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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Patricia Hansard’s Interview

Manhattan Project Locations:

Patricia Hansard worked as a “cubicle girl” in the Y-12 Plant from 1943 until the end of the war. She was one of the many women tasked with monitoring the calutron machines essential to uranium production. She discusses the secrecy surrounding Oak Ridge, the working conditions in the cubicles and the Y-12 Plant, and her interactions with the other young women and GIs working on the site.

Date of Interview:
September 12, 1965
Location of the Interview:


Shirley Tawse: Pat, do you live here now too?

Patricia Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: I’d like to ask you how you first became interested. How you happened to go to Oak Ridge? You said before it was for the money.

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Tell me. I would just like to visualize it as it happened to you. Where were you? What did you do before you went to Oak Ridge? Were you born there? What did your father and mother do? How many years of school did you have?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Tell me first how you first heard about Oak Ridge?

Hansard: I had just gotten out of high school, and the War was booming at the time.

Tawse: When was this?

Hansard: Let’s see, right after the War started. It seemed like it was ’42, ’43. The Oak Ridge offices, I mean, the downtown employment offices were here at the time. I talked to my folks one day and I said that there wasn’t any employment. I didn’t really want to go to school during the War years and all. I was downtown one day and I walked into the Employment Office of the East Tennessee—

Tawse: Tennessee. That was a white building, or something like that?

Hansard: Uh-huh. So they gave me an application to fill out and I filled it out. I had no idea what department or what anything that I’d go in. The clearance was about three to four weeks.

Tawse: What did you do, stay home?

Hansard: I stayed home. It was during the summer months and I just played around at home and swam. One day they called me for an interview, so I went in. They sent me to Oak Ride, the downtown Oak Ridge Office, and then they sent me out to Y-12. I went to work on the following Monday, and I worked during the War years until we would be terminated at the end of the War.

Tawse: So you don’t remember the exact dates? You applied in June of ’43?

Hansard: Yes, in June of ’43, I believe. I went to work in the last part of July, early August then.

Tawse: Do you remember what the Employment Office in Knoxville looked like?

Hansard: It was a very small office. It was just an older building that they had just set up employment for a short time, so that they could open the big office in Y-12.

Tawse: Was it very crowded then?

Hansard: Oh, always. They were sitting on benches. They were sitting on stools, just anything to sit on.

Tawse: Could the employees even stand?

Hansard: Uh-huh, to hire and to fill out applications then for people. 

Tawse: Had you seen an ad in the paper?

Hansard: There are ads in all of the papers from all of the industries around the city. I thought that Oak Ridge was new and I didn’t know what in the world they were going to build. I knew it was going to be something towards the War, which would help. I decided that it would be better to go there than it would to go to local industries.

Tawse: How did you know that this was War work? Did they say it in the ad?

Hansard: They said it was essential to the War and it was very secret. I was through clearance. It took that long. We got our badges and fingerprinted and everything. I knew it was essential to the War.

Tawse: So then you were living where?

Hansard: With my folks.

Tawse: In Knoxville?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: What did your father do, Pat?

Hansard: My Daddy was a landscaper.

Tawse: And you had brothers and sisters?

Hansard: Uh-huh. I had one brother in the service at the time. He was in the Navy. I only have one brother. And then I have four sisters. Most of them were married at that time. They did a lot of local hospital work, but I was really the only one that was in the war industry.

Tawse: When you reported to Oak Ridge you were in what they call vestibule training. Do you remember that, Pat? Did you have to wait a while before you went down to the Y-12?

Hansard: Oh yes.

Tawse: What did you do? You were downtown, weren’t you?

Hansard: Uh-huh. We went through certain training periods there. I suppose it was more or less a test to see what best department and operations you were suited for.

Tawse: Would these be manual tests?

Hansard: Manuals and matching different things together. It seems as if we stayed in the downtown area of Oak Ridge for about a week before we transferred to the Y-12 area.

Tawse: You were very quick. Then when you got to Y-12, did a foreman show you the machines?

Hansard: Meredith Hill was my instructor at that time. She was real sweet. She showed us the building one day.

Tawse: You were in Dash 1, I guess.

Hansard: Dash 1. We went through the Dash 1 building and I was in that building most of the whole time of the War. I didn’t transfer. We moved to Dash 4 near the end of the War. I was in the processing operation.

Tawse: That was a part of the chemical business?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: How did this plant look? Do you remember?

Hansard: It was huge and all of the chemicals and all were so fascinating. I had never seen anything like it. I didn’t really know what it was all about.

Tawse: Did you know what you had to do when you got there, or did she show you?

Hansard: She showed us, and of course I worked on the chemicals, the operations of the bomb. I worked on it for a while, and then I moved around and I did a lot. I first worked on chemicals and I worked in vacuum. Then I worked in just different places. I could do any of the jobs.

Tawse: Let me just take you through it. First, I forgot to ask, when and where you were born.

Hansard: I was born in Tennessee.

Tawse: In Knoxville?

Hansard: In Knoxville, and I was born August the 14th, 1925.

Tawse: So you were about eighteen when you went?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Do you remember your first impression of your cubicle? Were you terrified?

Hansard: It reminded you of something like a big switchboard, only they didn’t have push buttons. You had knobs to turn instead of the push of the switchboard, but it wasn’t a switchboard.

Tawse: So you turned a knob?

Hansard: And you had to keep a record of every meter.

Tawse: How would you keep your records?

Hansard: We had a sheet on a clipboard. Every thirty minutes we’d give certain meters that would have to be read, and then each hour a certain meter would have to be read. They had to be a certain temperature. It would have to be just absolutely right. And if you had any trouble in the operation of getting your temperature to a certain degree, your supervisor or man on duty at the time would help you.

Tawse: You really had to watch this?

Hansard: You had to watch it every second.

Tawse: Then what would you do, call Meredith?

Hansard: Meredith was my trainer. Our supervisor was a man.

Tawse: Three shifts, wasn’t it?

Hansard: Three shifts. We worked one week in the daytime and then we’d have a two-day period off. And then we’d work the second shift from three to eleven. I didn’t believe I could take it.

Tawse: I don’t know how all of those people took it.

Hansard: I worked many a night. I was sick with colds.

Tawse: How was your absentee rate?

Hansard: I was never out, unless it was just a necessity.

Tawse: You found the hardest switch was eleven to seven?

Hansard: The eleven to seven shift, we called it the “Off Shift.” It was hard to sleep in the daytime. You get used to sleeping, and then you go back on the day shift and it all starts over again, getting sleepy.

Tawse: Tell us first about how you got up there? Would you get the bus?

Hansard: I finally got a ride, because Miss Meredith would come by the house and pick me up. We commuted each day. I never stayed at Oak Ridge because I just didn’t really want to and my folks didn’t really want me to.

Tawse: How long of a drive would it be?

Hansard: Well, we’d leave home in the morning about six o’clock. There was a constant string of cars along the way to Oak Ridge. I think we would leave about quarter after five, five thirty, and then we’d get to work about ten minutes to seven, just time enough to clock in and to run and get our uniforms on and down into operations.

Tawse: Where were your uniforms, on that side?

Hansard: No, we had a locker room in the building that we worked in. Each girl had a locker. We had to go change into our uniforms. You never took the uniforms out. They were laundered there and everything to get rid of all the processed chemicals that were on the uniforms. We wore blue uniforms and the chemical labs were white.

Tawse: There you had to be terribly clean, didn’t you?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Is this where you couldn’t work if you had your period?

Hansard: No. They’d run them in through the clinic all the time for radium or something that would see if they got any of that.

Tawse: How often?

Hansard: I don’t know, I never worked in the clinical labs because I never did care for it. Those girls were put through a lot more than girls on the cubicles were, because we didn’t come in contact with the chemicals as much as they did.

Tawse: Miss Henderson said that the girls in the cubicle were very worried about being sterile.

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Is this true? Was this a real fear? Were they ever reassured?

Hansard: A lot of them didn’t know what it was all about anyway, what they were making. No one did.

Tawse: I guess one person might have guessed.

Hansard: We really did have a good time, though. We worked with all of the GIs.

Tawse: Tell me about that?

Hansard: There was the cutest GI that I had dated a lot too. He worked with me in vacuum a lot. He was from Milwaukee. He worked so hard and was so interested in operations. When we’d get our paychecks I was just so ashamed to take mine, and he would just get his Army pay of twenty-one or whatever it might be a month, because he worked so hard. 

Tawse: You said kiddingly yesterday that you went there to there because of the money. Was the pay good?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: It was the best around?

Hansard: The best in the city.

Tawse: Did your Knoxville friends resent that you were making so much money?

Hansard: No, because I was younger and at that time so many of the girls were working in offices downtown. But they didn’t resent it because they knew that it was hard and the hours were long. Commuting took so many hours, because of commuting back and forth. I used to spend the weekends a lot with the girls that lived in the dormitories out there, and we just had a ball.

Tawse: Did you stay out at the dormitories?

Hansard: I’d spend the weekend when we had weekends off.

Tawse: Did they like it at the dormitories?

Hansard: They did. A lot of girls that worked with me were from Kentucky and different cities and different states around. They had to stay out there, and I would spend the weekend with them a lot. We just had a ball, with all of the GIs and all of its base there too. They had a recreation hall that we’d go to and dance.

Tawse: They really tried to take care of you?

Hansard: They did. It was as normal living as it could be in wartime.

Tawse: They liked the dorm living? They probably as you said had a lot more fun than you.

Hansard: They were young most of them, and really it was fascinating being away from home and with something different and all.  

Tawse: How did most of them come to sign up? Do you know?

Hansard: I think they would open up maybe a local office in their city or in the state that they lived in. Or they wrote in for applications. That’s how some of them told me that they got into Oak Ridge, through that way.

Tawse: Did you guess about what you were making?

Hansard: No, I had no idea what I was going to make. It really didn’t matter. I just wanted to get in. I knew that it was good money and I didn’t know at that time, at eighteen, it didn’t make a great deal of difference. I know that we did make over a hundred dollars a week, and that was good for a girl that age.

Tawse: Very good money.

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Do you remember the dials? You said you turned knobs and you were watching the dials. Did they have to keep on a certain spot?

Hansard: They had to be a certain temperature and at a certain meter reading at all times.

Tawse: That’s not easy to do.

Hansard: No, it was so hard. A lot of times, the Light-Go operations would be off and you had to turn each knob and keep turning it and you’d turn one here and one up here to get it adjusted. Lots of times it would take you hours to get it back to the right temperature.

Tawse: What would happen if it had been off the right temperature that long? Does that mean that that racetrack was out of operation?

Hansard:  A lot of times they just had to bring it down to vacuum and to start the process over again, if they couldn’t adjust the operation at the beginning to where the temperature would hold. They’d have to, as we called it, “Bring it down to vacuum.” That is, just pull the valves and pull the whole thing out and clean it and redo it. That took two or three days to do it.

Tawse: You said that after you’ve been in the cubicle operation, you went into the vacuum process. Can you explain that? I don’t understand that process.

Hansard: The vacuum process had a board system on it and it was just like a telephone operator with the switches. We had valves that we had to push. On the outside of the little room, which was center to the cubicle room, a smaller room, but the operation of it was different. There were about twenty or twenty-five pits on the outside, and there was hot lava, like a volcano, was in this. Each hour you had to put hot, dry ice in. You had to wear gloves. You had to put so many cubes of that big dry ice in each one of these pits every hour, and you had to read the meters.

Tawse: You had to keep it at a certain temperature? 

Hansard: You had to control the heat part of the cubicle.

Tawse: Why did they call this vacuuming, though?

Hansard: They called it a vacuum system, and that is when the operation of the bomb was completed. When they were ready to pull the unit out, that’s where we would push the buttons and pull a lever; it would release the unit upstairs for the vacuum to be cooled out and to be taken to the chemical lab to be washed and cleaned and all of that.

Tawse: You weren’t in these pits?

Hansard: That was the end of operation of our part, and then it went to the chemical lab to be cleaned.

Tawse: Where you were working with the dry ice, it was underneath where the cubicles were?

Hansard: Uh-huh. It was on the second, lower floor from the cubicle room.

Tawse: Was this a more difficult operation?

Hansard: It was quite difficult. There had to be one on the board and meters at all times. There were usually two girls down there. One would take time about filling the pits.

Tawse: Would you be covering one racetrack, or more than that?

Hansard: We’d be covering the whole cubicle room. Each cubicle had the number downstairs for the vacuum. When the operation was completed, the lights were out on that board when they had it pulled out. Of course, when it went back into operation, the lights were on.

Tawse: Were they red lights, green lights?

Hansard: Red and green. The green was to go and red was when it was out of operation. Then you would stop.

Tawse: So you actually were controlling the temperature down there for the whole ninety-six race tracks?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: And only two of you? What if you needed help?

Hansard: We’d call a supervisor or someone that’s there. We never really needed it because we operated it right through. We had used the [inaudible] or one of the Army officers was on duty. We could call on him too.

Tawse: Your cute little GIs, were they down there with you? You’d be working along with them?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: They must have been to college.

Hansard: Some of them had. Some of them were in chemical engineering, and it was quite the training for them. I’m sure that that would equal a year or two of college in this chemical engineering operation, because there was a lot of chemical work to do.

Tawse: You had to understand too?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: You were really doing advanced work down there.

Hansard: I had taken chemistry in high school, but to me chemistry was never nothing like this. I had very enjoyed it and it was just fascinating, and it was educational to anyone if they could just go through to see all of the operating processing we had. I enjoyed it more each time I would work. Each day it would get more fascinating to me. And being a youngster at eighteen I just really—

Tawse: At that time you’re excited.

Hansard: I was excited. The day I know that they determined what they were making at Oak Ridge, I was off that day. I had the radio on and President Roosevelt [misspoke: Truman] said, “And now, ladies and gentlemen of the world, people of the United States, we have made our atomic bomb and it was dropped on Iwo Jima. It was made in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.” I was ironing at the time and I dropped the iron. I couldn’t believe it. We had made the atomic bomb.

Tawse: And you really didn’t know?

Hansard: Uh-uh.

Tawse: I don’t think more than a handful of people knew.

Hansard: No, just a very few.

Tawse: The President knew, the Vice President knew.

Hansard: And the highest of the chemical engineers. I doubt if there were ten or twelve people at Oak Ridge that knew.

We didn’t ask. We didn’t pry, because it didn’t really matter because we were helping the war. We knew that we were doing our part. We didn’t ask what we were making. You couldn’t ask. No one would tell you anyway.

Tawse: Were you close-mouthed about all of this?

Hansard: I never mentioned it at home. Anyway they said, “Don’t mention it at home once you’re done.”

Tawse: What would you say?

Hansard: They wouldn’t have known anyway what you were doing. They wouldn’t have understood and known what it was all about anyway. I just told them that we were making something, it was real fascinating, we used big machines and cubicles, and they didn’t know what a cubicle was. So that was all.

Tawse: After the dry ice stage, you moved on to do what?

Hansard: I would go back and forth from cubicle operator to the vacuum system.

Tawse: And each time the foreman would train you?

Hansard: No, I knew the operation. And I know on the other part of the vacuum there was a pit upstairs near the cubicle room. That had a big tank with lids on it, and you’d take those lids off and pour dry ice in it up there too. When the cubicle went “down to air,” as we called it, the crane operator would come by after we’ve loosened that and put the crane on that and take that big long tank out of there.

Tawse: They’d gotten to where they could separate it, I guess.

Hansard: And take it over to the chemical lab and leave it for them to wash and all.

Tawse: This must have been called the [inaudible].

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: This is where the material that had been separated would then get ice? 

Hansard: It was very fascinating. I watched the operation from the beginning to end, because I could do any of it. I worked in all of those rooms to the time it was completed.

Tawse: Do you remember anybody being unhappy in this work?

Hansard: We were tired. I never heard any complaints, because most of the girls were younger.

Tawse: How about all of the mud?

Hansard: We’d go out and have a ball. We didn’t think it was that bad.  I said one day walking to lunch, “If we can walk in this, I’m sure the boys’ overseas have walked in it more.” I said that to several girls going to lunch. We just made a game out of it. We’d get into our GI boots and walk. We didn’t have a sidewalk and didn’t even have a boardwalk until later. We walked in mud up to our knees. It rained every day in Oak Ridge. Sometime during the day it would rain. I don’t believe that the ground was ever dry enough to walk. We wore GI raincoats and GI hats and GI boots everywhere we went. You couldn’t tell if you were a man or a woman.

Tawse: Was there a lot of romancing going on?

Hansard: I had quite a bit myself. There were quite a few GIs, but most of them were married. Men had come from different cities and brought their families here.

Tawse: Do you remember any funny anecdotes that stand out in your mind at that time?

Hansard: I know they used to have buses for the colored and the white both. At that time we’d go to the Y-12 gate and you showed your badge every time you went in and out any door. So you had badges for every building you went in. If you weren’t authorized to go into that building, you did not have the badge to do it. I had several badges. I could go into lots of buildings in my operation. At payroll time you would line up to get your check. I thought it was a funny thing; you had to line up for everything you do.

Tawse: Miss Henderson said that you had made a point of having the bathrooms made attractive up there.

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: You often were overstaffed and had spare time, which I thought was very interesting.

Hansard: Uh-huh. We had mirrors for girls to look pretty. Then the girls would wear their uniforms so tight and all of that. We wore pants and those little shirts were horrible looking and to launder. We’d press them until they were as stiff as a board. We had to. But I think all and all we just didn’t mind how we really looked. We tried to look feminine and all.

Tawse: Did you make any really good friends? Have you kept up with any of them?

Hansard: I had one girlfriend that I made who is living in Kentucky now and has a family. I get Christmas cards, and we write letters quite often.

Tawse: You stayed then until after the dropping of the bomb, ’47?

Hansard: Oh yeah. I stayed until the end of the war, until we were terminated. They were laying off people from the big operations where I worked. Every day I was going to quit, though, because of the rain and the mud.

Tawse: You never did?

Hansard: Never did quit, because my mother made me come through the basement all the time, because I was so muddy. I’d leave things there and come upstairs.

Tawse: How did you ever get the boots clean and all?

Hansard: We had a shower stall downstairs in the basement. I used to sit them in the drainage and turn the hose on them, and the mud and all would go down the drain.

Tawse: Were they leather boots, GI boots?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: In the summertime, there was mud too?

Hansard: Year round. It rained all the time.

Tawse: Did they ever build sidewalks?

Hansard: Uh-huh, basically. It seemed like ’45 or ’44 they put in boardwalks, is what we called them. We’d walk on the boardwalks. They moved a building. One morning you’d go to work and they’d be a little house of a thing sitting here, and you’d come back at noon and it would be gone. They moved buildings all the time out there.

Tawse: What type of buildings?

Hansard: Just little buildings as big as this room. In the morning I’d say, “There’s so and so.” That afternoon I’d say, “What happened to that building?” when we’d go to lunch. What they did that for, I don’t know. There were meetings there all the time.

Tawse: Maybe a construction shed or something?

Hansard: Possibly.

Tawse: You don’t remember any difficulties except for the mud? Was there any time when you panicked when your machine wouldn’t get working?

Hansard: No. I know we had explosions in the back of the cubicles. The electrician put a big bulb in there and it blew out. He said, “Pat, do you know how much that bulb costs?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “It costs one hundred dollars.”

I said, “You shot four of them. That’s four hundred dollars shot right there.”

Tawse: Did he put it in wrong?

Hansard: No, there was something wrong with the bulb or something. When he put it in it made a pop noise. That was the only time I ever remember that it scared me. I thought the thing had blown up, it made such noise.

Tawse: You had no trouble with clearance?

Hansard: No, I didn’t have trouble whatsoever with clearance.

Tawse: You were up there very early. Did you know any of the girls who’d gone out to Berkeley to train?

Hansard: No.

Tawse: Do you remember General [Leslie] Groves there?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: How did he strike you?

Hansard: I never really got to meet him. I’d see him in and out the buildings all the time. I knew who he was. He was a very friendly man and he was kind to everyone.

Tawse: Really?

Hansard: Yes, uh-huh. And he’d usually come by and pat you on the shoulder and say, “Hey cutie. You’re doing a good job,” or something like that.

Tawse: Very nice.

Hansard: Uh-huh, very nice.

Tawse: How about [Col. Kenneth] Nichols?

Hansard: I never really got to know him. I remember General Groves doing that, but I never remembered Nichols there at all.

Tawse: What about any of the scientists? Do you remember them? Would you know who they were?

Hansard: I thought they were kooks. They’re so brilliant, they’re kooks.

Tawse: Did you see any of them?

Hansard: I’m sure I did, but I didn’t know who they were. But as the kids say now, “They were kooks.” And I thought they were. You think of a scientist with gray hair standing up. Of course they weren’t, but at that time I thought that they must be fascinating.

But really I’d get home at night and go to bed and think, “Isn’t it marvelous. Whatever we’re doing, it’s real fascinating.” I was a fascinating child; I really wanted to learn and know. But I thought, “Here I am doing a man’s job.”

Tawse: You’d have to have a PhD to do that.

Hansard: Uh-huh, and here I am just out of high school and doing a job that a college-degreed person would do. And then have no troubles whatsoever; it ran smooth. But I was sure that everything had to be just so-so, every meter had to be right and had to be read thoroughly and had to be just right.

Tawse: You couldn’t take your mind off the job for a minute?

Hansard: No.

Tawse: What if you got tired, Pat?

Hansard: We’d switch girls on the board. We’d have one girl take over, and you’d work the outside and work the back. They’re probably getting tired at night. We had coffee; we could run and get coffee too. One girl worked the outside because it was cooler; it’s air-conditioned through there. Ours was air-conditioned too inside, but if you got tired of sitting then you’d let her take over the board while you’d work the outside. We rotated back and forth.

Tawse: How long would you work at a stretch?

Hansard: A straight shift. It’s about eight hours.

Tawse: Did you have lunch?

Hansard: Oh yes, we had an office supper. She’d operate it while I was gone, and we would read the meters before we’d go to lunch and then come back. We did them every hour, so we knew. We had an hour for supper or for breakfast or whatever you could find.

Tawse: This is a cubicle thing?

Hansard: No, that’s the vacuum. On the cubicle operation, a certain group would go one time and they would watch their cubicles and vice versa. Two girls would work four cubicles, of which you ordinarily had two cubicles.

Tawse: I see, at the hour.  

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: You had said that you got so tired of fried potatoes for breakfast.

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Why didn’t they ever change it around?

Hansard: Every time you go through the line they wanted to give you fried potatoes, either canned fried or French fried. I said, “I’m a Southern girl but I sure don’t like fried potatoes for breakfast.” I never liked fried potatoes, and I can’t stand grits. I never eat grits.    

Tawse: Would you get a decent breakfast?

Hansard: Oh yeah sure, a real good breakfast. They had anything you wanted and the sausage was wonderful out there.

Tawse: You could have eggs and sausage?

Hansard: You could have anything you wanted. They had a big cafeteria just as good as downtown Knoxville. It was well-equipped, clean and everything.

Tawse: I heard it was awful.

Hansard: I didn’t think it was too bad. Of course I probably would now, if I were to go there. We had a rec room down in the basement that you could go down and play the juke box, if you had ten minutes left from your lunchtime or breakfast-time or whatever you called it. We didn’t know what we were eating half the time because we worked so many shifts. We enjoyed it. There was a group of us girls that worked in that building and we all went together. We ate lunch.

Tawse: Was it a long walk to the cafeteria?

Hansard: It was about two blocks to the cafeteria. You’d walk in the rain or the snow or sleet or whatever it might be. If you ate, you walked. There was no bringing food back into the building either.

Tawse: Could you bring your own lunch?

Hansard: You could bring your own lunch, but you had to eat it in the locker room. You could not eat outside of your locker room where you changed clothes.

Tawse: Well that wouldn’t be very attractive.

Hansard: Uh-uh. I always liked to get out and see what the other people were doing, to see them in the cafeteria because that’s the only time you ever got to talk with them.

Tawse: But you thought near the end you’d moved into another building?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Dash 4?

Hansard: That was the new building they had just opened up near the end of the War. Us older girls, and most of us were older girls, were down there.

Tawse: What were you all of nineteen?

Hansard: Uh-huh, just the girls that had been there a long time. They moved us into the other building because it was a new building. Quite a few of the people who worked in the other building went from Dash 1 to Dash 4. It was the same operations within that building, just making more of it, bombs.

I don’t know why. I never did really find out how many bombs a month or a week or something was made out of one building. I never did find out, whether it was all the buildings that made one bomb, monthly or yearly. I always wanted to know.

Tawse: Only one bomb came out of that whole thing, which is unbelievable. You were making miniscule quantities of uranium, which was then shipped to Los Alamos. It was worked into a bomb there, as I understand it. It was this size. That is fantastic.

Hansard: I used to see them shipping it out.

Tawse: Did you?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: How would it go out?

Hansard: We had railroad switch cars that would come in and out. They were always shipping big packages. Things were highly guarded. When they would go through the gates, they were all cleared. They were highly guarded at all times .

Tawse: Do you remember Groves running through the building? Somebody said last night he had guards in the front and guards in the back.

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Rifles on their shoulders and everything? 

Hansard: But I’m sure I thought, “Boy, I’ll bet you’re a stern father if you are a father,” at that time.

Tawse: Most of them thought he was a driver, to them driving.

Hansard: Uh-huh, but he was friendly too.

Tawse: That’s very nice that he took the time. What about the Tennessee Eastman men? Did you get to know any of their executives? [00:36:28].

Hansard: Very few.

Tawse: Would they talk?

Hansard: I would know them from friendly conversations, but nothing about operations more or less, just friendliness.

Tawse: Yeah. Would they talk to you as they went through the building too?

Hansard: Uh-huh, “Hello. How’s it going? Good to see you today. Did you sleep good?”

Tawse: Was the turnover pretty high then?

Hansard: We had one girl one time, I was always leery of her. She came to our building for work and she had an accent. We found out later she was a German. I don’t know whether she was a spy or not. She was friendly and got along well with everyone, but one day all of a sudden she wasn’t there. A rumor got around, I don’t know whether the girl was or not, that she was a German spy. She was highly investigated. I know that they were investigating her.

Tawse: Before they even let her in.

Hansard: But she was taken away. She wasn’t working anymore.

Tawse: She just disappeared?

Hansard: Just disappeared.

Tawse: Was she a WAC?

Hansard: No.

Tawse: Did you have WACs working along with you?

Hansard: No, just GIs and officers.

Tawse: Did the GIs ever sound dissatisfied?

Hansard: They were tired. I’d say, “Wouldn’t you love to go home?”

They’d say, “Oh yes Patty. It would be great to get to go home.” When one of them did go home on furlough, I thought it was wonderful.

Tawse: Uh-huh. What did people in Knoxville say? Did you family ever come up with anything?

Hansard: Daddy thought it was fascinating because I enjoyed it. He said it must be marvelous because, being a girl at that age, it was fascinating to me. And I bought war bonds, every two weeks I bought a fifty-dollar war bond.

Tawse: This helped you buy your house?

Hansard: Uh-huh.

Tawse: Were other people doing it?

Hansard: Uh-huh. Everybody bought a war bond. Every two weeks you’d get a war bond with your pay. I just thought that was so fascinating. My mother kept them in a safe deposit box for me.

Tawse: Did your mother ever want to get into any war work, or was she too busy?

Hansard: My mother was really never strong. She had a very weak heart and she was under a doctor’s care most of the time. It was a real problem for her to take care of all of us and all at that time. She did a lot of hospital work, but not as much as she would have liked to have done because of her health.

Tawse: What would she have against you living in the dormitory? Did she just want you home?

Hansard: There were too many GIs out there. You know Southern folks.

Tawse: Didn’t you put up a fight? 

Hansard: No. It wouldn’t have been much good, because Mom says, “You stay at home as long as you’re working out there. If the war continues, which we hope it doesn’t, you can get your own apartment or we’ll build you an apartment on the other side of our lot.” We had a big lot where you could live yourself.

But I stayed at Oak Ridge a lot during the War with other girls. No one had apartments back then. But they made the dormitories and they made the recreation halls. There was not a great deal that I saw going on, immoral or anything.

Copyright 1965 Stephane Groueff. From the Stephane Groueff Collection, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. Exclusive rights granted to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.