Collene Dunbar first arrived the Tri-Cities in 1950. She spent her childhood there while her father worked in construction at the Hanford Site. In this interview, she recalls her experiences growing up, and describes local perceptions of Hanford. She details discrimination faced by African Americans, local agriculture, and how the area has changed over the years. Dunbar also recounts her time working in construction and maintenance in the 200 East Area at Hanford, and shares her impressions of how secrecy and security were maintained at the site.
Virginia Ballard was born in Charleston, West Virginia. Her parents immigrated to the US from Scotland. In 1944, Ballard’s family moved to Richland, Washington where her father worked for DuPont. After attending college, Ballard went to work for GE and Exxon Nuclear. Her last job before retirement was as executive secretary to the manager for Siemens. Ballard had two children – Bruce and Diane – with her husband Del. In this interview, Ballard discusses her family’s relocation to Richland and her experience living there as a teenager. In particular, she talks about the high school she attended and recreational activities for teenagers at the time. Ballard also describes the town of Richland and its economy. She explains social and economic changes that occurred before, during, and after the war. Commenting on the secrecy of the scientific activity going on at Richland, Ballard shares that the dropping of the bomb came as a surprise to residents of Richland, but their reactions were positive and they expressed great pride in the work of their fellow residents. She hopes that the Hanford area and B Reactor will be preserved as an important historical site.
Jackie Peterson is an independent curator and exhibit developer in Seattle, Washington. She curated an exhibition called “The Atomic Frontier: Black Life at Hanford” at the Northwest African American Museum from October 2015-March 2016. In this interview, Peterson describes the exhibition and what she learned about African American experiences at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. She explains how African Americans came to the Tri-Cities, the kinds of work they were able to obtain, and the (largely informal) segregation they faced. She also contrasts how African Americans and Japanese Americans were treated by the federal government during World War II.
Herb Depke arrived in Hanford in 1943 after his father was transferred by the DuPont Company to work as an expediter during the Manhattan Project. Depke recalls some of his childhood memories of Hanford, including getting lost in the uniform, prefabricated housing development on his way home from the school bus stop. Depke also discusses how he believes the atomic bomb saved his father’s life, as he was being trained as a Port Director for the impending invasion of Japan.