Interview with David Carson

Dublin Core


Interview with David Carson


Richland (Wash.)
Hanford (Wash.)
Hanford Site (Wash.)
Hanford Reach (Wash.)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Wash.)
Nuclear waste disposal


An interview with David Carson 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

2016-07-29: Metadata v1 created – [RG]

Oral History Item Type Metadata


O' Reagan, Douglas


Carson, David


Washington State University - Tri Cities


Douglas O’Reagan: Okay. To start us off, will you please pronounce and spell your name for us?

David Carson: Hi. My name is David Carson, D-A-V-I-D, C-A-R-S-O-N.

O’Reagan: Okay, thank you. My name is Douglas O’Reagan. I’m conducting an oral history interview here on April 29th, 2016. The interview is being conducted on the campus on Washington State University Tri-Cities. I’ll be speaking with Mr. Carson about his experiences working on the Hanford Site and living in the Tri-Cities community. Well, thanks for being here. Could you tell us first just a little bit about your life leading up to either moving into the Tri-Cities or starting working at Hanford?

Carson: I was born here in Richland at Kadlec in May of 1958. Grew up here, went through all the Richland schools—Spalding and Carmichael, and—I can still call it Col High because I went there then. Went off to college, met my wife. We were biology majors, and about the time that we graduated and were looking for jobs, Battelle, who at the time had a huge biology program, they lost most all their contracts. So that just evaporated. My wife managed to get on with Battelle a couple months after we were married. But it took me over six months before I finally got a break and got hired on at N Reactor as an operator. My--

O’Reagan: And that would have been ’81?

Carson: That was in March of 1981. My parents had moved here in the spring of 1951 with my brother and sister. I was a 16-year mistake, so they’re a lot older. But they moved here in ’51. They lived in the trailer camp up north. My brother and sister went to Ball Elementary, for example. In ’53 they were able to buy a ranch house on Cedar Street, and that’s where I grew up. My dad was a fireman. Eventually became a lieutenant and then a captain. My mom was a secretary and then executive secretary. She was one of the very first certified professional secretaries onsite, and did a great deal to spread that program and bring skills and professionalism throughout all of her parts of the work. For years, she worked here—for over 35 years, a couple years longer than my dad, actually. So I’m about as Richland-born-and-bred and Hanford-centered as you could hope to ask for. When I got hired on at N Reactor, I started—as so many people in operations did—back in the fuels department. We called it back, because it was in the back part of the building. It was both the front and the back of the process. So back there, we made up the charges of reactor fuel for charging into the reactor. After that went in, the old fuel was discharged. We also took care of that out in the storage basin. So that was—I started in late March ’81, I was in fuels for six months. I always knew that I wanted to move up into the control room. So after six months, in September of ’81, I moved up front to reactor operations, not fuels operations. Started out as—everyone was referred to sort of shorthand as paygrade. A plain reactor operator was a Grade 18. So I was a Grade 18. That’s where you begin learning the basics of the job. You learn how to take building patrol and what all the readings mean and how to take them correctly. Because you have to go around the whole building twice a shift and check on running equipment, take readings, make sure things aren’t breaking or whatever. Then you start learning more of the jobs, from housekeeping—there were some specialized parts of that. Doing laundry—there was specialized parts to that, because it was—you were dealing with radioactive clothing, so contamination control, you learn that a lot. All the different functions during charge/discharge. This was the time, in the early part of the Reagan Administration when they changed over to once again producing weapons-grade plutonium. It was called the 6% program. Weapons-grade plutonium is judged on how much plutonium-240 has grown into it. If you have more than 6%--PU-240 is a big neutron absorber, so it does not create a nuclear explosive as well. It poisons reactions. So the less of that you have, the less you have to work to separate it out and get just the PU-239 that you want. So changing to the 6% program meant that they were doing charge/discharges a little more than twice as often. Plus, a lot of the maintenance had been let go. For many years they’d been in power only, since the end of the Nixon Administration. And that was something of a coup, to let in startup just to produce electricity through the Hanford Generating Project number 1 that was run by Washington Public Power Supply System. We sent our steam to them over across the fence. We didn’t have anything to do with that, except send steam, get back water. So there was a lot of upgrades going on throughout the whole reactor plant. The reactor plant—we called it the power side, where the steam that we made as we cooled off the primary loop was used to drive turbines that drove the primary pumps that circulated the water. A lot of that equipment was also repaired, upgraded. It took a while to really get up on plane and start operating smoothly again. A lot of operators came in right around within a year or so of the time I did, and four or five reactor-operator certification classes’ worth. They would take about 15 people at a time, and you would run through about a year-long program to learn everything from fundamentals, which was basic math, basic chemistry, basic nuclear science, up through the specifics of the systems in the reactor and how they interacted, how you operated them safely, what you didn’t want to do, what you did do, the reasons behind all that. It got pretty complex. You had to take three tests to become certified. First, after the first couple sessions of classroom training, they would pull us off our shifts. We worked a four-shift rotating shift at the time. Pulled us off our shifts, put us on day shift in the classroom for chunks of time. We’d go back when there were outages, because they needed bodies. When you finished your first couple of sessions of classroom training, there was the written exam, which is called the eight-hour. And it really is. It was almost 50 pages. I finished it in about six-and-a-half hours. I used up an entire pen. Just as I was finishing writing the essay on the last page, the pen died. And I looked at it—it was clear, and there was no ink left. So after you passed your eight-hour, you got a bump. You were then called a Grade 21, and a lot more of your training was real-time in the control room. You would sit on consoles with the other operators, and they would help guide you. You’d get some hands-on time. You’d learn more about that part of the job. After several months, and some more classroom training, you had an examination called the demo, where one of the instructors would come over and they would walk you around the control room and just start asking questions. Your job was to answer the questions, point at stuff, look things up in books—prove that you knew where it all was, what it all meant, what it all did. When you passed your demo, then you went into the final, more intensive part of classroom training to get ready for your oral board. Pass the eight-hour, pass the demo, train some more, then you sat an oral board, in which there were people from operations, engineering, nuclear safety, training, and sometimes somebody else would sit in. I don’t know why, but they did. So once you passed your oral board, you were considered certified—a Grade 23. But you still didn’t get turned loose yet. You still had to have guided time in the control room. You had to do a certain number of evolutions. You had to do so many startups, so many shutdowns, be in on so many scrams, do a little of this and a little of that, until your shift manager, after watching you and talking to the other operators, figured you were ready. So then, one day they say, okay, you’re free and clear. And your certificate went up on the wall with your name on it saying that you were a certified reactor operator, and you got thrown in. And then you really started to learn the job. Because all this stuff was suddenly no longer even partially theory. It was all real.

O’Reagan: How many reactor operators were there at a time, roughly, who were licensed?

Carson: It went up and down. Each shift was required to have at least four in the control room when you were operating. Typically, during this time in the ‘80s, every shift had seven or eight certified operators, and as many as a dozen Grade 18s—the ones who didn’t want to get into the certification program, who did other stuff around the plant. Because there was always stuff to do, if nothing else—housekeeping, stocking the laundry, and sweeping the floors. We had a schedule that came up every month and you rotated through different jobs in the control room. At the N control room, there was three major parts. There was a nuclear console, where you actually ran the reactor itself. We manually controlled the rod positions and manually monitored the power level and the flux where the neutron cloud was going up or down in the reactor. You wanted to keep that still and stable. You didn’t want it to cycle, because that can get—create stresses, if one part of the reactor’s really hot while this one back here is cold, it stresses—increases the fatigue and the chances for the failure of something. So you wanted to keep it nice and steady. We had instrumentation. We had—the only computer display we had was of temperatures. That was probably the main one, and the charts that showed how the neutron flux was changing. You wanted to keep all the lines straight. There was two of you, and you rotated on the nuke console every two hours—two hours on, two hours off. You’d get breaks and stuff while you were off. The double-A console controlled all of the primary loop and its interface with the secondary loop. That’s where you controlled the drive turbine speeds that drove the primary pumps to circulate the coolant. That’s where you controlled the primary loop pressure, the level of it, the emergency backup stuff—you were responsible for that. So you had this whole corner of the control room and panels that were your responsibility. The third part controlled the secondary loop—that’s the side—the primary loop went into the tubes of heat exchangers and it boiled the water on the shell of the heat exchanger—the steam generators. So that steam went up into the steam header. A lot of it went over to WPPSS. Some of it went down to drive our turbines. We also had a turbine generator of our own in the boiler building that was our onsite power source. You took care of the secondary loop there—its level, its pressure, the way it was. There was also a lot of other things that that operator did—rupture monitoring was at that panel, because N Reactor did not have a containment; it had a confinement. It was designed in 1958, went critical in ’63. They didn’t build—I guess they couldn’t at the time yet—build a full containment to keep everything in. It was designed that if there was a tube rupture and you had a big burst of superheated steam, that would vent. So we had to keep our primary loop really, really clean. And that’s what the rupture monitor was. If you saw signs that the fuel element in one of the 1,003 process tubes was beginning to release uranium into the water, you’d shut down and push that tube right away. There was also a system specifically for cooling the graphite. N Reactor, like the other old Hanford reactors, was called graphite-moderated. It used very pure graphite in a big block with complex passages through it. The neutrons, when they would leave the fissioned uranium atom, would go out and bounce around in that graphite before they found their way back into fuel, slowed way down, so that they could cause another fission. Modern power reactors use the water, the coolant, as a moderator. We used the solid graphite. We had a system to cool that specifically. So that operator took care of that. Also, the gas system, we circulated helium through the core when we’re operating, because at full power, 4,000 megawatts thermal, the temperature in the center of the core was 600, 700, 800 degrees in places, Fahrenheit. Pure graphite—you don’t want any air or water, anything that’s going to react with it at those temperatures. So we used the helium—you had to control that, too. And there’s other miscellaneous stuff, but you had to learn all of this, and you learned all of the classroom stuff, but just like anything, you really learned by doing, where it becomes second nature. The wonderful part about working it in was my shift—I was a little unusual in that I was assigned to one shift at the beginning, C shift, and I stayed on that shift my whole nine years there. Other people would move around, sometimes involuntarily. But I managed to stay on C shift all the time. It’s such a wonder and a joy when you can become that tight of a team to where you knew exactly how any individual’s going to react in a given situation. You don’t even need full words to communicate. We would have entire conversations in acronyms and shorthand. And we—stuff happened and we would ride it out and just—scary as heck, but—when it was over, you knew that the team had just really done its work like it’s supposed to. So that was always—that was a good feeling.

O’Reagan: Could you give us an example of one of these acronym exchanges?

Carson: Oh. Oh, it’s— What’s the HPIP delta P? 18. Okay, we need that up to 50. So—I’ve lost a lot of that.

O’Reagan: Sure.

Carson: But as in any installation, every piece has a name. It has typically an official name that meets a standard of naming from an engineering organization, it has the name that it’s normally referred to as, and it has an acronym. Sometimes it might have an even shorter shorthand name that your crew comes up with that you all know what it is, but you also know all the others as well. In a situation where something has begun to get out of line, out of normal--it’s not a crisis, but it’s something that you have to pay attention to and deal with right away—you need to transfer information as quickly and as clearly as possible. And that was how that was done, with shorthand acronyms that everyone knew exactly what you were saying; they could anticipate what you were about to say. So you could get other people to take particular actions absolutely as quickly as possible, and they could get you, by what they said back, to do your actions properly.

O’Reagan: Could you walk us through a one specific scram or other sort of stressful event?

Carson: I was there in the control room one night when—I believe it was thunderstorms hit a main distribution power line—a 230-kilovolt lines coming from the dams—that happened to be online as our offsite power. Lightning hit one of those transmission lines and caused a power surge that tripped open the breakers at the substation. Offsite power was called A bus. Onsite power was B bus. You needed them active and separated up from 13.8-kilovolt where it came into the reactor, all the way down to 12-volt DC instrument power. You couldn’t have any connection between those two, because that could conceivably cause a fault that would stop the reactor from scramming if it needed to. So they powered everything, but some things were powered more by one bus or one by another. This is one of the main things that we trained for, was a power loss. Of course, if you lose one of your electrical buses, that’s one of the automatic reactor scram trips—there was 23 of them. So the reactor scrammed, and everything’s going along about like you’d expect for a power loss from one bus. Everything’s already prepared and set up to take the proper actions automatically, so you have to monitor those and adjust as necessary. Then all of a sudden, there was some kind of electrical fault in our B bus, our onsite power, which was still online. It tripped off. It was B bus—I believe I’m saying this right—B bus powered the lights in the control room. So you knew if those lights went on, you’d lost B bus as well. Now, if you lost both buses at the same time, that was an automatic trip onto emergency cooling, which for N Reactor was very large, high-pressured diesel pumps would pump water. Valves would open at the inlet and outlet of the reactor and it would change to a once-through. We had a series of water tanks with demin[eralized] water, filtered water and sanitary water. And then through some mechanisms, it would trip all the way to river water. If it was known that if you ever tripped over onto emergency cooling, the thermal shock—because the water was kept hot, but it wasn’t as hot as the reactor—the thermal shock could basically destroy the reactor. And that would be over. Nothing you could do at that point as far as keeping the reactor as an operating reactor in the future. So luckily, A bus had actually come back online just seconds before B bus went off. Then B bus came back, so the lights came back on, and then we lost A bus again. Because the whole BPA network was still having ripples and things. And then it came back up and then we lost B bus again. So when each of these things is happening, there’s stuff you have to do, depending on what it was. We’re running back and forth, trying to do that, and it got really tense. But all that training, you stopped really thinking—just all the training in your brainstem took over and you started doing what you needed to do and communicating in just those short, almost little digital blips of information so that everyone knew what you were doing, and you knew what they were doing and you knew what everybody had to do and that they were doing it. So things got pretty terse in the control room right there. As the buses kept coming up and down, it would reset off hundreds of enunciators and we didn’t have time to try and figure out what the overall cause was; we were just still fighting to keep the reactor from tripping on to emergency cooling. So eventually, we got both buses back and stable and we could continue with our—then it became just a regular post-scram shutdown. The cool-down of the reactor, changing things to work slightly different ways here and there throughout the plant. Then you sit back and giggle and get the shakes a little bit. Everybody talked real loud and real fast for a while, you know? [LAUGHTER] So—just some stressful things like that. Any unexpected scram made you a little tense, a little puckery. Because you didn’t know what happened. We had big CRT monitors mounted up by the nuclear and the double-A console that were tied into an electronic alarm system that they would record all of the enunciators. There were—I think I heard the number once—it was 1,400 different enunciators in the control room. When one of those went off, it sent a signal to this alarm system that put the ID of them in a buffer memory. They would display up in the CRTs. Well, when you scram, you got 400 enunciators within two or three seconds. So all you could see on the screen was the first eight or so. So you didn’t know what was going on. You just had to deal with what you were supposed to do and trust that no further catastrophe was going to happen, and just be ready for it if it did. When the reactor was running smoothly, we called it at equilibrium, when we had not changed power by more than 5% in 72 hours. That was sometimes hard to keep your focus, because all the lines are running straight on the charts, and it’s graveyard, nobody wants to talk, and you’ve all told all your stories a dozen times, and nothing much to say. So you’re sitting, waiting, watching. So like the quote about war, hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Not as terror-filled as they might be, because we were trained and experienced in most stuff. Sometimes—there was always the possibility that sometimes something could happen that was really untoward, really out of the way, that could be really dangerous, really a disaster.

O’Reagan: How much of working in the control room was sort of judgment or sort of work of art as opposed to a sort of objective do-the-next-thing?

Carson: Actually quite a bit of it. One of the things that you developed as you gained experience as an operator—we called it getting stick time. When you started getting enough hours on a console and really starting to figure out how everything actually did work, you developed a feel, just from watching how all the different parts of the console you were on interacted. You got a feel if something was maybe not right, if something started looking a little jittery or a little bit out of its normal range that you wanted. Then you’d have to figure out, what little tweak can I make? Because everything was running in automatic, but you could always make small corrections. What little tweak could I make, given what I know about that that’s going on, that would make it better? And you developed what I always called a touch. Because you didn’t just go up and start twisting stuff. You really—with some instruments, some controllers—some control loops more than others—you didn’t want to put any very large change into it at all, because it was so sensitive. In the action that that controller would take, the input back to, say, the primary loop from changing the speed of one of the makeup injection pumps could just suddenly—if you did too much by accident, you could scram the reactor. Or you could cause it to lose pressure, which would scram the reactor another way. So getting to really develop that unconscious feel, similar to the way that when you’re driving and you pull into a parking lot or a real narrow street, you can actually feel with your body where the corners of your fenders are. It’s developing that kind of feel for a huge complex machine that was really what brought you into being a really good, competent operator. Some folks had it on some systems more than others. The older operators who’d been at it forever, it was just completely unconscious with them. That was just the way they did things was smooth and easy, and you don’t just jump in and start fiddling with stuff. You always think it through before you touch anything. And then when you touch it, you touch it very gently and make the changes as slow and small as you can to get the result that you want.

O’Reagan: So you worked there through the closing of N Reactor, is that right?

Carson: Yes.

O’Reagan: How much did that change over the course, before you got to the closing? Was it—job change a lot over that time?

Carson: While we were still operating—regular operation—it didn’t change that much. Some new things were put in, but overall they didn’t really affect us much. You had to deal with failures. For example, when the reactor was operating, the water circulated through five steam generator cells. We had six, so one was always out of service for maintenance or repairs or whatever, and you operated with five. Well, one of the cells was undergoing a total refit—a total reconditioning. And then another one of the cells, the primary pump developed some problems that were going to require a rebuild. So the decision was made to go ahead and operate at a reduced power level with only four cells online. That took a lot of adjustments. They had to come up with temporary limits that we had to learn and follow. Some of the procedures changed slightly for that temporary period to take into account the fact that you had a lower capacity and a lower rate of heat removal. So just dealing with a change like that, and then that begins to feel normal. And then they bring another cell back online. So you’re back to the way it was that used to be normal, but you have to kind of reset yourself to working that way. Limits were really the main thing we paid attention to as we were operating. All of the nuclear industry—and N Reactor, certainly, they really drilled this into us—it operates in defense of depth. You don’t ever have just a single barrier to something causing an accident. I called it a box-in-a-box-in-a-box-in-a-box-in-a-box. There’s the actual strength of the machine, at what pressures or temperatures will it break because the materials just physically can’t take it. So that’s your outermost limit that you never, ever, ever got close to. Inside of that was your technical specifications that protected this outer box. Inside the technical specifications were the process standards that protected the technical specification limits. Inside the process standards were your operating limits that protect—you never wanted to break a process standard, because you’d have to have an investigation and figure out why that happened and everything. And sometimes there were even special limits inside the operating limits that were even more restrictive. So those limits changed over time, but that was just part of the job. You had to get used to the new ways things were, and just live with it, because that’s the way it was. They taught us why the change was made, and what it meant, and that this was the new limits here and here and here. That’s the kind of stuff we went through during our continuous training. After you’re certified, the training cycle had all the operators, shift by shift, when they would roll around on dayshift, you would have training days. And every two years, you went through the entire certification curriculum again, from fundamentals through reactor operations, through system interactions—all of it, every two years. We had to take a recertification exam every quarter. So every three months you had a job jeopardy examination to keep on top of stuff. So that’s how all that was communicated to us and incorporated into the way we worked and the way things were operated and handled. As we got past the Chernobyl accident, some people knew right away, that was the death knell for N. A lot of us were still optimistic that the differences were so clear and plain and could be explained, and we could continue. They had plans for upgrading some of our equipment to allow the reactor to run for another 20 years, they said. [SIGH]  Didn’t turn out that way. So much political fire came down on all of the DoE complex, but Hanford especially. I don’t know if you remember, at the time, we had a senator who was 100% anti-Hanford. I spoke at the time when South Carolina had three senators and we had one. Because he worked as hard as he could to send all the work, all the waste, all the everything to Savannah River, so that it wouldn’t be at Hanford. I’m just griping now, but—it ended up, it was January 7th, 1997 at 07:31 that the reactor was shut down for the last time. It was going to be for an upgrade. They were going to put in a control room habitability system that did actually get put in, and it worked. It was for a time if there was ever a large release from the reactor, we could have sealed up the control room and lived on recirculated air and supplies for up to two weeks. They put that in. There was another big upgrade. Because of the hydrogen bubble that developed inside the reactor at Three Mile Island from water being split by high temperatures and the presence of metal into hydrogen and oxygen. And the hydrogen formed a big bubble that could have—in very, very small circumstances—could have ignited or exploded. They were worried about hydrogen inside the reactor and power buildings at N. So they were putting in a hydrogen mitigation system that would have been able to take all of the hydrogen evolved from the entire quantity of water in the primary loop. If it all split and turned into hydrogen and oxygen, this system could have recombined the hydrogen and taken away the explosive potential. So we all hoped that, yeah, we were going to get these upgrades and we’d be able to start up again and keep going for a while longer. But we never did. So the people who could leave right away did. But the end of ’97, we’d lost a lot of the real sharp engineers and some of the top people in operations. And then as the years went on, and became more and more clear that there was no future for the reactor, more and more people drifted away. I eventually, in late ’89, I took a temporary upgrade to write layup procedures for the reactor. At the time, they were going to keep it in—well, it went through a whole series. It was going to be on cold standby, where the fuel would still be in the reactor; we would still recirculate the loop, but we wouldn’t operate. We would just maintain it ready to operate if we needed it. Then it was going to turn to dry standby, where the reactor would be defueled and we would circulate dry pure air through all of the piping throughout the plant to keep the corrosion away so that if we needed to restart, we could refuel and restart. So that was one of the big procedures that I took the upgrade to write, was the whole valve lineup to establish that flow path from the 24-inch primary and secondary loop main valves, all the way down to the ¼ inch instrument root valves. I had to find every single one and lay out how they were going to be opened, in what sequence. I also wrote a bunch of other procedures. That’s where I first started learning how to write procedures. But at the end of the six months, they did not want to keep me on there permanent, doing that. And I sure didn’t want to go back to operations, which was by that time two years after the reactor had been shut down, almost three. I could just feel the IQ dribble out my ears, because you can only sweep the same floor so many times. Once the reactor was defueled, there wasn’t a whole lot of anything to do.

O’Reagan: How many people were still on doing that kind of work?

Carson: Probably about half the number that we’d had at the peak days. Because you didn’t need as many operators to do what we were doing. So people were going to various places. A lot of people went from there over to the K Basins, to deal with the stored fuel. Some of them are still there, dealing, now, just with the sludge. It just—there was no sense in trying to stay there where I was comfortable. So that’s when I got a job with Tank Farms, writing procedures. So I did that for four years.

O’Reagan: Was that something that you actively thought—you enjoyed the procedure writing, or was that just another--?

Carson: Actually, yes. I’ve always loved writing. For a long time, I desperately wanted to be a writer, a fiction writer or a science writer. And I just never was able to do it. I got a small number of rejection letters from various magazines. Once I started writing for a living, doing procedures, it just knocked all hope of ever writing fiction right out of me. But I enjoyed the process; I’ve always enjoyed figuring stuff out. When I came to Tank Farms, the procedures were horrible. There are standards and—even at that time, it was just coming out of DoE order on how the qualities of procedure has to have—the requirements that it has to meet, in terms of how it’s written, how the data is presented, how things are phrased. So when I came into Tank Farm Procedures, once I got my feet on the ground, I kind of pushed, and we did a complete overhaul of the entire Tank Farms Procedures system. Getting all of the several hundred—I think 740 procedures—getting them all rewritten to current standards. I developed, for the first time at Tank Farms, a standard compliant alarm response procedure. There’s procedures for everything, including when—I talked about all the enunciators in the control room. We had big, thick books of enunciator response guides that told you what tripped it, when it would reset, what it meant, and what you had to do. When 500 go off at once, you’re just doing your trained-in post-scram actions that you know what to do. You don’t look at each individual one. At Tank Farms, they had alarm response procedures, but for a whole facility, the book might be this thick, because anything that happened, the only response was notify management. It was quite a culture shock to go down to Tank Farms, because at N, you needed a college degree of some kind just to get in the door. It was a really fast crowd. Really smart. Even the guys that stayed back in fuels, most of them were really sharp. So we operated at a really high level, had a really high level of in-depth training. Tank Farms, not so much. So I had to get over that culture shock, and then begin to teach the folks that I was writing these procedures for why they’re changing, and what it meant for them, and why it was better to do it this way. So eventually, we did. We were the first group to use electronic photography in procedures. We were the first group to have all of our procedures computerized. And we worked hard and it came out really well. I learned that I really enjoy that process of figuring things out and then of using my writing skills to convey that in the best way possible. I really enjoyed that. After four years at Tank Farms Procedures, a new facility was being built, the 200 Area Effluent Treatment Facility. So I transferred from Tank Farms to the ETF. In part, because they had stuck in a manager that no one got along with. The man was not very—ahem—socially apt. We’ll just leave it at that. I went over to ETF and started developing their procedures as the facility was still being built. That’s where I got laid off. 1995, there was a big layoff by Westinghouse. I got the boot there. So for the next two years—it took me six months to get any kind of job again. And then I was—Fluor Hanford had come in—Fluor Daniels. They had their own built-in temporary company to supply temporary work. So I bounced in and out with that temporary company several times on the canister storage building, a little bit at Tank Farms. And then finally the head of Fluor Northwest just said, we’re done with all these temporary people, because it’s too hard to deal with the temporary company. Just hire them all in. So ’97, I got hired in. And then I got made over into a nuclear safety hazard analyst. That has been my main bread and butter. Hazard analysis, which is a very specific discipline in the nuclear industry, working on safety basis documents, which is the—safety basis defines what you can do and how you can do it, and what you can and can’t do. So the nuclear safety people developed that, the customer—DoE RL—approves it, and that’s what you live by. So we—first we draw the coloring book, then we make sure that everyone colors inside the lines. That’s nuclear safety’s job. Hazard analysis is a part of that, because before you do anything new, or if you’re going to change anything that you’re doing that’s approved now, you have to have a very deliberate process of analyzing all the hazards, figuring out how bad the hazard is, what it could cause, how bad that effect could be—if it’s a real accident or if it’s a no, never mind, that’s already covered by other controls, do the new analysis you need to do, create new controls for it, and get those instituted so that everything is still inside the box.

O’Reagan: When you were working on the Tank Farms, do you think those procedures were just left over from a time when people just didn’t care as much about—

Carson: Yes. Very much so. I guess I skipped ahead. I talked about the culture shock moving to Tank Farms. At N, we had great training, we had really good procedures that were very well thought out and well developed and well proved. We had a deep understanding of all of our limits, why they were there, what it meant if you violated one in a certain way. All that was just ingrained to us. So you did things by the procedure, you lived inside the limits, you knew why, you knew how. There was no problem. Everybody just worked that way. Tank Farms had for years been kind of a dumping ground of the people who couldn’t make it elsewhere. The only lower step was the laundry. And I worked a little bit with some tank farm operators that, shortly after I got there, got transferred to the laundry because they couldn’t make it at Tank Farms. The whole organizational philosophy was the smart guys know what they’re doing, just shut up and do what they tell you, even if it isn’t written down. Don’t worry about that, that’s just for show. Their procedures were—in one case, it was a page-long paragraph that was one sentence. I don’t think it even had a verb. It was like telling a story, and didn’t have any specifics. Nobody understood them. They all hated them, because they were all like that. We changed that; we made it better. The culture shock was coming from a place like N, where, like I said, we were a fast crowd, we were really dialed in, we really knew what was what, to Tank Farms, where there were still people working there—great operators, they really knew their job, they knew what to do—but they couldn’t read. They had a special dispensation to have their requal exams every year orally. Because they couldn’t read. They couldn’t read valve tags. So people would go out with them and tell them what was what. They knew exactly what to do; they were good operators. But that kind of difference in level really caught me short for a while. It took me a while to change my mind to realize that—okay, they want to do a good job, too, no matter how cranky they seem. So don’t look down on them, don’t ride a high horse. Just—they’re people like you, let them to do the job. And it worked out, it did. I made some friends there and we did some good stuff. I helped a lot of them out where I could, explaining things. I think I’ve forgotten what the question was. [LAUGHTER]

O’Reagan: I was just sort of exploring this different or maybe changing priorities about the environment or waste control over time and over different parts of Hanford. It seems like they’re—

Carson: Oh, yeah, okay.

O’Reagan: We’re really interested in safety and such at N Reactor and having these great procedures, but maybe the less sexy parts of it were not as fully developed yet.

Carson: Yeah. This is an example I think that illustrates that. We were among the first to really start taking control of our low-level waste. Every place you come out of a zone, there’s what’s called a step-off pad, where you undress in sequence. You take the outermost stuff off, and you step on one pad, then you take the inner stuff off and step on the next one, so that you’re leaving all of the contamination behind. There were rad boxes sitting there, and so for things like your tape and your surgeon’s gloves, would all get thrown in the rad box. That’s what most of our low-level waste was. That kind of stuff. Nobody used to pay much attention to it; it was just something that you toted down to this room, and then you threw it on a truck and somebody took it somewhere and threw it away. They really started working at following the latest directions for how to properly deal with and account for all of the waste: low-level, higher level waste—anything. Getting the accountability, getting the proper labeling, understanding the proper limits for what could be certain types of waste. We really had that ground into us. And we really griped about it, because we were filling out data sheets and filling out labels and other labels and other labels and double and triple wrapping the boxes and labeling the wrappings as we put them on, and doing all this stuff. The one time I ever had to go down to the burial ground—it’s funny, some jobs some people would catch all the time. You might be there for years and there was things you never got to do because you were never assigned to do them. One of those was taking our low-level waste boxes to the burial ground and throwing them out of the truck into the trench. So we had spent all this time doing all this accounting, doing all this labeling, making sure the packaging was all okay and everything was very carefully set up and everything. And we get to the disposal trench in 200 West Area. So we’re carefully—you’re not supposed to damage the box—it’s a cardboard box inside of a couple plastic bags. You’re not supposed to damage it. We’re just taking them and dropping them over the side out of the back of a truck. And here comes a truck from somewhere in West Area, one of the construction things going on or something. A dump truck with wood and broken plaster and glass and a few rad boxes and stuff. They just wave him up there, and the dump truck backs up and just—pbbt—dumps, and drives away. No paperwork, no nothing. I don’t know what was behind it; maybe there were reasons it was like that. But that was just a contrast that really griped me. But they did a good job at N of explaining why the way we were doing things had to change. Why the new way was actually better, what it meant for stopping releases to the environment, reducing them. Things you should do to lower your impact, lower the amount of waste. That’s where I first really started getting it, and it slowly moved into other places so that things were much more accounted for and controlled. These days, it’s very controlled, it’s very different. It’s much more secure. Nobody uses those rad boxes anymore. The only place I ever see them is in rad update training every year. Everything’s in certified drums. It’s treated certain ways. It’s all measured and accounted for, and inspected before it goes to its final burial to make sure that there is nothing in there that isn’t supposed to be. There’s a whole entire facility in West Area that’s devoted to doing that. Waste Receipt And Processing, WRAP. They get in drums of waste from all over the site, and they do NDA on them to find out how radioactive they are and what kind of radioactive stuff is in them. They X-ray them. If necessary, they will open them up, take everything out, sort it out, so that the stuff that isn’t supposed to be there is out, and then repackage them properly. So everything is very concentrated on making sure that any waste products, whether radioactive or chemical or even domestic waste, is handled and treated properly. And that has really exhibited a standard growth curve. Because when I first started in the ‘80s, there was a lot of resistance, both kind of social and institutional, and among the groups. But the people who understood it just kept pushing, kept pushing, kept getting the message out. Gradually, you saw the same kind of acceptance go up like that, like a normal growth curve. That’s just the way things are done now. So that part’s a lot better. I never really experienced any untoward activities. We were never told to go dump stuff in a hidden place. We were never told to dispose of something in an unapproved way. But a lot of the stuff that we were around wasn’t as controlled or properly packaged or set up as it would be today. That’s all to the good. You used to be able to go just about everywhere and there would be contaminated patches. A lot of those have been cleaned up. People no longer are allowed to just stick something out here and just put a rope around it and call it an accumulation area. There’s very high degree of control and accountability. The job I’m in now with Central Plateau Surveillance and Maintenance, they have a responsibility for all the old retired facilities, the old canyon buildings. And there’s a lot of auxiliary buildings around those and a lot of waste sites and old cribs and trenches. Most of what they do is repeatedly inspecting all that stuff, making sure that anything that’s present is properly in place, that it’s allowed to be there, that they know what it is, that nothing’s going wrong. So that’s all really a lot better. In all of society and all of industry, things are much safer now. People understand chemical hazards especially. We used to be able to go get stuff out of the tool crib that isn’t even allowed to be sold anymore, because it’s carcinogenic. But there, it was an electric cleaner called Swish that was mostly carbon tetrachloride. And you could just get a spray can of it and go and clean things off with it, or kill spiders. [LAUGHTER]

O’Reagan: So I’d love to come back to this, but just to make sure we get to it before we run too long on time, could we step back to your childhood in Richland--

Carson: Sure.

O’Reagan: --and what it was like growing up in Richland? Could you tell us a bit about that?

Carson: Well. Virtually everyone I know, their folks worked in the Area. They never talked about what went on what there or what they did. My dad talked about some fire department stuff sometimes.

O’Reagan: Was that the fire department on the site or just—

Carson: The Hanford Fire Department, yeah. Nobody ever really knew what was going on out there. The closed-mouth, closed-city—you know. I always thought it was amazing. Very early in the morning, my mom would drive me to a baby-sitter down in south Richland. And I always thought it was amazing, she could look out to the northwest and she would tell me which plant was running. I didn’t know they were reactors; I didn’t know what it meant. But she could look at the steam plumes, because even though they weren’t modern reactors with cooling towers, they still had retention ponds before the water went back in the river, and those would steam. She could just look at tell me which plant was running. And I always thought that was amazing. We had a fairly—at least in my experience anyway, as a middle class, my folks were both working, lived in a nice neighborhood up near Spalding School. We had a very safe, nice environment to grow up in, a good childhood. Just a lot of playing in the street, going over and playing in the playgrounds. You go to school, you have all your friends there, and you go do stuff. Not a lot different than most places, but—I loved then, and I still do, and unless you grow up in a place like here, you don’t get the chance to just walk in the desert, way away from anything where it’s really quiet, and you got all the sagebrush that just smells so good. And you just walk way out there somewhere, and no trees around, and just sky and desert and total silence. That’s something you really only get growing up here and somewhere very like this. Everybody knew about the Area, but never talked about it. I do remember, I was in first grade, I believe, when the Mobile Whole Body Counter came to Spalding. They gave us some tours of it, and they said that some people were going to get to go through it after school. Well, I thought it would be really neat. I think what they were probably doing was running some of the teachers through it, just as environmental sampling, really. This was in—this would have been ’64, around there. About ten years after the Green Run, when there weren’t huge releases like that, but there were still some releases going on, a lot of monitoring. I waited around after school for an hour, hoping to get to run through this. They would bring people in and 20 minutes later they’d come out. I got in trouble because I was so late walking back to my babysitter’s after school because of that. But where else is something like that going to happen? The Hanford Science Center was a pretty special place. To us, it was like just an everyday thing—doesn’t everyone have a neat science museum like this? But, no, they don’t. It was no longer—I was born in 1958. So the city was no longer run by GE. But there were still people—and they were still indulged by the city government—who, if a light bulb went out, they would call up the way that they used to call GE up to come and change it. For a while, that still kind of went on, somehow. I remember the air raid siren tests. On the last—in the last week of the month, I don’t remember what day it always was. But I always remember getting kind of scared about that. There’s nothing like that sound of—Richland had three, then two, then one—of air raid sirens going off. And at that age—eight, nine—I was starting to realize what that meant. That if that ever went off for real, it was all over. It was a big deal, a really big deal, to have to go to Kennewick or Pasco, because there was only the Blue Bridge, which wasn’t the Blue Bridge then. It was green and it was called the New Bridge. And then there was that horrible frightening old green bridge that was taken out. So if you had to go to Pasco, you had to go to and through Kennewick, and then go over one of those bridges. The highway between Richland and Kennewick was—I can still remember when it was just one lane each way. There was actually a stop light at George Washington Way, because the highway came in and curved and there was a stop light at G Way before it went up to the bypass part. Right there at that intersection is where the Rose Bowl was. Everybody knew the Rose Bowl, the sewage treatment plant. Great way to be introduced to a town when you’re first coming into it. As far as I know, it was a fairly normal childhood. My friends and I, we did all the normal things. When the hydroplane races started, there was a couple weeks in the summer where all anybody wanted to do was play hydroplanes. So everybody would have their own little scraps of wood they made into a hydroplane, and you’d drag it behind your bike in the street. Or turn on a hose and set it in the gutter and go make a dam to make a big puddle you could run it through like a boat. Day sleeper signs. Everybody—almost everybody worked a rotating shift—ABCD, where you rotate, at the time, from swing shift to days to graveyard[EM1] . My dad worked a rotating shift for 17 years. Once I started it, I understood how bad it had been for him when I was young, when I was little. But you’d walk around, and in the windows, in houses, “day sleeper.” You just understood that probably most of your friends were going to live in a house just like yours if you lived in one of the Alphabet House districts. A lot of my friends had the same or very slightly different models of ranch house all up in that area. So you knew exactly where the bathroom was, you knew where the kitchen was, you knew where the light switches were, because they were all the same. That’s probably somewhat different. There were virtually no African Americans in Richland. In elementary school, I think there was two—there was a boy my age, and his sister who was a little younger. Caused me some problems, because he slapped me around one day after school, and that affected my attitude for a long time. But because there were almost no black people in Richland, I had no idea what they were like or anything. My parents, a lot of their friends were conventionally racist at the time—it would be very racist now. But at the time it was just conventional. And because there were so few of them, they all knew each other because they had their own community that they would get together. I just thought that it was natural that every black person in the world knew every other one. Because they would always say, hi, how are you, and talk to each other like they knew each other. I thought that was normal. So I don’t know how common that is across all of the US, but it was certainly true here. Because Kennewick was a restricted city, Richland was mostly a city for somewhat upper level workers at Hanford, Pasco—East Pasco was where most of the African American people and the Hispanic immigrants went. It was always used as a term of horror—oh my god, we have to go by East Pasco. I’ve been there, now. It’s people with houses and neighborhoods and kids and dogs. At the time, it was just hell to be—this horrible thing. So I just—I grew up with that. Everybody knew the same things about everything, and believed the same way. That was really about it.

O’Reagan: Was going to college when you first sort of left this bubble, if you will?

Carson: Yeah. I went to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, which—I grew up in the Lutheran Church. Really white. Going to PLU wasn’t really all that far outside the bubble. There was a little bit, because there was a very large contingent of Taiwanese kids going to school there. I tried to be all friendly and stuff—it was my first experience with the fact that other people can dislike you, too. So that was a problem. But that was—it was a good experience. It was being away from here, seeing some different things, the way different people lived. Met my wife. So that was a really good thing. But at the time, even though growing up here, I still didn’t really know a lot about Hanford or the nuclear industry, I knew a little more than when I was a kid—but not really that much. So I had no real good arguments or rebuttals for the people who—there in the mid ‘70s were already rabidly, no nukes, no nukes. Get rid of Hanford. Clean it up and throw it away. So that was kind of frustrating. There was one thing I was glad when I got hired on out here, I finally had a chance to learn all this stuff. Other stuff growing up here really is just things based on being here in this area. The place to go if you were going to go ride motorcycles or shoot your bow and arrow or pellet guns or whatever, you went down behind the cemetery along the Yakima River in Richland.

O’Reagan: Oh yeah.

Carson: Later on that became a place to go when people would go have keggers or wanted to go smoke or make out or whatever, that was a popular place. I never got invited to do any of those things, so I was only ever down there with my motorcycle. I do remember, as I moved into high school, I started to understand the feeling of isolation that Richland had. Because we had been not really a closed, secret city like a lot of the ones in the Soviet Union were, but just like a cloak of invisibility over all we did here. Nobody ever really knew much about us. I was there when Richard Nixon flew in to authorize Fast Flux Test Facility. He had flown into Walla Walla on Air Force One, because at the time to the Pasco airport couldn’t service a plane that large. And then took the Air Force One helicopter and they landed in front of the PNL sandcastle and chopped down a couple trees. I’ll always remember that, because it came down and just—limbs were flying all over the place. He stood—something you wouldn’t see anymore. He was all by himself. He didn’t have a retinue behind him, around him. The Secret Service was sort of out there, but they weren’t really a visible presence. He just went and stood on the steps and addressed people and talked about stuff and announced FFTF and what was going to go on and everything. That night on the CBS News, Walter Cronkite talked about how Richard Nixon made a stop in Walla Walla and then flew to Alaska to meet with the Japanese emperor. It was his first trip to the United States since World War II. Mentioned nothing at all about what happened here, which was really far more important than a very minor diplomatic meeting that lasted two hours or something. I then did start thinking about, and I noticed a lot of that isolation. People around here just got used to never being paid attention to, to never having anyone know where they were or what went on here. So a lot of worlds kind of shrunk down to just here. You just—your church, your softball league, your friends, the hydroplane races, and that was the extent of life. So I am glad that things have really expanded out and the diversification that first started being talked about in the ‘70s has really taken hold, and so much more is done here now than just relying, almost 100%, on money from Hanford. I think if there was another bust—another one of the endless boom and bust cycles that Hanford has had over the years—if there was another big bust at Hanford, I think the Tri-Cities could probably pull through it—Tri-Cities and surrounding areas—could pull through it really very well.

O’Reagan: Mm-hmm.

Carson: So that’s a big difference from growing up here, is the fact that now we’re somebody. We’re a known quantity, we’re actually a desired destination for many different reasons. We’re known for many different things. Not just, oh, all that secret stuff that nobody knows about.

O’Reagan: I understand you volunteered at the CREHST Museum for a while. What was important to you about the history of the area that got you to do that?

Carson: The fact that I was—that was in the six months that I was first laid off. I was trying to get contract writer work. That necessitated my becoming a business and getting a business license. So I ended up starting my own little computer consulting business. Because I did that, I heard from a friend of a friend who worked at CREHST that they were having computer problems. So I went down and I volunteered. I said, hey, I’ll be glad to come through and try and clean stuff and help you. And then in talking with the director, Gwen Leth—she started asking questions and found out all the other stuff I could do. So she really wanted me, and so I started working there at CREHST. They were fairly newly open, and I rewrote some of the displays, because they were not well-written. They had errors and they weren’t interesting. So I did that. I wrote an article for a magazine about CREHST—by request—that never got published. I helped with the computers, helped with some of their equipment. I just did stuff for Gwen. I was the publisher of their paper newsletter for several years. They would send me this stuff to do, and I’d put it all together into desktop publishing and did that. So that was fun, they were great people. I learned a lot about community education and what it meant and what it could be. I got to see all the neat behind-the-scenes stuff that is always the coolest thing about anything. The people there were just so wonderful that when I went back to work, I still kept in touch doing things like the newsletter, and then when I got laid off again, I would just go down and start back down there. Volunteer sometimes 40 hours a week, sometimes just a couple days. Whatever was happening that I could do, depending on what was going on with my daughter and stuff like that. So I had desperately missed the Hanford Science Center. I talked about that earlier, that it was such a great place to go, especially as I learned more and then could see more of what was actually being told me at the science center. But then when it closed down, I desperately missed having that there. Because I wanted to take my daughter to it, I wanted to keep doing it. I had volunteered to do some stuff at the science center, just before it closed when it was still in the Federal Building. So being able to help resurrect a lot of that, keep it going there at CREHST, and even provide input on what they were going to show next and things. And seeing how all of that was coming together and the efforts that they made to really reach out to the community and continue the education and the keeping the history. And keeping the artifacts alive and just being able to go in there and wander through anytime I wanted was just really great. And the REACH center is a fabulous, wonderful place. But at the time I was working at CREHST, CREHST was still going to be the lead, and they had plans for a facility about the same size down on Columbia Point that the REACH part of it was going to be a small part of the CREHST Museum. Turned out the other way. But CREHST—even just the efforts that people made to make it come about, the people that got together behind the scenes and worked with DoE, worked with the community to get funding, worked just to make things happen like moving the building of the FFTF Visitors Center from out there down to where it is now. That’s what that building is. The below-stairs part was new, but the superstructure is the old FF Visitors Center. So getting that to happen was not simple, was not easy, wasn’t cheap. But they kept at it and they did it. So that kind of dedication inspired me to do more along that line, like this.

O’Reagan: Okay. Well there are always questions I don’t know to ask. Interesting incidents, or themes you wanted to talk about or anything like that that comes to mind that you thought might be worth mentioning.

Carson: In terms of work, or in terms of growing up here, or just anything?

O’Reagan: Either or both.

Carson: One of the things I did at N Reactor was I became one of the designated evacuation bus drivers. At the time, because facilities were manned around the clock, and it was 43-and-a-half miles from my driveway to the N Reactor parking lot—a long ways out there—you had to have some way to evacuate everyone that was there, in case there was an actual big accident. On regular dayshift, all of the buses that brought everybody from town were all there. But there were, parked off on the side, a couple of the old, old buses that were there strictly to be evacuation buses. They didn’t have enough drivers to have one on every shift to make sure that was covered, so they just enlisted operators. We got special training in how to drive the old buses and stuff. So on weekend dayshifts or sometimes on swing shift, and even on graveyard a few times, if everything, all the work was caught up, there was nothing going on, we would go out and practice driving. Just drive around all over. So I got to see a lot of the Area that’s really not terrifically accessible now. Because, man, those buses will go a lot of places. They love a gravel road. Drove all over, saw the Hanford Bank. Drove down, found the big boat ramp between F Area and H Area where the Hanford patrol would put their tactical boat in and out, and also where a lot of bald eagles like to hang out in the winter. Drove out to—way out by Vernita Bridge to the old warehouse, the stone warehouse that’s out there—drove out there, and drove around that. Got out and looked at it. At the time, they still had part of the old highway, the old two-road highway that led down the valley and over to Hanford and White Bluffs and serviced all the farms and everything around there. We drove on this dirt road around B Area, and then all of the sudden, here’s a beautiful paved road where the lines are bright and clear and the pavement is not cracked. So we just kept on driving. That was an exciting find.

O’Reagan: Were these evacuation plans pretty well founded already when you got there?

Carson: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, you had—in case of an emergency, you had an assignment to come and grab an emergency response card. There were holders of these in the control room. Everybody was supposed to go run in there and grab one and do what it said. Just one thing, whether it was shutting down some equipment, or going and closing something up, or something. You go and do that job, come back, if you’re done then you go and get on the evacuation bus and it will leave when everybody’s accounted for. So the whole evacuation thing had been practiced and set in place for years and years. Luckily we never had to do it, except in a drill. Oh. One of the funny things—one of the first times, it was just us three or four operators going out for a practice drive without the instructor or anything. It was a really hot summer’s day on the weekend. Those buses didn’t have air conditioning. [LAUGHTER] They did have eyebrow vents—one above the driver and one above the door. And we’re driving along and all the windows are open and it’s just too hot. So one of the other guys on my shift, operator, he gets up and he says, I’m going to open these vents. And he reaches up—I was driving—and he reached up above me and opened that one. Air started coming in. And all of the sudden—he opens this one—and there was a big bird’s nest inside that vent. And the way he was, he pulled it and it went right in his face. [LAUGHTER] There was just this explosion of straw and feathers and dried bird poop and stuff. We all tried really hard not to laugh at him, but—[LAUGHTER] he even laughed at himself, so. That was another thing. I remember when Uptown sat kind of alone. There wasn’t really anything built up around it yet. The big Mormon church had been built across the street, but there was nothing else out around it. And over now where that Exxon station and the Fire & Water store and the restaurant and where Hastings is, none of that was there. There was a couple of old wooden shacks. No idea what they were. But one night, it was a fall night, and we went because my dad was there as part of the fire department. There was some kind of—I don’t know—maybe a fire prevention week celebration or something. They were going to burn the shacks down to show what it looks like when the fire department puts out a fire. So my dad was part of that. And there were hundreds and hundreds of people standing in the Uptown parking lot, watching as they set these two shacks on fire. They let them burn for quite a long time, then they came out and put them out, and there was a lot of ooh, ahh. That’s a fairly early thing. One thing that happened through the ‘60s that I took for granted and then didn’t realize when it stopped until several years later—there were all kinds of traveling exhibitions that did come through here from NASA or the Army or the Navy or the Air Force. They would come and bring an exhibit and set up like in the Uptown parking lot or somewhere. They would be there for a day or two and give their spiel and you could go into their trailers and see what they had. Then they would pack up and move on to somewhere else. There were a lot of those. One that I wish I would have done, but at the time I didn’t think it was important—the X-37 Dyna-Soar—it was a first lifting body design for a recovery vehicle, or an early design for a space shuttle in the ‘60s—to go right around the Gemini program. It was eventually going to become a part of the Army’s or Air Force’s manned space laboratory program that never got off the ground. And they brought the vehicle around on a big trailer with a little trailer museum to talk about it and stuff, and I wish I would have gone to see that. But I was too busy doing something else that I thought was more important. So all kinds of stuff like that would come through. There was always—Griggs brought in a lot of these little, cheap tawdry little traveling exhibits and things. Bonnie and Clyde’s death car showed up there on a trailer when I was a kid. Right after the movie had come out and I was just really fascinated by the whole gangster thing. So of course I made my mom and dad go all the way over to Pasco to Griggs to see that. One I felt bad about then and I still feel bad—they had a dolphin that was in like a ten-foot above ground swimming pool, just barely moving. You paid $0.50 to see that, and I just felt bad. And just the kind of stuff that doesn’t really happen anymore. There was a lot of that still. Because the Tri-Cities, I think, moved into the ‘60s a little more slowly than other places.

O’Reagan: Well, this has all been fascinating. I know our battery starts running out around this point.

Carson: Okay.

O’Reagan: So I guess we’ll have to wrap up now. But it really has been great.

Carson: Great.

O’Reagan: So thanks a lot.

Carson: You’re very, very welcome, and I would be happy to come back and talk more about other things. Anything you’d like to ask questions about.

O’Reagan: Fantastic, thanks a lot.

Carson: Great. Thank you.




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Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with David Carson,” Hanford History Project, accessed July 15, 2024,