Atomic City reflects on the town of Richland, WA, built by the government to house Hanford workers and their families, and owned by the government until 1959. This bedroom community was a mix of good schools, low cost of living and low crime, but also extreme secrecy, surveillance and secret airborne releases of radioactive elements.

      

Science:

Air Releases

Green Run

How to Protect Yourself Reproduction

Iodine -131 Releases

Memorabilia:

Atoms for Peace Stamp

JFK Collage

Richland Historic Flood Photos

Yellowcake

T-shirts

T. Mike Gardiner. Yellowcake. 2009

Photo By Richard Nicol

North Richland Childhood


We came from Oklahoma, momma,
daddy and me, after the war, dirt poor,
to live in a twenty by eight foot trailer,
on a thirty by thirty foot lot, with other

electricians, pipe fitters, teamsters, janitors,


proud to be part of this “atomic business”

living in the Largest Trailer Court in the World,

big enough to have our own ghetto, two blocks

of dark, delicious smells – frying fish, boiled

greens, hot cornbread.


Once a month from the top of tall poles,

warning sirens wailed, the children, black
and white, raced past swings, monkey bars,

the tetherball ring, to the sandy ditch behind

John Ball School, strung ourselves face down


like paper dolls, clenching our fear behind closed

eyes. A useless defense against nuclear attack,

but we would have been easy to bury there.


-- Jane Roop

This poem was published in Soundings Review

 

BEDROOM COMMUNITY


We were all bedded down
in our nightcaps, curtains drawn


as swamp coolers and sprinklers
hissed every brown summer hour, or in winter


sagebrush hardened in the cold. It was still dark

as our fathers rose, dressed, and boarded


blue buses that pulled away, and men
in milk trucks came collecting bottled urine


from our doorsteps. Beyond the shelter belt
of Russian olive trees, cargo trains shuffled past


at 8:00 and 8:00, and the wide

Columbia rolled by, silent with walleye


and steelhead. We pulled up our covers

while our overburdened fathers


dragged home to fix a drink,

and some of them grew sick—


Carolyn, your father’s marrow

testified. Whistles from the train,


the buses came, our fathers left.
Oh Carolyn—while the rest of us slept.


-- Kathleen Flenniken


This poem is included in the collection, Plume,

(University of Washington Press, 2012.)

Gail Grinnell. Chalice. 1993

Photo By Richard Nico