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Paula and Ludwig Bruggemann’s Interview

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Paula and Ludwig Bruggemann were born outside of Yakima, Washington in the agricultural community of White Bluffs. Their father owned a prosperous fruit farm in White Bluffs along the Columbia River before the U.S. government forced the family in 1943 to relocate from the area to make way for construction of the Hanford Site. In this interview, the Bruggemanns discuss their brief years in White Bluffs, family history, the ranch, and the years that followed their displacement from White Bluffs. They recall what life on the ranch was like, and the sort of amenities their home had.

Date of Interview:
September 12, 2022
Location of the Interview:


Russ Fabre: Tell us a little bit about your family history, from where and when did you come to Washington State, and why settle here in White Bluffs?

Ludwig Bruggemann: My father was born in Schwetzkingen, Germany in 1898. He took place in the First World War in Germany and after the war, he wanted to work with agriculture to become a farmer. His family had connections to people in Seattle, Washington that knew about good farmland that had to be put under a plow. He came to America, first New York and then Seattle in 1926, as far as I know, and met these people in Seattle.

They did in fact have a very nice farm here on the Columbia River that was probably a cattle farm, as far as we know. But in the between time, my father knew that the land was very good for fruit and even grapes, which he was interested in. He first of all spent probably about a half a year—he went to California and worked up the coast with the fruit. Half a year later, he was then able to purchase this farm with, I assume, some money coming from Germany. Four hundred acres that was fenced in with an icehouse was surely a big project and several buildings with silos and so on.

That is the reason my sister and I were both born here on the farm. I was born in ’38, and my sister in 1940, so we were here for a very short time in our life. One day, I remember two military jeeps driving in and these people saying, “We have papers that say this is going to become the Hanford atomic bomb project and you will have to move out within two months,” which was a real challenge for a farmer.

That day I was in the pen with the goats. I think before the jeeps left, one of the goats had kicked me over, just knocked me over. My mother was extremely excited about that but nothing happened. He just knocked me over.

Fabre: You’re still alive.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Still alive, yeah. I was not able to conceive the bitterness that both my parents had to have to leave here. My father at that time was already forty years old—no, older, forty-two or forty-three. “If I have to leave here, I’m going to Yakima and buy us a smaller farm that I can work myself.” And that’s where my sister and I grew up, in Yakima, Washington.

Fabre: So as far as your daily life, what was your day like?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t have a real memory of that. You see, my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother were here a lot of the time, so I think we were attended to. Maybe riding the tractor every once in a while and things like that. Nothing very exciting.

Fabre: So your grandparents actually lived on the farm with you?

Ludwig Bruggemann: For periods of time I think yes, to help, because my mother surely needed help. She was not the type of woman that could handle 100 people, cook for them.

Paula Bruggemann: She was in the cookhouse all the time.

Ludwig Bruggemann: My aunt’s husband was working the ferry here and she brought her younger sister with her. They somehow met my father then, so my father married her in ’37 and I was born in ’38.

Fabre: That probably then answers one of my next questions. This photo that was taken in—

Ludwig Bruggemann: That would be a marriage photo.

Fabre: Photos like that, were they prominently displayed in the house? Do you remember any of the photos or furnishings that were in the house?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Yes, this picture was in the house, as far as I know. 

Fabre: And the furnishing?

Ludwig Bruggemann: The furnishings I don’t remember. You see, I have in my house in Yakima furnishings that were here. I have at least two chairs and a cupboard.

Fabre: And the building and the site as we see it today—can you describe where and what the function of this building behind us is, where the homestead is, to your best memory? Basically, what did your farm look like?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I can’t really. Do you have any comments on that?

Paula Bruggemann: No because—

Ludwig Bruggemann: You were two years younger.

Paula Bruggemann: I just don’t even remember the layout of the house, which was really—

Ludwig Bruggemann: It was a small house.

Paula Bruggemann: I don’t remember even going in the door.

Ludwig Bruggemann: That’s not the house. That is, I would say—this thing here. That’s not the house. There’s the house.

Fabre: Do you recognize any of the people that were sitting on the porch?

Paula Bruggemann: We were trying to figure that out on the way over. All we could figure out is, maybe that was Mary Bruggemann’s sister.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Well here, that’s Glenna, isn’t it? That should be Glenna.

Paula Bruggemann: That might be Uncle Glen and that might be Glenna. I’m not too sure.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Which are relatives.

Paula Bruggemann: Mary’s sister’s kids.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Mary’s.

Paula Bruggemann: Mary Bruggemann’s sister’s kids.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Right.

Fabre: Where did they live?

Paula Bruggemann: They lived here.

Fabre: Here also?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t know exactly where. It could very well be that my aunt was able to live here for a while.

Paula Bruggemann: They were all together all the time, but back then they could make do. They’re not spoiled like we are now. No showers and microwaves and all that stuff.

Fabre: Restroom facilities were in the house? Outside the house?

Paula Bruggemann: Could have been outside, with all those people. I don’t remember.

Ludwig Bruggemann: I’ve never seen a picture of an outhouse here. I assume for those times, surely there were toilets in the house.

Paula Bruggemann: It looks to me from this picture there was an upstairs. That could accommodate two families at least upstairs. I don’t remember that at all, but there’s a window there so that means there may have been a basement.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Some sort of a basement, maybe for coal or something for the furnace.

Fabre: Was it coal fire, you said, or was wood used?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I assume wood. I assume; I don’t know. I don’t ever remember coal being transported at all.

Fabre: In a lot of our research, we’ve seen that this whole area was irrigated. Do you remember the irrigation systems, pump houses, pipes?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I only remember the pump house. The pump house on the Columbia was very important for my father, and the thing was always going bad. I think every week he had a problem with that pump house.

Fabre: Did they use canals or did they use piping?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Piping. As I remember, the water was sloping to the Columbia from here. They pumped the water up this level into a ditch system that lets the water run down again towards the Columbia.

Fabre: Do you remember what the pipes were constructed of? Metal pipe, wood?

Paula Bruggemann: Probably wood.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Wood, it would have been wood.

Paula Bruggemann: That’s what we had in our backyard until we took them all out.

Fabre: Compared to other irrigation farms around here, was your Dad’s more advanced or was there a system set up that everybody could use?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t know that. It seems to me that this was a pretty good ranch from the pictures and research I’ve done. This was surely one of the nicest houses in this whole area, and I’m sure that the water systems and so on were adequate because the prior owner we think was a cattle rancher. He also needed water for his animals.

Fabre: I know this is a photo you’ve probably seen many times. Can you describe those two youngsters in that photo?

Ludwig Bruggemann: [Laughter] I was four. We look very happy, don’t we?


Paula Bruggemann: Those were the happy days.

Ludwig Bruggemann: I probably was quite happy, because a farm like this is exciting. There were animals and all types of things to do. You’d pull out a bow and arrow and shoot it into the air and no one would be hurt [laughter].

Fabre: We have a map of how the farm was laid out. Compared to where we are at, can you describe where the orchards are in relation to the warehouse and to where your house actually was?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I don’t know that. But everything, as far as I understood, everything was here to the north of this area here. This house was torn down. It must have been very near this area too.

Fabre: What details about the ranch did your parents frequently tell you about?

Ludwig Bruggemann: One of the things was the distance to get somewhere, to a school—that was always a problem. I remember before I was born, my father bought a new pickup to make sure he’d get his pregnant wife to the hospital.

Fabre: You had mentioned about the Army jeeps pulling up and that a goat had knocked you over. What else do you remember about that particular day?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Nothing else really, because I’m sure that my parents didn’t talk serious things over when we were—I didn’t understand anyway what was going on. I didn’t know what an atomic bomb project was. I just understood we’re going to have to move.

Paula Bruggemann: They were great for putting the kids to bed early and then conversing among themselves. They didn’t get the children involved in conversation.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Like today—much different.

Fabre: So fond recollections of your parents, what would those be?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Fond recollections. Well, first of all, people that were always at home. I had a very good place to come back to whenever I was away. They were very caring. My mother tended to us very nicely. They would take us with them. When my mother went to Yakima, for example, I would go along, which was a very exciting trip for me as a young kid. They did a lot for us.

Fabre: You mentioned trips to Yakima. What would a trip entail?

Ludwig Bruggemann: First of all, probably a two-hour drive. It doesn’t even take me an hour today to get here from the middle of Yakima.

Paula Bruggemann: We stopped at the Silver Dollar Café.

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I don’t remember that.

Paula Bruggemann: So many times we went to Sunnyside, though. We didn’t go to Yakima.

Ludwig Bruggemann: We have pictures of my mother and myself in Yakima. Sunnyside is a little closer. I think if you wanted to really get anything done at that time, Yakima was the bigger, more important city.

Fabre: What kind of shopping would you and your parents do in Sunnyside or Yakima when you went?

Ludwig Bruggemann: We would go to Sears & Roebuck and—

Paula Bruggemann: Montgomery Ward.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Montgomery Ward, and get underwear, pants and shirts and whatever you needed. Overalls, shoes.

Paula Bruggemann: My recollection was the hermit that always—we always stopped the pickup on the way to Sunnyside along the road. He lived pretty close in a little wooden house or little shack. He’d always come out to the truck and say, “Hi Mary. How are you?” We would never miss stopping to talk to him for a minute. He had an old camp stove that went to Englewood Avenue in Yakima with us, and I don’t know if that was his or not, but he used a little camp stove with a chimney. He lived out there in Never-never land for how many years. But he always enjoyed saying, “Hi Mary. How are you?” I can remember that just as plain as day.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Mother probably gave him something too, gave him some food or something.

Paula Bruggemann: Could be.

Ludwig Bruggemann: I assume.

Fabre: When did you first see the ranch again after you left in 1943? Do you remember how you felt the first time you saw the homestead?

Ludwig Bruggemann: We purchased our first car after the war in 1949, and I think my first trip out here was probably 1950. We stood out here at the fence and looked this way and saw the house, and that was all that was there.

Paula Bruggemann: They were so persistent. “You can’t do this and you can’t do that. Back off, because we’re here to guard this property and you can’t go any further than we tell you.” That was one thing that—

Ludwig Bruggemann: We couldn’t go beyond the fence.

Fabre: How did that make you feel the first time you saw it, that there was no way you could get near the property?

Paula Bruggemann: There again, we were so young that it didn’t affect us.

Ludwig Bruggemann: But important too, I was very happy in Yakima. Like I said, it was like going to New York. I was in a very good school, Castlevale School in Yakima, Washington. A small school where I had lots of friends and all kinds of activities that I liked as a young guy.

Fabre: Do you remember your parent’s helpers here on the farm? You mentioned you have an extended family that was always visiting, but what about hired help?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I don’t remember. No memory at all.

Fabre: How about daily occurrences? Daily chores for a five year old? What were you expected to do?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I probably had to feed the goats, for example. There wasn’t much lawn to mow out here [laughter].

Fabre: Did you assist in the orchard work during harvest?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I was just too small for that. My father was probably afraid that I’d get hurt if I went out into the fields with him.

Fabre: The old warehouse—we had an opportunity to kind of walk through it. Do you remember the usage of any of the rooms? You mentioned once before about a cookhouse.

Ludwig Bruggemann: The only thing I do remember is that it was a real chore cooking for so many people.

Fabre: How many would your mother be cooking for?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I think in the harvest time up to 100 people. It was a big ranch.

Fabre: Speaking of cooking, do you remember how your food was kept cool?

Paula Bruggemann: Did we have a cellar of any kind?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t remember that at all. Didn’t we have a Frigidaire already? When were refrigerators available on the market? I think so. I think we had a refrigerator.

Fabre: During harvest, how was the fruit transported?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Tractor trailer and then on trucks, on pickups or trucks to the warehouse out here where the train finally picked everything up.

Fabre: A name I had shared with you earlier from our research—do you remember the term Sagebrush Annie?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I don’t remember that at all, no.

Paula Bruggemann: There was somewhere, maybe between here and Sunnyside, a camp. An Army—what do you call it? Like a barracks. During their move, I had to go stay with them periodically because they were kind of babysitters. I would sit on the steps of this—they were like apartments, but they were of course several rows and rows. I would play with Jimmy Snazy. Nobody knows that name. They don’t remember that name, but I always stayed with Jimmy. Whatever that’s worth, I don’t know. I would like to have someone in conversation recognize that name, but nobody has so far.

Fabre: We’ll definitely look into that name for you.

Paula Bruggemann: I don’t know how you spell it. It was “Snazy” because I remember that quite—

Ludwig Bruggemann: She has a good memory, huh? You were three years old then. My God, that’s great.

Paula Bruggemann: Then after—let’s see, it was three years old—I guess the rest of the family had moved in individual houses.

Ludwig Bruggemann: We moved to Yakima.

Paula Bruggemann: No, the other family. Aunt Helen moved to Oregon in a little older house, which was very nice. I can’t remember if it was Hawthorne Avenue—I can look that up. I had to stay with her at least a week and I remember that, because I was in a crib in the front bedroom. She had candy and I loved candy and my mother said, “No, Helen. She might choke on it.” Well, she gave me a lemon drop and I choked [laughter] and boy, I’m telling you, they came running.

Then I would always be anxious in the morning or afternoon. My uncle would come home from work and I would go down the lane and meet him. He would come home at 4:30 or 5:00, and my aunt would send me out the door to meet Uncle Glen, which was a lot of fun for me. I didn’t mind staying there at all, because they wanted me to be in good hands trying to move out of this mess.

That’s all I remember. I don’t remember any transaction of going from her house to Yakima. I don’t remember moving in Yakima or anything.

Fabre: You mentioned earlier about the extended family that was here. Your family ended up in Yakima. Where did everybody else end up?

Paula Bruggemann: Grandma moved in a little house.

Ludwig Bruggemann: In Portland?

Paula Bruggemann: In Portland on Division Street, I believe it was. I think she ended up only a block and a half from my mom’s older sister, which was Helen, Helen Stover. Helen was in another part of town but then she moved. I don’t know when she moved, but then she moved to her last house, where she passed away. She was only a block and a half, I think, from my Grandma.

The brothers of course, my mom’s brothers, had been in the service and moved back East before they came back and settled. One settled in Galvin and the other one ended up in the Secret Service, so he was back East. Then he of course married and divorced, and remarried. I don’t know where—I think he ended up probably in Virginia, West Virginia, or somewhere like that. We didn’t see him very often at all because of the distance.

They all branched out pretty close to our house and we always made trips at least three or four times a year to Portland and to Centralia and Galvin. One brother moved to the Galvin area because he was a mechanic.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Okay, but let’s get back to our mother and father. They went to Yakima and bought a small house on Third Street or something.

Paula Bruggemann: Third Avenue.

Ludwig Bruggemann: We were there for about a half a year.

Paula Bruggemann: They were house shopping.

Ludwig Bruggemann: They were shopping for a small ranch, which my father then purchased on 4301 Englewood Avenue.

Paula Bruggemann: From Damon Canfield. He was in the government someway. My Dad was always disappointed. “This house is junk!” He never liked that house.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Okay, but he had a twelve-acre farm that he could work more or less himself.

Paula Bruggemann: I guess maybe he was so spoiled with this house that to move in a house that was much less as far as quality, he couldn’t handle it. He really had a hard time. He didn’t like that house. But maybe he lived out in the orchard so much you didn’t hear.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Okay, but we grew up in a very nice atmosphere in Yakima. Yakima was, to me anyway—I don’t know what you think—a wonderful town for a school kid. All kinds of activities.

Paula Bruggemann: Long walk home.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Oh my God, yeah.

Paula Bruggemann: We cut through the orchards.

Ludwig Bruggemann: The school bus picked us up.

Paula Bruggemann: A lot of times maybe I had to stay after school, I don’t know. I walked home a lot of times.

Fabre: So when you lived here on the homestead, do you remember any of your neighbors?

Ludwig Bruggemann: The only thing that I remember are Marguerite and, what was it—

Paula Bruggemann: Wills.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Wills. Gary and Marguerite Wills, which were friends that visited us even in Yakima because they also moved to Yakima. They had a farm near here. I don’t know where.

Paula Bruggemann: And Gil Hooley. They were friends with Gil Hooley, because I remember that name real vividly. They were also in Yakima across from the Saint Paul School and I’ve asked them about pictures, but since it was an in-law situation, he didn’t keep track of the pictures and she wasn’t too interested in them. She said, “No, my sister might have some, but I talked to his sister or her sister and they just didn’t keep them.” That was a dead end.

Fabre: We also have done some research about some other farmers around here. I’m going to throw out a few names and see if you remember them at all. Lovelins.

Paula Bruggemann: I don’t know that name.

Fabre: How about Von Herbergs?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Yes, I’ve heard that name.

Fabre: Just down that direction. Apparently they had 400 acres.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Oh yeah.

Fabre: Do you remember interacting with them at all?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, not them, no.

Fabre: Shahs?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No.

Fabre: Wheeler?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t think so.

Fabre: Apparently there was a lot of sharing when it came to the farmers out here. Do you remember neighboring farmers coming to help your father or vice versa?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I think I remember help coming in for the pump house. Neighbors or people coming in helping my father for the pump house.

Fabre: Do you recollect him leaving and helping other farmers?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I don’t remember that.

Fabre: Just one more page [laughter].

Ludwig Bruggemann: Good.

Fabre: Do you remember any of the families that lived in the Ringold area or near the Richland area?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, the only contact that we had, that I know of anyway, was Sunnyside or Yakima.

Fabre: A little bit more of the homestead or the house that you lived in. Do you remember telephones?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, I don’t, but we surely had one. We surely had a telephone.

Paula Bruggemann: Probably not one on the wall, but one of those small black ones.

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t even remember, but we surely had a telephone out here.

Fabre: You mentioned about your father purchasing a vehicle, a truck. Do you remember what style?

Ludwig Bruggemann: A ’38 Chevrolet pickup.

Fabre: How did he go about purchasing that vehicle?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I assume my father saved the money needed. A truck cost maybe $5,000 or $10,000 at that time, not more than $10,000. He probably went into Yakima to the dealership, saw a truck, said, “I like that truck right here. Here’s the money.” I think that would be the way he would work.

Fabre: Special events at the farm, Christmas, Easter. Any of those bring back memories?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, not really. We surely had a Christmas tree, didn’t we?

Paula Bruggemann: Yeah. It would be probably a live one. I don’t know. It’s just so far back. That’s weird that I don’t remember any holidays.

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t either.

Paula Bruggemann: I can remember the house, but I couldn’t remember holidays.

Ludwig Bruggemann: My mother was a person who didn’t especially like celebrations, so she would down tone a celebration other than make a big deal out of it.

Fabre: You mentioned earlier about a very special event that happened with a locomotive that was going by. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ludwig Bruggemann: My father would take me with him to the warehouse with a load of fruit. One day I was there and the train just came in. What do you call the locomotive, the guy that was running it?

Fabre: Engineer?

Ludwig Bruggemann: The locomotive engineer saw me and I looked up at the guy, and we liked each other immediately evidently. [laughter] And so he threw a Coca-Cola down, just threw it down. It was quite a ways down. I picked it up and he was my friend for the rest of my life [laughter].

Fabre: Near the Vernita Bridge where it is right now, there was a family called Yeager. Do you remember them at all? Also, there was a ferry. Can you tell us a little bit about your recollections of the ferry system or the Yeagers?

Ludwig Bruggemann: I don’t know that, but I know the ferry was a real rough thing to work. There were hard winters with lots of ice in the Columbia. Sometimes you’d get out in the middle of the Columbia and the engine would go bad and you’d sort of float away [laughter]. Working the ferry—and that’s why my Uncle Glen also left, I think—was terribly hard work.

Fabre: You mentioned about ice on the Columbia River. What were your general thoughts about the weather in this area?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Dramatic. Very warm summer, terribly warm out here. Very windy and very cold on the other side. Extremes. There were evidently, from what I read, mild winters out here, but also very cold winters.

Fabre: There was another family in the Vernita area. I know I’m throwing out a lot of names and I realize you were young at the time, but Chester?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Chester? No.

Fabre: McGee?

Paula Bruggemann: I kind of remember that name.

Ludwig Bruggemann: McGee sounds more familiar to me.

Fabre: In reading Colonel [Franklin] Matthias’ diary, he mentions about a court hearing in Spokane on July 23, 1943, for the eviction of the family site here. Do you recall a trip planned by your parents to go to Spokane?

Ludwig Bruggemann: In ’43? No. The official meeting for that eviction, huh?

Fabre: It was all the way up in Spokane.

Paula Bruggemann: Long ways to go in that new truck.

Fabre: We have heard that some of the farmers actually were allowed to come back on site to harvest their fruit. Do you remember your father leaving Yakima, coming back out here to do any harvesting?

Ludwig Bruggemann: No, not at all. He was very busy in Yakima first of all finding a farm and then getting it going.

Fabre: Are there any other highlights that you remember that you’d like to share with us?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Relating to the farm here? No, not really. Do you have anything?

Paula Bruggemann: No, but I just happened to remember there was some kind of a cart that we were wheeled around in. Do you remember that?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Yeah.

Paula Bruggemann: It had two large wheels.

Ludwig Bruggemann: Yeah.

Paula Bruggemann: I don’t know if we took that to Yakima with us. I don’t know if it was homemade or not, but there should be some pictures of that cart somewhere. That was kind of fun, to ride around in that cart.

Fabre: Other than the cart, were there any other toys or things that you remember?

Paula Bruggemann: No tricycles and bikes with training wheels and all that kind of stuff. Nope. In fact, one of my uncles might have made the cart. That’s more like it. 

Fabre: I know you brought a few items here.

Paula Bruggemann: That was from Mr. Martinez, he gave me that.

Fabre: And this is his homestead. What do you remember about—what was his full name again?

Paula Bruggemann: Simon Martinez. Ramon was the one I was talking with, and Simon was his father. He was the one that was terribly upset about this whole situation and he never got over it because he said he remembers them saying, “We will give it back when the time comes,” and it never happened.

Fabre: Did he or your father ever talk about compensation for the ranch?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Oh yes. You see, my father went to court for compensation. They offered him, I don’t know, something and he couldn’t agree with that at all. They went to court, and what I understood was that my father was building a fruit ranch here that was just in development. The first big crop that would have brought a good profit wasn’t in ’42 or even ’43. The judge asked him, “Well Sir, show me your profits and I’ll give you what you think is right.”

My father said, “I don’t have any profits yet.” My father was supported by his German family, I think, for many years. He would have gone into a very good profit situation I think, but that takes time with a farm.

Fabre: You mentioned about goats. Were there other animals here on the homestead?

Ludwig Bruggemann: Surely goats, rabbits and sheep.

Fabre: Well, I want to thank you very much. This was very informative for me.

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