Interview with Evelyn Walkley

Dublin Core


Interview with Evelyn Walkley


Richland (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)--Social conditions.


An interview with Evelyn Walkley conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.

Date Modified

2016-08-5: Metadata v1 created – [RG]

Oral History Item Type Metadata


O'Reagan, Douglas


Walkley, Evelyn


Washington State University - Tri Cities


Douglas O’Reagan: First of all, will you please pronounce and spell your name for us?

Evelyn Walkley: Evelyn Walkley. E-V-E-L-Y-N, W-A-L-K-L-E-Y.

O’Reagan: All right, thank you. My name is Douglas O’Reagan. I’m conducting an oral history interview on February 18th, 2016. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be speaking with Ms. Walkley about her experiences around this area—around the Hanford area and the Tri-Cities area over the 20th Century. Well, thanks for being here. I understand you moved here when you were just a little girl.

Walkley: That’s correct. My family moved here in late 1943. So I was ten years old and in the fifth grade. And my father was a journeyman carpenter, so he was recruited to come out for the Hanford Project. Told not to bring his family, because there wasn’t housing. But he brought his family.

O’Reagan: Do you remember anything from your life before moving here?

Walkley: Yes. We came from Oklahoma and I remember being on a small farm there. The year, or a year-and-a-half before we came here, we had lived in Leadville, Colorado for a few months. Again, my father was working on some—actually, it was a training facility for the Army, I think, up in the mountains of Colorado. I remember being there, and I was in the fourth grade. Very, very crowded school, and you shared your desks and you did not throw away a piece of paper unless it had been written on margins, front side, back side, because the supplies were in short supply.

O’Reagan: What were your first impressions of—was it Pasco you moved to?

Walkley: Yes. I can remember us driving up—we came over the hills of Pendleton and at some point, hit the Columbia River. I can remember, as a fifth grade kid, knowing that Washington was the Evergreen State. We were getting very close to Washington and I couldn’t figure out where the trees were—how—where is this? We came in to Pasco on a very hot Sunday. We spent the day trying to find a place to live. And there wasn’t one. So that night, my parents parked by the city park in Pasco. We were pulling a trailer and somehow or other, they could raise the lid on this and my parents slept in this trailer. My brother and I slept in the car. That’s where we spent the very first night. No, I take it back: that might have been a Saturday. And then the next day, we went around looking for a place. We found out about this trailer park that is roughly in the area of 10th and Clark in Pasco. Essentially, this was an alfalfa field, and if you had a trailer you could park there. We did not have a trailer, so we pitched a tent that we had brought. The first week we lived in that tent, and there was just a ground cover. My dad started to work. At some point in the next few days, he was able to build a floor and the sides part way up this tent, and then rafters to make it so that you could stand up in it. We lived in that tent for a year. After the year, they were able to buy a little cabin on this place. Of course, none of this—we must have had electricity, but I know that we did not have running water. But at any rate, then they pulled the tent over beside this cabin, and my parents then basically—the cabin was our living room, kitchen, and my parents’ bedroom, and my brother and I slept in the tent. When we were all in the tent, my dad had built double bunkbeds. My parents slept down and my brother and slept up. Because we were all in this 14 by 14 tent. So it’s pretty cozy.

O’Reagan: How did the weather treat you? I would think that would get pretty hot and cold in the seasons.

Walkley: It was. It, I believe, had some sort of a cook stove. And probably that’s what my mother cooked on. I can remember pretty clearly us being newly in this tent and my parents going to get groceries. And during that time, there was wind blowing. When they came back, everything was covered with sand. I can remember my mother just setting down and crying. She hated it; she wanted to go back to God’s country. But you’d learn to live with sand. Now, it was much better once we had a floor. I can remember my mother bringing in clothes from the clothesline and that they were frozen—and it was kind of freeze-dried. But she’d bring them in, and they’d thaw, and somehow or other dried. But it was—if the wind blew, the wind blew, and the tent flapped all around. And if it was cold, it was cold in the tent. And if it was hot, it was hot in the tent. But other people in this trailer park, and other people in the whole area were in similar circumstances. We did not use our car at all while we were here, because the gas rationing points went to whoever my father carpooled with to get to Richland and Hanford. So any place we went, we walked. So you walked to the movies, standing in line. You walked to the grocery store, which, at that time, downtown Pasco was centered in 4th and Lewis, and just two or three blocks around from that. So we walked all of those places. Walked to school. I went to Longfellow School, which—I don’t know how far that was, but I’d walk on 10th Street, and they were building homes to the west side of 10th Street. When the wind would blow, that sand would come off of there, and would just beat against your legs. I can remember that being a stressful time, because there wasn’t any concern about air pollution. And I’m sure that watering trucks were not available to them, and they were building homes as fast as they could. That was because, essentially, the homes in Pasco ended about 10th Street. So it was—when I think about it now, I think it was really pretty primitive and we were sort of poor folks. But then, so was everybody else. And this was all for the war effort. It was—I think the country was 100% into the war effort. Way different than Vietnam and Korea. So we were saving aluminum foil off of pieces of gum. I’m sure we turned it in to someplace. I never knew where that aluminum went to—probably the trash.

O’Reagan: What did you do for water?

Walkley: Oh. We must have carried water from some central faucet. I don’t really remember the carrying the water. But I know we didn’t have any running. I think we did have an electric light. I don’t remember any other electric appliances. We may have had them. I was a ten-year-old kid. I didn’t pay attention. But I know that we did not have any indoor plumbing. There was a wash area in the facilities that we used for at least the first year. The second year, I think we maybe had a washing machine of our own. You just carried water, heated it on a stove. Hot water tanks are really nice to have in a home. And running water.

O’Reagan: We haven’t spoken to very many people who lived in Pasco in this era, so this is really, really fascinating stuff. Can you tell us about any of the other people who lived near you, or any of the other children you met?

Walkley: Most of the other children that I recall early on were native children. They had grown up here. I think that most of the people that I recall in the trailer park were adults. Because they probably heeded don’t bring your families. I know that my parents recruited an aunt and uncle to come up. My uncle worked out on the Hanford Project someplace; my aunt worked at what’s called Big Pasco, which is the big warehouse areas on the river in Pasco. That was all an Army supply depot. My aunt said they had everything from sewing needles to tanks that came in there and were dispersed out. My cousins were older. The place where we lived, that had essentially been an alfalfa farm. I remember my parents talking about our landlords, which were—Fosters was their name—that he had to grow alfalfa and hay to feed his horse. And he had to have the horse because he needed something to help him till the ground. So this just seemed like, stop both of those things and you’re better off! And they did, because they were renting out. I have no idea what we paid to have this tent area. The area in the trailer park—most of the trailers were homemade. There was one Spartan trailer there. I think, maybe, the CREHST Museum had a Spartan trailer. It was aluminum siding and curved front windows. It was a mansion. There was one of those. But I have no experience with the camps that were in Richland and with all of the servicemen that were in Richland. I was a kid, and we didn’t get to Richland, because we were walking. It was—like I say, my mother hated it. She couldn’t wait until the war was over and we could go back to God’s country. But she did find out in 1945, when we did go back for a year and a half that God’s country was economically depressed. So we came back here permanently then in 19—late ’46 or early 1947, and have been here ever since. But as—I believe that the windstorms were worse then, just because of the farming and the construction that was going on. I don’t know that the winds were any worse. But it was a lot dirtier then than it is now. Part of it is different farming practices, not as much construction. And then the people that—when there’s construction sites, now, they’re running water trucks back and forth. And they weren’t doing that in 1944.

O’Reagan: Were you still living in that cabin when you moved back, or did you move somewhere else?

Walkley: No, when we moved back, we actually moved into a basement apartment that was on 3rd Street in Pasco. I don’t remember the number, but it was north of what is now Pasco City Hall. At the time that we moved there, it was Pasco High School plus a junior high school. We were about three blocks from there, and at that point, then, I was in the seventh grade. Like I say, that was Pasco High School and Pasco Junior High School. Then at some point, my parents purchased a home that was out in the middle of nowhere, and essentially it was—there was no housing around it. This was on Brown Street in Pasco, and from Henry to Court, except for their house, there were no other houses. 5th Street to 10th Street, there wasn’t—and that house had just been—I don’t know when the house was built—pre-war, I’m sure. And it was old. They purchased that in probably 1948 or ’49. And essentially there was just a dirt road—two-lane road going to the house. And then it was kind of normal life.

O’Reagan: Was your father still a carpenter throughout this time?

Walkley: Yes, he was doing carpentry work until he retired in like 1968, something like that. And in the meantime, they had purchased a little farm on Road 68. It still is a little farm on Road 68. But he was watering and taking care of a few acres of concord grapes while he was also doing carpentry work.

O’Reagan: Can you tell us about going to school at, you said, Pasco High?

Walkley: Yes. So when we moved back, I was in the seventh grade, and went to the high school, because the junior high was there and, at that time, the north wing was just being built. So you could tell by that that Pasco was really still quite small. My husband and I were in school together, but we did not actually start dating or anything until after we were out of high school. But he actually was a native born, one of the few in the area. His mother actually was born in Walla Walla and he was actually born in Walla Walla, but they lived west of the—what was Central Pre-Mix. It’s somebody else now, but the gravel pit that’s out on West Court Street. They lived on the river where Court Street takes a right angle turn and goes away from the river. So I would say he was part of the downriver people, because their well had to have been Columbia River water. But, like I say, he was a native. His parents had a Chris Craft indoor—not indoor—inboard motorboat—I don’t think I’m using the right term. But at any rate, the government came and said, we want to use your boat. Because they were doing sounding on the Columbia River, and the boat that they had, that apparently was a five horse outboard motor, would not hold the current. So we want to requisition your boat. So apparently my husband’s dad said, well, you can have the boat, but not without me. So he went to work in his boat. And if it was good weather, they did surveying—sometimes in the river and sometimes not. I think if the weather was really bad—and I don’t know whether he went to work or not—but at any rate, at that time, there were really just two big boats on the river, his and I think Havstad’s, which—the Havstad House was what’s now called the Moore Mansion, that’s by the Blue Bridge. So he was—his—my husband’s parents, Glen and Elvira Walkley, were natives. He was PUD commissioner for years and years and active in the community. But let the government use his boat during the war time.

O’Reagan: If you were describing your education, your time in high school to students today, what would be different? Trying to get an idea for what life was like.

Walkley: Different—that’s the like of automobiles. There was one student that I can recall in the whole high school that would come to school in a car. My husband would also come to school in a vehicle, partly because of the distance that he lived, and he was involved with sports and so there was nothing like an activities bus. But I can remember being in the third floor of that building in the home ec room and looking down and see him coming in. And sometimes he rode in a Cushman scooter, and he’d get off and take off sheep-lined leather clothing, if it was cold. Sometimes he would come in a pickup, and sometimes he would come in a truck, because he was a farm kid. Once in a while, he would come in his folks’ Cadillac. And none of us—most of us—just didn’t know about Cadillac cars. The big fishtails on them. But otherwise, people walked to school, or the kids way out in the country rode the bus. It never—for one thing there would not have been the cars available, and you would not have been able to afford them if they had been. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. Of course, the idea of cell phones—we wouldn’t even have dreamt about that. But our communication was talking to one another.

O’Reagan: I guess you still covered—you say you had home ec—I guess you covered the same classes though.

Walkley: I was on a track for going to college. But I was taking—the other thing, probably is they’re doing more advanced studies than we ever did. The highest math that I ever had was solid geometry and trigonometry. We didn’t have any calculus. The other thing is the role of girls. There was one other girl in those two upper math classes; and physics class, I think there were only two girls. Now I’m sure it’s just not that way. Plus, the classes are much bigger. Now, the chemistry class—because I think a lot of people must have had to take chemistry—it was pretty well covered, but not physics. I have a story about college. I went to what was then the College of—Washington State College. I went there for two years and then got married, so went a year at Occidental in Los Angeles, and then finished up at what was then the College of Puget Sound, which is now University, like WSU is a University. My major was economics and my minor was geology. When I was at the University of Puget Sound, one of the requirements was a summer geology trip on the San Juan Islands. I was the only female in this geology class. My husband was in the Air Force. They politely told me that if I would not go on that trip, they would not require it. The reason was they had no facilities for a female on that trip. One weekend campout that we had, they wanted to know if my husband could come. Oh!—I was dumb—I said, sure. You know, is it okay if he comes? Yes, we would like him to come. So he didn’t have duty, and so he came and we slept in the back of our station wagon. And, again, I was so unaware that I didn’t realize they wanted him there as a chaperone because I was the only female in this geology class. That’s something absolutely unheard of—I mean, that sort of thing would not happen today.

O’Reagan: That’s really interesting. Was it your ambition, initially, to go to college? Did your parents have thoughts about you going to college?

Walkley: It was my idea to go to college. My parents, I don’t recall them ever encouraging it, or ever really discouraging it, except that I was so excited when I graduated, because one of the things was I got a $50 scholarship. Well, the economics of things was the $50 wasn’t going to let me go to college. So I did work for a year after high school, and saved money. Because the first year that I went to Pullman, I went there with just about $1,000. And that got me through that first year at college. I must have made enough money in the summer that I could go back the second year. That’s also unheard of now. I think my mother would send me $2 cash a week, so I could—I had $2 cash: I was rich. And even at college, very few students had cars. For one thing, there wasn’t parking, and for another thing, you just didn’t. A few must have, because I know I carpooled with somebody to go and come. But that was different. I happened to be at WSU when Bing Crosby’s twins were going to school there. They had a car, and they would park in front of the library building. Was some sort of a Ford convertible. And they would set there, and I’m sure they were chick magnets, because of their name. But very few students had cars.

O’Reagan: So you transferred from Washington State College to Occidental, you said?

Walkley: Yes.

O’Reagan: Why did you transfer?

Walkley: I transferred there because my husband was going to college at California Institute of Technology, Caltech, who’s part of the LIGO system. And that’s where he was going to school. So we lived in student housing on the Occidental campus, and he commuted. But he was a year ahead of me, because he didn’t have to—he didn’t stay out the year that I did. He graduated, and then he was in the Air Force ROTC after—late summer, he was called into the Air Force. We were in Ohio for a while and then he was stationed at McChord. So that’s why I finished up at the University of Puget Sound, which was, like I said a college then.

O’Reagan: So was he called up for the Korean war at that point?

Walkley: We were between wars at that point. My history is foggy, but it was—I wish I could remember when the Korean War was.

O’Reagan: ’55, I think. Was this the ‘50s, the ‘60s?

Walkley: I know that he served two years. His ROTC class was one of the last that their commitment was two years. He was an engineer. The Air Force had really wanted to try to recruit pilots, but Caltech let the Air Force know that, no, we’re producing engineers and scientists and those kind of folks. You’re better to use them in that than to train them as pilots. So he went in as an engineer and had two years, and then after that, there was no Air Force reserve here. So he would just go to Fairchild during the summer for some training. But there was a period of time that he was on a 24-hour notice that if they’d call him up, he had 24 hours to report someplace. So that might have been Korea. That would have been in the ‘60s. But I hate to kind of show my ignorance of history.

O’Reagan: I’m a historian, I get dates wrong all the time.

Walkley: [LAUGHTER]

O’Reagan: So when you were assigned to go to college, was that just to better yourself? Was it because you wanted to get a job out of it?

Walkley: I don’t know that I had any lofty reasons. I think it was because I thought that this was what you should do. Neither one of my parents were college graduates. But I had seen my parents working on the farm before the war, and I guess I thought that that’s just what I needed to do to be able to support myself. Now this was before women’s liberation. It was all before that. And then ironically as it turned out, about the time that my husband was getting out of the Air Force, this opportunity to farm what had not been a historical family farm—they had purchased—and Van’s folks, he and his sisters had purchased this farm, because they had had ground at the Eltopia area, which was the Bureau of Reclamation came in because of Grand Coulee Dam, and they chose to not keep any land there. So in a tax-free exchange, they turned the money into buying the place that we farmed. Well, that opportunity to farm came up, so we did a 180-degree turn, and instead of him being an engineer and building highways, which is what he did before the Air Force, we started farming. And did that for 57 years.

O’Reagan: What did you grow?

Walkley: When we moved to the farm, it was all dryland. And this farm was east of Ice Harbor Dam, about five miles. It was all dryland, and so we grew dryland wheat. Because of the farm program, you couldn’t grow all wheat—so we would grow barley and/or rye. In the mid ‘60s, that part of agriculture was fairly depressed, and so my husband had the idea that we’d start watering things. So we started irrigating supplemental, just. And then over the years, we kept adding to this irrigation system. So when the farm was sold in late 2013, half of our acres were irrigated and half was still dryland. So all of that was my husband doing, but we turned a piece of land that was barely giving us a living to something that was really a pretty good diversified farm.

O’Reagan: Why don’t we pull open a map here and see if we can—just get my chair forward here. See if we can get a view of where we’re talking about here.

Walkley: Okay.

O’Reagan: Okay.

Walkley: Okay. All of this really dark area is probably the Snake River Vineyard, and we were next door to them. So Highway 124—got to get my glasses focused here.

O’Reagan: Sure.

Walkley: So basically, our farm was here. And then we wind around some. And then here, this section right in here was not us. Oops! That was a little too much. And so we pumped out of the river at—that’s the spot where we pumped out of the river. So basically, we’re—and this corner section. And then all of this was really hilly, sandy area. So that’s where we farmed. And the dam is here and Charbonneau Park is right in this area.

O’Reagan: That’s a lot of territory. Did you have to get help in farming all that?

Walkley: The first few years, when it was all dryland, we only had help during harvest time. Once in a while, we’d hire somebody just temporary, just doing tractor work. Mostly, my job was chasing parts and cooking for the harvest crew. Once in a while, I’d have to drive tractor for a couple of weeks. This was not anything I really enjoyed doing. And then also bookwork. I did the bookwork for the farm all the time, including the taxes. And I did that until—well, basically, our daughter had a major stroke in 2007, and this took a lot of time with her rehab. So some of our taxes, I had to have a CPA do during some of that time—some I still could do. So I was the bookkeeper and the cook.

O’Reagan: Did other people farming around you grow the same things you did?

Walkley: They did at first, but about the same time we put in irrigation, so did the neighbors. After a year or two of having potatoes, the neighbors then—I think they weren’t selling—then basically went into Snake River Vineyards and concord grapes. And then on the other side of us, it for a long time was still the same—it was either rangeland or the same sort of farming. And then Broetje Orchards went—well, Broetje Orchards and AgriNorthwest. AgriNorthwest, the area that they had out there actually started with some local farmers in Eureka, and that was called K2H. And then it was AgriNorthwest. They went into—virtually everything, then, that they farmed was irrigated. It definitely changed the landscape, changed the economics of it all. A lot of the ground that we would irrigate, we would rent out. Only when it rotated to wheat or maybe soybeans, then, if it was potatoes or a sweet corn or alfalfa hay, we rented that out and then just did the watering for it. We took care of our irrigation system, the sprinklers, and managed all the water.

O’Reagan: Where did you learn to farm? Was this knowledge you had from your parents?

Walkley: No. Van had—when his parents had had land in the Eltopia area, that was dryland wheat farming. So he knew about that. My experience was on a small farm in Oklahoma that was basically a subsistence farm. We had enough cows that we could sell milk to the PET milk company, and a few acres of orchard so we could sell apples. But it was 50 acres of very diversified sort of farming. So that did not give me a lot of experience with over 5,000 acres of dryland wheat farming. My husband knew how to do this, and he was very smart. So we’d go to growers’ meetings and somehow or other, we made it. [LAUGHTER]

O’Reagan: That’s interesting. I’m interested in how people develop their farms, learn new techniques, that sort of thing. Was the Growers’ Association a big deal in the area?

Walkley: Yes. We were involved with the Washington Association of Wheat Growers on a county level. And the County Extension puts on programs. We belonged to the grange. There’s educational things. Visiting with the neighbors. We had to learn how to take care of the ground, because western Walla Walla County, at least where we were, was really lots of sandy loam. Similar to some of the Horse Heavens. So you have to treat that gently, or it’s going to blow away. So we learned, we did different things. One year I can remember, my husband went to Christmas tree sales lots the day after Christmas. He loaded up a truck with Christmas trees. We put those out on sand hills to try to hold it down. We’d spread straw for years and years and years on sand hills. And in fact, when we sold the farm, that was still something that we were doing to try to hold down sand hills. We were also using straw in tracks that the sprinklers make. So you’re using straw in dryland and irrigated both. But back to the wartime, I’m just thinking about how that was. Of course there was various kinds of not just gas rationing, but shoes—I mean leather, and other things. The attitude is so different now. We were content to not be able to buy as many bananas as you wanted, because if they had bananas in, you were limited to buying six of them, for instance. We were all in the same boat. I don’t recall of there being complaints about this. I don’t know if some of those shortages—how people would react to them now, when we’re used to so much abundance. But that’s just what you did. And as for what was happening at Hanford, that was on our radar. We knew it was secret—you know, my dad was just building things. And in fact, he did a lot of building not out on the Project, but in the City of Richland. So some of the older warehouse buildings and things would have been buildings that he worked on. As a ten-year-old, this just did not faze me a lot. When we moved back, the flood of 1948 certainly affected us. My mother at that time was working in Richland, and she was able to take the train from Pasco to get to Richland. And then she stayed there for the week, and then get back again, because the highway bridge—which was the old green bridge, which is gone—that was flooded. And the road through Columbia Park that was the main road, that was flooded. So you couldn’t get there from here. I can remember it all because then I was having to take care of the little strawberry patch that we had. My father was, maybe at that point then, doing construction in Pasco. I don’t recall him having the trouble getting to work that my mother had. But much smaller population center. Schools, much smaller. It was just a very interesting time. I think you all are doing a great job with this project, because the people that really did know about Hanford and everything that was going on, you’ve got to get them interviewed before they die off. Because we’re getting to be pretty old! [LAUGHTER] To have lived through this.

O’Reagan: Were you ever interested in local politics of the area at all?

Walkley: Well, only to the extent that my father-in-law was an elected PUD commissioner. When we were really in the political realm, then we were living in Walla Walla County, and so divorced from the Tri-Cities politics. Of course, nobody asked me my opinion, so nobody gets the benefit of my years of wisdom. [LAUGHTER]

O’Reagan: Were you aware of the down-winders controversies? Were they in your area?

Walkley: Yes. We were well aware of those. I sometimes do wonder if—now my husband had—in 2000 was diagnosed with lymphoma. And lymphoma, they think, has multiple causes, and maybe it’s multiple triggers that have to trigger at the right time. I wonder if that had anything to do with drinking Columbia River water. I don’t know, and it isn’t anything that I would pursue. What happened with the iodine releases and the winds, I’m not part of that. I did wonder when Mount St. Helens blew, why there wasn’t a better forecast of where those clouds were going. Because I thought, Hanford area should have had a lot of information on the winds and where things go. So it was surprising that, say, Ritzville and Pullman and various places didn’t know after it blew that—okay, because of the conditions, this is what you’re going to be getting. That was a surprise to me. Way off the subject.

O’Reagan: No. Did that impact your life?

Walkley: It impacted it only peripherally. The clouds were certainly something that I’ve never seen that kind of a cloud before. We didn’t have a lot of ash falling on us for some reason. My daughter was home that weekend, and driving back to Pullman for her was a real experience, because the ash was bothering her visibility. As it turned out, every morning they’d get news, well, don’t go to class this day. So she didn’t need to be there for a week, but she didn’t know that at the time that she’d left home. So it affected her that way. What was usually a two-hour, two-and-a-half-hour drive took her five or more. When she did call that she was there, she really sounded like she’d been through a stressful experience. But then it’s not very often that a volcano blows its top and does its thing.

O’Reagan: During all this time, in the background there’s the Cold War going on and a lot of the fear about nuclear exchanges and all this. Was that ever something that impacted your life or your family’s?

Walkley: Only that if I would go to, say, a state meeting of a group that was anti-nuclear, I could indicate that no, we’re not—as the crow flies—not all that far from the Hanford Project. We’re able to grow crops and not glowing in the dark. And also say things like, when you have tanker trucks driving up and down I-5 that’s carrying liquefied natural gas—have you thought about what kind of a hazard that is? We listened to the fire department radio when the railcar blew up in the Wenatchee railyard and devastated that area. If that train had been in the tunnel, or in Seattle when that happened, the devastation would have been unbelievable. So there are just risks and hazards all over. To our knowledge, this was an area that they were mitigating the risks. I think at the very first, in 1945—I don’t even know that the scientists knew all of the risks, because they were learning, too. But as they learned of the risks, they were taking steps to modify. Probably we’re living in one of the safest areas.

O’Reagan: You say you raised children here, too?

Walkley: Yes. Two children, a boy and a girl, both graduates of WSU Pullman. My daughter still lives here. My son lives in Missouri.

O’Reagan: Did they go to high school around here?

Walkley: They went to school in Burbank. Grade school and high school. And then both went to Pullman right after high school and graduated. My son graduated in 1980, and at that—so he decided he needed to get out in the world of work and took a job with a—actually, at that time it was called Allis Chalmers, Combine Division. So he was still involved with the farm. He was in the experimental section of combines. Then met and married a Missouri girl and she had roots in Missouri, so that’s where he’s been since college. My daughter graduated in 1982, and she worked for—started out with the Farmers’ Home Administration. It’s morphed into part of the Farm Service Agency. She was making farm loans. But in 2002—she moved various places in the state, but in 2001 she managed to get back to working at the Farm Service Agency in Pasco and was helping some on the farm. Then in 2002 she, as she said, quit a good-paying job for longer hours, less wages—what’s not to love? So she was, as she said, following Dad around to learn farming. So she was our main combine driver. But we had other employees at the time, but she was the combine driver and was at the staff meeting every morning at 7:00 and was probably going to be in a position to take over the farm until she had a major stroke in 2007. And that changed those plans.

O’Reagan: Okay. So we’re also interested in the agricultural history of the area and among that, you said you were near one of the vineyards of the area?

Walkley: Right. The Snake River Vineyards, which is the concord grape vineyard. That’s, again, just east of Ice Harbor Dam. I understand it’s one of the largest concord grape vineyards in the world that’s under one ownership. You know, if you look on maps, the whole Columbia Basin is called the Great American Desert. But with water, this magic elixir, you can grow anything in these soils. The amount of diversified agriculture in the Columbia Basin is astounding, if you really would see what all is grown there. There’s things that I don’t even know about. Very, very minor crops that maybe are major in the world. I really think of the Columbia Basin as a breadbasket that is feeding the world, parts of it. We have a really rich agriculture base. The big driver for that change was Grand Coulee Dam, which was power for the Hanford Project, and flood control some, and irrigation. That was really—I see that as a driver a lot for the economic—what’s happened to our area, in its growth. Certainly a big driver is Hanford, but there’s also a huge driver with the agriculture. I don’t even know everything that’s grown there. But I expect that there’s a hundred different crops grown in this area, very productively. I think that our yield of potatoes per acre is better than Idaho’s. At one time there was this saying, well, a good Idaho potato’s grown in Washington. And then Idaho potato people didn’t like that. But there certainly is potatoes and sweet corn and field corn and seed corn and peas and lentils—well, lentils are more Palouse. I think we don’t, maybe, give agriculture or farmers the recognition that they have for what they’ve done for this area.

O’Reagan: Did you ever—were you sort of sticking with crops you knew and had expertise in, or did you think about changing crops for ones that were more profitable at different times?

Walkley: Oh. My husband was always trying different things. Sometimes we were just before our time. I know that he grew some hard white wheat one year. We had to haul it someplace special, not in the area, to market it. We experimented with various things. We grew buckwheat for a year or two. We grew soybeans. In fact, when we grew soybeans, the Farm Service Agency and the crop insurance people had to get through—well crop insurance mostly—run through some hoops, because there was no history of soybeans here. We’ve grown canola. And so my husband was always trying something new. That was just his nature. He was really the driver of what turned that farm into dryland and to diversified. Because as I said, he was very smart and he was always thinking of, how can we do things better? We had older equipment, so it was hard to put GPS on some of them, but we were able to. And we had one fella that worked for us, started working for us in 1974. When we were trying out some GPS, my daughter said, Guadalupe will just hate that. He is not going to want to do that. Guadalupe loved the GPS, because, he said, now I can watch the equipment better, and I don’t have to worry about where I’m going. So the employees embraced it, too. I’m sure that if my husband was still alive, for Christmas he would have purchased a drone. But—yeah, he was very smart.

O’Reagan: Can you tell us about some of your workers?

Walkley: We’ve had all sorts of workers over the years. Like I said, first it was just during harvest that we would have extra workers. Some fellas worked for us—they would come back, year after year. At one time there was three Pasco High School teachers that drove combine for us during the summer. They—every year—would come back. Part of that was because of my cooking. But they seemed to enjoy working for us. Guadalupe, as I say, started working in 1974. When I sold the farm, he was still working for us. He liked to work, and he liked to work for us. Trying to think of some specific kind of workers. Our foreman was from Texas. He was from an area in Texas where they mostly speak Spanish; so was Guadalupe. I know when our last set of employees—people that are still working there—one is from Mexico, with a green card; he’s legal. But a fair amount from Texas. And they started out as migrants, picking asparagus. Then settled down and are full-time folks in Pasco. I think you asked me something else. I’m trying to think what it was.

O’Reagan: I think that was—the most recent question was just sort of about the workers. I guess we could branch out from that to—were there any sort of big changes or trends or—you were telling sort of the history of agriculture around there. Anything that comes to mind.

Walkley: Well for our farm, and the biggest change that affected me was we went from three combines and three drivers and various truck drivers and me cooking for all of them to one big combine and hauling our grain out by semi. So I still did cook for the combine driver, because it was Nannette, and later my grandson. But it wasn’t the same. Early on, when we were running three combines and all of these trucks, I took a hot meal to the field at noontime. So I had figure out how to keep things hot and how to keep things cold. The combine drivers would eat while the truck drivers were greasing the machines. Then the truck drivers would eat. And if one was at the elevator, you just waited out there until they got back and ate. Wherever they were in the field, I needed to find them and I needed to be there at 12:30 to have that lunch ready for them. That all changed. Early on, the combine drivers would stay out on the farm, and I was feeding them three meals a day. Later on they didn’t do that. I will say that for truck drivers, my husband found that our very best truck drivers were females. Part of that is because they would listen; you could teach them. Because they knew they didn’t know how to drive these trucks. Now, found out that the boys—now, they didn’t know how to drive the trucks, either, but they’re not going to admit it, and they’re not going to listen. The best truck drivers, typically that we had, as a generalization, were females. They’re easier on the equipment, and they’re teachable. And some of them spoke at my husband’s memorial service. As did some of the fellow workers that we had. To me, the driving truck was the worst job on the farm, because you had to park the truck so that when the combine was emptying, chaff wasn’t blowing back on the combine. Because early on, there were no cabs on these, and no air conditioning. My husband, who was driving combines said, I’m eating that dust all the time. I am not going to eat it while I’m unloading. So the driver always had to be parked just right. The truck driver’s just always getting in trouble because they weren’t parking just right, or they were getting stuck. I’m sure that some of these poor truck drivers would just do their best, and they would be stuck, and they’d have to call the combine. There was the times that my husband could, maybe, dig a little or put a thistle underneath a tire, get in and drive that truck out after this kid had been working and working, trying—and it must have just—if it would have been me, it would have just made me gnash my teeth! But that happened more than once. One of the girls that drove truck for us, at his memorial service said, I got stuck, and she said, I didn’t want to get stuck. I knew not to do that. But I got stuck, and Mr. Walkley had to come over and help me. And he came over and I was just so worried about it, he was going to be so mad at me. He came over and he said, do you know how to not get stuck? Don’t drive. And she said, that was the end of it. And he got me unstuck, and it was all okay. [LAUGHTER] But living on a farm is just—it is also very different from someplace else. Especially when you live there, because you’re always on the farm. Something comes up in the middle of the night. You’re just there, and you handle it. Once we got irrigation, there was a lot of things. My husband would get up in the middle of the night and go out and check the sprinklers. Or he’d get up and look in the bedroom window. We had a pressure gauge, and if that pressure wasn’t what he thought it should be, go out and check the farm and see what’s going on. So it’s a 24/7, 365 job. At least it was for us, because we lived on the farm.

O’Reagan: Well, there’s always a lot that I don’t know the right question to ask.

Walkley: [LAUGHTER]

O’Reagan: What should I be asking?

Walkley: Oh! I have no idea. [LAUGHTER]

O’Reagan: We’re interested in--

Walkley: You’re supposed to be guiding me.

O’Reagan: Sure.

Walkley: Because we’re really digressing into farm and farming history. Which is different than the Hanford Project. And so I don’t know the right questions, either.

O’Reagan: Well, so, we are interested in Hanford and the impact Hanford had on the community, but that’s not the only thing we’re interested in. We are interested in the agricultural history of the area. We’re interested in what it was like living in or around the Tri-Cities throughout this whole period. Day-to-day life, or how things have changed.

Walkley: Yeah. In day-to-day life, because of the rationing, and us choosing to put our car up on blocks, we walked everyplace. We went to the movies a fair amount, which is, in a way, kind of surprising to me. But when you went to the movie, you had to stand in line. And the line could be a block or so long. But I remember standing in line, but a bus coming up with the Italian Prisoners of War that were here, that were housed in the Big Pasco area. They didn’t have to stand in line. They just went on in as a group. I could understand that, but yet—[GRUMBLES] And the entertainment was going to the movies. Now, I think for the military that was here, there was a USO building on the north side of the big park in Pasco. They would have things going on there. And I know in Richland, there was all kinds of actors, for instance, that came and entertained the troops and the folks that were working there. But that wasn’t part of our life, because we didn’t live in Richland. But I can just remember walking, doing a lot of walking everyplace. Doing without certain things—now, we never went hungry or anything like that. But there were frills you just didn’t have. Somehow or other, you entertained yourself. Partly because—I know for my dad, he probably put in long hours of working. You go home, you eat and you go to bed. The next morning, you get up and eat and go to work. But for a kid, for thinking about going to a Playground of Dreams or going here for entertainment, walking the malls for entertainment—that just wasn’t part of our life at all. I can just remember kind of playing out in the dirt. Because there weren’t a whole lot of lawns, and I know where we were living, there wasn’t. There was the remnants of the alfalfa field. Later in high school, my friend and I would—I didn’t realize it, but we were essentially babysitting her little sister. She lived in a regular house on 10th Street. At that point, we were living out in this house in the middle of nowhere, it seemed like. But to go from my place to her place, we’d have to drag her little sister’s stroller through the sand. Just that—of course, we didn’t have—there was no television. We had radios, you’d go to the movies, and that’s where you’d get a lot of the news, because they would run a newsreel first—before the main. There’d be a newsreel and there’d be a comic and maybe even a sing-along with a little bouncing ball, and you’d all sing. That is totally unheard of. Have you gone to a movie where you’ve—the whole people are singing something?

O’Reagan: No.

Walkley: And the words are on the screen with a little bouncing ball. But the newsreels—that’s where we got our information—video information, anyway—about the war, and what was going on. I remember listening to Edward R. Murrow and Walter Winchell, who was talking to “North and South America and all the ships at sea.” I can remember December 7, 1941, and us being glued to the radio. Probably it was a battery-operated radio. When I was a kid in Oklahoma, we did not get electricity until maybe 1939 or 1941. So we had no electricity, no running water, no indoor bathrooms. The house was eventually wired and we’d come home from school looking to see if the meter was on the meter base, which meant we had electricity. You had to pay for a minimum of kilowatts, whether you used them or not. We would watch that. And the minimum, as I recall, was 35 kilowatts. You use 35 kilowatts in half an hour now. But we had a fixture with two lightbulbs in the living room, and a matching fixture in the bedroom with one lightbulb. And this was brilliant! I mean, we could see so good! I remember those two light fixtures. I don’t remember what was in the rest of the house. Later, we had an electric-driven cream separator that was very tall. It was as big as I was. You had to crank it first to help get it started before you could switch it on to electricity. I just remember my job was cleaning the innards of this cream separator. If you’ve never done that, that is a hateful job. But something that everybody ought to have to do at some point, is clean an electric cream—now I liked putting it together. It’s very interesting, very fascinating. I liked taking it apart and putting it together. I disliked washing it. But that’s not anything you want to know. Agriculture--

O’Reagan: I also understand that unlike Richland and also in a lot of ways unlike Kennewick, Pasco had a more diverse population in a number of ways. Was that ever something you experienced?

Walkley: Yes. We did. We had some Japanese families. And because, as I understood it, the line that divided whether or not the Japanese had to go to internment camps was the Columbia River. So the Japanese in Kennewick were taken to internment camps. The ones in Pasco were not. But the Japanese area in Pasco, their businesses and where most of them lived close to their business, that was off-limits to the military. The first meal that we had when we came to Pasco was at the M and M Café, which was down by the underpass in Pasco. And it was run by the Japanese. First time in my life I’d ever had oyster crackers. But that area was—and I’m not even sure if the military was here at that point—but later on, that area was off-limits to the military. Now, some of these were second generation Japanese, and they were no threat to this country. They were fine, upright people. There were a few blacks in the area, and basically they were in the east Pasco area. They were—my understanding—very discriminated against in Kennewick, but allowed to be in Pasco. We had a black student in my high school class, and he was one of the class officers. His name was Duke Washington. He was a very good football player, and in fact played football for WSU—College at that time. As I understand it, when they were going to play some team in the South, the WSU coach was told, don’t bring that boy with you. But the coach said, we’re bringing him—and they did. And he was a star football player. Now, I—again, I was young and ignorant—I think I was unaware of a lot of things—I don’t know that he was discriminated against. I expect that he was. But I don’t recall a lot of blacks being in our high school. And there should have been, for the number of black people that lived in east Pasco. So I don’t know whether they weren’t welcome in school—I’m not sure what that was really all about, because I was not aware enough of what was going on in the community to know that. That’s probably another difference between when I was a student, and students now. Because I think that students now—probably a lot of it is social media—they know what’s going on in their community. I thought I knew what was going on, but I don’t think I did. So all of this awareness of social things—I think that’s very different than it was when I was in school. And then we didn’t learn things in high school that students are learning now. Because I know I never had any calculus.

O’Reagan: All right. Well, that’s all fascinating stuff. Anything else that leaps to mind before we wrap it up?

Walkley: Oh, I’ll probably think of oodles of things when I go home.

O’Reagan: Well, we’re certainly open to follow up discussions. That oftentimes leads to even better discussions once people have time to think about what else there is to say.



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Years in Tri-Cities Area



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Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Evelyn Walkley,” Hanford History Project, accessed July 16, 2024,