Interview with Vanis and Edmon Daniels
African American universities and colleges
Civil rights movements
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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
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I’m conducting an oral history interview with Vanis and Edmon Daniels on May 7th, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the Campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I’ll be talking to Edmon and Vanis about their experiences living in the Tri-Cities and/or working at the Hanford Site. And for the record could you state and spell your full name for us starting with Edmon.
Edmon Daniels: Edmon Leo Daniels. E-D-M-O-N, L-E-O, D-A-N-I-E-L-S
Vanis Daniels: Vanis Daniels. V-A-N-I-S, D-A-N-I-E-L-S, number two.
Franklin: [LAUGHTER] Where did your parents move from?
Edmon Daniels: My parents were originally from Texas but when he came here he was working in Utah.
Franklin: Your father, Vanis, Sr.?
Edmon Daniels: My father, yes. He came here from Utah.
Franklin: Where in Texas were your parents from?
Edmon Daniels: Cass County, which is a little place. Kildare, I guess it is. I guess that’s where—Kildare, Texas.
Franklin: How long had the family been there?
Edmon Daniels: Forever, I guess. [LAUGHTER] I don’t know. It goes back a ways, quite a ways. Because my mother’s family, her father was Indian, so I guess they had been there before anyone else was there. [LAUGHTER] Her father, I really don’t know a thing about her father. I don’t know anything about either one of them, but, you know. I guess they had been there forever, probably their parents and their parents, that’s how it works.
Franklin: What was your father doing in Utah before he came out?
Edmon Daniels: You know, I really don’t know.
Vanis Daniels: He worked in a defense plant, but what they were doing, I really don’t know.
Franklin: What did he do in Kildare before leaving Kildare?
Vanis Daniels: He worked on the railroad. Mm-hmm. Southern Pacific.
Edmon Daniels: Southern Pacific.
Franklin: Great, that’s those questions. Did your mother also come with him at the same time?
Edmon Daniels: No, she came the next year, ‘44 I think it was.
Franklin: When did he come to Hanford?
Vanis Daniels: ’43.
Edmon Daniels: ‘43.
Franklin: ’43, and then she followed a year later?
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Edmon Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: What do you know about their lives before they came to work at Hanford?
Edmon Daniels: I really don’t know. It was just probably she worked at home.
Vanis Daniels: It was during the Depression and my dad had a job. No one else hardly had jobs. I mean, there just wasn’t anything for anyone to do. They did a little farming and stuff like that around here. My dad grew up on a farm, and he said once he left there he never worked in a farm again. So he went to work on the railroad. Since he had a job, and other people in the community didn’t, he helped raise his sisters—well, he had two sisters—both of his sisters’ kids, because the oldest one had eight kids, her and her husband and he got killed on the railroad by a train.
Franklin: Who was that?
Vanis Daniels: CJ Mitchell. The younger sister had a daughter, and my dad helped raise all those kids, And then my mom’s brother did farming and stuff like that, and he would help subsidize them when they needed money, loan them money or whatever they needed. He was making probably at that time, probably a whole two dollars a day form daylight to dark or sunup to sundown.
Edmon Daniels: Big money.
Franklin: [LAUGHTER] Your father’s sister married a Mitchell?
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: And you said the younger sister—I’m sorry. So, I’m just trying to figure out families here, what was your mother’s maiden name?
Vanis Daniels: Ida Lee Cole.
Franklin: Cole, okay. I know there were several families that came up here from Kildare, right?
Vanis Daniels: Right.
Franklin: You’re related to the Mitchells and what other families here are you related to?
Vanis Daniels: The Miles, the Richmonds--
Edmon Daniels: The Browns.
Vanis Daniels: The Browns, the Weavers.
Edmon Daniels: The Wallaces.
Franklin: That’s very extensive family network that moved up.
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Edmon Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: For both of you, I’ll start with Edmon, when were you born?
Edmon Daniels: I never tell my age.
Franklin: Okay, are you older or younger than Vanis?
Edmon Daniels: I’m much younger than he is.
Franklin: Much younger. Vanis when were you born?
Vanis Daniels: 12th of June, ’37.
Franklin: Okay, okay. Thanks. What do you know about your parents—I guess we’ll start with your father since he came first. What do you know about his initial experience of coming to work at Hanford and finding a place to live?
Edmon Daniels: Well, at that time when people was coming to Hanford, they all lived out in the barracks. And what my father said, when he came, the barracks were being built but they wasn’t completed. He said his first night out at Hanford, they slept on the ground. I guess they had a tent, I don’t know. But they built those barracks quickly, I think within a year or so. They had—well enough to—50,000 people. Their living condition, that’s where you lived if you was working out there and everything was segregated by race--
Vanis Daniels: Gender.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah, gender and the whole works. My father lived over here, my mother lived over there; male and female they didn’t stay together.
Franklin: Even though they were married?
Edmon Daniels: Even though they were married. Safety’s sake. Because they was working 24 hours a day, so someone was working, you wouldn’t want to leave your wife in barracks full of other mens and everything, and you go to work and she was there. So, everything was segregated and the barracks was made up of—and at that time, they couldn’t tell everything, but they had barracks on everything. People don’t realize this, my mother said there were barracks for homosexuals. The homosexuals had their own barracks. And this is something they told us after we became adults. Most of the ladies’ jobs was to clean up the barracks and cooking.
Vanis Daniels: Working in the mess hall.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah, working in the mess hall.
Franklin: Is that what your mother did?
Edmon Daniels: Yes, that’s just about what all the ladies did. They needed some typing done, but like I said, most people at that time was—very few people could type. So they went out to Benton City or someplace to the high school. And I ended—when I started working out there, that lady—they got a couple of ladies that knew how to type from the schools and the Army would go and get them at the school and take them out to the Hanford Site and they were type up whatever was needed and then they’d take them back home. When I started working out there Dolores was still working there, she had the most time—I think she started working out there ‘45 or something like that, she had more time in than anyone.
Vanis Daniels: Except Charlie Gant.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah, Charlie Gant. Well, he started back East in ’39. But as far as the ladies who was working there at that time, she had more time than anyone else. Like I said, I think she said she was like 16 when she started working there.
Franklin: Wow. When did you start working at Hanford?
Edmon Daniels: ’66.
Franklin: ’66. So your father and mother lived in separate barracks. How did they make time for each other? Did their schedules match up? What do you know about their personal lives during that period?
Edmon Daniels: Well, it was sort of like a courtship all of a sudden, because they had a place where the husbands could go and visit their wives or if they had girlfriends, whatever it was. But at a certain hour, you had to get up and leave. But since they could not get a room in Pasco, Kennewick or Richland they would go to--
Vanis Daniels: Yakima.
Edmon Daniels: Yakima. They’d catch the bus and go to Yakima. It’s so odd the way people’s mind worked, but an Oriental guy in Yakima let the blacks have rooms. They was out there building something to drop over there, yet the Oriental guy was the one that treated them like they were people instead of just someone. There’s good in people and there’s bad in people. [LAUGHTER] That’s how they would spend time together. They would be able to, I know, like he said, he’d go and visit her sort of like in a waiting room. And then, I don’t know if any of you guys have been out past 300 on out to the ferry—they used to have a ferry out there. My father said that they could get together and go catch the ferry across, over to the Franklin side and picnic, fix up a lunch and they’d have a picnic over there. It was sort of like courting all over again, I guess. [LAUGHTER] Only he didn’t have to worry about appearances, it was just the way things were.
Franklin: Just had to worry about making sure he wasn’t in the women’s barracks after closing.
Edmon Daniels: Right. The deal of it was that the ladies would go in to clean up the barracks. Like I said, they said, people was working 24 hours a day. So my mother says one time the ladies went to clean up the barracks and some of the guys who probably—if they were working, let’s say, the graveyard, they were sleeping. And a couple of ladies got attacked. So after that, the army would go in and get all the guys out and the ladies would go in and clean, clean up the barracks. It was just a different way of life back then, because—you’ve got to remember, it was the ‘40s, and like my mother said, they ate three meal a day. Like I said, it was the ‘40s, and three meals a day to some people were rare and you ate as much as you want. I know, I remember reading someplace about how much ice cream they went through every day, but she said that some people would eat, eat, eat and put food—
Vanis Daniels: Hide food.
Edmon Daniels: Because they weren’t accustomed to eating like that. I mean, that was a different time.
Franklin: Because they’d come out of the Depression and food may had been scarce.
Edmon Daniels: You could just imagine that all of a sudden you got three meals a day, a place to sleep, and you’re working and you’re making more money than you ever made, and its costing very little and you can eat as much as you want. I forget how—it wasn’t very much that they--
Vanis Daniels: It was like $1.30 a week or something like that they paid, and that was for room and board.
Franklin: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about like the wages. Do you know what your father was making back in Texas and how that compared to what he made at Hanford?
Edmon Daniels: Well, they say that they was making a dollar and hour. Which was a lots of money and they was working like ten or twelve hours a day, five-and-a-half days a week sometimes. So that was a lots of money. Like I always tell him, I had a cousin, he passed a year before last I think; and I was talking to him a couple of years ago, and he said that he was making five dollars a week when he went in the service in ‘43. My mother was making fifty cent an hour. She was making almost as much in one day as he was making for a week. When you look at that, that’s just like, okay, like right now, you make $3,000 a week. I come along and I’m making ten times as that much. [LAUGHTER] And you’re working harder, and I’m not working that hard. Because my father said that they went to work and he said they was getting breaks and everything--
Vanis Daniels: Never heard of it before.
Edmon Daniels: All of a sudden, wait, we can quit working, sit and talk for ten minutes or five minutes or whatever their breaks time was. It was just different out there, and, like I said, the money was great and you didn’t have to do that much with it.
Franklin: Yeah. What did your father do at Hanford?
Edmon Daniels: They was construction. They were just about probably 90% of the people out there, like I said, it was building.
Franklin: Do you know what specifically he worked on building?
Edmon Daniels: Well, they say that him and few other guys—they just loaded some guys up in the truck and took them out and they poured the first concrete for—was that N? D or whatever.
Vanis Daniels: No, for B.
Edmon Daniels: That’s what most of the men said, they worked construction. Building things, building all those things that they’re tearing down now.
Franklin: Yeah. DuPont mostly recruited through the South, whites and blacks. And you talked a bit about segregation. Did your father ever share any experiences or stories with either of you of racism and segregation from whites during work or out at the construction camp?
Edmon Daniels: Well, it was segregated, just—you go in, and they tell you which way to go. You can’t go here; you go here. So that’s a form of segregation right there. I look back and I say, you know, you’re building something to defend the U.S. and yet, at that time, I just call it, tell the truth, people were so dumb, they didn’t even want everything to be level.
Vanis Daniels: Equal.
Edmon Daniels: There was a guy over there who didn’t care what color you were. If he wanted to drop the bomb, he wasn’t going to go, well, I’m going to drop the bomb on these, but those guys, they’re okay, or those, they’re okay. You think about it and you think, how did people get along with themselves? But that’s the way they was brought up; that’s the way it had been for years, and stupidity grows. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: So there were no—well, actually, I’ll ask that question in a minute. Did your father or mother ever tell you what their first impressions were when they arrived here? Did they ever talk about that?
Edmon Daniels: I remember my dad and my uncle talking about, when they first got here and they arrived in Pasco at the train station, and it was just completely different. Because they go out and they took them out to Hanford, and even the bus or whatever they went out there on, it was like, you go to the back, the others sit up font. There’s a story that I had a cousin who came here—him and my father came here from Utah—and the bus was full, so he sat down by the white guy in the white section and the guy told him to get the hell up out of there. He said he got up, pulled out his knife and sit on the guy’s lap and put it around his throat and he said, I’m riding and don’t you move or else I’ll cut your so-and-so and your throat. [LAUGHTER] It was something they was accustomed to, because that was their life, but you look at it now and say, god, that was so silly. It’s just something that you tell kids about now and they can’t imagine things like that going on.
Franklin: Yeah, I understand that. So there was no children’s barracks, of course, so you guys—your parents didn’t bring you, right? You stayed in Texas. When did you come to the Tri-Cities?
Vanis Daniels: ’51.
Franklin: Both of you?
Edmon Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: How long did your parents stay at Hanford?
Edmon Daniels: Boy, I really don’t know.
Vanis Daniels: Let’s see.
Edmon Daniels: I think they lived out here in the barracks.
Vanis Daniels: Let’s see. I think Dad came back to Texas and I think he came back again in ‘47. I think it was ’47.
Franklin: Where did you stay when your parents were out here?
Vanis Daniels: His oldest sister, we stayed in our house, but his oldest sister and her kids moved in with us and she kept all of us while he and my mom and my older sister were here working.
Franklin: Oh, your older sister came up here as well. What was her name?
Vanis Daniels: Lily Mae. She was named after both of her grandparents.
Franklin: Do you know, what did she do up here?
Vanis Daniels: She worked in the--
Edmon Daniels: Same thing.
Vanis Daniels: Barracks cleaning.
Edmon Daniels: Cleaning and cooking.
Franklin: Okay. What brought your parents back to the Tri-Cities in ‘51?
Vanis Daniels: Work.
Edmon Daniels: They were here before.
Vanis Daniels: They were here already.
Edmon Daniels: I think it was a way of—better living conditions and with—how many of us was it at that time, eight?
Vanis Daniels: Well, seven of us because she had Marge with her, the baby.
Edmon Daniels: It was a way that he could work and make more money and be able to do more things for his kids.
Franklin: Eventually, in ’51, they were here and they moved you guys up here, they decided to move the family out of Texas?
Vanis Daniels: Right.
Franklin: Was your dad was still working at Hanford at that time?
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: Okay. Was he still doing construction?
Edmon Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: How long did he work out at Hanford for?
Vanis Daniels: He retired in ’64, I think it was.
Edmon Daniels: No, it was before then, I mean, after then. Because when I started working out there he was still working for a few months.
Vanis Daniels: He had retired, but he just went back and worked some.
Edmon Daniels: I figured when you’re retired, you don’t go to work.
Franklin: You should tell that to a lot of the retired people I know.
Edmon Daniels: Oh, yeah, now, I know, they retire and they bring them back to work.
Vanis Daniels: You got to do something or else you not going to be here long.
Franklin: Did he work construction the whole time?
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Edmon Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: What did he—did he kind of progress up through management or did his job change at all? Because I imagine that by ’64, he would’ve built up some seniority.
Vanis Daniels: Well, the deal of it was, they worked for different contractors. They worked through the laborers’ union. And at times he was what they call the foreman of the job, he was the boss, and at other times, he was just a—
Edmon Daniels: A regular worker.
Vanis Daniels: A regular worker, common laborer.
Franklin: Yeah. When you folks got here, what were your first impressions of Pasco and the Tri-Cities?
Vanis Daniels: To get the hell away from here. [LAUGHTER] Where we were from was trees, there was greenery and everything. And you get here, and it’s the desert and all you see—I didn’t even know what a tumbleweed was. You learn real quick what they are!
Edmon Daniels: Well, I really didn’t have an impression. Because, with both my parents being here, and me being the youngest, I didn’t—I don’t remember very much about Texas because I didn’t go any place; there was no one to take me. All my sisters who were older, being a little boy, they wasn’t going to take me any place. Because they might’ve been going to meet their little boyfriend or something and little boys will talk. So they wasn’t taking me with them. [LAUGHTER] So I don’t remember doing very much in Texas at all. Like I said, my parents was here. He remember a lot; I don’t remember anything, you know, about what all was going on. Because, like I said, I probably stayed home all the time and that was it.
Franklin: Sure. So, really, when you got here, it was the first community you were part of or where you would have left the house a lot.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah, well, like I said, we lived in this house here, my uncle lived here, my great-uncle lived next-door to us, my uncle lived—There wasn’t very many houses around anyway. Like he said, there was nothing but tumbleweeds and fields.
Franklin: Where was the first place that you guys stayed at after you arrived?
Vanis Daniels: We stayed a couple of weeks on Douglas. And a guy I never knew his name, we called him Radio—and he had started to build a house. He allowed people to put trailers on his property. That’s where my mom and dad was when we got here. My uncle had a house, my great-uncle had a house, and between the two trailers and the two houses, they were able to house us until my dad could find a place. And he found a house, Ms. Jensen, that was like a couple of blocks from Douglas there on Beech Street. She told him that he could buy her house.
Well, he went to the bank to borrow some money to buy the house. And no bank in the Tri-Cities would loan him any money or anything. And he came back and he talked with Ms. Jensen. And she told him she say, you mean to tell me they won’t let you borrow money to buy a house? He says, no. She says, I’ll fix that. She went back to the bank and she opened an escrow account and she carried the mortgage herself. And that’s the way my dad was able to buy a house.
Now, they would let you have money to buy an old raggedy car. You could buy all the old cars you wanted, but no money to buy a house. Pacific Finance, I never will forget that, was the only finance company that would loan money to blacks. And I don’t know what the interest rate they paid, but I know back then, the ceiling on interest in the State of Washington was 12%. I’m sure that all the blacks paid 12% on their loans from Pacific Finance.
Franklin: Did the banks give your dad a reason why they wouldn’t lend to him?
Vanis Daniels: The deal of it is, I don’t know what they told him, because I wasn’t there. But it was known that from 2nd Avenue, which was where the bus station was, east, they had what they called an imaginary red line and all the blacks had to live east of that line. And they just did not cater to you at all.
Franklin: Right, because if you were in a redline district you could be denied an FHA loan--
Vanis Daniels: Right, any, personal loan or anything--
Franklin: Yes. That is a sad, sad part of American history.
Edmon Daniels: Ugly part of American history.
Franklin: It really is, it really is.
Vanis Daniels: I just saw on the news this morning that they are getting the policemen in this country to go back to Washington D.C. and going through the black museum and learn something about what blacks have had to endure throughout the history of them being in this country. And maybe they will have a little more empathy.
Franklin: Yeah. The house on Beech Street, did that become your permanent residence growing up?
Vanis Daniels: Yes, mm-hmm.
Franklin: What was the hardest aspect of life in this area to adjust to?
Edmon Daniels: For me, there was no hard part, because, like I said, as a little kid—kids, they don’t worry about that that much. I mean, we just went and played and had fun. I never worried about, oh, that guy doesn’t look like me. That guy can throw a ball, we’re A-Okay. I didn’t worry about anything like that, and that’s the way it was. I went to Whittier Grade School and we would go visit everybody. If I went to one of the white kids’ house, his mother would fix us some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we would eat. And if they came to my house, my mother would fix peanut butter and jelly sandwich and we’d sit around. Kids, we don’t worry about that when we’re that age. All you’re worried about is having fun and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. [LAUGHTER] But you know, it’s just something that’s not part of your thinking. My thinking was, let’s have some fun. Not, worry about all that other stuff. That was that, though, so we had to worry about that.
Vanis Daniels: Well, it was a little different for me.
Franklin: Yeah, Vanis, what about you? You were a little—you were a teenager, right?
Vanis Daniels: Thirteen.
Franklin: You were thirteen?
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: Yeah, what about for you? What was the hardest part?
Vanis Daniels: The hardest part for me was the transition. And no one to help you sort of transition. Because in Texas, you went to all-black school; here everybody went to school together. When I go to Pasco High School—because I was a freshman—and you go to Pasco High School and the whole while I was in high school, the most blacks that was in the school at one time, I think, was like 13 or 14, in the whole school. To get thrown in with a bunch of white kids and they are prejudiced, too, a lot of them were, some of them wasn’t, but a lot of them were. And when they would get together, they would just be mean, like bullying. They would bully you.
We, as the four or five black boys that were there at the school, we had to get together and shut them down. Because we’d get together and we’d say, okay, now you want to fight? Now it’s time. Let’s get it on. But as long as they could separate you and had you out there by yourself, and there’d be two or three of them, never one on one, then they would bully you and stuff.
So it was kind of hard for me to transition. And even years and years later, I have actually talked white kids and white grownups that, if they walk in a place and there’s a lot of blacks, there the first thing they want to do, they say, we get scared we’re ready to get out of there. I say, well, what do you think about me? Everyplace I go, when I walk in the door, I’m the only black there. I say, do you see me running? No! [LAUGHTER]
Even on my job—and I retired in 1999. I don’t think I worked but one job in all those years, other than construction, that it was more than one black on the job at any one time. I worked in inhalation toxicology for Battelle Northwest and there were three of us. But other than that…
Franklin: Sorry, just writing. Just trying to write this down real quick. How big was the house on Beech that you guys ended up living in and then how big was your family?
Vanis Daniels: It’s five bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and it was--
Edmon Daniels: One bath.
Vanis Daniels: One bathroom and eight of us kids! [LAUGHTER] Well, no, I take that back. It was nine of us in that house. Nine kids in that house.
Edmon Daniels: Was there?
Vanis Daniels: Mm-hmm, because Daniel was here.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah. And then most of the time, as I remember, that there was always some relatives who would come up and they would stay there. Because I can remember, we had a roll-away bed and we would bring it into the living room. I slept on the roll-away for quite a few years, because it seemed like it was always an adult cousin or somebody--
Vanis Daniels: Or somebody.
Edmon Daniels: --living in the house with us. Because if they came up from Texas or wherever, if they didn’t have any place to live, they would come and live with us, the cousins. The house, it was always full of relatives. Because I can remember just lots of cousins who would come up and they would go to work. I never thought about it then because on payday they would give me a quarter. Hey, I had lots of money. [LAUGHTER] It was just natural for me to have someone else there besides my brothers and my sisters. And if I kept a quarter on my pocket or whatever they would give me. At that time a quarter, you could buy lots of stuff with a quarter. Now if you got a dollar you can’t spend it because you got to have some more money to spend it. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Who else lived in the community in east Pasco? Was it primarily African Americans?
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Edmon Daniels: Well, at one time it wasn’t. But mostly, that’s where the blacks lived, they lived in Pasco. But when we first moved there, we were the only blacks on the block. But there was only four houses on the block. I know, in front of us and straight on down the street, there was a trailer camp—which we called it a trailer court, and it was black. But up the street, our house is still there—my sister live in it—and a couple other houses that are still—from a three-block area, there are just a couple other houses that are still there.
Vanis Daniels: Three. I think it’s three in all that are still there. There are houses where houses were.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah, they built some new houses there. But we lived here, my cousin lived across the alley. But that was white families lived up that way--
Vanis Daniels: Yeah, to the north.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah, and like I said, it was very well segregated. And then the whites started moving out. And most of the blacks even moved out, later, later on. But I would go to school and walk up the street to Tollivers’, which was a white family, and we’d walk to school. We didn’t worry about, she looks different than I do, he looks different than I do. We just was kids and having a good time.
Franklin: Yeah. Were most of your neighbors and people you knew also transplants from somewhere else other than the Tri-Cities?
Vanis Daniels: Oh yeah.
Edmon Daniels: Most of the people at that time was.
Franklin: Were there many families with children or extended family in your neighborhood, like grandparents and such or was it mostly immediate family?
Edmon Daniels: You know, mostly it was--
Vanis Daniels: I don’t remember.
Edmon Daniels: I know the Tollivers, it was just two girls and the mother and father. And right next-door to them was Leroy, his mother--
Vanis Daniels: He had a sister, too.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah. And, god--
Vanis Daniels: I can’t remember the name of the people that lived where Gilbert’s house is, and she had a couple kids.
Edmon Daniels: At that time, you don’t be asking where you from. At that age, I could care less where you were from.
Vanis Daniels: But 90% of the people were transplants.
Franklin: How would you describe life in the community?
Vanis Daniels: Terrible.
Edmon Daniels: From my viewpoint, it was A-Okay.
Franklin: That’s quite a divergence.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah. He was a little older, so he—but from my viewpoint, it was just fun. I’m a kid, I’m having fun.
Vanis Daniels: You’re, what would you call it of your environment. But we had no streets, we had no street lights, you had no sewer. The only thing we had was running water. You had enough electricity, 100 amps to have lights in the house. We had oil heat, we had a woodstove to begin with, and Copeland Lumber, so wood and coal which was right on 1st and Columbia, all the way up to 2nd and Columbia there in Pasco now. That was Copeland Lumber Company. My dad would buy wood and of course my mom was accustomed to cooking on a woodstove anyways because in Texas that’s what she had. Then about, I don’t know when it was exactly, my dad bought her an electric stove and he had to have a guy come out and update the electricity in the house in order to be able to have enough kilowatts for that stove. And she got the electric stove, she got a Maytag dishwasher with the old hand wringer on it--
Edmon Daniels: Not dishwasher, clothes washer.
Vanis Daniels: Clothes washer, I’m trying to say, not dishwasher. And those were the two modern appliances that she had for a long time. And eventually, because we had an icebox even, if you know what an icebox is.
Franklin: I do!
Vanis Daniels: Okay. And a guy named Junior Philips, that’s we what called him, Junior.
Edmon Daniels: No, we called him Iceboy Junior.
Vanis Daniels: Iceboy Junior, I remember that. But he would go out to the icehouse, there, right down form City View Cemetery there on the railroad and they made ice down there.
Edmon Daniels: Hobo jungle. [LAUGHTER] That’s what it was called.
Vanis Daniels: And he went down there and get ice and he delivered ice all around to the people in the neighborhood. And he would come every day if you needed ice, you—I think it was probably a half a cent a pound or something like that. He made a living doing that at first. And when he died, he had retired from Burlington Northern as a diesel mechanic. But it was just one of those things where you lived with the hand you were dealt is about what it amounts to.
Edmon Daniels: Think of the progress we’ve made. You probably don’t know anything about it anyway.
Vanis Daniels: She don’t.
Edmon Daniels: Like the milkman coming around, have you ever seen a milk man?
Vanis Daniels: You haven’t?
Edmon Daniels: What about the guy who come—see, we had people who would come around and sell ice cream, popsicles and stuff like that. You could get a popsicle for a nickel and the popsicle popped in two, I think they still have them around.
Vanis Daniels: They do.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah, but that was five cent. I don’t know what they are now.
Vanis Daniels: Pop was a nickel.
Edmon Daniels: I remember when pop went up to ten cent. Everything just went up all of a sudden. I always tell people, when I was a kid a ten-cent candy bar, I’d put it in my back pocket and I’d eat it, it would stick all the way up. We have seen so much and I’ve seen so much in my lifetime of just progress. I tell people about my grandkids now. When the computers came in, we was working then, the secretary came down she said, Edmon, say, you want a typewriter? She said, I got a new one and we’re getting rid of all of them. She gave me a new typewriter, and I took it home. A few years ago, my grandkids, we were sitting in there and we went into the garage. And he said, granddaddy, what’s that? [LAUGHTER] They knew it looks sort of like a computer but they couldn’t figure out what was that thing and who it was just a typewriter!
Franklin: Where’s the screen?! [LAUGHTER]
Edmon Daniels: I said, man, I have seen so much in my lifetime, you know, just changing. I remember in high school, I took typing and most of them was standard. We had a couple electrical typewriters, but most of them were just standard typewriters.
Franklin: That’s actually pretty progressive. For taking typewriting when you guys would’ve went to school.
Edmon Daniels: Yeah. It’s just, I can say I’ve seen so much. I remember, everyone had one phone, well, not everyone had a phone, either.
Vanis Daniels: That’s true.
Edmon Daniels: But we had a phone and I know the neighbors sometime would come over to call a cab if he wanted to go someplace. If you could put five people in a cab, and my sister sometimes would catch a cab to go downtown and I think it was like fifty cents--
Vanis Daniels: That’s all it was, fifty cents.
Edmon Daniels: And if you could ten people in there, it was still fifty cents. And I just look at the progress of things that I have seen. I can just, because my grandkids they just look and they say, boy. I know working at Hanford we had some of the first of everything like the pagers. We had pagers out there before anyone else had pagers. These phones here. We had phones out there. I was walking around with a phone a long time ago. You could make the local calls because if—I worked days, graves and swing, and on graveyard, I always had—because going out into the outer areas, you may run into something and you need to—so I could just call patrol. I just look and I say, man, I have seen so much in my lifetime that I always wonder what will my grandkids see in their lifetime? What all will change? It’s a great thing.
Franklin: Especially since, Vanis, you had mentioned that when you guys got here, there were no sewers, right, in east Pasco. They had them—and you only had enough electricity to power lights at first. And you said your mom was cooking on a woodstove and heating with oil. How long did she have the woodstove for?
Vanis Daniels: If I’m trying to remember--
Edmon Daniels: It wasn’t that long.
Vanis Daniels: it wasn’t that long, but it was—in the ‘50s, because the guy that upgraded the house as far as electricity go, my mom and all of the women in the neighborhood, including me, worked in the grape fields, the mint fields, the bean fields, and all that stuff. That’s what the black women—and they would take me with them--
Edmon Daniels: The kids with them.
Vanis Daniels: --and they would allow me to work with them because the women were there. Miss Anna B. Beasley, I never will forget it, we was right here where the bridge come across Richland here, I-82, was a mint field and I went to work with them that morning. I could drive, see, so I drove everybody to work. And they say, well, what are you going to do after you drop us off? I said, well, I don’t know. She say, you want to work? I said, yes. So we got out and we talked to—what’s the family name that lived there, Edmon? Their last name?
Edmon Daniels: Harris.
Vanis Daniels: The Harrises. They still there now, the descendants are. She talked to him and asked him if I could work with them. He looked at me, he said, no, he said, he’s too young. He can’t keep up with you. And Ms. Anna B. Beasley told him, said, if you let him go to work, we’ll make sure he keep up with us. She said, because if he don’t work with us then he have to go all the way back and then come back and get us. He says, okay, he can work with you, but he better keep up. So we go out and we are hoeing mint. Ms. Anna B. was on this side of me and my aunt was on this side. And they’d be walking along, they’d be talking, and every once in a while, they’d reach over on my row, in order for me to keep up. [LAUGHTER] I was making a whole dollar an hour, and with that dollar an hour, I was able to buy all my school clothes, from socks, shoes, underwear—because you could go to JC Penny’s and you could buy jeans for $2.98 or $3.98 a pair.
Edmon Daniels: No, it wasn’t $3.98, because--
Vanis Daniels: It wasn’t very much.
Edmon Daniels: I bought them for less than that when I--
Vanis Daniels: And a shirt was for a $1.98 and some cheaper than that. And, man, I could dress as good as I wanted to, going to school.
Edmon Daniels: I know, because I could go down to Penny’s as a little kid, and for five dollars I could get me a pair of jeans and a shirt and get some change back. Like I say, everything was—it was the way it was. Like, I had three or four pair of jeans, and shirts and everything, underwear. Things had to be cheap, because wasn’t nobody making the big bucks. The big bucks. But I can remember when my parents had the electricity upgraded. A black guy lived down the street from us, he was an electrician. He came and did all of the work, but then they had to come out and inspect it. And the guy came, and he was there with him. I remember this very well. And the inspector asked who did it and he said, I did. And the inspector said, well, it won’t pass. He said someone will have to come and do it. So he left and the guy said, I know why it won’t pass. He says, because I’m a colored guy, he said I’ll get my friend, who was a white guy, to come. I remember this, I don’t know why it sticks to my head so, he went and got his friend, I don’t remember if the next day or a couple of days passed, but his friend came. He looked at it, and they had been in the service together, he said everything is perfect. He say, I’ll just tell him that I did it. The inspector come out later and the guy’s there. He hadn’t touched a thing, and he said, oh yeah, it’s okay. And it passed. That was one of my first inklings about, okay, you’re limited to what you could do, although you do it the same way this guy does. But all of a sudden it passed, and he didn’t do anything to it at all. He just came and say, everything look okay. Just the appearance. Thank goodness we’re over that.
Franklin: Did your family attend church?
Vanis Daniels: Yes.
Edmon Daniels: Yes.
Franklin: What church did you attend?
Vanis Daniels: St. James CME Methodist.
Edmon Daniels: Yep, Christian Methodist.
Franklin: What role did the church play in the community?
Vanis Daniels: You mean--?
Edmon Daniels: Well, I can remember that most of the ministers, they were just ordinary people, but they were sort of—ministers were sort of like here. Because I know at the church, when I was a little kid, I would go to Sunday school, and all of the older women, they would have us sit down and be quiet. I didn’t want to be quiet, I didn’t want to sit there. And I know this one lady, she would make you sit down and be quiet. Because kids were supposed to be seen and not heard. What they would be talking about a lot of times, I had a different idea about what was what. [LAUGHTER] I don’t know if I was right or wrong. But we had a minister who, he never went to school, he couldn’t read or write, but he was a minister, he was the associate minister. I always wondered, he can’t read the Bible, but someone had told him all about it. And on first Sunday you have communion, and I did not like taking communion, because the minister, he was up preaching and [COUGHING] And then communion come around and he’d come and bless and then he’d pick up and he wanted to put it in your mouth when he has coughed his hand and everything. Then as soon as—I would take off and get there. And pretty soon, she would grab me. You got to stay here! It was called bread and wine. It was grape juice, I guess; it wasn’t wine. Man, I just did not like that because I figured, god, the guy has been coughing on his hand and he’s going to pick up this bread and put it in my mouth. I don’t think I’m being blessed. [LAUGHTER] I just had a different view of what was what at that time. It was lots of older people and lots of these people were born right after slavery, really. I mean, they was 80 or something like that.
Vanis Daniels: The deal of it was, most of them were from the South. In the South, you either was able to own your own land or you sharecrop. One of the two. Most of it was farming, and you worked six days a week, five-and-a-half at least, and the Sundays was the only time that they had to socialize. The transition from there here didn’t change there. Right to this day, they still go to church on Sunday, because everybody works during the week, and that’s the time that they do a lot of socializing. If you look at the world around you, right today, the most segregation there is in this country right now is the churches.
Edmon Daniels: Sunday morning, Sundays.
Vanis Daniels: You still got black church here, white church there. I belong to the St. James CME Methodist Church; there’s a United Methodist Church right here on Road 34, 36 and Court Street. Now, we are all affiliated together; there is no difference in our doctrine. But I go to St. James; whites go to United Methodist. I mean, I don’t know the reason other than--
Edmon Daniels: They say the most segregated time in the U.S. right now is Sunday morning.
Vanis Daniels: Well, that’s the truth. [LAUGHTER]
Edmon Daniels: Because everyone go this way. And if you think about it, it is. It is Sunday morning. Now, Sunday afternoon they might all meet and watch a football game or something. They all yelling for the Seahawks. It’s just a different way of life. Still, we still have some hang-ups and everything.
Vanis Daniels: Oh, yeah.
Edmon Daniels: Yup, we have lots of hang-ups.
Franklin: Do you recall any family or community activities, events or traditions, including sports and food, that people brought from the places they came from?
Edmon Daniels: Well, I really—my father was baseball player. And in Texas, he was sort of like an idol. Everyone knew my father was a baseball player. I remember, I went to Texas once and this guy, he came up to me and he said, hello, he said, you’re Vanis’ son! I said, yes, I am. He say, I remember you when you was a little baby. I said, oh. He said, you play baseball? I said, yes. He say, are you good? I said, yes, I’m good. He said, you’re not as good as your father. I said, I’m not as good as my--? He said, if you was as good as your father, you would be in the majors. He said, he couldn’t play in the majors because of his color. [LAUGHTER]
But you go down, and most of the people now are passed away, but they would all talk about my father playing baseball. And my father had black baseball teams here in the ‘40s before they integrated baseball—he had black baseball team out at Hanford there. But I guess, I don’t remember anything about the game, but he was in Pasco, and he was an old man then, and I remember him and my uncle suiting up for the game. But I don’t remember anything about the game. But everyone used to tell me about how great he was. And the only reason why he wasn’t playing in the majors was the color issue. And I said, okay, I guess he must’ve been pretty good. [LAUGHTER]
Vanis Daniels: He was. He was good. I know, because I saw him play. And anytime he came to the bat, there were people in the stand bet that he would get a hit. They would make bets that he would get a hit.
Edmon Daniels: Like I said, things have changed so much, and it’s all for the better. All for the better.
Franklin: Yeah. What about food traditions? Since so many folks are from the South, I assume that Southern cooking came up North with folks, right? What kinds of foods would be pretty typical in your house growing up?
Vanis Daniels: Well, let’s see. My dad was the type of a person that he say, when he was growing up, they ate what they had or could get. He did not buy meat with bones in it. He wanted all meat. He wanted no bones. He said, I ate enough of that. Chicken feet, which you see in the store now, which is a delicacy anymore, he didn’t want any of that. He didn’t want the inside of any animal.
Edmon Daniels: The guts.
Vanis Daniels: None of that. He said, I had enough of that when I was a kid. I didn’t like then; my kids are not going to eat it. But we would do ribs, we would have roast, we’d have pork chops, we’d have steak occasionally. And fried chicken. My mom mostly would fix a roast, some kind of pot roast, or something like that. Because I didn’t eat chicken. And that’s another thing: we were spoiled. After five girls, I’m the oldest boy, and then him, and then we had a younger brother that passed away in ’68. But the girls was all gone, so there wasn’t anybody else home but us. And we were spoiled, because my mom would fix what I wanted to eat. She would also fix what he wanted to eat, and then my dad he ate whatever she fixed for us. [LAUGHTER]
Edmon Daniels: No, there was a lots of—because I know, chitlins—you know what chitlins are?
Franklin: Why don’t you tell me.
Vanis Daniels: They are pig innards, intestines.
Franklin: Oh, right.
Edmon Daniels: They are called chitlins and sweet potato pie. Chitlins—I don’t like chitlins. But we would have a soul food dinner every year. And we’d cook chitlins and more whites would eat up more of the chitlins than other people would. I know they would be eating and say, man, what is this? And I would tell them what it was, ooh, these are good. How come you’re not—I said, I don’t like them. I had some friends over one time for dinner, me and my brother and my wife and a couple of others. My wife cooked a sweet potato pie. And after the dinner, Jim, a white guy, said, man, that’s the best pumpkin pie I ever had, and we started laughing. That’s not pumpkin pie! He said, well, what is it then? She said, potato pie. He said, well, bring me another slice. He said, ooh, that is good, he said, I’ve never had any of that. So my wife made him a couple of those. And I had some friends over once and she made them some. One time—we always had Thanksgiving dinner and everything out at work—and I took, my mother cooked some potato pies, and I took them out, and they just felt in love with them. After that, every time, they would say, hey, are you going to bring some of that? I guess southern cooking, like you said, the greens and things—I don’t eat green I don’t--
Vanis Daniels: He’s not a vegetable eater at all.
Edmon Daniels: I love steaks and baked potatoes. [LAUGHTER] It’s just—well, they cooked back then, they cooked what was there. A lots of the meats and things—I guess my dad would go out, like, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and stuff like that, they would kill them and cook it. That’s what all the people did like that.
Franklin: Your dad kind of wanted a different standard, right? Obviously, it sounds like he grew up really poor, kind of eating, scavenging what was available. But with you guys, it was—because he was making better money, so he could choose—and you guys kind of benefited from that.
Vanis Daniels: I can remember being a little boy during Second World War. They would send me to the store. Beef was something hard to get ahold of. The man at the store would tell me to tell my mom that he had beef coming in on a certain date and to let him know what part of the beef she wanted and he would hold it for her. And that’s the way we got beef most of the time. Pork was easy to get, you know what I mean.
Edmon Daniels: Everybody had pigs.
Vanis Daniels: You could—black people, well, in the South, I’ll just put it—because everybody knew how to do it. They killed hogs, we called them—pigs—in the fall of the year. Then they cured the meat and you don’t see any of it here anymore because they’ve gotten fancy with it. But in the South, if you go back there now, you can go in the smokehouse, take your knife with you, and slice you off a slice of ham. You don’t need to heat it, you don’t need to cook it, you don’t need to do anything except eat it. It’s just cured just that good. And that smell, the aroma, oh man, it’s something else. So pigs was easy; beef was a little different. So you just got beef occasionally, and you had to buy it and cook it within a day or so after you got it. And chickens, well, that’s easy, too, because they ran around on the yard.
Edmon Daniels: Chicken and eggs.
Franklin: When did Juneteenth start here? Because that was brought up by—that’s primarily a Texas event. When did that start here?
Edmon Daniels: I started in ’78, I think.
Franklin: You started it?
Vanis Daniels: Mm-hmm.
Edmon Daniels: At first I called it a Fun Day, because—I don’t know. I was at a funeral one of my parents’ friends. I remember all of the older people were just sitting around crying and talking about it, hugging each other. And I was said, man, I’d like my parents to have a happy time, get together with all these people without looking down at one of their friends. I told my wife, I said, I’m going to have us something, I said, at the park. We’ll just sit around and let these people come and enjoy themself, smiling, laughing and everything.
I talked to my brother, my wife and my sister and a couple of other people. I went to the churches first, and they said, they didn’t think they wanted to do it, because they didn’t think no one would come, because I was going to have the kids play softball and everything. I went ahead with my wife. And I got some teams—it was girls’ teams—and I went and I rented all—let’s see, think I had cotton candy, popcorn, I rented all that stuff—hot dog machine.
I tell him, I think everybody in town was there, most out of curiosity. Because they was wondering what was going on. And everyone enjoyed themself. I remember one guy came up a couple of years later and said, you should do this two or three times a year, he said. I just enjoy—I get to see all the people and everything and everyone’s happy and having fun. Mostly, we was giving the stuff away. I think cotton candy might’ve been 25 cents, well, everything was just cheap. We still made lots of money and everyone was there. I had just started the Little League program in Pasco, so I had the little boys play. I remember my father was behind the backstop and another man, Mr. Johnson. I remember them saying, look at these little kids. They all got baseball uniforms. And I remember Mr. Johnson saying he was 20-something years old before he had a uniform, and my dad said, yep, I had one a little earlier because I started playing sooner. And they were—just seeing kids in uniform, they were happy as could be. And it’s still going on now and we have people coming over from Seattle to Spokane and all over. It’s not as big as Cinco de Mayo, but people show up and we have a good time and you get to see a lot of people.
Franklin: Yeah. When did it become Juneteenth? When did you decide to kind of bring those two together?
Edmon Daniels: I think I was talking with my uncles and cousins and they said, why don’t you just call it Juneteenth? My uncle was telling me about—he was educated man, school teacher—about what Juneteenth was all about. You know, in my head it seemed like I can remember something about Juneteenth in Texas, but I know I can’t. It’s just that people have talked about it because they said my father and his baseball teams always played baseball on Juneteenth and they would barbecue and everything and just have a big get-together.
Vanis Daniels: Ice-cream, barbecue.
Edmon Daniels: I can imagine that people back then enjoyed those things more, because if you were a man, you worked five, six days a week. And that’s what you did. There wasn’t very much time for fun.
Franklin: You also worked longer hours back then, too.
Edmon Daniels: Sunrise to sunset, they said. They said, from can to can’t. From the moment you can see to the moment you can’t, you worked. [LAUGHTER] So to get those days off and be able to enjoy yourself was a rarity. Where I worked eight hours a day and I tell people, I say, I never went home tired, I never went home dirty and yet I never missed a payday. My father never got a paid vacation in his life, and all of my vacations were paid for. And I came up just different from my parents.
My wife—I remember when my wife went to work and people was telling me—the older people—she doesn’t need to work; she needs to stay home. You make enough money. I said, well, we could use some more. I worked all holidays. Because I worked five days a week, no matter what. Like, if I was off on a Monday and Tuesday or Tuesday and Wednesday—if I was off Tuesday and Wednesday, I worked Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Seven days you would work, but two of those days would be for the next week. I remember, I was going to work for Thanksgiving and we would always have a big Thanksgiving dinner, the family, and I had to work. We had this guy living with us named Grover. He said, why do you have to go to work today? You shouldn’t have to work today; today is a holiday. You need to be home. I said, Grover, you know how much money I make today? And I told him. And my dad said, you make more money today than I ever made in a whole week. [LAUGHTER] I said, that’s why I’m going to work.
You know, just compare to people my parents’ age and us growing up, things progressed so much that you wouldn’t believe it. That’s why I am so thankful to be born when I was born. I always say, man, I wish I was three years old now, just to see what the future is going to bring. [LAUGHTER] Yep.
Franklin: We talked a bit about some of the opportunities that were available here that weren’t where your parents came from, like wages. I assume the housing—was the housing better here than where your parents came from, or was that a better opportunity for them?
Vanis Daniels: Well, housing was better there at first than it was here. Because people lived in anything from cardboard shacks to shack-shacks or whatever you want to call them. It was a lady named Mrs. Haney, she owned a whole block right there on Oregon Street. She had little cabins on there, she had--
Edmon Daniels: Trailers.
Vanis Daniels: Trailers, and all that stuff on there. She and her oldest son would go around on the first of the month and collect the rent from those trailers and things.
Franklin: What about educational opportunities? Were there educational opportunities available here that weren’t available in Texas?
Vanis Daniels: No. It was better back there as far as education go. Because once you got out of school back there, they expected you to go to some type of college. There was Wiley College, Bishop College—you may have heard of Bishop, because Wiley and Bishop eventually went together.
Franklin: Were those HBUs or HBCs? Historically black?
Vanis Daniels: Right. A few went to Grambling—you’ve heard of Grambling in Louisiana. I’m trying to think; there’s another one—Prairie View. You were expected to go to college. Most of the blacks went into education. In fact, one of my cousins and best friends still is there in Texas. He taught school all the way from the time he got out of college, he retired then he went back and taught some more and he retired again, and he’s still there. That was the primary deal for them back there, education.
Here, when we were in school, I know several girls, I don’t know no boys, but several girls that were straight-A students. Never got on the honor roll, they never had an offer for any college or anything. The opportunity was not there here like it was back there.
One of my friends that passed away last year, I did an interview with her and her dad and she said that when she was in school—because she’s an underclassman under me—that the teacher told her that the best she could hope for was to be like a nurse’s aid or something like that. She say, I resent that lady ‘til this day. I don’t know what teacher it was, but it was over here in Pasco High they told her that.
Franklin: Who was that?
Vanis Daniels: Her name was Bessie May Williams-Fields. When she died last year, she was a doctor—don’t ask me of what—but in California. So she proved the lady wrong.
Edmon Daniels: Things was just different. I remember I went to Texas with my parents when my grandfather passed. My dad and I went to a little store and we were knocking—it was afterhours. And the guy came to the door and he said, Vanis, it’s good to see you. I’m sorry to hear about—my grandfather’s name was Tucker. So he said, I’m sorry to hear about Tuck. He said, it’s good to see you, but I hate to see you in this occasion. We were sitting there talking and he looks down and says, who’s that, Vanis? My dad says, that’s my son. He says, oh, that’s your son. And he just said, Vanis, I hear the colored kids and white kids go to school together up there. Dad say, yeah. He say, how do they get along? And I remember, my dad said, ask him. He play with them all day long! And the guy says, how do you guys get along? And I’m sitting up there thinking, what kind of a question is this? I said, we get along okay. And I remember him saying, Vanis, I don’t think that’ll ever happen here. I just don’t never think that coloreds and whites will go to school together, I just don’t think it’ll ever happen.
Next time I go down there, my cousin is the principal of the high school. And we go up to see him, he said, you know, we didn’t have any problems integrating the school here. Because it’s a little community; everybody knew everybody. He said, everything went smooth. And I said, oh. He said, we didn’t have any problems. And here he was the principal; years before, the guy didn’t even think they would ever go to school together. He was the principal of this big school. I said, man, how times have changed. [LAUGHTER] Yeah. Life is funny.
Franklin: In what ways were opportunities here limited because of segregation or racism?
Vanis Daniels: Hanford was the biggest employee around here and I can’t remember the man name that started Hanford right at the moment, but anyway, he said that blacks could help build, but they couldn’t work in operations. And that stuck around until, I think, ‘52 or ’53, somewhere in there was the first blacks that I knew of to work out here. And they were very few until ‘66 or so, somewhere around--
Edmon Daniels: The ‘60s.
Vanis Daniels: In the ‘60s anyway, before they would ever hire any into operations. I went to work out there in June of ‘66 and the lady that trained me in metallurgy had an eighth grade education. I had a cousin to go out there, and they put him in metallurgy. He didn’t want to listen to the lady, because he had a high school education and she only had an eighth grade education. He say, she can’t tell me nothing. [LAUGHTER] And he quit because he did not want her telling him what to do. Well, the lady had been working in metallurgy for like 25 years. Why can’t she tell you what to do?
Franklin: Right. She does know a lot about metal. You’d hope, after--
Vanis: Me myself, when I went to work out there, I went to work as a janitor. The whole 300 Area was mostly black janitors, very few whites. One day, I was working in 325, and I was going down the hall and I saw this black guy. He was coming up the hallway, he met me, he spoke and he kept on going. Well, I noticed him in the weeks afterwards. He never did fraternize with any of the workers at all; he would just be coming through and he was observing. When I found out what was going on—I had a supervisor named Ralph, and he said you take care of the office while I’m gone, talking to me, he say, you take the phone calls if anybody call for a job you give them an estimate on what we can do the job for. He say, I’m going upstairs for a meeting. He said, I’ll be back, when I get back I’ll tell you about it. He say, because some heads are going to roll up there today. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he left and went to the meeting and it was all of our supervisors. There were the supervisors of the janitors, of power operators and what else, Edmon?
Edmon Daniels: Probably RCT--
Vanis Daniels: Yeah, electricians anyway, they had a big meeting upstairs in the building. This guy was from Washington, D.C. He had gone around the area there and he had observed, and he got up in the meeting. Well, everybody was surprised because they didn’t know what he was there for, either. He says, I’m from the government from Washington, D.C. and I’ve been observing what’s going on around here. He say, you cannot tell me that you got this many black people and the only thing they could do is janitorial work. He says starting today, not tomorrow, today, you’re going to get some of those people out of janitorial and put them in other jobs, because I know they can handle it as well of some of the others I’ve seen here. That day they started transferring people out of janitorial into different jobs. Because up until that time, I think, Edmon was working in air balance at the time, wasn’t you?
Edmon Daniels: I think I was in operations.
Vanis Daniels: Operations. We had a guy named Roy Howard that was one of the managers in inhalation toxicology. That’s about—well, it was a couple more but I can’t remember all of them, but other than that everyone was janitorial, including--
Edmon Daniels: Joe Jackson, he was in--
Vanis Daniels: Yeah, he was a draftsman. And they promoted me from janitorial to decommission, decontamination is what it was. We cleaned all of the radioactive material and handled all the waste radioactive material in the 300 Area, including the hot water, we called it. They had the sinks and where they did experiments and washed everything up it went down and it came down to 340, which was great big swimming pools and it was four of them. Only they was much bigger than swimming pools. We had four basins. You started with number one basin and when it filled, you took samples of it, took it up to 326 and they analyzed it. If it was clean enough, it was let out into the cooling ponds and then it would leech from the cooling ponds back into the Columbia River. If it was hot, contamination-wise, then you held it, you called in the teamsters—we had a big shed with about six tanker trucks in it, and you started pumping that liquid out of the ponds into those tanker trucks and the tanker trucks took that out to Hanford right where they were having problems with some of those tanks now. It went out there and it went into those tanks. Meanwhile, by us being decontamination we had to get in that basin and clean it where you could use it again. You didn’t stop the water from coming, you didn’t shut anything down, you just, if it was basin number two you just skipped from one to three and kept on receiving water. But now you did more sampling in basin three because basin two was hot. So you had to sample basin three every 30 minutes and they would analyze it until they got back down to a level where you could run it out. The trenches was called the 318 trenches. And then it leached back into the Columbia River. We did everything when they opened the sodium reactor up out at the 300 Area.
Franklin: The FFTF?
Vanis Daniels: Mm-hmm. They didn’t know how sodium would react in water. And as long as, when you put the sodium in and the reactor’s running, it’s liquid. So you don’t have any problems. But when it’s shut down, it gels. Now you got to figure out, how are you going to get that back out of those pipes and get them going again. We took sodium anywhere from a gallon container to a 55-gallon-drum-full, and we took them out to those cooling ponds. DOE and everybody was there and we had a zip line, something like that, and you hook it up here and you run it out and once you got over the water you have a tripwire and you’d let it fall into the pond. Then you had to stand back, because you had no idea which way it was going to go. [LAUGHTER] But we did all of that and we started with a gallon container and we went all the way up to a 55-gallon drum. Whenever that sodium hit the water it’s like, oh, man—and you don’t know which way it’s going. One of the guys from DOE, because we were behind shields on top of that, and one of the guys from DOE in one of the five-gallon containers, it came out of the container and landed on shore. We’re trying to tell him not to go down and get it. He goes down there, well, when he tries to pick it up it’s just slippery. Because he was going to pick it up and throw it back in the pond, he thought. When he picked it up, he picked it up and it slipped out of his hand and it landed right in the edge of the water. Well, it just so happened--
[camera operator] We’re rolling.
Franklin: I wanted to ask, what do you know about your parents’ reaction to learning that their work had contributed to the development of the atomic bomb?
Edmon Daniels: I never heard—they didn’t talk about it.
Vanis Daniels: They were surprised, because at the time that they were doing the construction out there, like I said, they did construction. They may have suspected something if they had been in operations or something like that. But everything was so hush-hush that even the construction workers could not talk about what they did. And I can remember, like Edmon is talking about, going down there to the tavern on Lee Boulevard. I can remember when they would put guys in there before the people got off work and they had beer in front of them, I don’t know whether they drank it or not. But anyway, when the guys come in after they got off work for beer or something, their job was to engage them in conversation to try to find out just what they would tell about their jobs.
Edmon Daniels: You wasn’t supposed to talk about--
Vanis Daniels: Your wasn’t supposed about--
Edmon Daniels: Even the minor little things of what you did at all.
Vanis Daniels: Anything you did--
Edmon Daniels: Because I know at one time, guys would keep their badges on all the time, you went to Battelle you go and they would have badges. They said when you walk out the 300 gate to get into your car, you take your badge off, you put it back on when you come back. Because they said there was always someone, somewhere around who wanted to know what was going on. There were people right here in the Tri-Cities who would tell you, ain’t no way in hell I would work out there, you don’t know what’s out there, which we didn’t. But I said, well, I’m still here, everything is still working. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: That leads me to my next question, because you two worked on the Hanford Site after World War II and so I’m wondering, how did you feel at the time about working on or allied with the development of nuclear weapons?
Vanis Daniels: Well, you know, at the time, I guess I never really gave it a lot of thought. One of the things I was appreciative was the fact that I had a job, a steady job, I got a paycheck 52 weeks out of the year, I got a vacation every year, paid, and I was allowed to raise my kids and do things with my kids that my mom and dad was never able to do with me.
It’s a funny story, but my son was probably four years old, and we were in Kansas. We were heading to Alabama because my first wife was from Alabama and we were headed to Alabama. We stopped in the restaurant for breakfast. We were sitting there and they kind of put us in the middle of the room. The place was crowded. And we were there and we had ordered breakfast they brought it to us and everything. We were eating and my daughter says, Daddy? I said, what is it? She said there’s something wrong with my bacon. I looked, I said, oh, there’s nothing wrong with your bacon. She said, yes it is, I keep hearing something. And she took a fork and she raises the bacon up; great, big old fly in her bacon.
With the place being crowded as it was, I didn’t want to alarm the whole restaurant. It was a young man that waited on us. And I got his attention, I called him over and I showed it to him. I said, we can’t eat this like that. He says, oh, I’m sorry, I’ll take it. He took it away and brought some more bacon. Well, my son is four years old and he’s sitting and looking at that. And just as loud as he could, I don’t know what you’re worried about but it’s only more meat! I said, boy! [LAUGHTER]
Edmon Daniels: Fly and bacon.
Vanis Daniels: Yeah, see, I was able to take them. Every other year, we’d go back to visit her parents and grandparents and stuff. And we’d go to California, we’d go to Disneyland, we’d go to Reno. I was able to take them and they could see things and do things. When they were able to walk and talk, then I taught them how to read a menu and all that, so when we went to a restaurant they ordered their own food. I didn’t order it for them; they ordered what they wanted to eat. And stuff like that. That was one of the advantages I was able to do for them that my parents weren’t able to do for me. Because like my brother and I were talking here the other day, and I don’t think until after my dad was retired--or anyway, we was grown up; he may not have been retired—but we were all grown up. We took them to dinner and to lunch and to breakfast and to stuff like that, but I don’t think before then they ever went out to eat.
Edmon Daniels: No. It just wasn’t something most people didn’t do. Like you go to downtown Pasco, they didn’t go to the Top Hat or any of those places and say, come on, let’s go to dinner. Their vacation was they’d go back to Texas, because that’s where my father’s fathers was and all of them.
Vanis Daniels: Aunts and—
Edmon Daniels: That’s where they were. Their vacation was sort of like going to Texas. They went back on deaths and stuff like that, but that’s mostly—But as far as vacation, they didn’t do it. I tell people, I say, I took my parents to—my wife and I had been in Reno. And I came back and was telling everyone about Reno, how much fun we had. I said I want to take mom and dad down there. My mother was a lady who—straight-laced. And I was telling them about it because none of them had been to Reno and they said, no, my mother wouldn’t like that. Momma not going to like that, people gambling and everything. At that time you could be outside drinking in Reno.
Vanis Daniels: Oh yeah, all up and down the street.
Edmon Daniels: But I said, I think they would enjoy it. We put the money together and we took them. It used to be you walked down the street and there’d be people with rolls of nickels or dimes. They’d give you dimes to go into the casino, because they gave you three dollars in nickels you were going to spend $15 or $20. They had a ball, we went to see a couple of shows, and then we went to see Sammy Davis, Jr. And that’s a treat right there, this is someone you’ve seen on TV, that’s all you’ve ever done. We went to see him and he came over to our table. He shook hands with my dad, he kissed my wife, he hugged my mother and gave her some candy and everything; that’s when he we had “Candy Man.” That made their whole trip because we’d come back and my dad would see Sammy Davis, Jr. on TV and say, I met Sammy Davis, Jr., I shook his hand. Well, that’s not to many people who can say I met Sammy Davis, Jr. and shook his hand an all these other people, you know, that they--
They appreciated us, because we appreciated what they did for us. Like I said, when most kids were doing things working and everything—the only thing I did, I had a paper route. He had a paper route first and I would go with him. That’s the only job I had until I went to work at—well, I worked at the grocery store it was more fun than working there. But otherwise like my dad said all his jobs was work. Work, work, work.
Vanis Daniels: Boorish work.
Edmon Daniels: And my mother, like I said, when she was out there, all the ladies did was clean and cook, which is what most ladies did back in those days anyway. Like I said, they had to go to the high school to find someone who could type. I’m just happy we made their lives so much easier later on in their lives. We was able to do that.
Vanes Daniels: My mom babysat three kids for $15 a week and that was in ‘54.
Edmon Daniels: Right there in Old Pasco.
Franklin: What do you--?
Edmon Daniels: But—oh I said, but out of that deal, one of the guys, the grandfather, he owned a sport shop there in Pasco. So I would get tennis shoes and gloves and things for like two or three bucks. He said at least send that boy down here so I can give him some shoes. I always had nice baseball shoes and gloves. [LAUGHTER] Didn’t cost very much.
Franklin: Another question about Hanford. What do you think is the most important legacy of the Hanford Site?
Edmon Daniels: Oh, boy.
Vanis Daniels: The bomb, but eventually it will be the cleanup.
Edmon Daniels: Another thing, they discovered a lots of stuff out there. I mean, there were things out there that you never even think about that we have now. Baby monitors. Where I’m in here, I can put a monitor in the baby’s room and you can tell—Battelle. That was Battelle. And there are just so many things that they invented.
There was something else. Because I went to—there was a guy there over at the math department, he finished college when he was thirteen, so he really didn’t have any childhood. But he loved—baseball to him was just something magic. I was a baseball player. And he found out that I had a baseball and he would call me down. He’d say, Ed, come down here. Well, I’m not supposed to be down there. He had a TV in his room and he’d say, come on in. And we’d watch the game and I would be telling him about the game. Just little things that we take for granted.
Some of those people out there who was—the calculator, and you could do the calculator and he could do a math problem in his head faster than you could do it on the calculator. He was smart, but he was an A-Okay guy. And just little things, like I said, baseball, baseball season would come, I spent a lots of time down there with him just watching baseball. He had his TV. And I remember one Saturday we were out at work and he was out there, he said, come on in, Ed. All the other guys were working, he and I was watching the World Series. This was just magic to him. And you run into people like this, like I said lots of geniuses out there and you’d run into people like this who didn’t have a normal childhood and just little things that we take for granted. It’s just fascinating to him, just amazing because they never did anything like that.
Franklin: What were the major civil rights issues for African Americans at Hanford and in the Tri-Cities?
Edmon Daniels: Number one I think for most of them it was housing.
Vanis Daniels: Mm-hmm. Streets.
Edmon Daniels: Yup, housing more than anything else. Because there were—just buying a house and I remember in Richland there, all the blacks lived down there on the south end. Most of us were my relatives, they were all together. The Mitchells--
Vanis Daniels: The Rockamores.
Edmon Daniels: The Rockamores, all of them, they were all just right in the same spot.
Vanis Daniels: The Wallaces. They were almost like next door to each other.
Edmon Daniels: They moved—when they—the trailer camp out here, remember the trailer camp? No, you wouldn’t.
Vanis Daniels: No, he wouldn’t remember.
Edmon Daniels: The trailer camp was right up here, where it was. When they moved the trailer camp, all of the blacks that was living in the trailer camps, except, whatcha call him, Brown, they sent them to Seattle—I mean they sent them to Pasco, because there were no housing here for them. They kept the Browns here because they were such good basketball players. You know, Norris was all-American basketball player. So they kept him and CW and they found a house for them.
And just little things like that, you think about it, out of all those houses, and they’re not big, fancy houses, they wasn’t houses that—I know my cousin lived in a house about form here to there, that’s about the size of those little houses. You walk in the living room, you take a couple of steps, you’re in another room. That was the way it was. Where we lived, everyone called it the big house. Like I said and he said it had lots of bedrooms and everything, and when people would come here, they would come and stay with us. But I just thought it was a house. We had the big yard and whole works.
Franklin: What kind of actions were being taken to address those issues? Housing and streets, and things.
Edmon Daniels: Well--
Vanis Daniels: Let’s see. You had Bill Wilkins and Magee, Katie Barton. All those, Bill Wilkins and Katie Barton were councilmen. Magee was a civil rights worker and they complained to the city, had meetings, and Magee would organize marches first thing and another. Finally, we got streets, sidewalk, sewer, and all that stuff. But like my brother say, when we were kids growing up, we rode bicycles all the time. We would race from our house to A street and back on the bikes. And he say, I don’t ever remember my momma saying, boy get out of that street! A car might hit you! Because there wasn’t any cars.
Edmon Daniels: The car went to work with the man. The man went to work the car. And most of the ladies did not work. They didn’t have jobs. So you’d be at home with your mother and everybody on that street that was there, that was your mother. We knew everybody, you knew every kid there. Like if I went down the street, didn’t nobody worry if some girl had to go to the store because all the men was at work and everybody knew who she belongs to. [LAUGHTER] It was just a big--
Vanis Daniels: Community.
Edmon Daniels: Community like that. They looked after each other, and they looked after us.
Franklin: What were some of the challenges for civil rights in the Tri-Cities?
Edmon Daniels: I think one of the biggest things was getting people jobs, like lots of other people, it was just getting jobs. Because most of the older people, they worked construction and that was it. In reality, when they first started working out at Hanford, like for me, we wasn’t making very much money, wasn’t anyone making very much. If you worked construction, like my dad, like I say, he’d been here all those years, most people that was hiring knew him. So he probably worked as much as anyone did. There were a lot of people who would come here and they would go to work, and a lot of them had never made the money that they were making. I know a couple of Dad’s friends, they came to work and they worked for a while, and they went back to Texas or wherever. They had made enough money to go back and whatever they were doing back there, I don’t know. But my dad, he just stayed here. He thought this was a better place for his kids.
Franklin: Were either of you directly involved in any civil rights efforts?
Edmon Daniels: I don’t remember.
Vanis Daniels: Yeah, in a way we were. It was like, see, we didn’t even have a park. And when the park was built, the city didn’t build the park.
Franklin: You’re talking about Kurtzman Park, right?
Vanis Daniels: Yeah, mm-hmm. The community built the park.
Edmon Daniels: The mens of the community.
Vanis Daniels: And we got the man that owned that land, which was old man Kurtzman, to donate the land to the city. He donated six acres for a park and it’s down there. Most of the people at City Hall don’t know it, but if it ever cease being a park, it goes back into his estate.
Edmon Daniels: But, Kurtzman, it was funny—
Vanis Daniels: But it’ll always be a park, so you don’t have to worry about that, I don’t think.
Edmon Daniels: It was funny, because my brother and I went to City Hall to see who owned the land. And it was Mr. Kurtzman, a letter was written and we signed the letter. He wrote back and said he would donate the land to the city if they would build the park and name the park after him. When the park, like I said, my father, uncles, cousins, just mens of the community, put the park in. I remember one Sunday, the ladies, they got together and cooked up some food and got a big picnic for all the guys that was working. I remember when the park was finished and the city put up the sign, and it said Candy Cane Park. I always tell them, I say, Mr. Kurtzman wrote back and told them my name is Kurtzman not candy cane. That was supposed to be—[LAUGHTER] It stayed up there for about three weeks or maybe a little longer, they finally put Kurtzman. But at first they called it Candy Cane Park.
Vanis Daniels: That’s right. Then they had the teeter-totter, they had the monkey bars, we called them, all that stuff, swings, all that stuff there and everything was like a peppermint stick. It was painted red and white stripe.
Franklin: Ooh, cool.
Edmon Daniels: All the stuff they don’t have anymore.
Franklin: How did the larger national civil rights movement influence civil rights efforts at Hanford and in the Tri-Cities?
Vanis Daniels: Well, it broke down barriers. Like for instance, blacks were able to work in operations, blacks can live anywhere they wanted now--
Edmon Daniels: If they could afford it.
Vanis Daniels: If you can afford to buy the house, you can afford to live in it. Right down here, right over here on Spring Street, my cousin—when did CJ pass away? Three years ago?
Edmon Daniels: ’16. He passed away January of ‘16, a couple years.
Vanis Daniels: He bought a house down there on Spring.
Edmon Daniels: Right over there.
Vanis Daniels: Yeah. He had problems buying the house in the first place, they didn’t want to sell him the house. And then he had problems with his neighbors after he bought the house. But then, as time passed, I think the neighborhood probably diversed more, people moved out, other people moved in; then they welcomed him there. And they kept the house plumb up until he and his wife passed away. But it was just areas that you could not live if you were black. Like in Kennewick, for instance. You couldn’t live in Kennewick, period, if you were black. On some of the old homes and things, unless they have changed them in the last 20 years, on the deeds and the ordinances, and all that stuff, it says that you cannot sell your house to people of color, I’ll put it. Because not only blacks couldn’t buy them, Spanish people couldn’t buy them, I don’t remember any Orientals of any kind living in Kennewick.
Edmon Daniels: They lived in Pasco.
Vanis Daniels: You lived in Pasco, and you lived east--
Franklin: In East Pasco.
Vanis Daniels: Yeah.
Franklin: From your perspective and experience what was different about civil rights efforts here?
Edmon Daniels: Well, for one thing they made it better, they made it a lot better, I think for the whole community.
Vanis Daniels: It wasn’t violent as the South, for one thing.
Edmon Daniels: It was smaller.
Vanis Daniels: It was a smaller community and, although there were protests and stuff that went on, it was done differently than the marches and things in the South. Like for, with Martin Luther King and all those people trying to get across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Alabama, that type of stuff, and the policemen standing up there water-hosing you and beating you, and running over you with horses. You had none of that here.
Edmon Daniels: I think it was because people was getting smarter. Especially younger people that was coming up. And the more you interact with people, the more you find out that’s not much more difference in people. I may like baked potato and you may like stewed potatoes, but, hell, it’s still a potato. [LAUGHTER] You find out that you like the same things and there’s no difference in people.
Franklin: Right, like baseball is a great example, right? For a time there were segregated teams, but now everyone loves baseball and everyone can play together.
Vanis Daniels: That’s the great American pastime, eating hot dogs. [LAUGHTER]
Edmon Daniels: The more you just stop and think…
Vanis Daniels: Now, I think people realize that if, when you bleed, you bleed red just like everybody else does. I don’t think there’s anyone that don’t have a prejudice of some kind, but it does not restrict itself to race. You may be prejudiced against red potatoes over white potatoes, but that’s a prejudice. But it’s not one of those things where you are trying to hinder someone from advancing or being the best that they can be. You see?
Edmon Daniels: Well, if everyone—it just makes it a better world. Because you just feel that, okay, I see this young man over here, young man over here. It’s something about all three of us, we like something. I feel, if you love yourself, you can love someone else. I’m going to love myself more than I love you. If a guy come in here right now and say, I’m going to shoot someone, I’m going to go that way and say shoot them. [LAUGHTER] Because I love me. Love can overcome all the hate and everything else. That’s what has happened, people have grown and it’s just a better world altogether. We still have a lot of work to do and it may never be—and it has never been. Remember the guy that killed his brother? A long, long, long time ago. There was only two or three people on the earth, a long time ago. There’s a lot of things and now there’s a whole lots more of us. I don’t know. It’s just weird. But we can get along. We can get along. And we are getting—things are getting better all the time.
Vanis Daniels: It’s just like, what’s his name out of Los Angeles?
Edmon Daniels: Who?
Vanis Daniels: That the police beat up.
Franklin: Rodney King?
Vanis Daniels: Rodney King, yeah, he said, why can’t we just get along? That was a profound statement that he didn’t realize he was making at the time.
Edmon Daniels: We just need to learn that everyone has done something good, even right here in the Tri-Cities.
Vanis Daniels: There is good in everyone.
Edmon Daniels: There is a man in the Tri-Cities, when I was a kid, we called him Peanuts. He was an Oriental man. And right now in Pasco there is Peanuts Park. But most people don’t know who Peanuts were, and I was on the Parks and Rec Board and they were talking about they were going to redo Peanuts Park I said we need to put up a--
Vanis Daniels: Mural.
Edmon Daniels: A mural of Peanuts. When most people say, peanuts they think about—and they said peanuts? I said yes, he was a guy named Peanuts, he was an Oriental guy. When I was a kid, he gave me candy; my daughter came up, he gave her candy. We would go down there and Peanuts would fix our bikes and he’d say, give me a nickel. Well, I know it was worth way more than that. [LAUGHTER] But that’s who Peanuts was, and I said, we need to put a mural up there so people will know Peanuts, who he is. Most people saying Peanuts Park, they are not thinking of some guy. I said he was a Oriental guy. He had gold fish down there, had a big gold fish pond, big gold fish, and we would go down there--
Vanis Daniels: Most likely koi.
Edmon Daniels: We just need to know that there are good in everybody and there’s some good people and it doesn’t matter what you look like or whatever, you can be a great person.
Franklin: Well great, that’s a great place to end.
Vanis Daniels: All right.
Franklin: I think that’s a great sentiment. So thank you both for coming and taking the time to interview, and talk about your lives and the community, and your work.
Edmon Daniels: No problem.