Interview with Rose Allen

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Rose Allen

Subject

Hanford Site (Wash.)
Pasco (Wash.)
Kennewick (Wash.)
Segregation
Teaching
Civil rights

Description

Rose Allen moved to Pasco, Washington from Arkansas in the early 1950's.

A National Park Service funded project to document the history of African American contributions to Hanford and the surrounding communities. This project was conducted through the Pacific Northwest Cooperative Ecosystems Unit, Task Agreement P17AC01288

Publisher

Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities

Date

01/12/2018

Rights

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

Format

video/mp4

Provenance

The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to the US Department of Energy collection. This oral history collection was done in partnership with the National Park Service under Task Agreement P17AC01288.

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Robert Franklin

Interviewee

Rose Allen

Location

Washington State University - Tri Cities

Transcription

Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Rose Allen on January 12th, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Rose about her experiences living in the Tri-Cities and working at the Hanford Site. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?

Rose Allen: Rose Marie Allen, R-O-S-E, capital-M-A-R-I-E, capital-A-L-L-E-N.

Franklin: Great, thank you so much, Rose. And tell me, when and where were you born?

Allen: I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1931.

Franklin: Okay. And how old were you when you came to the Tri-Cities?

Allen: When I came to the Tri-Cities, I was 23.

Franklin: Okay. And why did you come to the Tri-Cities?

Allen: My cousin, Virgie Robinson, was here, and she sent for me to come and work in her diner. She had a diner.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Allen: So I came to work in her diner while she went on vacation.

Franklin: Where was the diner located?

Allen: On Queen Street. We had a little street over by the railroad tracks, and it was called Queen Street, and the diner was called the Queen Street Diner.

Franklin: Okay. Why did you choose to come to the Tri-Cities?

Allen: My cousin invited me, and I wanted to get out of Arkansas.

Franklin: Why did you want to get out of Arkansas?

Allen: I did not like Arkansas, because I was living out in the country, and I did not like it.

Franklin: Okay. And do you remember—that would have been the early ‘50s, then, right, when you moved out of—

Allen: Yeah.

Franklin: --Arkansas. What was it—I wonder if you could describe the difference between Arkansas and Pasco.

Allen: Well, I married at much too young, and there I was, out in the woods with my children. I had children much too young, but I was married. And I just didn’t like it. My cousin asked me—she came in to the city there, and she asked me if I wanted to leave, and I told her, yes. She said, if I send for you, will you come? I said, yes.

Franklin: Was your first husband out of the picture by the time—

Allen: Yes.

Franklin: Okay. So you were a single mother—

Allen: Well, I was still married.

Franklin: Okay.

Allen: But we weren’t together.

Franklin: Okay. So you were kind of effectively a single mother, then.

Allen: Yeah, yeah, technically.

Franklin: How were you supporting your children in Arkansas?

Allen: Oh, he would come and he would buy groceries, you know, and things at the little country store down the street and everything like that. So, we weren’t without things. I just didn’t like it.

Franklin: Right, oh, I understand. Do you remember what the diner was called?

Allen: Queen Street Diner.

Franklin: Queen Street Diner, okay, thanks. What were your first impressions of Pasco when you came?

Allen: Well, I started working for my cousin the first day I got here. I didn’t get a break. [LAUGHTER] So I really didn’t get a chance to see the Tri-Cities. So, I was basically, right there in her yard there; she had a big house and a rooming house, and her diner was a trailer. It was a trailer. I liked it. You know, I liked it when—I liked it a lot better than I did out there in the country. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Right. Was Pasco an integrated city at that time, or was it segregated?

Allen: It was segregated. It was segregated, yeah.

Franklin: And where did African Americans predominantly live in Pasco?

Allen: On the east side.

Franklin: On the east side, and what was the divider?

Allen: The bridge.

Franklin: The bridge?

Allen: Mm-hmm, the Lewis Street Bridge.

Franklin: Okay. And what was the hardest aspect of life to adjust to when you moved to Pasco? Were there any challenges for you?

Allen: No, I was so glad to get out of Arkansas and so I—every challenge I had, I enjoyed.

Franklin: Oh, okay, So overall, it was just a much better—

Allen: Much better for me.

Franklin: Did any of your other family come to move here with you, or visit you in the Tri-Cities?

Allen: I didn’t bring my boys the first time I came. My mother kept them for me. Nobody came to see me; it was just me and my cousin and her children and everything like that. And then I met the gentleman that was going to be my second husband.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Allen: Right here. And we stayed there until the Lord called him home.

Franklin: How did you meet him?

Allen: I was working in our—her Queen Street Diner. And he was a customer. And we found out some things that we had in common, like our birthdays: mine was the last—mine was in February, and his was in January on the same day.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Allen: And that was just our little talking start there.

Franklin: Sure, like kind of like small talk and flirting.

Allen: Right.

Franklin: How would you describe life in the community of east Pasco when you moved here?

Allen: Well, my cousin, she had a rooming house that was attached to her little thing that she sold the food out of. So I had two rooms there in her rooming house. That’s how I lived. And then when she closed—when it closed down, then I got me a job two blocks down the street at Jack’s Tavern.

Franklin: Okay.

Allen: And then I worked there.

Franklin: Is that still there? No?

Allen: No.

Franklin: Okay. Do you remember any particular community events in—at that time, or after?

Allen: Well, it would’ve been mostly Christian—church activities. And you know, working in the tavern like I did, they’d turn on the jukebox and people danced or something like that. But I didn’t remember any other kinds of events, you know. Might have been something else going on, but that was the thing that had the most going for it.

Franklin: Sure.

Allen: Was the tavern at the time.

Franklin: I wonder if you could talk about the role of the church in the community there.

Allen: Yes, I think the church was very strong in the community. We had several outstanding churches that are still churches in the community. There was—did you want me to call off the names of them?

Franklin: Sure, yes, please.

Allen: St. James. St. James was a Methodist church, and that’s the church that we all went to until I decided to go Baptist. And then I went to Morning Star Baptist Church. So those were the two—St. James and Morning Star Baptist. And then, later on, New Hope Baptist came, and then Greater Faith. And those are the churches that are standing as we speak.

Franklin: Okay. And those are kind of like focal to the African American community—

Allen: Mm-hmm, yeah.

Franklin: --and east Pasco, right?

Allen: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: Did you end up—when did you end up getting your own place?

Allen: Well, when I married. [LAUGHTER] When I remarried. You know, we had to go through a period of time when you had to save up some money to get a divorce. So when we married, we rented a house at first. And then we saw the house that we bought, we purchased, over on Lewis Street. At the time before, it was a veteran’s hospital.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Allen: Right, and then they cleaned it up and everything, and it was a house, a regular house, right on Lewis Street. And that’s where we moved from going over to the west side.

Franklin: Okay. I’m wondering if—what can you tell me about the housing in east Pasco? Was it comparable with the housing in Kennewick and Richland?

Allen: Well, I think—to me, it was, because I really didn’t—I didn’t know any better. So we had this house, and it was on the corner directly across the street from the East Side Market and that was a store that we all enjoyed going to. And then across the street, the school—I can’t remember the name of the school—but it was a school directly across the street from my house that my children started from—the ones that were in that level.

Franklin: Hmm. I’ve read and done research that water and sanitation was sometimes lacking in east Pasco in the ‘50s; some houses didn’t have full utilities. Do you recall that at all?

Allen: No. Wherever—the two houses that I lived in over there besides my cousin’s place. No, we had water. Now, her place, she had a septic tank. She had septic, whatever it’s called. But when I moved away from her house, then we had regular—I guess it was city water. I never had any trouble with it.

Franklin: Okay.

Allen: Yeah, we never had any trouble with it. And then the house up on Lewis Street that we moved out of, we had what we needed in the line of water. It was city water, obviously.

Franklin: Right. What were your interactions with people from Richland, Pasco or Kennewick like?

Allen: Well, I’ve never been a person that had problems talking and laughing with other people. I didn’t try to hang on over there, because I was told that we wasn’t supposed to be over there after dark. So I wouldn’t go over there in the daylight, either.

Franklin: Was that kind of a formal law, or kind of like—because you said you were told you weren’t supposed to go over there after dark, and I’ve heard things about that. Was that a formal or kind of an informal prohibition?

Allen: I don’t know what that was all about, but I do know that my boyfriend that I married, he was over there, and it was dark, and they held him. He called me and said, if you don’t come get me, I’m going to have to spend the night.

Franklin: In jail?

Allen: Yeah.

Franklin: Oh, wow. And you said over there, you mean in—

Allen: In Kennewick.

Franklin: In Kennewick.

Allen: Yeah, over in Kennewick. It was dark, and they caught him over there. He hadn’t got to the Blue Bridge.

Franklin: Wow, was he driving, or was he—

Allen: He was driving.

Franklin: And they pulled him over?

Allen: Some—I don’t know what they did, but the next time I knew where he was, he was at the police station.

Franklin: Oh, wow. Did they charge him with anything?

Allen: I don’t think so. I don’t remember him—he probably had to pay a fine for being over there after dark. I don’t—we didn’t talk about it, because it was silly.

Franklin: Right. But you were made to feel unwelcome.

Allen: Oh, yeah. That was the main thing.

Franklin: When did that begin to change?

Allen: Well, I really can’t—because some of the stuff, it’s just kind of like changed when they put the highways in that we didn’t have before, you know. So we didn’t really have to go over the Blue Bridge to get to them; we could go different places. So as we—as time moved on, we got in with the rest of the world. [LAUGHTER] Things just, you know, started shaping up, because when they put out that the government wanted to buy up some houses over there on the east side, because they wanted to put a business district in there or something. I asked the man, the realtor, I told him—well, I had told him, can I be one of the first ones to move out? I said, so where am I going to move to? I said, can I go to the west side? And the man said—I said, will they sell me a house over on the west side? He said, if they want to sell that house, they better sell it to you. And so that was the thing that let me know that somebody was dealing with it, you know. So I didn’t—we didn’t have any trouble getting a house on the west side.

Franklin: Oh. Do you remember around what time that would have been?

Allen: You know, time—I told you that time—things like that escape me. But that would have been—hmm, let’s see. My baby girl was five. So that would have been 50 years ago.

Franklin: Okay, 50 years ago. So the late—mid-to-late ‘60s.

Allen: Probably so, yeah.

Franklin: Okay.

Allen: Because I managed to buy me a house up off of 20th across from Robert Frost School. And they had the overpass where I—I liked it, because my children didn’t have to cross the street. There was a park and an overpass. So my children never had to cross the streets down there; they could just go over the overpass, and they’d be at Robert Frost School, or the high school right down about five blocks down the street. And they never had to get on the freeway. Because the highway was 20th Street at the time, until just about three years ago they took that thing down—the sign down—the crossing. They took it down. But I liked it, and my cousin lived across from Mark Twain School. She had a beautiful home right there, directly across. So we got some nice houses.

Franklin: That’s wonderful. But before then, you wouldn’t have been able—when you first moved here, people weren’t allowed—there was just, people wouldn’t sell a home in west Pasco to an African American, right?

Allen: No.

Franklin: No. The realtors wouldn’t and the—

Allen: I guess not.

Franklin: Did you hear of anybody trying early on?

Allen: No, I really didn’t, because I did a lot of working and taking care of my kids and everything. A new marriage, and more babies. I did it all—you know. But I do know that—I liked my location right there where I was, right there on Lewis Street, and like I said, directly across from a store, East Side Market—that was a nice big store—and directly across the street from the school. So that was really good.

Franklin: You had everything right there.

Allen: It was right there of course, yeah. And then when we went down under the underpass, they had a nice town section then. Very nice town section.

Franklin: Did your children, either the older or younger, did they experience any kind of segregation or racism in their education?

Allen: No, they did not. In fact, you know, I was telling the lady that I was with, I have the one son, he was going to Pasco High School, and everything that he would join, they made him the president. So he’s charmed, to this day. And Mr. Gregson, who was the principal at the time, requested that he go to West Point, which I had never heard tell of. I didn’t know what a west point was. But they told me, one of the finest colleges in the world. And so when they referred him there, then it was—I don’t know how he—what happened, but anyway he managed to get to go to West Point. And it made me cry, because, like I was saying, I never even heard tell of a west point. I didn’t know what it was. And then that’s when they told me it was one of the finest colleges in the nation. And my son got to go—he graduated from there, and his son graduated from there.

Franklin: Oh, wow, that’s great.

Allen: Yeah.

Franklin: What was your own education like? How far did you—

Allen: I went to the tenth grade, because I married much too young. And so, when I was in tenth grade, I married. But after I had raised all of my children, I went back to school.

Franklin: Okay.

Allen: Okay, and I got my GED and then I got my degree from Central Washington State College. I got a teaching certificate—I taught. So I taught for 20 years. Before then, I was a home visitor. I was a home visitor for seven years, and I taught for 20 years at—I taught at Mark Twain Elementary School and Ruth Livingston out on Road 100.

Franklin: What is a home visitor?

Allen: Well, you go and find out why children aren’t at school, or do they need something? Because, you know. So you were just a soldier for the children, to help to get them out, or find out why they’re not coming to school or what. And we had a card where we could take them over to Grigg’s if they didn’t have the clothes. Because a lot of time, the parents would be out in the fields working and they just couldn’t. And we could get them two pair of jeans and things to go with it.

Franklin: Oh, wow. Was that primarily African American children that you were working with?

Allen: Mm-mm.

Franklin: No, it was all—

Allen: Whoever needed it.

Franklin: Whoever need it.

Allen: Whoever needed it: we had white, Mexican, black, you know.

Franklin: That’s really amazing that you had to leave high school at tenth grade—or you made it through and then you later went back to get everything and teach.

Allen: Yeah, right out of here, CBC. This is not the same CBC I went to. [LAUGHTER] I don’t know where in the world these beautiful buildings and things came from, because the school I started looked like a big rooming house. [LAUGHTER] But it’s okay. It’s where I went to.

Franklin: Right, well, it seems to have done you pretty well.

Allen: I’m grateful for that. But I had a family to raise first before I could go back to school.

Franklin: Right.

Allen: So I went—at 45 is when I got my degree. I was 45. And that gave me my 20 years’ teaching. And I was already working while I was going to school; I was a home visitor.

Franklin: Wow, never too late, right? Never too late. That’s great. You also started working onsite—you worked at the Hanford Site.

Allen: Yes.

Franklin: At a point, too, right? What did you do at the Hanford Site?

Allen: When I got hired there, the man took me into the building, and I was in downtown Richland—Uptown Richland, I guess. I worked at a place called U.S. Testing. The gentleman took me and he introduced me to people. And then he took me and sat me down, he told me, he said, I want you to be able to replace whoever’s not here. He said, I want you to just kind of be a stand-in. He said, so I would like for you to spend some time with the various offices that we have in here, so that if somebody is missing and we need help, you can come. That went from being a secretary on down. So I—that’s what I did. I worked with various people in the dark room; I worked with them in the labs; you know, I worked—so I got an opportunity to work with everybody, and then I also drove in the truck that you go and pick up the buckets off the people’s porches. I would go from Pasco to Yakima, Pasco to Walla Walla—you know, various places.

Franklin: When you say bucket, do you mean the bioassay kits? The urine—

Allen: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: --and fecal matter—

Allen: Yes, whatever was in it.

Franklin: Right.

Allen: I didn’t know—I didn’t have to open it. I’d just take it off the porch and put it in the truck.

Franklin: And then place a clean one.

Allen: Mm-hmm, yeah, if it needed to be.

Franklin: And how long did you do that for?

Allen: For—I think I worked out there about six years. Because I got sick. I got sick. They had told me to—I don’t know what was in it, but they had told me to wear—they had a couple of us—to wear a certain outfit that they had for us to put on. I don’t know—I think I would have not done it now, because after I wore it, it wasn’t too long before I got sick. They told us to keep it on. So I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you what it was. But they insisted that we keep it on for that full day and night and wear it. So, I don’t know what happened. But I know I got sick, and I was in the bed for a year.

Franklin: And—for a year?

Allen: Yes, I had to go to the doctor. They—my boss met me up in Seattle as I got off the plane, and took me over to, I think it was Virginia Mason Clinic.

Franklin: Wow.

Allen: And I was there, and we went another someplace else. They was checking my whole body to find, I have no idea what. Nobody ever explained to me what that was. But I—that was the end of my working out at Hanford, because it was just too spooky for me, you know.

Franklin: Right.

Allen: And I caught a picture of myself of working in a chimney, where all the steam and stuff go up and I was in there scrubbing it. But I didn’t have on a mask or anything like that. So I wasn’t getting the right training for it, because they shouldn’t have let me in there. But anyway, I got sick and I was in the bed for one year, yeah. My husband had to put my bed in the living room so I could be with the family.

Franklin: Wow.

Allen: Mm-hmm. And I don’t know what that—the material was that those clothes were made of, or if it had anything to do with it. I just know that that’s the difference. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was a couple of us, and I don’t know who the others were, but it was a couple of us that did that. But other than that, I just kind of like worked around in that building. Whatever somebody else was doing and they weren’t there, then I would either learn how to do it or do it.

Franklin: What was the office environment there like? Did you face any kinds of discrimination?

Allen: Yeah, at first I did. When I first went there. But then for some reason, the lady that was in the darkroom, she didn’t want me there. And for some reason, she met me one day, and she was crying. And she hugged me. And she begged my pardon, you know, and everything like that. Because she was saying, she ain’t coming in here! And then something happened.

Franklin: Did she ever tell you what happened?

Allen: No, but she just was very nice to me. And she said, I’ll tell you what I know about the darkroom. And everybody ended up being just very, very nice to me. It was that first thing that they didn’t—I guess they didn’t know—maybe they thought I was mean. I don’t know.

Franklin: Did you—how many other African Americans were working onsite then? Was it pretty—still pretty uncommon? Or did you work with any other African Americans?

Allen: No, I worked downtown, Richland. I don’t know what is the downtown, Uptown, anyway, but right behind Safeway. I didn’t—no. There was no more in there. People would come and get their body counts and stuff on the other side, and I was in the lab side.

Franklin: Okay. How did the civil rights movement affect the Tri-Cities and your life?

Allen: In my lifetime? Well, you know, when you got eight children at home, you don’t get out of the house too much except to go where you’re going and get back home really quick. But I didn’t think it—I had been in segregation, down South, in Little Rock, Arkansas. I never saw a sign like the ones that I saw in the South. Because down in the South, they would say, blacks to the back, and all kinds of stuff like that. They had them signs. And waitress wanted, white only, or waitress wanted, black only. That’s how they—elevator operators, because that’s what we did at the time. Now you do your own elevator, but at that time, they wanted either a darker black or a lighter black. You know?

Franklin: Yeah.

Allen: Light-skinned. But everybody seemed to work. They did get jobs, but you just had to go past those signs. I have a picture of a girl, she sneaked and drank out of the white fountain, and she was saying, aaahh. And I was thinking, that water don’t taste any different.

Franklin: Yeah. Were you involved in the civil rights movement in any way?

Allen: I tried not to be.

Franklin: Why was that?

Allen: I didn’t—I don’t know what I could have done, because it’s a lot of people got killed, dragged behind cars, behind trucks and things. There was that one boy, they drowned him because he spoke to this white lady.

Franklin: Emmitt Till.

Allen: Emmitt Till, yeah. That’s the kind of stuff that was going on. So I didn’t really have a need to do any of that.

Franklin: Was there any local opposition from the white community towards civil rights? Did you—

Allen: No, I didn’t—nobody—oh. The one funny thing that happened after we moved up off of 20th Street. My husband was at the—you probably know what I’m going to say. My husband was out back cutting the lawn and trimming the bushes. And a guy walked up and asked him how much would he charge to trim his bushes? And so my husband told him, well, I get to sleep with the lady of the house. [LAUGHTER] And I guess that man, he didn’t like that answer. [LAUGHTER] But that’s exactly what happened. He told him, I get to sleep with the lady of the house. Because it was our front there. He was trimming hedges, that’s what he was doing. The man came wanting to know how much he charging him to cut his hedges.

Franklin: Right, because he thought he was—

Allen: Trying to be funny.

Franklin: --not the owner of the house, but a worker.

Allen: Ah, no, trying to be funny. Because I think by that time, it had rounded that people are moving into the various communities. Because by that time, a lot of people started moving over to the west side.

Franklin: Yeah.

Allen: Yeah, because when I asked—when my house went up, I asked the real estate person, can you get me a house over on the west side? Will they sell me a house? He said, if they don’t sell it to you, then they’re going to have to take it off the market. That’s how he explained it to me. He said, because it’s open. He let us know it was open. And people were starting to come all along the 2nd Street there, all that filled in with black people.

Franklin: Was the housing generally better on the west side?

Allen: Well, there wasn’t anything left on the east side. Yeah, there wasn’t anything else left on the east side. So that’s the reason that we were moving, because they were wanting to have some more business stuff. Like they got. They got a lot of business stuff over there.

Franklin: All the development and everything.

Allen: Mm-hmm, yeah. I see a couple of the buildings—the old hotel building is still over there, and it’s ugly, too. Well, it’s been there for—you know. I’ve been here 50, 60 years. It was there when I got there.

Franklin: Right.

Allen: In fact, there was all kinds of stuff over there when I first came here.

Franklin: Were your children active in the civil rights movement locally or anything? Do you remember them, were they involved or interested or invested in any way?

Allen: If they were, I didn’t know about it, because they helped me a lot with the smaller children, so there was always a couple of the boys at home around to help me out in case I needed to go to the store or whatever. I don’t remember them being involved in any—they were involved in school activities, like racing and ball—stuff, whatever at the school. They weren’t—it wasn’t the neighborhood stuff. But we did go to church. We did that, we went to church over there.

Franklin: [STOMACH GURGLING] Excuse me. Excuse me again. Any memories of, like, the social scene or politics or insights into Tri-Cities since—from when you moved here on?

Allen: I don’t understand.

Franklin: Sorry. Anything about the Tri-Cities stick out to you from when you moved here, or from living here in the past 60 years?

Allen: I don’t—not quite understanding.

Franklin: Oh, okay. Well, let me try a different question.

Allen: Okay.

Franklin: Let’s see here. Were there any—what are some of your memories of major events in the Tri-Cities? Do you remember President Kennedy visiting in 1963? Because you would have—I think you would have been working at Hanford at that time.

Allen: Yeah, I remember something about that. I didn’t get an opportunity to participate in anything like that. I do know, when—who was the—what President was that, that got killed? I was working out in Richland at Hanford and I was in the darkroom working. The man that oversees the buildings, he came and came in there where I was, and he was surprised to see me. He said, what are you doing here? I said, I work here. He said, but everybody else has gone home. I says, why? He said, President Kennedy got killed. That’s about what I remember. Everybody just—the cars were backed up as far as you could see them, because everybody was leaving, going home. And the guy found me and got me, ousted me out of the building to go home. But other than that—I mean, that’s—everybody took advantage of that. But—no.

Franklin: Were you ever worried about—Hanford played such an important role in the Cold War in producing plutonium. Were you ever worried about being so close to Hanford? Did it ever make you nervous or anxious?

Allen: Are you talking about living or working?

Franklin: Both.

Allen: Well, I didn’t even think about it in my living, because like I said, that was all the way out in Richland. We did have people out there living in mobile homes and things off the properties there. But I never did consider none of that, because I didn’t live in Richland. I lived in Pasco, and never the twain shall meet. People would come over sometime and go to church, over to Pasco. But, no, we did have quite a few people that lived over—quite a few black people that lived over there in trailers and different things like that. I did try to buy a house when they put all their houses up for sale, because it was so nice and cheap, but they said, no, you can’t buy if you didn’t work out—at the time. That’s before I did go to Hanford, I was trying to—no, that was after I had left Hanford. They were selling their houses, because they were so cheap. I would have loved to have bought them, but they said no.

Franklin: Oh, so you tried to buy a house in Richland?

Allen: Well, yeah, I wanted to, because they were selling them for $2,000 and $3,000. Nice big houses.

Franklin: [LAUGHING] Yeah. Oh, let’s see here. When you worked at Hanford, how did security or secrecy impact your job there?

Allen: Well, the things that I did, it wasn’t that kind of secret. Because, like I said, if I was in the lab, probably washing stuff down or something like that. Or if somebody wasn’t in the office, I was probably in the office, doing something. It didn’t affect me very much, because I just did what I was told. [LAUGHTER] That’s as far as I would go with that. I learned a lot while I was there working. But after I got sick, and I stayed—basically—I was basically in bed for a year. When I came out, and I was going to go back out to U.S. Testing, there was a foul, strong odor out there, and I backed out. I said, no, I’m not going to die out here. I was just going to go out there to see if I could meet with somebody and talk. But I got this strong scent of medicine and stuff. And I said, I’m not inhaling that stuff in my body no more. So the medicine that they gave me, I’m still on it, and that’s been 60 years.

Franklin: Wow.

Allen: Yeah. Still taking it, and that’s—I rarely take medicine that long. But I still have to take it.

Franklin: Do you know—what kind of medicine is it?

Allen: Well, sarca—they called it—they said I had gotten something like sarcoidosis. But if I had my medicine list, I could show you, but—because I got a medicine list. I get a medicine list, and on there you got this medicine, over the years, the same thing over and over and over. And they say, well, that’s what’s keeping you going. That’s what’s keeping your heart beating. That’s what they tell me about it. So, I’m grateful.

Franklin: Who were—do you remember any—who were some of the community leaders when you—in the African American community, when you moved here in the ‘50s?

Allen: Yeah. Well, one of the leaders was my cousin, Virgie
Robinson. She was definitely a leader. She was a leader.

Franklin: How long had she been here?

Allen: Well, she must have been here three or four years, I guess. Because when she came down there and saw me, and asked—because I had lived with her family from the time I was five until I was twelve. So she hadn’t seen me for a while, so when she came and saw me down, and asked me if I wanted—if I would come to Pasco. I would’ve just probably went anywhere at the time, because I was so desperate to get out of Little Rock, Arkansas. I hated it. But she—you said, who are some of the other people there. Well, I’m trying to think who was—well, always the pastors. The pastors seemed to be always the lead people. Dallas Barnes. He was going to college and he was working. The Daniels family, they were very—the men were very useful. Vanis Daniels and—

Franklin: Oh yeah. Yeah, he’s wonderful.

Allen: That Daniels people, the young men were good. Delores Groves. Mm-hmm. Yes.

Franklin: Did you know the—

Allen: She died two years ago.

Franklin: Did you know the Mitchells at all?

Allen: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: Did you have—because they lived in Richland most of the time, right? CJ and his—

Allen: Oh, yeah. I’ve never known him to live in—they used to come to church over in Pasco and then they stopped that, too. But yeah, I know the Mitchells. CJ Mitchell and all of them. But they were active—very, very active.

Franklin: Yeah. Because he—I think he became a realtor at some point and helped to sell houses.

Allen: And his son. His son—is he a judge?

Franklin: I think so.

Allen: I think that’s a judge, yeah, because I think I saw him yesterday on a—whatever they do. He had on a case.

Franklin: Oh, right, right.

Allen: Yeah, he was—

Franklin: And then you guys eventually moved out to even more west Pasco, right?

Allen: Yes.

Franklin: When was that?

Allen: 2003.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Allen: 2002 or 2003. Yeah, we built our own house out there.

Franklin: Okay, and how come you moved from Lewis and


Allen: Because we had this big park. And drugs—them guys were starting to meet out there in the park there. And I told BJ—because, in fact, they had tore a lady’s house, the inside out of her house because they found drugs in her house. And they had all her stuff sitting outside. And I told my husband, I said, we need to get out of here. I said, because this—I don’t like this. This is spooky. They got that woman’s house just tore up because they found some drugs in it. And the park, it just wasn’t fit to go to anymore. My kids used to enjoy going to the park, learning how to swim in the summertime, just playing. And all of the sudden, all these guys with these drugs and stuff were out there. So I just happened to be riding—because I didn’t even know that this existed, where I’m living now. And I got up there on Road 60 and it was a service station and there was Yoke’s. And I’m thinking, what’s going on? And I went around the corner and they had all these apartments, and then you could go in and sign in the book and check them out. So I did and I went and told my husband, let’s go back. So we did, we went back and we decided, okay, we’ll get out of here and put our house up. It was gone in three days.

Franklin: Wow.

Allen: Well, the lady across the street wanted it for her brother.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Allen: And somebody else was wanting to see the house, but this man was complaining. Well, you need to do this, and you need to do that. And that lady called me on my phone, because she knew my name, and she asked me, where are you living? And I did my best to tell her. She came out there and she gave me a down payment and told me, you call your husband and tell him to get that man out of that house. Because I want it for my brother. So they bought the house, and we got started.

Franklin: Oh, that’s great. How has Pasco changed from when you moved there in the early ‘50s to now?

Allen: Well, I think the population—well, we don’t want to talk about population, do we? What can I say? It’s a good place, it’s a nice place over there. Nice houses—some nice houses over there. In fact, they got a whole neighborhood behind this one church over there, behind Greater Faith—New Hope. Behind New Hope Baptist Church they’ve got a whole neighborhood that’s mostly Hispanic over there. So a lot—you go over there and you find 99% of the people that’s—so I have a lady friend of my granddaughter’s who—they got married recently, and they decided to build over there because it’s the cheapest place. They said the bill. So according to the paper, you know, it’s 90%--they figure that the population is about 90% Hispanic. Which is great. But it’s good to be able to find places to live, and live peacefully. That’s what you want to do.

Franklin: How—were there a lot of Hispanics when you moved to the area in 1950s? When did that begin to change?

Allen: You know, I don’t really know, because I was working and learning and taking care of babies—my children and everything. It was—I didn’t really do a lot of keeping up with the population change. But I know that we—now, when I lived on Lewis Street, we came back over to Richland—I mean over to the side. They had all the good stores over there: they had Penny’s and they even had Montgomery Ward’s, and ain’t seen a Montgomery Ward’s, and Sears & Roebuck, and all the drugstores and things like that.

Then one day I was at the West Side Market. Because I tell this all the time, and it happened. And this gentleman came in, and he had a board like you’ve got, and he had a big book. And he came into the store—the West Side Market—and he asked the lady that was at the counter, he said, I’d like to speak to your boss, please. She says, oh, okay. And so he walked around, and I said, hmm, I wonder what this all about. I’m going to see. So when the boss came out, he says, I see you don’t have no Mexican workers. And I’m thinking, uh-oh. Maybe I can get out of here. But no. And the guy kind of looked around, and he said, you don’t have no Mexican workers? You don’t have Mexican workers, you don’t need Mexican money. And I was thinking to myself, why couldn’t I have thought about that? I thought that was really cool, because by Saturday, I saw three people working in that store. Three Mexicans working. That was the West Side Market. Because we had the East Side Market, and the same guy owned both stores. So this was the West Side Market. But he got Mexicans—pretty soon, they had jobs. And I’m thinking, this man comes from nowhere—I don’t know where he came from, but all of the sudden, he tells this man, if you want Mexican money, you get Mexican workers. I said, that’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever heard. I love it. I loved that! Why couldn’t we have thought about that? Because we still hadn’t got no jobs down there. But I thought that was so nice, because then all of the sudden within like a month, every store around had Hispanic workers. And that’s good. And so then I read in the paper that Pasco was like 90-95% Hispanic. And that’s okay. They’re working, and that’s what counts.

Franklin: Yeah. Yeah. Had it been difficult for people in the African American community to find jobs early on?

Allen: Mm-hmm, yeah. We didn’t find hardly any jobs. You might find one working. And then my cousin, he had a store over there on 4th Street—4th and Clark. It was selling sandwiches and things like that, and it didn’t really do too good.

Franklin: What did your husband do when he worked?

Allen: My husband worked for Boise-Cascade and Hanford. So he would work for Hanford for a while and get laid off, and then he’d go to Boise-Cascade. So then he’d go to Boise-Cascade for a while, and then he’d get laid off and go back to Hanford—no, Hanford would call him back. So he did that three or four times and then he said, you know what? I’m sick of this. This just doesn’t make sense for me to just keep going back and getting laid off and then go back. So my husband was a truck driver for Boise-Cascade.

Franklin: It would be hard to build up seniority that way, and a pension.

Allen: Yeah, see, that’s what he was upset about. Because like he said, this don’t even make sense. I’m working, and then Hanford call me back and there I go running back. And then work for seven, eight months, maybe a year, get laid off again. Go back out to Boise—Hanford call you back.

Franklin: What did he do at Hanford? Did he also drive truck at—

Allen: He was—no, he was an engineer. He was—oh, what—he fixed things. Yeah. I have some pictures of him in his office with the other guys that was in there. They did upkeep on instruments and different stuff like that.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Allen: And at Boise-Cascade, he was a truck driver.

Franklin: Oh, very different occupations.

Allen: So finally he moved; finally he decided, I’m staying with Boise-Cascade.

Franklin: Okay. Did he ever talk about experiencing any kind of discrimination or segregation at Hanford or Boise-Cascade?

Allen: No, I really didn’t. Certainly not at Boise-Cascade and Hanford, either, that I knew of. I felt very comfortable. Probably the first day or so, you know, when people looking at you going in. And then the boss man taking here and telling you about this job and this job, somebody might think something. But other than that, after a while, we would be hugging and—you know—being happy and we’d have dinners and everything would be nice. I didn’t have any bad feelings at all.

Franklin: Did you ever—you still have family in Arkansas, right? Some family in Arkansas, or did they all—

Allen: I [UNKNOWN] because my mother and my step-father died. So, no, I don’t have any that I know of.

Franklin: Oh okay, so you pretty much severed—

Allen: I—

Franklin: --severed ties in Arkansas. How do you think your life would have been different if you had stayed—if you had not come to the Tri-Cities?

Allen: Well, I certainly didn’t like Arkansas, and I wasn’t going to stay there, because believe you me, I have gone to other places. I went to St. Louis—I didn’t like that. Chicago, different places like that. Certainly wasn’t going back to Saginaw, Michigan where I was raised from the time I was five until I was twelve. I hated that place with two passions.

Franklin: Why?

Allen: Well, I didn’t do anything. You know, I was a little girl—I was a young girl there, and things started happening as I was moving on, because I was there from the time I was five until I was twelve. And that’s when I went back to Little Rock, where my mother was. But during that time, I didn’t even see my mother. Because they just didn’t have the money. And my stepfather, he did the best he could, but they wasn’t paying anything, hardly, for people working. He didn’t work in the mines or anything like that. That was one of the big places for people to work at, in the mine—mines and things like that. So, I wouldn’t have stayed there, under no circumstances. I literally hated Saginaw, Michigan—I mean, Little Rock, Arkansas, I hated it. And Saginaw, too. This—I fell in love with Richland and Pasco and Kennewick. I really did.

Franklin: Really?

Allen: Yeah.

Franklin: What was it about it that—

Allen: Well, I had more of a chance to get out and get into these careers. I got to finish up my education right here. That all by itself, you know. I got ready to do that, and then I did that. This man thought enough of my son to recommend him to one of the finest colleges in the nation, and we didn’t have 15 cent to grind, and he went. That just—

Franklin: Did he end up getting a scholarship to go? How did he—

Allen: Yeah, yeah!

Franklin: Wow, that’s really something.

Allen: Yup, they put him in and I got to go see him when he graduated. We all went to see him when he graduated. And then he got married, and his son went to West Point. That was good.

Franklin: Yeah. You must be very proud.

Allen: I am, and I was. He was a FEMA worker. He worked for FEMA, but here just about four months ago, another something came in that was kind of like FEMA. I don’t know the name of it. But he quit FEMA and went to this other place, because the way that he was going with FEMA, which the head office was in Washington, D.C., he would have to take his car—he lives in Maryland—and he would have to take his car up to where they all parked their cars and take a train to go into Washington, D.C. Because, he said, if you found a parking place to purchase, it’s half of your check. He said it was so expensive and everything. So he worked there for many, many, many years. But just this year—this past year, another company came in similar to that. It was just—but he didn’t have to travel to those terrible places like FEMA people do. You know, they have to go where all that mud and everything. And he’s done this quite a few times, and he said this one gives him a break. Because he’s 65 years old now. So he’s not as young as he was when he started it. He started it, I think, back when he was in either his late 30s or early 40s. And he worked all that time. So he said he was awfully glad to be able to not have to park his car at the—wherever they park the cars—to get on the trains. Because they have parking lots for people to go. And you still have to pay for that, too. That’s another thing you have to pay for.

Franklin: Wow, it’s expensive to make a living. What would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford and living in Tri-Cities?

Allen: Well, you know, I think—I believe that Hanford is a good place to work, because I got two daughters left out there. They’re both working—they got excellent jobs. Now, I got a son that died from that stuff that they got out there. It got in his system and everything. And he died about five years ago. From working out in that stuff. But I would—there’s danger in all kinds of jobs. You’d have to know what you’re doing to be working. Because it is dangerous, and a lot of people have left here that were working out there, and all of the sudden their lungs were messed up and various things like that. So I’m just grateful that I got sick, but I got well. Yeah.

Franklin: Yeah.

Allen: But I think that—I don’t know what the clothes had to do with me. And nobody told me that they had something to do—I’m wondering why did they say to put these clothes on and keep them on overnight, all day, and overnight and then get them changed. I don’t know what that was about. Nobody ever told me anything. But I have a suspicion that that was the cause of me getting sick like I did.

Franklin: Yeah.

Allen: Because I was up in Virginia Mason for quite a while and just various—you know. I was sick. I was in the bed for a year.

Franklin: Yeah, that’s really something. Disturbing story.

Allen: Yes, it is.

Franklin: Is there anything else you’d like to mention related to migration and segregation and civil rights and how they impacted your life in the Tri-Cities?

Allen: Well. I don’t like that kind of stuff, but—because my first thing to go with integration was when I got on the bus in Little Rock—I mean—I’m sorry, in Saginaw, Michigan is where I’d been living for seven years. When they would put me on the bus to send me home to my mother, they tagged me. They put my name and everything there so that they—okay, so when—we was riding the bus, just really good, and when we came to what they called the Mason-Dixon Line—and I didn’t know what it was; they told me later—this man, said, all right, all you niggers get to the back. And that just killed me. Because he had been—seemed like he had been so nice. Because I had been sitting right behind the driver. Because I was tagged. And so—and then he says, all you niggers get to the back. Okay. So then we went, and we went on a few miles, and everybody stopped for lunch. So I got in the—to run in to get some lunch, and they told me, you get to the back. You go around on the back side. So I went there and they had a bunch of sandwiches made up, and you never know how long them sandwiches had been there or what. But that’s what they had to offer. So that was my introduction to what it was going to be. And it was sick.

Franklin: Yeah.

Allen: Yeah, I just couldn’t believe that people could get treated like that. But I really didn’t have much to go on.

Franklin: And the Tri-Cities gave you a break from that?

Allen: Oh, yeah.

Franklin: Right? There wasn’t that type of environment—

Allen: No, we didn’t have nothing like that, that I know of. I’m sure that somebody somewhere had some discrimination problems. And like I told you, my then-boyfriend got trapped over in Kennewick. So I had to go and get him out—bail him out, and they told him, don’t come back over there at night.

Franklin: Do you think in general, for people you knew that also moved here, that life was better here than if they had come from the South?

Allen: Most of them that came here stayed. They stayed, they got jobs, you know. They had houses. To this day. So I think they—I think most of them liked it here. And I haven’t heard of anybody going back home, going back South. But I have a granddaughter that—she wanted to move South, because she wanted to go to a historically black college. And she did, and she’s doing a good job, and she’s happy where she is and everything like that. But, see, I wouldn’t—it didn’t faze me at all.

Franklin: Well, Rose, thank you so much for coming and interviewing, and just telling me about your life and your life story. I really appreciate it.

Allen: Well, thank you very much for asking me, and I’m sorry my memory’s not any better than it is. But—

Franklin: No, I—

Allen: That’s the best I got.

Franklin: No, you did a wonderful job. Thank you again, so much.

Allen: Okay.

Hanford Sites

General Electric
U.S. Testing

Years in Tri-Cities Area

1950-

Years on Hanford Site

1960-1966

Files

Allen, Rose Marie.JPG

Citation

“Interview with Rose Allen,” Hanford History Project, accessed April 9, 2020, http://hanfordhistory.com/items/show/2029.

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