, at that time they were only keeping mothers five days. We had one doctor, and his wife thought she was better than anybody else because she came from Chicago. Her husband had been drafted to come here. She wasn’t a bit happy about that. The doctor got twenty-five dollars for a delivery. And she said, “If he was in Chicago, he would be getting $1,200. He is really not being paid what he is worth.”

Well, I guess his term in the military was over, because they left. Dr. Chase and Dr. Peterson and Dr. Harvey were here. After the bomb and all, they stayed and delivered babies. They didn’t go back to private practice. For my son John, who was born in Kadlec, the total bill for my stay, the doctor, and everything was $50. Think about it now. How much does it cost now?

My son and my youngest daughter were born in Kadlec when it was the military. Then my grandson Craig and granddaughters Corey and Anna were born in the hospital that was built later. Now, I have two great grands that were born in Kadlec – three generations. I am pretty proud of that. These last two of course are in the new Kadlec.

When Safeway opened, they had all kinds of stuff that we weren’t used to having, like canned pineapple and bananas and coconut and marshmallows, and all of that sort of stuff. We would go to the store, and of course we had to stand in line to get these things, and hope that we would get them. You could only have so many. Well, if you had a family of, say, six and you only got two bananas it doesn’t go very far. We tried.

Then C.C. Anderson’s department store opened. That was the first time we were able to buy clothes and stuff like that in town. I remember that on Saturday nights, the prisoner of war campees would be brought into town. I remember I was going to buy my daughter a pair of shoes, and there were Italian prisoners that had been sent to Whidbey Island. Then they were sent down here to help with the picking fruit and stuff, because the young men had already gone to the service. So they were sent down here. Then, of course, they got the Mexicans who come up too. That is when the Mexicans first started coming here to pick fruit and harvest.

We had the Rec Hall, and they had a counter where you could buy tuna fish sandwiches. They were the best I had ever eaten. Of course, I had never eaten one before I came here. It had the longest counter in the Northeast [misspoke: Northwest]. We edged out Portland, who had that honor before. But there were pool tables and the bowling alley, and places where we could dance. Then they built a restaurant called Love’s. My husband’s friend, school chum, came out looking for a job after the war and he was the cook, the chef at that restaurant. It was pretty popular.

Slowly, but surely, there were things that happened in Richland. All we had to do if we had a light bulb go out was call tenant service, and they came out and changed the light bulb. We were just kind of horsing around, and my husband picked up the chair to move it out of the way and he pushed it like this and it broke the window, hit the window. No big deal. We called tenant service. They came and put it in. Didn’t cost anything. You had a leaky faucet, okay. Call tenant service, they will come and fix the leak. It was fun.

Coal was delivered every so often during the winter. The garbage men picked up the garbage every week. They went to the back of the house, got the garbage can, took it out to the truck, dumped it, and put it back.

We went down to where Allied Arts is now. Picked up hoes and grass seed, and even rosebushes sometimes for our yards, didn’t cost anything.

The one thing that really annoyed the people that I knew that lived here was that the Women’s Club had a library in their clubhouse. Richland couldn’t afford a library. The only thing in their budget was $30 a year for the cemetery caregiver, and they were always fighting the electric company because of a streetlight that was out. The electric company wouldn’t put a new light in because the town had not paid their electric bill. You know how it goes.

Anyhow, it was really before our time, but it did kind of come into the history. When the government took over, they made all of the clubs disband. They bought the Women’s Club house for $850. It was down on Benham [Street] or Comstock [Street]. I haven’t really pinpointed the exact spot. But it was down there, and they had this library. When the government took the books, they were going to give them to the USO, but the government said no.

The only library where we could check out books was in Pasco. Pasco had an Andrew Carnegie library. The building is still there. It was the museum, but now I understand they are going to do something else with it. The villagers said, “Hey, we need a place where we can check out books.”

They made such a noise about it that the government said, “Okay,” and they put the books in where the Allied Arts are. Well, at that time the building was very, very small. There was not enough room really to have tables where you can sit. About all you can do is check out the books in the summer. That summer, we went down into what is now Howard Amon Park, but the government changed the name to Riverside. We went down to Riverside to read our books where it was cool. We didn’t have air conditioning like we have now. Then, of course, we’d take the books home or something.

Then the Ford garage was in a Quonset hut. They lost their lease, and the government said that the library could be put in the Ford garage. The Women’s Club staffed the opening of the library in the Ford garage. The government had modified it, and put shelves in for books and stuff. I remember putting books in a red wagon, a kid’s red wagon, and hauling them. Somehow or another, I don’t know why, the government didn’t move the books for us. We had to move them on our own. Then, finally, we passed the bond to build the library where it is now. Now it is a beautiful library. I was at all four openings, so I feel really special.

The Women’s Club decided – after the bomb was dropped in 1944 [misspoke: 1945] they petitioned the government to have club meetings. It took a while, but finally they said, “Okay. But we need to have the national bylaws of Women’s Clubs, the state Women’s Club bylaws, the local club’s bylaws, plus a membership list.” It had to be submitted to Captain Johnson every three months. Well, we got chartered in January of 1945.

The Kiwanis Club decided to do the same thing. So they petitioned, and finally the government said on March 15, 1945 that the Kiwanis could have their club meetings. So they were meeting at this time. The transit quarters was called The Desert Inn, which is now The Red Lion. Every time we met, we had to submit who was present at the meeting. Chuck Jensen, who belonged to the chartered club, remembers standing there and checked everybody’s badge to make sure that they were cleared to be in Richland.

At that time we didn’t have Red Cross blood banks. In case of emergency, it was difficult sometimes to find a donor when they needed to give a blood transfusion to someone. The way they did it: the patient was on one gurney, and then the donor was right next to him and the blood went directly in – no plasma or anything. The Richland club had somebody that passed away because they couldn’t get blood. They decided that they would register every member, their blood.

Well, there was one member that had AB negative, which is very rare. Lo and behold, my sister had AB negative. When her second baby was born, she hemorrhaged and the baby smothered. She had to have this transfusion. Well, of course, Bob Abrams was the one that had the blood. He donated blood for Dorothy. Then, when her second baby was born, they knew that she would have trouble. So they had Bob waiting there, and that baby lived, of course. But the same thing did happen, she hemorrhaged, and they had to get the baby out in a hurry.

Anyhow, we always call Bob our blood brother. Those are things that you really don’t get in the history, but you know what is happening yourself.

Kelly: Can you tell us anything about these pictures that you brought? Can you talk about who is in the picture? The houses in the background and so forth?

Roberts: Okay. This was taken in front of our house on Casey. The woman on the right, her name is Carol. [Laughter] The other woman is the one that stayed with us, Maureen, while she was waiting for her house to be built. Prefabs in the beginning only had flat roofs. They didn’t have the pitched roofs that they have now. The car is a Chevrolet – I don’t remember but I think it was a 1938 – and it was my dad’s. Otherwise, it is just a picture, but I thought it showed the A houses and that is why I brought it. Anything else you want to know about it?

Kelly: Is there a stack or something in the background?

Roberts: That is a telephone pole. This is a picture of the newspaper. We don’t have coupes with turtlebacks anymore. That is what, if you had a car and you had a coupe, they looked like. Then this is the patrol making sure that the ferry was bringing their boat across. Because we didn’t have a bridge, we had a ferry coming down the hill. You can still see the road coming down the hill from Pasco.

I brought the essay I had written called “Modern Pioneers” and about how the women really built this place. I had to write it for my English class at the University of Washington. I was working for a degree then. My son calls me a professional student. I am always going to school whether it is German or computers or History. But, as I say, I can go on I can.

Kelly: Why don’t you talk a little bit about your thesis and how women pioneers made the town.

Roberts: As I said, we only had one woman on the team at Chicago University, and she was a refugee. She had to get out of Germany because she was Jewish. She finally made it to the United States. When they were working on the bomb, she agreed to help because she was very major in physics, and she did earn the – oh, I forgot the award now—

Kelly: Did she win an award with Enrico Fermi?

Roberts: Yeah! Henry Farmer, that was his name to keep people from knowing who he really was. She was hoping that they wouldn't find the way to split the atom, because she knew what it was capable of doing. When they were discussing how to produce plutonium and stuff for the bomb, Rosalyn Yalow [misspoke: Leona Marshall Libby] is the one that designed the reactor. I was reading not too long ago that as close as we tried to keep this project secret, they found that Russia had managed to build their reactor on plans from our reactor. Things really aren’t all that secret.

Pat Merrill, of course, was our first mayor after incorporation, so I always feel that women are responsible for whatever happens here in Richland. We are it. We are the way that life goes on in Richland, and I am very proud of it too. We always have had the highest number of college graduates of scientists and physicists, and those that really needed to be here in order to develop what we had.

Another thing that I am proud of – after Richland had been incorporated about five years—they were elected as the All-America City, and they have a flag. They don’t display it anymore. I guess it is probably getting pretty ragged. I think women, you know, they had to put up with a lot when they came here. Their husbands were working different shifts. They would work a week on graveyard shift. They would work a week on swing shift. They’d work a week on day shift. Then they had to start all over again. Really, it was hard for her to keep her schedules.

Where Jason Lee [Elementary School] is now was actually the Richland School before the government took over. Then, it became the American Legion hall, and they would come into the bar there. Women could go in but they couldn’t sit at the  . It was against the blue law. They had to sit at a table in order to be there.

Women have been discriminated [against], and they still are, to tell you the truth. I am very upset, because women got the vote or the 19th Amendment, called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, was ratified August 26, 1920. Then the joint house of Congress said that date would be called Women’s Equality Day. It took a while, but finally calendars started marking it as Women’s Equality Day. Well, big mouth over here, her dad told her that she could do anything a man could do and that she didn’t have to be a second-class citizen. If she wanted to pilot a plane, she could pilot a plane.

That isn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a geologist, and I couldn’t take the classes because I wasn't a man. Only men were geologists. Anyhow, I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but I wrote to my representative at the time from Washington, and I got the silliest letter back. I think he absolutely did not know anything about Women’s Equality Day. He told me, “Oh, why don’t you ask the mayor of your town to issue a proclamation?” That isn’t what I wanted. I wanted the flags to fly. I don't care whether we close the post office or the banks just like Flag Day.

For a few years there were a few calendars that marked it. The last five years there has not been one calendar that I have received that has marked the day. Not too long ago, as the 2013 calendars are coming in, I wrote to [Senator] Patty Murray and said, “Let’s get on the stick.” Every holiday is a man’s holiday except for Mother’s Day, and that is on a Sunday. One of our Women’s Club members was instrumental in getting the third Sunday as Father’s Day.

I do admire Patty, because she is trying so hard for veterans. Veteran’s Day was actually a man’s holiday, but now we have women in the service. Labor Day when it started was for men, because women weren’t really laborers. Fourth of July was for the American revolutionary men, you know? Then there is Martin Luther King and Memorial Day actually for men. Where do women come in? Where do we get the flags? Well, anyway. I am on a soapbox, aren’t I? Leona Marshall was the first woman to be involved in splitting the atom in that team. The others were all men.

Kelly: Can you think of examples of women who worked with the Hanford project who really did make strides and go places where no woman had gone before?

Roberts: Well, I think we had women scientists, physicists, chemists because they were knowledgeable, and that is what we needed at that time. In the outside world, they would not have been able to have a job. Let’s see, really honestly and truly in the beginning there were mostly men hired here. There were men bookkeepers, accountants. The jobs that women could fill on the outside of town weren’t available for them here.

I think really the biggest contribution that women did was raising their families here in Richland. They had no place to shop and they did immediately get involved in their church for their kids. Their kids went to Sunday school. They were in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and there was a campfire group. It was called Campfire Girls then, when the government took over. Our very beloved school principal, Lilly Peterson, was the leader of the Campfire Girls. They had women that were willing to give dance and music classes. My sister, she was eight years old when she started training and ended up singing with the Metropolitan Opera for six months. That was one achievement.

The women now volunteered. The church was mostly where we got involved helping, but we didn't have people who really needed to have food and that sort of thing, because they had good wages.

Rent depended on the size of your house. My husband and I lived in one half of a B house, and we paid $35 a month. That was completely furnished: stove, refrigerator, coal, electricity, water. They came in and mowed the lawn, provided parking places for $35 a month. Now the A houses, I can’t remember for sure, but I think they were $46. Of course, the single units were a little bit more than the duplexes.

Women couldn’t jump in our car and go to doctor’s appointments and stuff like that. The government did provide a bus, and there were people who worked out in the areas that put their children on the bus when they left for work, and took them off the bus when they got home. Well, the government did a nasty thing. They started charging five cents for a ride, and the ride had to go somewhere and everybody had to get off. Well there was a big hullabaloo about that. Five cents for a ride on the bus! The kids had their lunch and everything, and the bus driver took good care of them.

Another thing is the Riverside Park, Howard Amon. They had a swimming pool. It wasn’t very large, but the residents of Richland used the swimming pool. There were so many of them that you could only stay in the pool a half hour. Then you had to get out and let another bunch in. They made very sure that the swimming pool wasn’t overcrowded. But, the flood of ‘48 took the swimming pool, and so George Prout swimming pool was built. It was supposed to be built with a day’s pay too, like the plane or the bomber. It didn’t quite go over, and so General Electric finished the payments.

I can see I told you about Kadlec, Rec Hall, and the swimming pool. Oh, the high school was built up on a hill where it still is. The building that is to the south – the “Mac Hall” we call it – was named for the principal, who had a heart attack and passed away, because he had done so many things for the school.

When Hanford was closed, and everybody was transferred to Richland or elsewhere, people at the school, the Hanford High School kids, were sent into Columbia High School. Their school mascot was a beaver. They did not want something else. Because of the “Day’s Pay” and the bomb, they said, “Why don’t we call the sports team the Bombers?” Of course, now nobody wants to be “the Bombers.” They got a different connotation. They don't know the history.

Watching the “Day’s Pay” take off – that was the biggest plane I had ever seen in my life. There were pilots in their Air Force uniforms. They were so handsome. And when they took off to go to England, it just looked like a giant beautiful bird. That is the only way I can describe it, and I’m a writer. It almost brought tears to my eyes to watch that “Day’s Pay” go off.

Three hundred thousand dollars were contributed. It was the Hanford carpenters’ idea that they wanted to do something. Now, all employees were having money taken out for savings bonds for the war. The Hanford carpenters decided they wanted to do something else. They knew they couldn’t take a day off and celebrate, so they decided to give a day’s pay to collect money to buy their own bomber. Not one the government or anyone else was buying. They were buying their own bomber. So that bird took off. July 20, 1944 was a beautiful day. It really was. Not a cloud in the sky.

The crew really did establish themselves. Every crewmember earned an Oak Leaf Cluster Medal. They made 26 trips over Germany before they had to be grounded. The Day’s Pay really was I think very special. Of course, it was men mostly that contributed to it. Not women. The women supported the husbands giving up a day’s pay. They helped too.

Anyhow, I don't know what else to tell you. There is just so much, that article that Maynard [Plahuta] has. I think he is going to copy it and give you a copy. Just tells all the things that women did and how they progressed. Even now, except for Pat Merrill, I can’t remember ever having a female mayor. We have had city managers that have done very well.

The Parks and Recreation, ten to twelve years ago, had a contest. They wanted the contestants to write about something in Richland that contributed to a better life for them. Well, I won the grand prize. I told about how the parks in Richland had changed things. How I had taken my kids down and they played. The government provided tennis rackets and board games and everything like that, so that when you went down to the park you had all of this to play with. My dad knew all the birds’ names and legends and all that sort of thing. Because I am blessed, or not blessed, with a good memory, I take my kids down to the park, and we would find orioles’ nests and we collected bugs, insects. They're not bugs. They got their picture in the paper with their insect collection.

Then the grandkids came along and my husband and I took care of all seven of them, so their mothers could work. And, of course, the big thing in the summertime was to go to the swimming pool. I always packed a lunch. After we got out of swimming we got down to the park. We didn’t have Leslie Groves Park yet. We went down to the park and ate our lunch and then identified insects, butterflies. Waded on the side of the shore there. I have got a maggot that big that one of my grandkids found and brought to me. I have it sitting in my kitchen window. I have never seen a maggot that big, since or before.

I have attended memorial services at the park. There have been weddings at the park. There have been group picnics at the park. Then, of course, the best thing was sitting in the car with your very special one, watching the moon come up over the Columbia River. I have been Richland all the way. I never drive to Kennewick anymore. Well, at ninety years old, you don’t drive as much as you used to.