Mary Whittlesey Kennedy moved to Oak Ridge as a teenager in 1943 when her mother took a job there. In this interview, Mary discusses her years at Oak Ridge including her high school, school dances, and her involvement in clubs such as “the Penguin Club.” She fondly recalls her time in Oak Ridge. She also remembers her mixed reaction to the news of the atomic bomb and how her opinion has changed over the years.
Reflections on the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Kelly: This is Tuesday, February 6, 2018 and I’m in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida. I have with me Mary Whittlesey Kennedy. My first question to her is to tell us your name and spell it.
Kennedy: My present name is Mary Kennedy, K-E-N-N-E-D-Y, but my maiden name was Whittlesey, W-H-I-T-T-L-E-S-E-Y, when I went to Oak Ridge.
Kelly: Great. Talk about who your mother was, and how you found yourself in Oak Ridge, and what year that was that you found yourself there.
Cindy Kelly: Tell us about your work and what you’ve learned about the African Americans who worked here in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project.
Valeria Steele Roberson: I became interested in this project when I was a little girl. My grandmother used to tell us stories about the ‘40s, how they came here and left their children back in Alabama with their grandmother. She would always talk about giving one day to the bomb, and about the rats, and the plank sidewalks, and all those kinds of things.
Nancy Bartlit: My name is Nancy R. Bartlit, B-A-R-T-L-I-T.
Cindy Kelly: Thank you. Why don’t we start with you telling us what is your role?
Bartlit: I’m president of the Los Alamos Historical Society, and I formerly was on the County Council. I have been in Los Alamos for more than forty years as a volunteer activist and environmentalist. I also was on the National Lung Association, so I’m kind of interested in many things.
Cindy Kelly: I'm Cindy Kelly in Los Cruces, New Mexico and it’s December 7, 2017. I have with me John Hunner. The first question for John is to say his name and spell it.
Jon Hunner: My name is Jon Hunner. J-O-N, H-U-N-N-E-R.
Kelly: Jon, just to get some station identification, why don’t you tell people who you are and what you've been doing professionally for the last thirty years.
Nate Weisenberg: My name is Nate Weisenberg, and I’m here with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Thursday, October 12, 2017, and I am here with Mr. Al Zeltmann at his home in Los Alamos. My first question for you is if you could please say your name and spell it.
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C. It is Monday, April 24, 2017. I have with me distinguished historian and Pulitzer Prize-winner Martin J. Sherwin. My first question to him is to say his name and spell it for us.
Martin Sherwin: Martin J. Sherwin, M-A-R-T-I-N, middle initial J—actually, middle name Jay, J-A-Y, Sherwin, S-H-E-R-W-I-N.
Kelly: Can you tell us when [J. Robert] Oppenheimer was born and where, and who his parents were?
Lauren Attanas: My name is Lauren Attanas, that’s A-T-T-A-N-A-S. I am the granddaughter of John Attanas, who we are interviewing for the Atomic Heritage Foundation today. Can you say your name and spell it for the camera?
John Attanas: John George Attanas.
Lauren: Tell us the story of your origins. Where did your family come to the United States from?
Willie Atencio: What were the circumstances that you came to the Española area?
Elberta Lowdermilk Honstein: Well, the very first thing was my father, Elbert Lowdermilk, got the contract to build the first road to Los Alamos in 1943. That’s how I came. In ’43 I would maybe have been 15 years old. We spent the summers with my father. I was still in school in Denver. That’s how I got to New Mexico.
Patricia Simpson: I am Patricia Anne Simpson and I am recording this oral history for the Atomic Heritage Foundation on May 3, 2017, in Studio B of the Visual Communications Building at Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. Please say your name and spell it.
Al Zelver: My name is Al Zelver. It’s spelled Z, as in zebra, E-L-V, Victoria, E-R.
Simpson: Please tell us your date and place of birth.
Zelver: My date was July 2, 1920, and I was born in Stockton, California.