[At top is the edited version of the interview published by S. L. Sanger in Working on the Bomb: An Oral History of WWII Hanford, Portland State University, 1995.
For the full transcript that matches the audio of the interview, please scroll down.]
I'm Joe Holt and I was born and raised in Kentucky. In 1939 I started to work for the Du Pont Company in Charleston, Indiana, on construction. I worked there, it was a powder plant, as a carpenter on maintenance for four years and then in 1943, they started Hanford. And they asked me to transfer out here to Hanford. They were asking every craftsman in the whole plant at Charleston, probably 800 people.
I got to Hanford by train. When we left Louisville it was practically a carload of guys coming to Hanford who had worked at Charleston. A lot of us knowed each other. We got to Pasco after dark. They said they would pick us up, and they did with some stretch-out buses and they hauled us to North Richland, to stay in tents. Well, I came out in October, 1943. There was hardly anybody here. Within a week's time we moved out to what they called Hanford, about 30 miles north. Nobody knowed how big a camp it would be, so we started out building the camp like an army camp. Two men to a room, four wings to a barracks. We started building mess halls. I would say, within two weeks, they was a thousand men a day coming in.
Most everybody worked 10 hours a day. They was building facilities to entice people there, a big theater, a grocery store, a trailer camp. Living in the barracks was good. The food was good. A lot of people griped. It was better than the Army.
We were the first carpenter crew out there at the first reactor, and every-body worked with the engineers driving stakes, and then they started bringing in equipment. Heavy equipment, cranes, there was a trainload a day. Some of those cranes were so big they sat right on the track, all kinds of heavy equipment. Everything they asked for, I guess they got.
Then they started digging this hole for the reactor building, and it was like going down to China. They put in three different concrete mixers to pump the concrete. I don't know how deep that hole was, just for the base, before they started with the forms.
The concrete was made right there, they had the gravel and sand, all they hauled in was the cement. They started pouring this concrete, and it got below zero, so they brought in steam locomotives. They must have had, I don't know, 10 or 15. They built the railroad, and run the steam locomotives in there. They were coal fed, and they took all the steam the engines could pro-duce and they had the concrete covered with tarps and these steam locomotives was furnishing steam underneath to keep the wet concrete from freezing before it set. Steam was flying every place. They estimated, I remember very plainly, there was better than 5,000 men on this one area at 100-B.
I was working setting forms. After they started setting the forms up, there was a lot to it. Most of them metal forms, tie rods. It was a big job. I had never worked on a job that big. Working conditions were good. I worked there 27 weeks, seven days a week, anywheres from 10 to 12 hours a day. I was paid $1.40 an hour, that was top wages for carpenters, anything over 40 hours was time and a half. You didn't hardly get time to go to sleep. I sent the money home to Kentucky.
I didn't have any time for fun. All we done was work. I made some friends. I knew four or five of the guys who come out with me. It didn't matter what, if a man had only one arm or one leg, if he wanted to come to Hanford he had a job. I saw a lot of men there with a stick with a nail in it, picking up paper. Most of the men were older than me, a lot of them were in their 60s. They needed help so bad. They were determined to build a plant at all costs.
One thing I always will feel bad about. There were a lot of fine orchards out there before the government came in, a lot of young orchards that had just started in production. They had put in irrigation systems, and the government gave them little or almost nothing. There were some bitter farmers, really bitter. They felt bitter towards us coming in here, not all of them, but some of them. They felt like we overrun them.
Well, they got the first reactor building up and then started laying the graphite. I helped on that. It was wonderful, very precise work. The blocks were different lengths, but all had to be fitted to tolerances in the thousandths. We had to wear protective clothing, shoe coverings, so there wouldn't be any contamination of the graphite. There were guys running a vacuum cleaner all the time to keep anything loose off the graphite. You wondered then what you were doing. I got acquainted with one of the engineers and he said "Instead of killing Japs by the hundreds, we are going to get them by the thousands." He had an idea what we were making but he didn't tell me. To tell you the truth, I had no idea. Some guys had theories, but most of them said we were making sand paper. All you had to do was hold it up and sand would gather on the paper.
I was in Richland when they announced the bombs. I think I was at the laundry. It come over the radio. The next two or three days reporters from every place all over flocked in here, trying to stop you and ask you questions. I never will forget one stopped me and he asked me what I had done. I said, "Well, a carpenter." Did you see any of the stuff? No, I told him, I didn't see nothing. He says, "Well, I don't see how they ever made anything because I ain't found anybody who ever done anything."
I thought the bombs were a good deal. In fact, I don't like it because the Japanese murdered them so in Hawaii, then here these newspapers and politicians say how cruel we was to drop the atomic bomb. Well, you get killed you get killed, I don't care if it was from an atomic bomb or a bow and arrow. They had no mercy on the Americans when they bombed Pearl Harbor. I think it was a good deal.
Joe Holt: I am Joe Holt. I was born and raised in Kentucky. In 1939, I started to work for the DuPont Company in Charlestown, Indiana, on construction. I worked there for four years. Then in 1943, they started Hanford. They asked me to transfer out here to Hanford.
S. L. Sanger: Did somebody come around, do you remember? Some recruiter, or they just asked you?
Holt: No. They were asking every craftsman in the whole plant. There was probably 800 people. But I was one of the first to accept it.
Sanger: You were a carpenter there?
Holt: Yes, I was a carpenter there. I was on maintenance.
Sanger: What were they making there?
Holt: It is a powder plant. It was one of the largest powder plants in the country, they said.
Sanger: Is that Indiana?
Holt: In Charlestown, Indiana.
Sanger: They call it Indiana Ordnance?
Holt: Yeah, it was Charlestown Powder Plant, they called it.
Sanger: Then they asked you to come out here?
Sanger: How did you get here?
Holt: Well, a train.
Sanger: On a tube train?
Holt: More or less it was a passenger train, a regular train from Louisville to Chicago. When we left out of Louisville, it was practically a whole carload of the guys that had worked at that plant. Everybody knew each other. They paid for your food and for your transportation and everything to come out.
Sanger: And they were all coming out to Hanford?
Holt: All coming to Hanford.
Sanger: And you came to Pasco, I suppose, though?
Sanger: Had you ever been out here before?
Holt: No—well, I had been over here in Oregon. But I had never been here before.
Sanger: What do you remember? What happened first then, after you got here?
Holt: We came into Pasco. We got in there in the night. I was surprised. They said they would pick us up. They did, but they had some stretched-out buses, they called it. They hauled us to what is known now as North Richland. They had some tents out there to stay in at first.
I came out in October, October the nineteenth. There was hardly anybody here. It was not over probably 200 people lived here. All the farmers still lived here.
Sanger: You got here in October of '43?
Holt: Yes. At first they had what they called a temporary—it was just temporary. Well, it did not even have water. They had to haul water in. But within a week's time, we moved to what they call Hanford.
Sanger: You went up there?
Holt: Went to Hanford. See, this is only twenty-five to thirty miles from North Richland to Hanford. Nobody knew how big of a camp it was going build or anything else. So they started out building the camp just like an Army camp. Two men to a room. There were four wings to the barracks, and started building mess halls. I would say within two weeks, there was 1,000 men a day coming in.
Sanger: That would have been late October?
Holt: Yeah. Late October.
Holt: Well, in November, anyway.
Sanger: Were you a carpenter up on the barracks then first?
Holt: Oh, yeah.
Sanger: That was your first work?
Holt: Yeah. Anyway, they had ten mess halls, I believe it were.
Sanger: Yeah. Eight or nine.
Holt: What they would do is, they would start out and the people would eat, then they would clear off those tables and reset them. I think they claimed that each mess hall could take care of about 8,000 people. I do not know. I did not count them.
Sanger: Yeah, that is right.
Holt: But it was just like an Army camp. Most everybody worked ten hours a day, but they would let you put in as many hours as you want.
Sanger: Would they?
Sanger: By this time, what were you doing?
Holt: Well, I was a carpenter building those barracks.
Sanger: Barracks, okay.
Holt: And they were building facilities to try to entice the people there. They built a big theater and a grocery store. We had the largest trailer camp in the world, I guess. They said it was, anyway.
Sanger: Twelve thousand people.
Holt: But if you lived in the barracks, you had to live separate from your wife. She had to live in one barracks, and the men in the other.
Sanger: They had barbed wire around them.
Holt: Yes. It had regular cyclone fence.
Sanger: What was that like, living in the barracks?
Holt: Oh, it was good. It was a good bed. It was a regular Army cot.
Sanger: And there was one other guy in the room?
Holt: Yeah. Two men to a room.
Sanger: How was the food?
Holt: It was good.
Sanger: Lots of it.
Holt: Lots of it. A lot of people griped, but they would do that. It was better than the Army, you know what I mean?
Sanger: You were working for DuPont though?
Holt: That is right. DuPont built the plant. DuPont was a prime contractor. There were a few other little contractors.
Sanger: Yeah. Subcontractors.
Holt: But very few. DuPont handled the whole thing.
Sanger: Did you go watch the B Area? The B Reactor?
Holt: When they started the first area right at the last of December, I remember very plainly. In January then, it turned so cold. We were the first carpenter crew out there, and everybody ̶ they just worked with the engineers driving stakes and things like that, the engineers. Then they began to bring in equipment.
Sanger: And that would have been December '43, when you went out there?
Holt: Yeah. That was December of '43.
Sanger: To the 100-B?
Holt: Yeah. 100-B.
Sanger: You were in that first crew out there?
Holt: The first crew.
Sanger: You guys were mostly just to go work with the engineers there?
Holt: Yeah. That is right. Then they began to bring in all the heavy equipment, cranes. It was a trainload a day of building railroads ̶ some of those cranes were so big that they sat right on the track, right on the railroad. All kinds of heavy equipment. Anything they asked for, I guess they got.
They had yards out there for the trains to come in. Then they started just digging this hole. It was like going down to China. They put up three different concrete mixers to pump the concrete. They did not haul any concrete. They pumped it all. Well, I do not know how deep that hole was.
Sanger: That was where the reactor was?
Holt: For the base, just for the base, before this started with the forms or anything else.
Sanger: Where was the concrete coming from?
Holt: Well, they made it right there.
Sanger: Right there?
Holt: With the gravel and the sand, and all they hauled in was the cement. That was the only thing. The rest of it was made right on the job. Then they started pouring this concrete, and it got down below zero. So they started bringing in steam locomotives. They must have had—oh I do not know, ten or fifteen around this one. Built a rail road, run the steam motors in there. It was coal-fed.
Then they would take all the steam that that thing could produce, and they had them all covered with tarps and things to try to keep it dry and dried out. These steam locomotives was furnishing the steam underneath of that. The steam was flying every place. That would be in one section. Maybe two days later, they would be over in another section.
They estimated, I remember very plainly, that there was better than 5,000 men on this one area there, the 100-B area. I am sure it increased more and more all the time after they got started. But the main reason they wanted to get what is called the 105 building—
Sanger: And that is where the excavation was?
Holt: Yeah. Excavation.
Sanger: And those steam engines were there to keep the concrete—
Holt: From freezing.
Sanger: From freezing?
Sanger: So it sat before it froze, at least.
Sanger: What were you doing then?
Holt: I was just working there, just like everybody else.
Holt: Yeah. Setting forms. After they started setting the forms up, there was a lot to it. Most all of them metal forms with tie rods. It was a big job.
Sanger: Had you ever done anything like that before, that big?
Holt: Well, not that big. But at Charlestown, we had big buildings there too, and commercial buildings.
Sanger: How were the working conditions? Were they pretty good?
Holt: Good. Yeah.
Sanger: The supervision was reasonable?
Holt: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Sanger: How long would you work in a normal day?
Holt: I worked there twenty-seven weeks, seven days a week. Anywhere from ten to twelve hours a day, most of the time.
Sanger: In twenty-seven weeks, you said?
Sanger: Seven days a week?
Holt: Seven days a week.
Sanger: Do you remember how much money you were making?
Holt: Well, we were only getting $1.40 an hour. That was top wages for a carpenter.
Sanger: What about overtime? Was there any overtime?
Holt: Oh, yeah. All other than forty hours was overtime.
Sanger: It was time and a half?
Holt: Yeah. Time and a half.
Sanger: So, you would be making—what did you say you were working? Ten hours a day?
Holt: Yeah. Well, ten and twelve. Most of the time, it was twelve hours a day.
Sanger: So that would be—
Holt: You did not hardly get time to go to sleep.
Sanger: What did you do with all the money, then?
Holt: I sent it home.
Sanger: Back to Indiana?
Holt: Kentucky. I still lived in Kentucky.
Sanger: Your parents?
Sanger: Were there any bad accidents on the job you were on?
Holt: Not very many. There were some. Naturally, they have some accidents. You did not see too many. They had ambulances there. They built the hospital at Hanford. They had a large hospital there, just a temporary hospital. Just like the bank and the theater, they tried to do everything to entice the people to stay because a lot of them would come in one day and terminate the next and leave.
Sanger: Because of the weather?
Holt: The weather, sand blowing, and things like that. It was isolated kind of out in the—
Sanger: What did you do for fun then? You did not have much time, I guess.
Holt: Well, I did not have any time, other than work. That was all we did, was work.
Sanger: Did you make some friends out there then, I suppose?
Holt: Oh, yeah. I know four or five of the guys that came out with me. About five of those were carpenters. I knew more than that. There was about thirty that had come out, but they were pipefitters or riggers or different crafts. But they found a job—they recruited in forty-six states, they said later. I did not know how many. They recruited in every state except Tennessee and some other, and I do not remember where.
It did not matter if he only had one arm or one leg. If he wanted to come to Hanford, well, he had a job. I had seen a lot of them there with just a stick with a nail on the end of it, picking up paper. But it was a job for them.
Sanger: Were a lot of those fellows older than you?
Holt: Oh, yeah. Most of them were.
Sanger: Even into their forties?
Holt: Yes. There was a lot of them in their sixties.
Sanger: That was because they needed help so bad?
Holt: They needed help so bad. They were determined to build a plant at all cost. There was a lot of equipment that came in there that was never used.
I stayed on. They had for miles and miles out there of surplus equipment. That is, from a snow plow—I bet they had twenty-five snow plows, and we never had enough snow for anything that year.
Sanger: What else can you remember that was not used?
Holt: Everything, practically. I remember one time, I bet you thirty boxcar loads of just plain nails that was surplus. They sat out there for four or five years, way after the war ended. You see, the government bought the boxcars and the engines and the locomotives that were coming in there. They just bought them or leased them or something. I do not know what.
Sanger: They were not sparing the expense, were they?
Holt: No, they were not sparing expense—except one thing. I will always feel bad about that. Those guys that came out here to appraise the property the belonged to the—there were a lot of fine orchards out there. There were a lot of orchards that were young orchards that were just starting in production. The government did not pay them one penny for those deals. They had the water rights. They had all put their money in that irrigation system, and just got it going. And they gave them nothing at all. There were some awful bitter farmers. It was really bitter.
I felt bad, because they felt bitter towards us coming in here, too. Not all of them, but some of them. They just felt like we just overrun them and things like that. They just give them so long to get out of their home.
Sanger: Thirty days.
Holt: A lot of them, they just had to load them up and haul them out, I guess. I do not know. I was not around there.
Sanger: Did you ever see any of those people later?
Holt: Oh, sure. Yeah.
Sanger: Where would you see them?
Holt: Well, a lot of them had come to work out there. There were a lot of them that you got acquainted with after you stayed on here. After the war ended, you get to talking to somebody, Prosser or Grandview or Kennewick. In fact, the people that ran the hardware store went up to Kettle Falls, which is way up next to the Canadian border. And I still do business there.
Sanger: Oh, do you?
Holt: Buy stuff from them.
Sanger: And they were down here?
Holt: They were down here. They run a hardware store here in Richland.
Sanger: I talked to a woman today who was a young woman [Annette Heriford] out there, and her father owned an orchard. He was one of the ones that was bought out for very ̶
Holt: Little to nothing.
Sanger: Maybe a third of what it was worth.
Sanger: She said that if they had not been so patriotic, there would have been more trouble. But people thought that it was something to win the war, so they left.
Holt: Yeah. Yeah.
Sanger: Were you in a union out there?
Holt: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Sanger: Which one?
Holt: The Carpenters Union, 1849.
Sanger: But there was no organizing done on the job, in that case, was there?
Holt: Oh, no.
Sanger: You were in it, because you had been in it before?
Holt: Yeah. You [inaudible] into the union hall.
Sanger: Yeah. Were there any stoppages when you were—
Holt: Oh, no. No. There was no labor dispute at all.
Sanger: Yeah. That is what I thought.
Holt: No, there was no labor dispute.
Sanger: Did you have any idea of what you were doing?
Holt: I had no idea.
Sanger: Did they say anything about that?
Holt: But I stayed on until after they started the B Area up. In fact, I was one of them in there.
Sanger: You stayed there until it was completed?
Sanger: What were you doing then after—?
Holt: Well, just more or less little knick-knack jobs around there.
Holt: Carpenter, yeah.
Leslie Holt: Maintenance.
Holt: Maintenance. I went on maintenance.
Sanger: Oh, you did? After it was started up?
Holt: When the first reactor went in to operation, I went on maintenance there.
Sanger: At the same one?
Holt: Well, there and part of the time they used me over at West Area, which was separation.
Sanger: Separation. Did you help build that?
Holt: No, I did not help build it. I worked in there on maintenance afterwards.
Sanger: Incidentally, when you were working ̶
Holt: I stayed with B, D, and F, all three of the 100 Areas. They built three of them.
Sanger: And you helped build all three of them?
Holt: All three of them, yeah.
Sanger: B, then D, then F?
Holt: And then I went back to B on maintenance.
Sanger: Oh, I see. Doing the same job?
Holt: Well, yeah. With all three of the reactors, yes, about the same job.
Sanger: Now, they are almost totally identical, are they not?
Holt: Yeah. See, after we got the building up and they started laying the graphite, I went on that.
Sanger: You helped on that?
Holt: I helped on that.
Sanger: What was that like?
Holt: Oh, it was wonderful.
Sanger: Was it very precise work, I suppose?
Holt: Oh, yeah. Very precise work. It was very particular.
Sanger: How big were those blocks, do you remember?
Holt: Well, they were different lengths. They have to be a different, but all of them, I think, they went by the thousands.
Sanger: Yeah. I talked to somebody who—
Holt: Yeah, I started right at the start of that.
Sanger: Did you?
Sanger: On the laying—
Holt: Yeah. Laying it out.
Sanger: Did you have to take special precautions?
Holt: Oh, yeah. Wear protective clothing and shoe covers.
Sanger: That was so you would not—no contamination, right?
Holt: No contamination. No contamination towards the graphite at all of any kind. They had guys there that were running the vacuum cleaner all the time, to keep any loose vacuum off.
Sanger: Did you really wonder what you were doing then or not?
Holt: Yeah, you wondered. I got acquainted with one of the engineers. He said, “Instead of killing the Japs by the hundreds, they were going to get them by the thousands.”
Sanger: Oh, is that right? That was his—
Holt: His theory of it. He had an idea of what he was making, but he did not tell me. To tell you the truth, I did not know what it was. I did not even know ̶
Sanger: Did a lot of guys wonder?
Sanger: What were some of the theories?
Holt: Well, they would have theories on—but most all of them said, “Well, they are going to make sandpaper here. All they have to do is hold it up and sand together on the paper.”
Sanger: Did you ever hear of a big accident at one of the separation—at one of the tank storage areas? Did a tank collapse? It would have been, I guess in probably '44 sometime. I have heard about this, but no one ever—the patrol, the guy on patrol told me it was seven killed. This priest in town said that five or six were killed. Somebody else said there were eight.
Holt: I do not know.
Sanger: You do not remember anything about it?
Holt: I do not remember. I do not know.
Sanger: Well, they probably would not have been publicized.
Holt: Published, yeah.
Sanger: But it was supposed to be a tank that was being put—it was propped up, and they were working on it, and it collapsed.
Holt: I cannot recall it. I cannot recall.
Sanger: But the Priest, [William] Sweeney, do you know him? Monseigneur Sweeney? Downtown?
Leslie Holt: Know of him.
Sanger: He went out there on that. He said there were five bodies that he had to administer to in the hospital in Hanford at the camp.
Sanger: But the DuPont history does not mention it.
Holt: Well, I do not ̶
Leslie Holt: It would just be in medical records.
Sanger: Yeah, I suppose.
Leslie Holt: It would not be publicized.
Sanger: Did you ever hear of a train wreck out there, of two locomotives?
Holt: Yeah, they—
Sanger: Ran together.
Yeah. Well, that was after the war that two of the trains hit on out there. There was probably some—
Sanger: Well, there was supposed to be some during that period.
Holt: During that period? I do not doubt it, because they built so much railroad tracks out there the Milwaukee. I cannot imagine them going broke, as much business as they had out there during the war years. Everything was handled by the Milwaukee Road. All come in from Vantage, in that way. There were no railroads—
Sanger: From the north or west?
Holt: Yeah, the northwest. But there were no passenger trains coming in that way.
Sanger: Yeah. They came around.
Holt: Yeah, all freight. And there was a lot of the equipment that was ferried up the Columbia River too.
Sanger: Oh, was there?
Holt: Yeah. Some of it was ferried up the Columbia River.
Sanger: How long did you stay in the barracks then? Until they were moved out or closed?
Holt: It was a little over a year. Just about a year, I stayed in the barracks.
Sanger: Because they closed the camp in February of '45, but you left before that?
Holt: Yeah. I left before that. When I went on maintenance, I was entitled to a house.
Sanger: Oh, a house.
Holt: To a house.
Sanger: Because you then would be in operations then?
Holt: Yeah. I was on operations then. That is the only way you could get a house, was to be on operations.
Sanger: You switched over?
Sanger: Now, did a lot of the construction workers leave?
Holt: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. See, DuPont was building another plant back in Indiana, a rocket powder plant. A lot of them went different places, too.
Sanger: Of course, construction workers, I guess, are known for their restlessness.
Holt: They said there was eighty some thousand people working there at one time.
Sanger: Yeah. I think 150,000 came through.
Sanger: The highest deployment during the construction phase was about 50,000.
Holt: I think there was more than that, but they were separated—I do not know.
Sanger: Well, then they had wives and kids.
Sanger: They had probably 60,000 at the camp counting kids and wives.
Holt: They had a school there. They had guarding—the police, continually with all the streets and everything all the time.
Sanger: Do you remember much trouble in the camp ever? I mean, in the beer hall?
Holt: Well, there was a lot of gambling, a lot of gambling. Yeah, there was a lot of gambling and a lot of fighting.
Sanger: In the barracks?
Holt: Yeah. In general, in the barracks.
Sanger: Over what?
Holt: They would catch a guy cheating or I do not know what. I did not gamble.
Sanger: But there was quite a bit of that, right?
Holt: Oh, yeah. There was a quite a bit of that.
Sanger: Where would they would usually go? One guy said they did a lot of it in the showers, because it was a nice hard floor.
Holt: Yeah. Concrete floor.
Sanger: Or some guy said that sometimes there would be one room that would be kind of set aside for gambling.
Sanger: What about violence? Do you remember much about that?
Holt: There was a lot of drinking. I worked all the time, so I did not—there was probably a lot of guys that did not work at all that was in there. I do not know. I do not know how they get around it.
Sanger: Well, that is another theory—a lot of people came in not to work really but to be professional gamblers.
Holt: Gamblers. Yeah. I am sure there were.
Sanger: Was there a lot of fighting over women or not?
Holt: Well, there was no women around there. So I would not know about that.
Sanger: Yeah. When the announcement was made about the atomic bombs, do you remember that?
Sanger: Where were you? Were you out at B, then?
Holt: Oh, no. I was here in Richland. See, they did not announce that until—when did they drop the first bomb?
Holt: August, yeah.
Holt: Yeah. I was down in town here in Richland. I think I had gone to the laundry, and it had come over the radio that Truman had announced it. In the next two or three days, reporters from every place all over flocking in here, trying to stop you and asked you questions.
Sanger: In Richland?
Holt: Yeah. I never will forget, one stopped me, and he asked me what I had done out there. And I told him, "Well, I was a carpenter."
"Well, did you see any of the stuff?"
And I did not. I said, "No."
He talked to me and went on. He said, "Well, I do not know how they ever made anything because I have not found anybody who has ever done anything."
I said, "Well, I do not know." So it was a pretty kept secret. There was not much talk about it. Not even after they dropped the bomb. There was not too much talk. I had no idea they would keep it going. I thought they would close it down in two or three weeks.
Sanger: Yeah. They did not hardly slack off, even.
Sanger: Would you have any memory of what you thought when you heard about the bombs being used?
Holt: Well, I thought it was a good deal myself. In fact, I do not like it, because here the Japanese murdered them so in Hawaii, and then here these newspaper and even politicians, "How cruel we were to drop the atomic bomb." You get killed, you get killed. I do not care if it was from an atomic bomb or from a bow and arrow. They had no mercy on the American people over there when they bombed Pearl Harbor. I think it was a good deal. I think it shortened the lives of the American people.
In fact, I think the Japanese should be paying our war debt right now. That is really what I think about it. They signed an unconditional surrender. I think instead of us protecting them, I think they ought to be protecting us. Not with manpower, but with money-wise.
They still won the war. They lost it on the battlefield. The taxpayers here are the most burdened people in the world, paying for protecting of the guys that are shipping stuff in here for—no wonder they can do it. There is no expense whatsoever. I do not know.
They say we got the best government, and maybe we have. I do not know. But I do not feel bad about them dropping the atomic bomb. I think it was a good deal.
Sanger: Well, then you stayed?
Sanger: Until when?
Holt: Still now.
Sanger: No, I mean at the ̶
Holt: Well, I worked on for them until I was fifty-six years old. Then I went in the bee business.
Sanger: That was what year?
Holt: 1950. No, '60 ̶
L. Holt: '67.
Sanger: And you are seventy-three now?
Sanger: You did not get drafted because you were too old?
Holt: Yeah. I went three months in the service. When I was here, and I came right back. I had seven brothers. Seven of us boys was in the service.
Sanger: You mean you were drafted while you were at Hanford?
Holt: At Hanford. Yeah. I went back home, and was inducted.
Sanger: How did you get out of it then?
Holt: My mother, when they had that disaster in some ship, and six brothers lost.
Sanger: Oh, yeah. The Sullivan brothers?
Holt: My other six other brothers were in the service, and they were all overseas.
Sanger: So you did not have to stay?
Holt: And the war was coming to an end anyway.
Sanger: Then you came back out here?
Holt: Yeah. Back out here and started right back at working at the 100-B area, where I had left off at.
Sanger: And that was after?
Sanger: What was that, '45 by then?
Holt: '45. It was just a few months before they dropped the atomic bombs.
Sanger: Yeah. They were taking people who were fairly old at the end. Because I know my dad was about your age, and he had a bad knee. But he was about to be drafted in '45. Then the war ended, so he did not have to go. Then you stayed on until 1967?
Sanger: Then you went into the bee business.
Holt: Yeah. You were working for what then? How was out there in '60? General Electric still? Or was it somebody else?
Sanger: Yeah. General Electric was still out there.
L. Holt: Well, General Electric went up. You worked for DUN for three, four years? Two years?
Holt: Two years. I think it was just two years. I do not know.
L. Holt: Not very long.
Holt: DuPont operated it, until General Electric come in. Then General Electric operated the whole plant. Then they wanted out. I guess they wanted their knowledge of how to handle—I am sure that their key men got a lot of training out of—
Sanger: But you stayed in maintenance?
Holt: Yeah. Stayed in maintenance.
Sanger: At the reactors?
Sanger: Or separation too?
Holt: 100 Area. No, once in a while was would go over there for some special job that required some extra men. But very seldom we ever went over there.
Sanger: Then you worked, throughout the war, you worked for DuPont?
Sanger: So that was a pretty good company to work for, I guess.
Holt: Oh, yeah. Really safety-minded.
Sanger: That is what they say. I have spoken with Walt Simon, who was the manager, you know, the first DuPont manager. He is in his eighties now. He lives in Wilmington. All these guys stressed the safety part, that DuPont was really safety conscious.
Sanger:Your nickname is Honey Joe?
Sanger: Is that since when? Since way back when?
L. Holt: He has always been “honey” to me. [Laughter]
Holt: I bought a new truck, and the guy asked me to put my name and address on there. That was way back in '52. I had a Studebaker, and the hood was built kind of funny. He put “Honey Joe” right across the hood. He was a wonderful sign painter. He painted my name and address on both sides of the door. But he wrote “Honey Joe” on it. Everybody started calling me “Honey Joe,” and I just did not pay any attention to it. I mean, I answered them yes or no. I just kept that name.
Sanger: What was the weather like when you were working out there?
Holt: Summer sometimes was hot, just like it is today. Here last week, we had 100-degree temperature here, 105, and that was the same way in those years. It was first hot, and then cold.
Sanger: There was ice water on all the jobs?
Holt: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. They really took good care of the people.
Sanger: In barrels?
Holt: Well, yeah. On construction, yeah, barrels. They had the ice plant at White Bluffs before the plant came in. But they built it about five times the size it was, and they kept that operating until after the whole plant went in operation. They froze their own ice. They expanded the ice plant and a lot of the other things, school, and just everything, facilities, to make things better.
Sanger: What about the winters?
Holt: Some years we had real mild winters, and some winters then was bad. I remember the first year we came here, they were bad. They were down below zero for over a month there, when they were using all that—
Sanger: All the steam locomotive.
Holt: Locomotive for steam.
Sanger: What kind of construction had you been in before Hanford, I mean, before Charlestown?
Holt: I worked for a little while on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sanger: Oh, did you?
Sanger: That in ‘35 or so?
Holt: No, ‘37.
Sanger: What did you do on that?
Holt: I was a carpenter.
Sanger: For how long?
Holt: I was on there about six months, seven months. Oh, well, it was a lot more different than working for DuPont.
L. Holt: No safety nets.
Holt: They lost twenty-eight [misspoke: ten] men at one time there. A net fell, and ten men ̶
Sanger: Were you there then?
Holt: Yeah. I was on the job.
Sanger: Were you?
Holt: Yeah. I kind of backed off.
Sanger: Was that when you left?
Sanger: Who was that company?
Holt: Well, I think it was Kaiser that I was working for.
Sanger: It was iron?
Sanger: What is it called? Something—iron and bridge or bridge and—anyway, you were working for Kaiser though.
Holt: I was working for Kaiser. But I think it was Chicago Bridge.
Sanger: Yeah. I think that is right. You were doing carpentry work?
Holt: Well, we were setting forms. You see, they used carpenters to set all the concrete forms for the metal.
Sanger: For the piers?
Holt: Well, yeah. I was on that road part, the road build up around there that ̶
Sanger: Were you over the water?
Holt: Part of the time, and part of the time not.
Sanger: Was that big money or not?
Holt: No. I think it was $0.90 an hour.
Sanger: But you only worked there six or seven months?
Sanger: That was ‘37 you said?
Holt: Yeah, ‘37.
Sanger: When was it done?
Sanger: ‘38. Any other big jobs?
Holt: No. Just the others was all house buildings and things like that, commercial buildings some.
Sanger: But you came up there from Kentucky?
Sanger: To San Francisco?
Sanger: Were they recruiting all over the place for that too?
Holt: No. Not so much. But I had a friend that worked there, and he wanted me to come down. But I did not care for it after I got there. I thought the first day I was there, I would never leave California, but three days later I changed my mind.
Sanger: Was that because it felt dangerous or what?
Holt: The wind was blowing and cold. Well, the wind a blowing, cold. I went there in January. The sun was shining real beautiful, the roses were blooming. In the next three days, the wind came up and the fog, and I changed my mind. I did not care for it.
You did not know what to wear out there on the job. If you had taken a raincoat, the sun was shining, and perspiration just run off of you. And then if you did not, the fog would come in, you would freeze to death. You did not know what clothes to put on. You would have to carry it—
Sanger: Then that accident finished you?
Sanger: Then the accident finished you?