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Opal Drum’s Interview

Manhattan Project Locations:

Opal Drum lived in Richland while her husband worked as a crane operator for the Manhattan Project. Neither she nor her children had any knowledge of the purpose of her husband’s work until they heard the news about bombing of Hiroshima. Drum describes civilian life in Richland, discussing what it was like to raise kids in the town. The family resided in the town’s largest trailer park. She speaks of her brother’s role in WWII, as well as initial reactions of the American people following the use of the atomic bomb.

Date of Interview:
September 12, 1986
Location of the Interview:


[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.]

Book version:

We came from Oklahoma. Frank worked on construction, at Tulsa on a bomber plant, at Oklahoma City, Dodge City, Yuma, all defense jobs. He was a scraper hand, earth moving, then he became a crane operator.

I believe we heard about Hanford first while were in Dodge City, and later in Yuma, I think it was in the papers, and we went back to Oklahoma and some friends, he was a carpenter, decided to come out here and we went with them, with our 1940 Studebaker and our trailer. That was in 1943, in Decem­ber. We got out here the 23rd of December, and he went to work for Du Pont, I believe, after Christmas, at 2-West, helping to build the separations plants. He ran a backhoe for a while, then outside cranes, then late in 1944 he went inside to run the overhead cranes after operations started.

When we first got out here, we were put in a temporary trailer camp for a few days, then we came out to the big trailer camp at Hanford. I think we moved in the 27th or so of December. The Hanford trailer camp was won­derful. It was the biggest trailer camp in the world, at that time. It was policed, it was kept clean, they had great big bath houses. Back then, very few trailers were modern. The bath houses were kept clean, the school was good, I have no complaints, it was a marvelous place to live. One thing I liked was that around the trailers it was kept clean. There wasn’t any tacky trailers. They weren’t big mobile homes, but they were neat and clean. The people in the trailers were family people. No riff raff out there. The barracks people were completely different. I felt a lot safer out there in 1944 than I do today living in this house in town.

Our trailer was 27 foot, inside, by 8 foot wide, I guess. The girls were 10 and 12, and they went to school at the camp. My day was just about the same as anywhere. Lot of visiting. You got acquainted. Everybody was away from home. Nobody tried to impress anyone else. The kids got along , the people got along. They were all interested in each other, it was very enjoyable. I was terribly homesick, but outside of that I liked it.

My husband put in awfully long hours on construction. The first time he had a day off where we could go anywhere, was months after we started. We went to Boise, Idaho, to see some relatives. Land, we thought we had gone clear around the world. He worked seven days a week, sometimes 12-hour days.

It was so hot out there. No trees, no air conditioning. We all had little porches, little canopies, we were all young, nobody suffered much. Our trailer didn’t have a toilet or shower but we did our cooking in it, on a little stove with an oven. We had a divan at one end, and a stationary bed at the other end, with clothes closets on the sides. It was like being on a vacation. The kids went to matinees on Saturday in the camp auditorium.

We stood in line a lot, at grocery stores, the post office, service stations. That was part of life. We played cards. There wasnt a heck of a lot to do, to tell the truth. We did play bridge with our neighbors. I did a lot of sewing, for my girls. I read a lot. Books, magazines, anything. We never went to the bars.

Frank never talked during the war about his work inside at the separa­tions plants. Not much later either. The kids never knew what their daddy was doing. He told me he didn’t know and he couldn’t tell me if he knew. He told the kids he was making Pepsi-Cola. They told everybody that’s what they were doing. Even in the church circles or card clubs, the women were not allowed to discuss anything about it. We were told not to talk about it. It was a no-no. And, nobody did talk about it.

When the bombs were announced, we were on our way to Longview to visit some friends. We heard the news on the car radio. After they heard the news, Glenda, our youngest, she was 12, said, “Daddy, you told us all along they was making Pepsi-Cola.” She was about half-mad. My husband had told them he would bring them the first carton and they were looking forward to that.

I had a brother killed at Normandy in ’44. He was a tank commander and he lost contact with the infantry and my brother opened the hatch on his tank and he was shot right through the heart. He’s buried over there, in France. You know, it’s so funny to me on these anniversaries of the bombs, on television they show those pictures of how awful it was but you know they don’t show a thing about Pearl Harbor. That’s the darndest thing I ever heard of. Every-body here thought the bombs were justified, I still think it was justified, you bet. It took lives, it took innocent lives, but it saved a lot of lives.


Full Transcript:

S. L. Sanger: This is Opal Drum interviewed at her residence on Fallon Avenue in West Richland, August 5, 1986 Opal Drum D-R-U-M.

Where did you come from?

Drum: Oklahoma.

Sanger: And you and your husband were working where?

Drum: He worked on construction, he worked at Tulsa for the lumber plant and they were all defense plants. Worked at Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Sanger: What was in Oklahoma City?

Drum: Bomber plant, then he had some smaller jobs, but they were all defense. Then he worked in Dodge City, Kansas for a while and then we came Yuma, but it was too hot in Yuma.

Sanger: What was there?

Drum: It was another something, I do not know.

Sanger: Another war job. He was a crane operator?

Drum: Yes, he started out as what they call a scraper hand.

Sanger: I see, that is dirt.

Drum: Yeah, now he started out at Fort Supply. That had nothing to do with it.

Sanger: Where was that?

Drum: Oklahoma.

Sanger: That was before the war?

Drum: Well, that was in 1940. I believe it was 1941 that we went to Tulsa and that is where he got his chance for the crane. As a crane operator, that is where he was trained.

Sanger: That is where he started, in Tulsa?

Drum: That was Truscon Steel he worked for.

Sanger: It was mostly lifting steel I suppose. What was the name of the company?

Drum: It was the Manhattan Project I believe is what it was called.

Sanger: Then he went to Oklahoma City.

Drum: Yes.

Sanger: For the same sort of thing. Then is that where you heard about this job out here?

Drum: I believe it was Dodge City.

Sanger: Was that a bomber plant too?

Drum: No. I forget what that was but all of it had something to do with defense. Then we went back to Oklahoma and some friends that—of course we lived in a trailer—and some friends that we had lived in their yard at Oklahoma City, he was a carpenter, they decided to come out here. They came by and we just packed up and went with them.

Sanger: That would have been what year?

Drum: That is 1943.

Sanger: Early?

Drum: December.

Sanger: Of 1943.

Drum: We got out here the twenty-third of December and he went to work, two days after Christmas.

Sanger: As what?

Drum: He did eventually operate an outside crane, maybe he went to work as a crane operator. It seemed to me like he ran a backhoe and things like that during construction too to start out.

Sanger: But then later, he was put on an outside crane.

Drum: Yeah.

Sanger: Do you know which area he started in?

Drum: 2-S I believe and he was there for a long time. He finished up in Purex.

Sanger: Maybe he stayed up in that area. Do you remember how you heard about the job originally?

Drum: I think it was in the paper, we heard about it in Yuma, too, when we were out there, it was a lot closer.

Sanger: It was particularly known then.

Drum: Oh, yes.

Sanger: It was a big job.

Drum: Yeah but I knew what it was of course.

Sanger: He was out here and he was working for DuPont.

Drum: Yes and then G.E. took over from there.

Sanger: Then, when he went into the inside crane operator.

Drum: Yeah that was in 1944.

Sanger: Do you know how come he was chosen for that?

Drum: Not exactly, I don’t know why those three were chosen.

Sanger: Who were they again, those three people?

Drum: Their names? Charlie Boyd and Tom Ridge.

Sanger: R-I-D-G-E?

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: And your husband.

Drum: Uh-huh. That is the only reason we stayed. We were on construction, we did not plan to come out here and stay; that is the only reason we stayed. We had two daughters and we decided we’d stay, we did not know how long it would last or anything. They were twelve and ten when we came out then they would have been eleven and thirteen so they were getting pretty near ready, the thirteen year old was ready for high school. We stayed until they finished high school.

Sanger: Then you would move on. How old were you and your husband when you came out here?

Drum: In our early thirties.

Sanger: So he had children plus he was probably too old to be drafted, plus the war job.

Drum: The war job, he could not have been. I had a brother killed in 1944 and my husband tried to enlist but they would not let him. Then he could not go after working out here anyway.

Sanger: Where was your brother killed?

Drum: In Normandy.

Sanger: In the invasion, in 1944?

Drum: He was a tank commander. They lost contact with the infantry and he opened the hatch and raised up with hand signals, which was against the rules and regulations and was shot right through the heart. He is buried over there, he did not want to come. He said the last time he was home, if he was going to be killed that is where he wanted to be buried. He is buried in France.

Sanger: Where did you grow up?

Drum: Oklahoma, born and raised there. My grandparents came there in the early days, I do not know just when. My father and all are native Oklahomans.

Sanger: That is where your husband came from?

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: Do you recall him talking once about his work inside the building?

Drum: No that was—

Sanger: He did not talk about it even later?

Drum: No. Not a lot, even later. With the kids, we had never been on a job where they did not know what their daddy was doing. I knew, he told me, but he did not know and he could not tell me if he knew to shut up, so of course the kids did not know. So he told them that he was making Pepsi-Cola.

Sanger: He did?

Drum: And they told everybody that is what he did. Even in the church circles or card clubs or anything, the women were not allowed to discuss anything about it. We were not allowed to talk, we were told not to talk about it because we did not know anything about it and that is just a no-no.

Sanger: Did people generally follow that?

Drum: You bet they did, as far as I know.

Sanger: Of course after the bombs were used then you knew.

Drum: Yeah.

Sanger: He did not talk too much about the job inside when he was running the crane?

Drum: No, afterwards, after it could be told, then it was an interesting job. I always did want to, at one time, we got to go out, but they could not take me up on the crane. I could not go up there. I would have given anything to see that.

Sanger: You saw it from below?

Drum: No, I did not see the crane itself. We were in this building, but we could see the canyon, they called it the canyon, but no, not the crane, I wanted to go up on the crane. We were good friends of the big shots out there, but that I could not. The war was over and everything.

Sanger: What did your husband ever talk about after the war and it was okay to discuss it? Do you remember anything about that particular job and how he did it?

Drum: Well, I remember him telling me about it but as far as trying to tell you, I could not.

Sanger: I am just curious because the books you read they talk about shadows.

Drum: I know they worked through opticals—that I do know.

Sanger: Periscopes. Did he ever mention television?

Drum: I think so.

Sanger: Supposedly, there is a dispute about that, some people say they did and some people say they did not.

Drum: I cannot really remember.

Sanger: Then when you came out here did you go directly to the trailer camp?

Drum: Uh-huh. We stayed until after Christmas in Kennewick.

Sanger: In a hotel or something?

Drum: No, we were our mobile homes. They were called trailers.

Sanger: Oh, you had it with you.

Drum: Yeah we came out in it. Us and this other couple, we had to go in, I want to call it temporary camp, they did not have the permanent camp ready for that many people. We were in that I do not know how long, not too long, and the kids had two shifts at school, there were so many kids out there they could not all go at once. Our girls had to go quite a ways from school, but they had to walk.

Sanger: This was still while you were in Kennewick?

Drum: Hanford.

Sanger: You went out there a week or two?

Drum: Oh just a few days.

Sanger: I see.

Drum: I think we moved out the 26th because I think he went to work the 29th of December and I think we moved out the 27th or 28th.

Sanger: That is 1943?

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: This is the campus right next to the big construction you are talking about down near the river?

Drum: Yeah.

Sanger: What was that like?

Drum: It was wonderful.

Sanger: Was it?

Drum: It was the biggest trailer camp in the world at that time. It was policed, it was kept clean. They had great big bathhouses because back then very few trailers were modern trailers. The bathhouses were kept clean and the school was good. I had no complaints with that; that was a marvelous place to live. The people in the mobile homes were family people, I met no riff-raff out there.

Sanger: That was separate completely from the barracks?

Drum: Oh yes, oh yes.

Sanger: It was not very far was it?

Drum: No.

Sanger: Adjacent?

Drum: It was in the same area, I do not know how far the barracks were, but they were completely different. This was all family.

Sanger: How big was your trailer?

Drum: You will laugh when I tell you, it was twenty-seven foot inside and eight foot wide I guess.

Sanger: And that was for you, your husband and two kids?

Drum: Yeah two daughters.

Sanger: Two daughters, and what did you say eleven and—

Drum: They were ten and twelve when we moved out, our oldest daughter had her twelfth birthday when we moved out there.

Sanger: They went to school in the camp.

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: That was just called the trailer camp or what?

Drum: Yeah, of course, there was a town out there at one time and the school was there.

Sanger: It is still there.

Drum: Is it?

Sanger: The walls, the high school. Were you working?

Drum: No.

Sanger: What was a typical day like for you during the week?

Drum: Well, let me see, just about the same, a lot of visiting. The women would all get acquainted. Everybody was away from home, nobody tried to impress somebody else and the kids got along well, the people got along well, they were all interested in each other. It was very enjoyable, I enjoyed it, I was terribly home sick, but outside of that. And my husband put in awfully long hours on construction.

Sanger: How long did he work?

Drum: Golly, I do not know the first time he had a day off where we could go anywhere. I wish I could remember for sure, how long we were out there before he was ever off the reservation.

Sanger: It would be a matter of what, weeks or months?

Drum: Months.

Sanger: Months.

Drum: It was several months and then we went to—he had relatives, our closest relatives were down near Boise, Idaho and we went down there and I cannot remember what month it was but we just went around the world. He did not even get to go into Pasco or Kennewick, he absolutely worked.

Sanger: Did he work seven days a week sometimes?

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: And twelve hour days?

Drum: Yeah that was very common.

Sanger: Was he making pretty good money, I suppose?

Drum: Well, I guess the wages were good for those days, but today they are nothing.

Sanger: Yeah. What kind of car did you have?

Drum: I think we had a Studebaker then.

Sanger: That would have been 1930-something.

Drum: I think Studebaker. That is what we toured out with, we were in Tulsa, I think it was a 1940.

Sanger: Most of the people in the construction camp were construction workers I suppose.

Drum: Everybody was or they would not have been there.

Sanger: Did you know anyone from other jobs?

Drum: Two families, the ones we came out with and then another one that we had known in our hometown, they came out. When the war was over, they did not want to stay.

Sanger: They what?

Drum: They went back to Oklahoma.

Sanger: Who did you come out with?

Drum: Ed and Selma Hughes were the people that we traveled with.

Sanger: And you were with them in Oklahoma?

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: He was a construction worker too?

Drum: He was a carpenter. He worked as a mail ride out here.

Sanger: You did not get away either, obviously.

Drum: Oh no, I could not. Of course you were checked when you left the reservation. They had to check what you brought in with you. You could not take a camera in, you had to leave your camera. That was the first time we moved in, but then even if you go into town they checked you as you came back.

Sanger: Did you have your trailer on one of those canopies?

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: That was there already.

Drum: Yes.

Sanger: They put that in.

Drum: Yeah oh it was so hot out there, no trees.

Sanger: No air-conditioning either.

Drum: No.

Sanger: What did you do? Do you remember that being terribly uncomfortable?

Drum: You sat out, we all had porches and canopies. It was all you owned, nobody suffered.

Sanger: Then each so many trailers had a bathhouse and shower house.

Drum: Yes.

Sanger: And washing facilities too.

Drum: Uh-huh, had automatic washing machines.

Sanger: Somebody told me that there were not enough to go around and so women who had brought their own for some reason – could take in washing. Do you remember that?

Drum: I never had any trouble getting a machine.

Sanger: Of course, you would not have brought a washing machine in one of those trailers.

Drum: No, not the size of those trailers.

Sanger: You had electricity and running water inside but no bathroom.

Drum: No.

Sanger: Or other shower?

Drum: You had a little, I do not think they were big enough to have stoves like they have in them now.

Sanger: Where did you do your cooking?

Drum: We had a stove, it was a little gasoline stove and we had a little oven that sat on. You would take it off, it was portable oven.

Sanger: That was inside the trailer.

Drum: Oh yeah sure. It was great.

Sanger: How long did you live in that before you got here?

Drum: We went on construction in 1940 so we lived in it three years.

Sanger: Same one?

Drum: No, we started out in an even smaller one than that.

Sanger: You did?

Drum: I think it was an eighteen-foot long trailer.

Sanger: These were metal I suppose.

Drum: Yes. In one end of the trailer as, in the little one, there was a divan that we made down for our bed and then in the dining room part, was a dinette set and you put the table down and the cushions, it was like being on a vacation. We were born and raised, my husband on a cattle ranch and me on a farm. We had never traveled much, we never traveled any. We had been to California once before we came out here or went out on construction.

Sanger: Where did you sleep, the four of you in that other trailer, the one you eventually had?

Drum: That is the first one and the kids slept on the dinette part. They were nice, the cushions, they were not bad. In the other one, we had a divan in our bedroom and we had a divan in one end, and a stationary bed in the other end and we had clothes closets on each side. Then we had a larger stove that was in the little trailer that used butane and it had an oven in our twenty-seven foot trailer, it had an oven.

Sanger: What did you do, did you go to the movies, was there a movie out there?

Drum: The kids went to matinees on Saturday, but I never was much of a movie goer, certain movies I like.

Sanger: Where was the movie?

Drum: There was a building.

Sanger: Auditorium?

Drum: Yeah, and there were several buildings out there, the post office and the grocery stores.

Sanger: There were stores out there at the camp, right?

Drum: Yeah.

Sanger: Was there enough?

Drum: I think.

Sanger: To get by.

Drum: You stood in line at the post office, you stood in line at the grocery store, you sat in line at a gas station, but that was just part of life you got used to it and thought nothing of it.

Sanger: All those things were out there.

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: You theoretically would not have to leave?

Drum: No.

Sanger: There was a hospital too.

Drum: Yeah there was a hospital of some kind out there. We never had to go to it.

Sanger: What did you do if you wanted to have a change of pace?

Drum: We played cards—there was not a heck of a lot to do, to tell you the truth.

Sanger: Yeah.

Drum: We both liked bridge and we played bridge whenever.

Sanger: With your neighbors, you mean?

Drum: Yeah. Then there was just a lot of sewing. I did a lot of sewing; I sewed for my girls. I am a great reader and I read a lot.

Sanger: What were you reading?

Drum:  Books, magazines, just anything.

Sanger: Where would you get those?

Drum: Well, we must have had quite a few books with us and of course, you could go to town and buy magazines, we had a drugstore out there. Then people pass them around, one person would buy one, then another. We did not lack for anything. There were groceries; of course, we had to have rations then. Of course you had to have your stamps or you did not get your food.

Sanger: Did you ever eat in any of the mess halls?

Drum: No, never did, we never went to the bars or anything like that.

Sanger: You could have gone to the mess halls I suppose.

Drum: I think so, I am not sure.

Sanger: I think somebody else said once a week.

Drum: Could be.

Sanger: I guess the food was not bad.

Drum: Probably not.

Sanger: Were there ever any problems, crime?

Drum: Not in our part of it, not in the trailer, I guess maybe they had trouble at the barracks—it would be very unusual that they did not.

Sanger: All those people.

Drum: I am going to tell you, we had some large patrolmen out there. They toured that and it was a lot different than it is today. I felt a lot safer out there than I do today, out there then.

Sanger: Do you remember what it cost you to park it there? I think I know it was not very much.

Drum: No. And then when we moved in to Richland our rent was very low because that was again the whole camp.

Sanger: When did you move in?

Drum: In 1944, October of 1944.

Sanger: You did. So you lived in the camp how long?

Drum: Well, less than a year.

Sanger: Less than year.

Drum: Yeah because we moved out there at the last of December and we moved in the latter part of October to Richland.

Sanger: Now your husband would have gone on to the inside of the overhead at that time?

Drum: Yes.

Sanger: In other words, he became part of operations.

Drum: Yeah, I do not remember just when he went on to production.

Sanger: It was probably around that time. The first reactor went into production in September of 1944. I supposed people after the end of the summer in 1944 were beginning to leave the trailer camp, do you remember?

Drum: Yeah, but there were a lot of people staying for operations too.

Sanger: But they closed the camp and they all moved to town.

Drum: Yes.

Sanger: Was the camp diminishing somewhat when you left?

Drum:  No, no it was just like it was.

Sanger: Have you ever been back out there?

Drum: Yeah, there have been a few times that now, when President Kennedy came out to dedicate one of the things we got to go out there. And then when the N Reactor was finished, they would allow us to go out there when that was finished, I am sure it was the N Reactor.

Sanger: Yeah.

Drum: I guess that is the only two times I have been out there.

Sanger: I was out there a few times. In fact, I was out there on Sunday to where Hanford the town and the camp was. Of course, the only thing left – building structures – is the high school and there was an irrigation pump house that was old and predated the whole thing. Otherwise, there is nothing there.

Drum: No.

Sanger: A few new trees. If you walk around out in the desert, you find pieces of tar paper, maybe a two by four, a sardine can.

Drum: Up until this road, what they call the Vantage Road, which goes around the site, I had never seen the area from the outside.

Sanger: That is right, you would not.

Drum: No.

Sanger: Where did you move?

Drum: We moved into Richland in what was called the prefabs, they were brand-new. They were just building the precuts then. There were the prefabs and the precuts and we moved, no one lived in it, we moved in October of 1944 at four-seventeen Smith. I will never forget the address. We lived there for fourteen years.

Sanger: You did?

Drum: Our oldest daughter passed away there at twenty-three and our youngest daughter married there right there on Smith Street.

Sanger: You had two children.

Drum: Two girls.

Sanger: Then how long have you been here [Richland]?

Drum: It will be twenty-one years this month that we bought this place. This is the first place we bought. When they sold the houses in Richland we could have bought the prefab, but we did not really want to, we did not know at that time whether we would stay—we might leave when Frank retired. We did not know what we wanted to do.

We had some real good friends that had a duplex up on Wright Street not too far from where we lived and they wanted us to rent. They were people from Nebraska and we had known them for several years and we felt we could live in the house with them and they would not live with us so we rented from them. We lived there seven years then we bought this place, we moved out here in 1965.

Sanger: When did your husband retire?

Drum: In 1973, he retired at age sixty-two.

Sanger: What was he doing then?

Drum: He was a planner at that time, he got a promotion I think he had been a planner for two years or three years.

Sanger: Who was he working for? General Electric was still here?

Drum: No, ARCO which is now—

Sanger: He was in town then?

Drum: No, no.

Sanger: He was out at town?

Drum: He was out at Purex. He planned the work and was overseer of the crane operators.

Sanger: I see so he stayed out there in the area.

Drum: Purex is when he retired.

Sanger: Do you remember when the news of the bombs was announced?

Drum: Do I ever!

Sanger: What was that like?

Drum: We were on our way—we had not had a vacation in I do not know how long–and we were on our way to Longview to visit some friends and we heard it on the car radio.

Sanger: On your way over there. Do you remember what you thought?

Drum: I can see us all, but I cannot express it. I never dreamed it was something like that. I knew it had to be something with the war—that I knew. But I did not know there was such a thing. A lot of people did not know there was an atomic bomb. To me it was a little frightening because I thought we made the whole thing here, but we had not made the whole thing here. It was frightening and of course the kids, they had no idea really what it was all about even though they were teenagers, they still did not.

Sanger: They were what eleven and thirteen or about that?

Drum:  Let me see.

Sanger: In 1945, late about this time.

Drum: Kay would have been fourteen and Glenda would have been twelve.

Sanger: As a matter of fact, tomorrow is the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb. What is that, forty-one years?

Drum: It is funny to me when that happened, when that anniversary comes of that—they will show those pictures and how awful we had done it and then they do not show a thing about Pearl Harbor, when they hit Pearl Harbor.

Sanger: I know.

Drum: That is the darndest thing I ever heard of.

Sanger: Somebody else pointed out that the Bataan Death March.

Drum: Yeah.

Sanger: That is true. Do you remember what the general feeling was around here when you got back about the bombs and whether it was justified and all that?

Drum: We all thought it was justified, I still think it is justified, you bet.

Sanger: Everybody has said that, even people who later had some misgivings at the time they had thought it was justified.

Drum: It took lives—it took innocent lives—but it saved a lot of lives too.

Sanger: Were you in a church when you were here?

Drum: Yes.

Sanger: What about out there at the camp?

Drum: They must have had a church, but we did not go out there.

Sanger: I think it was hit or miss. I know there was a Catholic priest who still lives here named [Monsignor] Sweeney.

Drum: Yes.

Sanger: Who said Mass in a great big circus tent.

Drum: Yeah.

Sanger: Do you remember that?

Drum: Uh-huh.

Sanger: I think other religions used it too.

Drum: May have, I just do not know.

Sanger: You were in a church when you came here?

Drum: Yeah. We went to the Sunday Adventist church, my husband’s mother was Sunday Adventist over in Pasco for several years. But we’ve gone to the Nazarene Church for thirty-one years.

Sanger: I see. I had a chat with Father Sweeney who had been around, came down here when it was just starting.

Drum: He sure did.

Sanger: Did you know him?

Drum: Not personally, but of course I knew him when I saw him and I had been to funerals that he conducted. He was so much older than me, I thought at the time. And a few years ago, we went—she lived two doors east of us on the other side of where these kids came from and she was a Catholic–her funeral was over in Kennewick and we went. When I saw this priest, I never dreamed that was Father Sweeney, but it was and he looked younger than he did when I first saw him.

Sanger: When was that? How long ago was that?

Drum: It has been probably eight years.

Sanger: I think he had some major heart surgery but that is fairly recently. He has lost a lot of weight so he does not look too bad now. He was a good guy to talk to because he had—

Drum: Oh, yes.

Sanger: You do not remember and of course you would not know—I guess there was a big construction accident up at one of the 200 areas, probably in 1944, but you would not have heard about that, I am sure. It was a waste storage tank that fell on some people when they were under it. Sweeney had to go to the hospital but you would not have heard about that I am sure.

Drum: No.

Sanger: Your kids thought they made Pepsi-Cola?

Drum: [Laughter] Yeah that makes me think, when we heard what had happened about the bombs and all, Glenda, our youngest daughter, she said, “Daddy you told us all along you made Pepsi-Cola!” She was about half mad. He told him they would bring them the first carton when they got it made. They thought it took him an awful long time to make it. 

Copyright 1989 S. L. Sanger. This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced, or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of S. L. Sanger. Exclusive rights granted to Atomic Heritage Foundation.