Alexandra Levy: This is December 29, 2013. We are here with Dolores Heaton in Florida. This is Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. My first question is to please say your name and to spell it.
Dolores Heaton: Dolores Heaton, D-O-L-O-R-E-S H-E-A-T-O-N.
Levy: Could you tell us a little bit about where and when you were born?
Heaton: Well, my birthday is November 19, 1933. I was born in a very small town in Texas called Kerens. It’s a very rural area. I was born in a house, a farmhouse. My mother had a doctor but none of the privileges or things that one would hope that you could have when you deliver a baby. But that’s where I was born. I grew up on a farm with my grandparents. This was in the height of—actually, kind of the end of the Depression. My father was always away working when he could find work. My grandparents were farmers. We always had a lot to eat and I was always around a lot of animals. I had a great childhood in this environment. We didn't know we didn't have a lot because children don’t require that. They don’t think like that. So, that was my beginning.
Levy: Did anything change once World War II broke out?
Heaton: Absolutely. All of the men in my family were off in the war and two did not return. I had two uncles that were under General Patton and they both came back very wounded and were traumatized by the war. But yes, after World War II things began—during World War II, things began to get a lot better. People were flourishing and there were jobs. So my parents, my father was working in different facilities doing whatever he could do to make a living. And my mother and I then would go with him. We traveled extensively throughout the United States.
My father was traveling a great deal in his line of work, in engineering. We have lived all across the United States from California all the way to upper state New York. So yes, during the war things did begin to change and the economy of course was booming. He was working for the Navy department. We were in Vallejo, California. My father was at Mer Island. This is where he got information about Los Alamos, New Mexico. I was probably around, oh maybe nine or ten year sold at that time. He obviously applied for a position in Los Alamos in the early ‘40s. I would probably guess around ’44, maybe ’43 or ’44, he went to Los Alamos.
My mother and I went back to east Texas and she did not know—this was understood. She did not know where he was going, where he was working. So, all of the letters that she would write to my father were sent “APO Los Angeles.” When she would get a letter from my father the return address would APO Los Angeles. So, it was so secretive during those days that not even spouses knew where the people were that were going to Los Alamos to work.
Let’s see, the only way I can get my dates very, very sure is that my sister was born in 1944 and she was like eighteen months old, not quite two years old, when we moved to Los Alamos. So that would be ’45, the latter part of 1945, when we moved up there. We took a train to get to Albuquerque and then we had to ride a bus from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. When we got to Santa Fe we had to go to this office. There was a woman there that introduced herself to my mother and took all of our information. My mother had all of our birth certificates, all of our documents. She gave us temporary badges. I got one also. My little sister didn’t get one, but I got one. That was our identification to get into Los Alamos.
We rode a bus up to the Hill, which is what they always called it. It was the most horrifying experience and that is why I remember it so vividly. It’s not the nice, paved road that you have today. It was a gravel, dirt road and you could look out the side of the bus—this old Army bus—and just see nothing but a drop-off. And, on the other side was a mountain. It was just one car area. If a car was coming down and you were going up, the car that was going up always got the right of way. So these people would have to back up and, so the other automobile could proceed and go on up to Los Alamos. It was horrifying.
So we got to the gate and everyone had to get out of the bus. There were other people on the bus, not that many that I recall. They took out all of our luggage, no cameras, nothing like that—absolutely no cameras. They went through every piece of luggage that we had. We showed them our little ID and proceeded into Los Alamos.
We lived in Quonset huts—very sparse. The Army or the military had put military beds and military furniture inside these Quonset huts—very sparse, everything very green. Apparently it was fully equipped with dishes and linens and towels because when you moved to Los Alamos you didn't take a van of belongings with you. You took what you could take in your bags, in your luggage because it’s just the way it was. So everything inside the Quonset hut was very, very sparse—nothing fancy. No drapes on the windows. No carpeting on the floor.
When we went for our showers, the bathrooms were called latrines and they were outside. The Army had built—or the military had built wooden walkways out of the Quonset hut to get to the latrine. Let me tell you, when it’s December in those mountains and you're waking up to go to the bathroom, it’s cold. So this is the way we lived for I don't know how long. I can’t gauge the time of how long we spent in this Quonset hut.
My mother had a chronic back condition and the military were building a few homes—not big. But they did have one or two bedrooms in these small houses. My mother, with her back condition, the doctor had said, “She’s got to have a tub to soak her back.” So they made a bathroom big enough for my mother to have a bathtub. And that was the only reason we got a house, because homes during those days in Los Alamos were very sparse. They didn't have very many homes. Then, the people who occupied the homes were the physicists and the scientists who were working up there.
So, it was nice to get out of this Quonset hut and the mud and the inconvenience of living in a small area, and get into a real house that actually had rooms and doors and places you could get off to yourself—be by yourself for a while.
As a child growing up, my sister was a year and a half, two years old, and I was ten years older. I was like eleven or twelve years old. We used to have all the freedom, no bars held. We could leave home in the morning with a sack lunch—maybe a peanut butter sandwich and an apple or something—and we could go hiking all day.
Los Alamos had no crime. They did not have a cemetery. Because nobody was from Los Alamos, when you passed away, you were sent back to your home. So there were no cemeteries. There was no crime. There was no kidnapping. It was ideal, an ideal situation to have children—to be able to have this kind of freedom to grow up in this environment.
We would take off on this mesa to go hiking or wherever we wanted to go. And there would be a man that would come out of a house. We didn't know who he was. We knew he probably had to be someone pretty special because he lived in a big house, a regular house. An, he had some dogs and he would say, like, “You know where are you going?” There was very little talking going on. “Where are you going?”
We’d say, “Hiking.”
He’d say, “Can I come along?”
So he would come along with us, and we would get on this mesa. We found an old farmhouse up there that was dilapidated and torn down. I don't know who lived there. I don't know who occupied it. But that was kind of our destination, where we would go with our little sack lunch. And then we would sit down, me and my friends. And this gentleman that had come along with us, he didn't have anything to eat. So I would break my peanut butter and jelly in two and I would say, “Have some of my sandwich.” Sometimes he’d take it, sometimes he wouldn’t, but sometimes one of my other friends would give him something to eat. And that was the way it was. This happened more times than not, going hiking with this individual.
I didn't realize who this was until I was probably in high school later on, that this man was Robert Oppenheimer. He had his little hat on. He had his pipe. He used to sit down on a rock with us and fill up his pipe and smoke it. There was really not a lot of conversation at all. We’d go down to the creek. I can remember going to a creek and dipping in and getting water with our hands. We’d just lean down and drink water from this clear, beautiful creek that they had. He had accompanied me several times going down to wash his face or get a drink of water because the water was so clear and so beautiful. So that was my experience with Robert Oppenheimer.
The military, whatever the military had, we were allowed to participate in any activities that they had. They had a bowling place where they went bowling, but we had to set our own pins. So we would take turns rolling the ball and there was a very—it wasn’t like you got today where the balls automatically come back. Someone would have to be there. There was a roundabout way to get these balls back to you. And then, we had to set the pins up on the floor and then straddle this apparatus so that the pins, when they came up, it didn't hit you in the head. That was our bowling.
There was one facility there that the military had where they would have parties at night. They would have concerts at night. They would have wrestling at night. I’ve seen all the big bands—Artie Shaw, Count Basie—many, many times up there. All of these big, big bands would come up there. Sunday morning—that was Saturday night. Sunday morning, first thing Sunday morning, that place was cleaned. The military would clean it out. Mass would start at seven o’clock in the morning. And then that would clear out and they would clean all that out and then we had the Protestants then that would come in and have their church. And then after church was over they would clean all of that out and then we would have movies. Probably on Sunday afternoon we would go to a matinée and whatever they had showing that’s what we would see. It never cost any money. We never had any money. We just would go. I would go with my friends. We sat on benches in this movie theatre and see whatever movie they had.
My mother did shopping at the Commissary. They had a PX where we got little special things. I think they had cigarettes or whatever it was that they were selling. It was just a normal military environment. The military also built us an ice skating rink. That was on the back area going out of Los Alamos near the tech area, one of the Tech Areas. I don't know if they built the little water or if it was a manmade little, tiny lake there. But in any case, to be able to skate we’d go and we’d have to clean it out. We’d have to clean the ice and there were great big shovels that we would use to push to clean off the snow so we could go ice-skating. It was a little far from the main neighborhoods where we lived. So in order to get there, an Army pickup truck would pick us up. And we would all climb in the back of this pickup truck and they would take us to the ice rink. We would skate and then when we got ready to go home one of us or two of us, we’d just go back out on the road and a pickup truck would be coming by—a military pickup truck—and they’d stop and we would get in the back of this pickup truck and they’d take us back up to the community.
That’s the way we lived. That was free, enjoyable, it was fun. We would stay out until two o’clock in the morning if we wanted to, going to other people’s homes. We had a youth center there that they made for us. Questions were never asked. You have to be home by midnight kind of a thing. But there was no worry. I got my driver’s license when I was sixteen up there because they had special driving privileges up there for young people. Now I think it’s what, eighteen, or something like that.
When I first moved up there in the sixth grade, this is before they had a school. I can’t remember how many children—there weren’t that many children—of all ages and all grades, but we only had one room to go to school. We had four or five teachers, but we only had one room. This didn't last very long because, as I recall, they built a high school I think in ’44 or ’45. So then all of the grades from first through senior high school went in this one building. But at least we had a room. I think in the sixth grade, we had some fifth graders that were in there and they’d kind of—the fifth graders over here and the sixth graders over there, because there weren’t that many kids at that time. Then it started getting progressively more and more and more children were coming up there. So they had to build bigger schools and of course better facilities for us.
At noontime, when we were in this one room, like I said, it was enough to fill up the back of a pickup truck. They would take us to the mess hall for lunch. So, we would climb in the back of this pickup truck and we would go. There were no military people in the mess hall because they had eaten or we were going—time wise—I don't know about that. But we had one little corner way up by the food. We would take our little trays, I remember the trays were—the place where you scooted your trays—I was shorter than that, and they were so sweet. All of the military, everybody involved were so kind and so sweet and so accommodating to the children.
We had an almost idealistic upbringing. We had all of the privileges. Anything that we wanted—they would come in and build a basketball court wherever they could. This is before we got our new high school. We had no gym. Whatever we needed—the principal—I think it was Mr. Wagner at the time. I may be wrong at that. I don't remember. He probably just sent a request—“Gee, it would be nice if my kids had a basketball or tennis courts.” I played a lot of tennis during my, you know, eighth, ninth grades. We had great tennis courts because they would come in and they would build them if we wanted a tennis court.
So, there were very few things that we were deprived of. The only thing that was different, because if our parents—not so much me, because this was early on. If parents didn't want their children going off of the Hill, all they had to do is take their ID card away from them and they weren’t going anywhere. So, because at that time to get and out of Los Alamos you had to have your badge and your ID card, badge—it was plastic, piece of plastic—in order to get in and out. There was no ifs, ands, or buts about that. Anything else?
Levy: Can you remember the address of your house in Los Alamos?
Heaton: Not in the Quonset huts. I don't think they had addresses. We went from the house—I cannot remember the address. We lived on Manhattan Loop, but that was later when we had got a real house. I think we had two bedrooms, a kitchen, and—this was much later on. My sister was probably five or six. So you see that was much later. I was in high school.
Then, my father went to Enewetak. They did an atomic testing site there on Enewetak. And when I was a sophomore in high school—I graduated in 1952/51. So about in 1949 or 1950 he went to Enewetak for these tests and my mother and my sister and I left and went back to east Texas to be with my grandparents. He was there and I stayed in Texas one school term, my sophomore year. When we went back to Los Alamos, when he got back from Enewetak, we lived in the Western Area, the western community. These were really nice houses. They were very, very, very nice. So, as far as addresses, just Manhattan Loop and the Western Area—Trinity Drive. Was it Trinity Drive? Could have been. I don't remember.
Levy: Can you talk a little bit about your father, what his education was like? If you know what kind of work he did at Los Alamos?
Heaton: Well, I don't know because everything was so secretive. He was an engineer.
Levy: Can you say his name please?
Heaton: My father’s name was Otis G. Webb. I know on many occasions, he wasn’t home. I don't know where he was. He was obviously working somewhere, but I don't know where and I don't know what. Later on when we became grown people we’d talk about it infrequently. We didn't talk about it a lot. There was a huge project going on in Los Alamos. It was the pipeline going up Los Alamos. I know that he was vital in doing that and trying to get—the city was growing so rapidly—not the city. Los Alamos has never been a city. But the community was growing so rapidly that they had to improvise, because this had been a school for boys that were ill. The accommodations up there, they had one huge facility. I think that was where the boys lived. And, Robert Oppenheimer had bought a cabin in and around that area, not the Los Alamos area, but in and around that area. So when they were looking for a place to put the Manhattan Project he said, “I’ve got just the place.” That was how they got to Los Alamos.
But my father, I don't think that my father was ever inside, working in the Tech Area, so to speak. Maybe he was—this is speculation. I think because of his kind of work that he did more in construction work, he was more out doing fieldwork and building the community the way it is today. That’s what he did.
Levy: Great. Could you talk a little bit more about the education and how long were you in Los Alamos for? Did you finish high school there?
Heaton: Yes. We moved up there when I was in the sixth grade and I graduated from high school. It was a new high school. I went back to the high school, I don't know, a few years ago. I go back frequently to that area. I still have dear friends there.
We went into the high school that we graduated from, and got a little upset because all along—as you go in, they have classes with years up there and I think they stopped at 19—they didn't have 1952 or ’51, ’53. They didn't have those. They had all the ones prior to that. So we went in the office and introduced ourselves. I said, you know, “I graduated from here in 1952 but there’s no class picture, you know, group picture and they had one because I’ve got it at home.” And I doubt that it’s still there, but anyway we let them know that our group picture should be in Los Alamos High School, because a lot of my friends were Hilltoppers and I was a cheerleader my senior year in high school. So, we were very involved. We were very much a Hilltopper up there. Green and gold school colors, and it was wonderful. It was very nice.
Levy: So you liked the high school a lot?
Heaton: I loved it. Here again, we had the best of everything. We had the best teachers, guidance. It’s hard to explain. I’m a mother of two boys. I know how their schools were. I know they got a good education. But it was just different when we were in school. We were secluded, yes, but we had our friends. We had a teacher, might be an English teacher, let’s say. I’m talking about one particular teacher that I had, Shirley Freeze, who had moved up there when her daughter was just a baby. When I was in sixth grade, she was teaching me. When I was in seventh grade, she would go up another grade. Latin, English—she would go up another grade, another grade. So I had her just about from the sixth grade from when I graduated from high school in 1952. We maintained our friendship. She moved to Dallas, Texas with her daughter. But she still has a home. They still have her house in Los Alamos. We maintained very, very close relationships.
Now, this is from the time I was in the sixth grade until she passed away, maybe five, six years ago. And this was my teacher that I had. They took an interest in the person, in the child, in your mental wellbeing and not just to teach English or math or science. You were a person. It could be because they had the time. It could be because the classes were smaller. I don't know the reason. But I just know that we were guided. We had mentors and we were guided. All the teachers were like mentors and would help us in any way, at all that they could. It was phenomenal. It was very, very, very wonderful.
Levy: Were any of your friends children of scientists?
Heaton: Norris Bradbury, who is one of the—the big physicist and scientist. They have a Norris Bradbury Museum in Los Alamos. I went to school with Jimmy Bradbury. We were in the same grade together. Jimmy had another brother. I think he was younger than we were. Here again, the Bradbury’s, because of their affiliation and because of what Dr. Norris Bradbury was doing, they lived in a regular house while we were in Quonset huts and in smaller homes. I had been in Norris Bradbury’s home many times with Jimmy and my schoolmates. He was just another man—you know, Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury—nothing special to us, always wonderful, always great, always friendly. I don't remember seeing him that often because this would always be during the day when we would go in after school for snacks or whatever. But we were always treated very well.
And I think when I went up to Los Alamos, it had to be my last trip up there. They’ve got two museums. They’ve got the Norris Bradbury Museum, which is more scientific. It has more of the scientific history. Then they’ve got another museum there [the Los Alamos Historical Museum] that shows a Quonset hut, the insides of the hut, our youth center.
And I am pretty sure that I’m in one of those pictures in that youth center. The man that was working that day—I was going out—because we were the only ones except for another couple that was there, that found out I was from Los Alamos. So I was taking them around this museum showing them: “See this Quonset hut. This is where I used to live!” They were intrigued. They were absolutely intrigued by the fact that they were talking to someone who actually lived in—“See that Quonset hut? That was where we lived. This is what we lived in.” Then the school picture. I told this gentlemen that was there that day that I really felt like it was my picture, but I don't really think he believed what I was telling him. I said, “Well I grew up here.”
Then we walk out of the museum and around to look at Robert Oppenheimer’s house, which is not very far from this museum where we walked. It’s funny how it looks so small now. But when I was a kid, it looked so big. Of course, a lot of buildings have been built around it as well and things have changed a lot. But the museum, that particular museum, they really have done a fantastic job of putting all of these little things together to show people what it was like to live up there during those early, early days in Los Alamos and what it was like to be a participant. While I didn't do anything but just be a kid that was taken up there, but to grow up in that arena was unique.
Levy: Did you and your friends have any idea what the purpose of Los Alamos was for—its role in making the bomb?
Heaton: No. Absolutely not. We knew nothing about why we were there. I would ask my mother and father and got no answers. When you walk through the Tech Area, the area there was not that big. Of course we didn't have cars. We walked a lot. We walked everywhere. We could walk on the sidewalk in front of the Tech Area. There was one on both sides of the streets—these big buildings with these barbed wired fences, barricades that were around these buildings. Like any kid, we were inquisitive. We would stand and stare at these buildings day in and day out, day in and day out because that was where we walked. Of course they had guards—MP’s were there constantly checking people’s ID as they went in and out of the buildings. But we never questioned. We just knew there was something going on that we weren’t’ going to be told about. So I guess we just quit asking.
It became kind of a mysterious—you know how children can build up things in your little brain. We’d go, “What are they doing, dissecting people?” You know how children will be flippant about it. You know, and, “Why are they, you know?” But we never did know. To answer your question, we never did know what they were doing until much, much later, when you grow up and start realizing what was going on up there.
Levy: Did you and your friends find it strange that you had to show a badge every time you went back into Los Alamos?
Heaton: Absolutely. We had our ID card, our badge, and we would leave. In order to get clothes you had to leave Los Alamos and go to Santa Fe or Albuquerque. We went to Albuquerque a couple of times a year to buy school clothes. So every time we would leave, in the early days you would leave—by that time we had a car. They would take everything out of the car. They would take your seats out of the car. The trunk was searched and you were searched, bodily searched. The children were searched in and out. That was early. Then they got to be a little bit more lenient—still no cameras, a little bit more lenient. I think at one point we were allowed to have cameras because I’ve got some pictures that we took of my school friends you know, that I know we had to have a camera at that point. But the early days it was very, very, very—they were very, very, very strict about going in and out of Los Alamos. You just didn't—you didn't do it.
And then going back in, you went through the same process. They would take out all the seats in the car. They wanted to know if you had anything going into Los Alamos that wasn’t supposed to go in. And that was the way it was.
Levy: Do you remember trips to Santa Fe as well?
Heaton: Absolutely. Santa Fe was really small during those days. It’s not like it is today. It has grown. I hardly recognize it. People in Santa Fe didn't even know what was going on in Los Alamos. They would ask questions. There would be a news article about it every once in a while. The privacy and what’s going on up there on the Hill and on the Los Alamos, but they didn't know. Nobody knew. They kept it, and I don't know how they did it. There’s so many people up there. They kept it so secret that it was miraculous that they could keep this secret.
No planes were allowed to fly over. We used to have blackouts. We would hear a siren and this was the rule. When you heard the siren going you ran in your house, shut your blinds, turned all the lights out. And these were practices. We would have to do this periodically. I can’t remember doing very many of them, but periodically we would have to have blackouts. That was early. That was when my sister was just a little baby. So it had to be ’45 maybe, early ’45, ’46 maybe when we were doing that.
Levy: Did you have any contact with any Pueblo Indians?
Heaton: Oh, the Indians? No, not really. In Santa Fe, of course, around, you know—they would always have their wares. I’ve got a lot of jewelry from that episode. But as far as having contact with them, no, I did not. But during those early, early days their jewelry—you could pick up a squash blossom, a big, beautiful squash blossom for probably ten bucks, and now they’re probably $5,000, the good ones. So it has definitely changed. And fiesta, they would have big fiestas in Santa Fe and we would go.
So any time there was something going on and we left Los Alamos my parents would take me and we would go to Santa Fe. And I still have friends in Santa Fe that I went to school with. I will go and see them. But that was about it. That was about the way we lived.
I haven’t done this much talking about Los Alamos ever, I think just not ever. So, I hope I didn't skip around too much. I was trying to keep it in context.
Levy: This has been great. Do you remember any other activities that your parents liked to do in Los Alamos?
Heaton: My father worked—he was a workaholic. He worked a lot. Of course my mother was home taking care of two children. But they did participate. We played—because there wasn’t a lot to do up there, I mean, really not a lot. They would get together with friends and play cards. They played a lot of cards. We played a lot of games. There was no television. In the Quonset huts, I don't think we even had a phone when we moved out of the Quonset hut. No phones in the Quonset huts. And no phones in this house that we moved into. I can’t remember really even having a phone until later, later on. There were no telephones. There was an area by the PX that had a pay phone. I’m not at all sure those phones weren’t monitored.
I know that the mail going in and out during those early days when my mother was writing my father, they were censored—especially coming out of Los Alamos—not that my father ever wrote anything that he shouldn’t write. But I’m pretty sure that the mail was censored. That was probably another way they kept it so secretive for such a long time, which is amazing to me that they could do that. I’m sure it was censored.
Levy: Did you have any other relatives that worked on the Manhattan Project?
Heaton: Absolutely. My father was the first. Like I said, he went there in the early ‘40s. When he got there and got established—this is after my mother and my little sister and I went up there. Both sets of my grandparents were there. They didn't stay long because of the altitude. It was very hard on you. Their noses were bleeding and it was—for health reasons, they couldn’t stay. Also, I had three uncles that worked up there in construction. They were all in construction work, that helped build Los Alamos to the way it is right now, and build the Tech Areas, and build what was inside of those tech areas. So they had access as my father did to these areas, but they were constructing. They were building buildings for the military. The military had their own engineers, is a big question. I don't know why the military didn't do all that. But they definitely brought in a lot of civilians that were not in military to do these things.
So yeah, I had a lot of relatives. I had one aunt that was in Tennessee working there in the tech area. I don't know what she did. She had something to do with Enewetak, I think. She met my uncle and that’s the reason they both came to Los Alamos to work. So she just transferred to Los Alamos. But I am pretty sure, rumor has it in the family that she was very closely associated with the Enewetak project and did a lot of things in terms of the bomb during those days.
Levy: What was her name?
Heaton: Her name—what was her name? Well her last name, married name was Stoker. I can’t tell you what her maiden name was. Julia Stoker was her married name, married to my uncle. They were all Stokers—Arlen, Alton, and well his birth name is—oh my goodness. We didn't call him by that. I called him Bubba, my uncle. Theophilus was his name. They were all Stokers—S-T-O-K-E-R. So my grandfather Stoker, and then his three sons were all Stokers.
And then my grandfather Webb, which was on the other side of the family, but like I said, they didn't stay very long. They were there, and they stayed and bought property in Albuquerque as we did. You weren’t allowed to buy property up there. Even when it got to be more open and more relaxed, you still couldn’t buy property until very, very much later, much later. I know I was probably a junior or a senior, maybe a senior in high school before they allowed people to buy homes. So everyone was leaving. They would work there and maybe rent a small apartment, which is what my parents did. But then they moved to Albuquerque and bought a house because it was time for them to be buying some property. As my uncles did, they did the same thing.
I had another uncle that went to Espanola around Pewaukee, which is just down from Los Alamos, and bought a home—bought some acreage and bought some land. People needed to have something of their own, and you couldn’t establish that kind of security in Los Alamos because they didn't allow you to own property.
Levy: What was your mother’s name?
Heaton: My mother’s name was Alma Webb. Her maiden name was Stoker. She worked for a while, for Zia. My uncle Paul Davis worked for Zia. I don't know what he did as well. I haven’t a clue what my uncle Paul did. But they also went to Espanola and bought a home so that they could have some security. I can’t remember any other relatives that were working. That was a lot.
Levy: That is a lot.
Heaton: That’s a lot of relatives, yeah.
Levy: And what did your mother do for Zia?
Heaton: I think mother probably did clerical, probably did some secretarial/clerical work because she wasn’t—she didn't have really a career, if you will. She always stayed home and was a housewife, what they used to say. But she did work for just a short time up there. I think that was when we lived on the Manhattan Loop. I know my sister was like five, four maybe, and I hated it because I had to babysit during the summer while she worked. So I hated babysitting this little sister of mine. Oh, but I don't know what she did or where she worked, if she was in the Tech Are or what. I just don’t remember that.
We had no hospitals, getting back to our health. Everything, when we got sick—and here again, you paid no money. When you got sick, you just went to the military area there where they had their little hospital and they would give us whatever it was we needed for our illness. They took very good care of us. Of course, they built a beautiful, big hospital up there later on. At the time, that’s just the way it was. We had all the advantages, because they had great doctors in the military. And the hospitals were great.
I had strep throat, and I had to go to the hospital with strep throat. I had to make up my own bed. You had to take the sheets off and you had to make up your own because that’s what the military does, even as a little kid. But it was great. It was fun. It was different. We were very well taken care of.
Levy: How did growing up at Los Alamos affect your later life?
Heaton: Well, I think that, you can’t put my upbringing and put it and compare it with someone else’s childhood, even my own children who had to be closely watched, and my grandchildren that have to be closely guarded. It was so different. I think one thing, it has given me a good education in all areas, all aspects of my life and a very open mind. Because, some of my best friends, they weren’t physicists and they weren’t scientists. They might have a lesser position but we were all together in a community that was very, very small. We relied and we depended on each other for social reasons. So, we didn't know what each other did. We know that not everyone was a physicist like Jimmy Bradbury’s father. But it didn't make any difference.
There were no social lines drawn. There were a lot of Mexicans that I went to school with. A lot of different ethnic kinds of individuals, it made no difference. I think that because of that kind of approach—when a kid is growing up during those years, everyone is the same. Everyone is basically the same. There was no social barriers—none whatsoever. It’s just the way it was.
So when you grow up with that—you said, “How does it affect my life today?” I think that has a tremendous effect on me because growing up, let’s say, in other schools around the country during those days you could become a little one way or the other, setting your ways if you will. We didn't have that. We were free. We had each other regardless of how old you were or what your background was. It made no difference.
So, that’s an interesting question. I’ve never been asked that before. I think that in itself is why I hope that I have an open mind about human beings and who they are and where they came from. So, that’s an interesting question. Thank you.
Levy: Did you have a lot of Hispanic friends in the community?
Heaton: Oh tons. Oh, my goodness. The Martinez family lived right next door, Mr. and Mrs. Martinez. And Secundino Sandoval helped me get through geometry for crying out loud. I was terrible in math, horrible. So, you know, “Would you help me with this? Or would you help me with that?” Like I said, they were wonderful. I was terrible, terrible at math. Oh, awful. So yes, all of my area where we lived, the majority of these people were Hispanics.
Unfortunately—now my father grew up in Texas with Hispanics. That’s why my names is Dolores. It’s a Spanish Dolores. It’s not D-E, it’s D-O. That’s why I’m named Dolores, because my father grew up with Hispanic people and speaks Spanish. I’m so sorry that my friends didn't speak Spanish to me growing up in that area so that I could pick up some, at least converse socially in Spanish. But when they would leave their house and speaking nothing but Spanish, they would revert to English. So they were bilingual and we weren’t. We just spoke English with a few little words where and there that we were taught, which I can’t repeat, in Spanish.
No, all of my neighbors on all sides, and especially the ones right next door—the Martinez’s. That was Gilbert Martinez, Jimmy Martinez. Jimmy was the closest one to me. Gilbert was older. They had a lot of kids. But they were great. They were absolutely awesome. Love them, loved them dearly.
Levy: This has been really great. Do you have any other funny or interesting stories you'd like to share?
Heaton: I think that I’ve just about covered as much as I can remember. Probably, when it’s all said and done, I'm going to go in the other room and go, “Why didn't I think of that?” But I don't think so. I think that I’ve given you kind of a little feel, kind of a—I hope so. I hope that I gave my definitions were good and I hope that I relayed some of the feelings and some of the ways that we as children saw Los Alamos.
We had no responsibilities. We had no work. We didn't have to work. We didn't need any money. Later on, they started charging a little bit to go to the movies or something and I would babysit. But other than that, everything we got was free. So we didn't need to have money. So we didn't need to work as children. I hope that I have gotten over the flavor, the way it was when we were living there. That was my one desire to do that today and I hope that I have done it.
Levy: You absolutely have. One more question I just thought of. Did you find Los Alamos and the nature around it really beautiful?
Heaton: Absolutely awesome. I’m a very outdoors person. It was one of the most beautiful settings I think that I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s a setting—I really want to be very, very—I need to share this.
One night it had snowed all day and we were walking across a large portion of land that had nothing on it. The snow had frozen and we could stand there, my friends and I, and look back over this snow and it was like an illusion and it had to be coming from the stars on this that looked greenish and yellowish hues on this ice. We thought it was a miracle, and I didn't really understand what that was until I went to Alaska. We walked on glaciers. The glaciers had the same kind of a green hue that we saw that very special night. And it’s because of the rays, the sunrays coming down through the ice with the water and it puts off these kinds of beautiful colors. So as far as the view, as far as the wilderness and the mountains. We were covered by mountains on all sides—north, south, east, west were nothing but huge, huge mountains. They were absolutely incredible. Absolutely
Like I said, I have to go back there periodically and get my mountain fix because it gets into your system, into your little brain. There’s nothing to take the place of those gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous mountains.