Interview with Gordon Guice
Civil rights movements
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 am conducting an oral history interview with Gordon—how do you say your last name?
Gordon Guice: Guice, G-U-I-C-E.
Robert: Guice. Gordon Guice on January 23rd, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Gordon about his 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?
Guice: Gordon Joe Guice. G-O-R-D-O-N, J-O-E, G-U-I-C-E.
Franklin: Great, thanks, Gordon. So I usually start off by asking how and why you came to the area, but your parents actually came to the area. So I’m wondering, I’d like to start there, if you could tell me about your parents and how they came here.
Guice: Well my dad, Joe C. Guice, was in the service. And when he got out of service, he came to the State of Washington.
Franklin: And do you know what year that would have been?
Guice: That was in the late ‘40s. After ’43, you know, around that area. My mom was out this way also, and she came out this way via the railroad employment. She ventured out this way at the Hanford City at the restaurant and she was a waitress there.
Franklin: That would have been the construction camp?
Guice: Yeah, that’s the construction camp. She was a waitress. And she met my dad.
Guice: And the rest is history right there. And they, shortly after that, they got married. Dad was a laborer and he specialized in cement finishing out at Hanford.
Franklin: Okay. Where were your parents from?
Guice: My parents are from Texas. My dad’s from Longview, Texas, and my mom was from Naples, Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Franklin: I don’t know Texas—
Guice: Southeast Texas.
Franklin: Okay, so kind of close to the Louisiana—
Guice: Right on the border.
Franklin: Okay, great. It’s my understanding that the Manhattan Project was segregated, that work crews and things were segregated, is that—did your parents talk about that at all?
Guice: My dad, he didn’t bring it up very much, but he was a foreman, and back then I can remember when he come home with all of his buddies. They would all carpool. And my dad was a foreman, so he would talk about his crew, and all I seen was Afro-Americans as his crew. So I kind of take it at that. He was just a black foreman and all his crew was black, you know. I mean, when he went to the dams, it was more of the integration. When he went to the dams—he worked on a lot of dams. Lower Monumental, Little Goose, Ice Harbor. They worked on all those dams.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Guice: A lot of cement.
Guice: That was his forte.
Franklin: And how long did your—did your mom talk about working out on Site at all?
Guice: My mom didn’t work onsite.
Franklin: Oh, sorry.
Guice: Just my dad.
Franklin: Just your dad, okay.
Franklin: So where did she work during the Manhattan Project, then?
Guice: During the Manhattan Project, she was a waitress, she cleaned houses, in west Pasco for some doctors. She worked at Frank’s Grill, that was a restaurant downtown. And she later on, after we got a little bit older, she worked for Pasco School District. She was a bus driver for 35 years.
Franklin: Wow, for 35 years.
Guice: Yeah, and my mom went to Columbia Basin College when I was in like junior high school, and she got a cosmetology license and she done black hair with the old irons on the stove. She done all the black ladies’ hair.
Franklin: Wow. Did she have her own shop or—
Guice: No, she done it in our kitchen. [LAUGHTER] In our kitchen.
Franklin: That’s great. When were you born, Gordon?
Guice: In 1952, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Pasco.
Franklin: Okay. It’s my understanding that life in the Tri-Cities was somewhat—although not formally segregated, there existed informal levels of segregation. Did your parents ever experience that, or talk about their experiences with that?
Guice: Well, it was there, because you could see it. There was boundaries in Kennewick, and there was boundaries coming out this way to Richland. But my—I was raised to try to get along with everybody. And that helped me in the long run. It was there. And we had some bad times in the early ‘60s, some riots and stuff like that. But I guess there was a lot of copycat stuff going on, because there wasn’t enough of us to cause any real problem. But we wanted to be heard. And there was a few things that happened, but it never got out of hand.
Franklin: When you mention bad times in the early ‘60s, do you mean nationally or locally?
Guice: Well, I mean, the national stuff started the local stuff. As far as I’m concerned. Stuff would—that’s why I say copycat. It was real problems, but when you see someone doing something, stand up for a cause, you take it upon yourself to try to join in and try to make things right. I’ve always been one to—and I was raised that way—to keep my eye on the prize. My dad always taught me that. To keep my—no matter what. He said, it’s going to be rough. You’re a different color; you’re going to have to do certain things better, and you’re going to have to be there. You know, it’s just a little tough, but that’s life. I took that to heart. It turned out okay for me.
Franklin: Great. When you say copycat things, is there anything in particular that you remember from that time that happened locally?
Guice: Well, in ’68, I think they had the Watts riots around that time. And then there was a demonstration downtown Pasco where some trees got torched right in front of the—that’s why there’s no trees there anymore. They got torched in front of the courthouse. That’s the first time I ever got tear gassed—was wrong place at the wrong time. But it was a demonstration. I don’t remember anybody really getting hurt. There were a few—[unknown] comes to mind. He got killed by the cops over at—
Franklin: That’s someone local?
Guice: Yes, someone local. By the cops. There’s rumors around that. They probably shouldn’t have done—come to the certain extent, to take his life. But you know, that still happens now. It was there, and you dealt with it, man. I had my eye on the prize.
Franklin: What was the prize?
Guice: To have a future. To have a future. At the time being, when we were little, your future was out here at Hanford. That was the best jobs—the best-paying jobs. I really concentrated on what my dad told me. We were to ride around in east Pasco, and we had our old co-op station. Maybe Vanis could—because he was one of my mentors, always. Vanis always done good. You had Ed Smith, you had Dr. Wiley, CJ Mitchell, people out here that lived in Richland and they worked out at Hanford. But getting back to my original story, I would ride around with my dad, and he would see—he would show me guys older than him that worked out here that retired. And he would go see some of those guys over there playing dominoes. That’s what you want to be able to do when you get that age.
Franklin: Instead of having to work.
Guice: Instead of having to work. So get something that has a pension and some benefits, so you can relax when you get older.
Franklin: Yeah, yeah. Did your parents ever talk about what it was like growing up in east Texas?
Guice: Well, I experienced it.
Guice: Yeah, that was really segregated. I’m talking like, white-only bathrooms, black-only bathrooms. We would—me and my brother would always get in trouble when we went back to Naples, Mount Pleasant area, Longview. We were just used to getting what we wanted and going up to the front of the line. And more than once, I got pulled on the collar and told that the people of a different color were supposed to go in front of me. And I was just really—really kind of shocking, because I wasn’t used to that. That’s why I’m saying, it wasn’t that bad here. It was bad, but it wasn’t like that. I mean, people calling you down in the South.
Franklin: Right, because there was that formal segregation.
Guice: It was formal. It was written. And you obeyed.
Franklin: Yeah, right, for fear of your life, probably.
Guice: Right, right.
Franklin: Especially after Emmitt Till and things like that.
Franklin: And how often did you back to east Texas?
Guice: Every summer.
Franklin: Every summer.
Guice: Every summer, we would get on the Southern Pacific, and it would go up north, and we would go to St. Paul, Minnesota, it’d take two and a half days, and go all the way back down to Texas. My mom didn’t want to go on the other trains—we rode the train—because she said it was too dirty. So we spent two days on the Southern Pacific. St. Paul, Minnesota, we’d go to and look out the window in the train station, look at the Mississippi River, which—I was three, four, five, six—we went every summer to be with my grandparents.
Franklin: Oh, okay. Yeah, I was going to ask who you were seeing there, but that makes sense. So I’d like to go back to this—you mentioned there was this demonstration in Pasco in the late-‘60s that you said you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Guice: Yeah, yeah.
Franklin: I haven’t heard of this yet, but—maybe because we just started the project, but I’m wondering, how were you—why were you there that day?
Guice: Well, for one, I was Afro-American, black. I guess I was brown or Negro back then. Didn’t know what I was for a long time. But I can remember there was a bunch of us: me and my buddies, we got together at Kurtzman Park. Why it really started, I can’t remember. But we ended up in the park across the street, at the city park, right across the street. And it just escalated from there. There was some stuff going on, like, all over the country. Like I said, I can’t remember when it started, but we went over and the trees got set afire. The cops came and they shot teargas to disperse the crowds. So that’s how I kind of got caught up in that.
Franklin: Wow. Tell me about going to school in Pasco. Were the classes that you went to—actually, I’m going to back up. Where did you live in Pasco? Did you live in east Pasco?
Guice: Not at the beginning. Way back in the day, in the late ‘50s—I was born, like I said, I was born in Pasco. But right across from the courthouse, there was—it’s the senior citizen apartments right now, it’s called Parkside.
Guice: Parkside, I was born in Parkside. And then we moved—we were moving on up, one up the street to the Navy homes, and I was in the Navy barracks, right there on 4th—4th and 1st, on the corner right there, where the Boys and Girls Club is now, in those apartments there. I stayed there until 1966, and then we really moved on up, and we moved to east Pasco. We had a house. So we moved into east Pasco in 1966, Owen Avenue—
Franklin: Oh, sorry—
Guice: Owen Avenue. Vanis lived two doors down, across the street from us.
Franklin: Oh, okay. How close to you in age is Vanis? How close were you guys? Or far apart in age are you?
Guice: Oh, probably, I don’t know. I’m 65, and I think Vanis might be in his late 70s.
Franklin: Okay, so he was somewhat—you mentioned earlier he was somewhat of a mentor to you, kind of someone that you looked up to.
Guice: Anybody that stayed—you know, my dad—anybody that stayed out of trouble, went to work everyday, had a car, had a roof over his head, he was doing all right.
Guice: That’s what it was about.
Franklin: Right, making a good life for yourself.
Franklin: Tell me about going to school in Pasco. Were your classes integrated, segregated, either intentionally or unintentionally?
Guice: Well, we were bussed from we’ll call it junior high—not junior high, but in grade school—we weren’t bussed during that time. But in grade school, I attended Captain Gray. I went to Captain Gray, and I look at my pictures every once in a while. And my kindergarten class, my first grade class, I think it might have been, oh, a couple Afro-Americans, and some Latinos, a couple, and then the rest was Caucasian. And that’s just the way it was all the way up through school until we got to high school.
Franklin: Did you ever experience any racism or intimidation from other students or school staff when you went to school, because of your color?
Guice: Well, you mean me personally?
Franklin: You personally, and/or did you hear of any? Did you observe any?
Guice: Oh, it happened. I would be really naïve to say it wasn’t happening. But my point is that—I was an athlete. A pretty good athlete. So I might have got away with some stuff that normal people, the average joe, didn’t get away with. I’m not boasting, but I had—because I had to intermingle with some of my Caucasian friends on the competition fields. So, you know, we hung out more than people that were just in a group and didn’t get into the activities and stuff like that. It kind of trickled down. It was there. You would hear it. You would hear it, but I would try—in ’68, our basketball team in Pasco, when the times were kind of heated, we started winning, and it really brought the whole community of Pasco together. It was through sports. Anybody that you interview will know about that time, because it was a real—from ’68, ’69 and ’70, that’s when we really started winning in basketball. And I was a part of that. It brought a lot of people together. Sports does that. You forget about color when you’re rooting for your team or for your town, your city, your state, or whatever. It was there. It was there. It was there.
Franklin: Okay. What were your interactions with people from the different cities, like Richland and Kennewick?
Guice: Hmm. Well, like I said, it goes back to sports. I done a lot of stuff that if you weren’t playing, people of color didn’t get to do. But I was really fortunate. But you know, there used to be a sign on the Kennewick bridge, don’t get caught over here after night and stuff like that. We would ride over to Zip’s, yell things out the window and take off, and get over across the bridge before we got caught and stuff like that.
Guice: Oh, yeah. That stuff happened all the time.
Franklin: What kind of things—can you repeat them?
Guice: Well, no, not on—not on TV. [LAUGHTER] No. Well, you weren’t supposed to be over there, and we were going to show them that we could be over there after dark. It was like—it was pretty bad. And we didn’t branch out to Richland, because we’re not supposed to be over here, and the black kids from Richland didn’t really come to Pasco. So it was—you met them through sports. We’re really good friends now, after all that—you know, after the years. I got some of my best friends are people that I grew up and played against from Richland. But it was just—it was known that you didn’t go to certain places.
Franklin: Yeah. I’ve heard a lot about that sign, and I’ve never seen a picture of it. I’ve heard people say that it exists, and that it didn’t exist. Did it exist, that sign on the bridge?
Guice: Yeah, it exists.
Franklin: Do you remember what it said, verbatim?
Guice: No, I don’t remember what it said.
Franklin: But the spirit of it, though, was no—
Guice: Yeah, as you were going north across the old Green Bridge, it was up on the right.
Guice: And Zip’s was right around the corner. That’s how far, just to tell you how intense it was, you could almost throw a rock from the bridge to Zip’s. I mean, it was just right around the corner.
Franklin: It is.
Guice: And we’d pull out that parking lot, and we had to stay in the car and drive and get the heck out of there before they chased us. Blew a clutch out in the parking lot one time and we had to get out and run. The clutch spring broke on my buddy’s car.
Franklin: And you ran across the bridge?
Guice: Yeah, we ran across the bridge.
Franklin: Wow, hell-raiser, huh?
Guice: Well, yeah.
Franklin: [LAUGHTER] Well, for a good purpose though, it sounds like. How would you describe life in east Pasco, like the kind of community life and community events? What kind of community events were important to you growing up?
Guice: Juneteenth was a big one.
Franklin: Yeah, tell me about that.
Guice: Well, that’s when the slaves got their rights and stuff. And we always celebrated and it was a big deal down at Kurtzman Park. We would have basketball tournaments against Yakima, the black people from Yakima. We’d invite people from Richland. There wasn’t many people in Kennewick, so they were kind of left out. But it was mostly Juneteenth and barbecues. And then back then, east side would play against Navy homes in sports. Because there were a lot of black people in Navy homes, where I grew up. You could just see them walking down the street, and we would meet and have these big baseball tournaments and stuff like that. But official stuff, it was Juneteenth.
Franklin: Mm-hm. Why did they call it Navy homes?
Guice: Because it was a Navy barracks.
Franklin: Okay, and was there a big Navy presence in Pasco?
Franklin: Was that left over from World War II?
Guice: No, I think—don’t quote me on this, but that’s where the Navy stayed, in the Navy homes.
Franklin: Okay. So eventually, you graduated—you played sports throughout high school—basketball and baseball, right?
Guice: Yes, sir.
Franklin: Tell me what happened after high school.
Guice: After high school?
Guice: I went to Washington State University.
Guice: I played basketball there. I got a scholarship and played basketball. I was recruited by Jud Heathcote, Marv Harshman—they were my freshman coaches. Jud went on to Michigan State and he and my high school coach, Don Munson, recruited Magic Johnson.
Franklin: Oh, really?
Guice: Yeah. I got letters from Coach. But I went up there for a year, and I was a snap pledge at Sigma Nu Fraternity—I was a frat boy. It was two black—Afro-American—fraternal brothers on the whole campus of Washington State University.
Guice: Bill Skinner was the other one, and he was from Pasco. We were the only black fraternal brothers at Washington State University in the ‘70s.
Franklin: Did you know each other?
Guice: Yeah, I went to high school with him.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Guice: I grew up with Bill. That’s—because I didn’t go through rush, to get to go see all the houses. I was what you call—I was a snap pledge, and it was because of Bill. It was probably six or seven other people from Pasco that were in the house. So, that was a big part of my life.
Franklin: Oh, yeah. So it was kind of like a little home-away-from-home.
Guice: Right, right. It was probably the Madisons, Bill Skinner and myself.
Franklin: And that was in 1970, ’71?
Franklin: Still was probably a pretty charged time. Was there anything—any tension out at WSU campus?
Guice: Ooh, boy, yeah. Black Panthers. It was really rough for me at the beginning, because they couldn’t understand why this guy was standing all over here with all these white guys. But it was comfortable when I seen Bill. I was 17 years old, away from—not far away, but away from home. And it was comforting. But I would’ve never gotten out of there if I hadn’t joined that frat. It was really—it gave me some structure. It was kind of like being in the military. But, you know, a little lower key, but there was certain things you had to do.
Guice: Jud—Coach Heathcote—and Harshman left after my freshman year, and I came back to home. I had a scholarship to play for Dick Hannan in ’72. We were state champions at CBC in 1972. But then I went back and played for George Raveling and got out of school in 1975. Best time of my life.
Franklin: Why is that?
Guice: I met a lot of good people, done a lot of things, I learned a lot about myself. Because you had to do your own clothes, you had to pay your bills—you grow up. Some of the teammates I had, I still talk to today. It’s just pretty cool. A lot of fun, a lot of fun.
Franklin: What did you major in?
Guice: Physical education.
Franklin: Okay. Earlier you mentioned the Black Panthers.
Franklin: Were they active on the WSU campus?
Guice: There was a group of Black Panthers on the campus. Yeah, the hats and the leather coats.
Franklin: Did you have any interactions with them?
Guice: Well, I got called a few names, you know, until they figured out who I was. Yeah.
Franklin: Why? Was it because you were—
Guice: Because I had no business being over there with all them white people. You know? I was like a fly in buttermilk to them. You know, after they got to know me, and seeing I was there playing ball, and I would go to the parties, and they figured out I wasn’t an Uncle Tom. It was okay, but you still have your militants. It took a while for some of them to come around, but eventually they all came around.
Franklin: Was that a common phrase aimed at people, maybe, in your situation at that time, Uncle Tom?
Franklin: Because I know—I’m obviously aware of the history of that character, but was that—were you called that by any of them?
Guice: I was called—well, I wasn’t called that to my face, but you know, it got around that maybe that’s what I was, I had to kind of prove myself. People from Pasco—it was a bunch of people in Pasco—Affirmative Action, we got financial aid and a lot of kids went to school. They would be in a certain—at the hub, inside of the Student Union Building, you had your little section. And they seen I could go to the section and nobody—I was an okay guy. It’s all right, but yeah—people from California—the students from California that were in that Black Panther group, they didn’t understand that—
Franklin: Oh, right, because they were maybe from a—
Guice: Yeah, completely different. Through no fault of their own.
Franklin: Right. It was a much bigger scene, they had been much closer to Watts.
Guice: Right, right there, and maybe even participated.
Franklin: Yeah, yeah. Pasco’s such a smaller community—yeah. And did you kind of eventually make—you mentioned you kind of made peace—
Guice: It was all right. By the end of the year, it was okay, it was all right. You still had your guys that just hated everybody, but that’s all right. I didn’t pay no attention to them. It was okay.
Franklin: Was there any organized activity in Pasco, either mainstream like NAACP or militant like Black Panther that you remember?
Guice: I can’t remember any Black Panthers. But CAC, Community Action Committee. That’s how I actually got into the theaters—Affirmative Action, back in the day. But, yeah, they would have neighborhood meetings and stuff like that, trying to see what we could do for the community, what they could do at the time for the community. So it was—I’m proud of Pasco. It was a lot of people that done the right thing back then.
Franklin: And this CAC, this was primarily an African American aid organization?
Guice: Yeah, I guess it was formed by the government. It gave them money, and they would try to—Community Action, you know—make good waves in the community and housing and help people get scholarships and go to school with the Affirmative Action program. That’s how—go to CAC, man, they’ll help you out.
Franklin: Okay. Do you remember the NAACP being active in Pasco at all?
Guice: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I don’t know if you remember, but Art Fletcher? He was the first black Republican. [LAUGHTER] He was—god, what President was that? Was it Nixon? But he worked for the President. And Art Fletcher lived in east Pasco.
Guice: So the NAACP was kind of big.
Franklin: Did you know Art Fletcher?
Guice: Yeah, I knew him. I used to hang out with his son, Philip.
Franklin: Okay. What role did he play in—
Guice: I can’t—he was a mucky-muck, man. He was a bigwig. He’d go back to Washington, D.C.
Franklin: And you mentioned he was a Republican.
Guice: I think that—yeah, that’s what we called him.
Franklin: [LAUGHTER] Okay. Because that would have been—you know, that was kind of after—
Guice: Yeah, that was way back there. Yeah, I’m thinking he was.
Franklin: Okay, that’s just interesting—I mean, not to say it doesn’t happen, but generally, that was after kind of the great political shift, after civil—okay. So you ended up, after college—oh, sorry, before that, I wanted to ask—you went to college and you graduated. What level of education did your parents get through? Do you know?
Guice: They graduated from high school.
Franklin: They both graduated from high school.
Guice: Yes, sir.
Franklin: And then you mentioned your mother went to CBC.
Guice: Yeah, and got a cosmetology license. She was a hair dresser.
Franklin: I wanted to ask about your dad again before we came to your Hanford work. You mentioned he worked at Hanford and then he worked out on the dams. Did he go back to work at Hanford at all?
Guice: My dad?
Guice: No—oh, yeah. See, he was in the union. I don’t know if you know how that works—
Franklin: I don’t.
Guice: Okay. So, they need x amount of laborers, especially cement finishers out at Hanford. They call the hall, the union hall—the laborers’ hall. And they would ask—they have a list—one, two, three, four down. And if you’re on the top of the list, so you’re one of the 12, you got to go out there. See, the dam had a call. So those guys that were 13 are number one, so he would go out there. So he worked on the dams and back out—it just depended on the layoffs and the hiring. He was back and forth forever, as long as I can remember, between the dams and Hanford.
Franklin: Okay. Always doing concrete.
Guice: Always doing concrete.
Franklin: Was the union—you mentioned he was usually a foreman of a crew. Was the union in general, was it integrated, or was it a separate African American—
Guice: No, it was integrated.
Franklin: But generally, though, he was on an all-black—he was the foreman of an all-black—
Guice: Yeah, I mean, just from what I could see. He would talk about his crew and he would name people and those were his buddies. It was five or six of them in the car, and they all worked for them. So I just took it for granted that was his crew. But I wasn’t—oblivious of white people being out there, too. I mean, when you do that, you have to work together, but his crew was predominantly black.
Franklin: Okay. How old do you—when do you remember finding out what was being made at Hanford? How old were you when you kind of cognizant of what was going on out there?
Guice: I was probably in junior high school. And the reason I say that—my best friend, Ron Howard—we grew up together. I been knowing Ron since the third grade. And we played ball together all that time. But his dad, Roy F. Howard, worked at Battelle. They had the beagles over there, and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the story about the dogs they had over there smoking cigarettes?
Franklin: I have. In fact, we have pictures in our collection.
Guice: Okay. He worked over there, and then Mr. Howard would come home and tell us about some of the stuff that was going on out there. So I was probably in the seventh grade.
Guice: I figured out that it was something weird going on out there.
Guice: And you didn’t want to go out there too far. I mean, there were stories about the river and getting stuff, but I’m still here and I played in that river all my life. But there’s a bunch of stories going on.
Franklin: Yeah. Did you ever—so your father worked there during the Manhattan Project.
Guice: Yes, sir.
Franklin: Did he ever talk to you about when he found out what he was working on, what all that concrete he was pouring was for?
Guice: You know, there was a lot of radiation. I don’t think they really knew what they were getting into, because you know, the statistics are showing now—I’m not going to say that’s what caused it, but the numbers are overbearing. People that worked out there that they started getting all this stuff and they’re now no longer with us.
Guice: So I can imagine—I’m going to tell you like this. I can imagine how it was for them. You got between me and my dad. And I worked out there. When I worked out there at 100-N, Tank Farms, we’d have to do maintenance and we could get 300 millirem a week. And it takes 1,000 millirem to make a rem. Okay, we’d get that in a week. Say you got that in five days, the number that you got on that Monday fell off on the next Monday. So you sat in the bullpen for a week. So, my point being is you can’t even get that a year now. That’s how much has changed. So there was no regulation back when my dad was working, and I don’t even think they knew what they were getting into.
Guice: Because I don’t think he ever had to dress up, or—I don’t remember him telling me that he had to put on booties and a white suit to do anything.
Franklin: Right. Did he talk about—did he ever talk about the bomb and its role in ending the war and his part in that?
Franklin: Or how he remembered that?
Guice: No, he didn’t share anything like that.
Franklin: Was your dad working out on Site when President Kennedy came to the Site?
Franklin: Did you go out there to see him?
Guice: Yeah, yeah.
Franklin: Tell me about that. Tell me about that day.
Guice: Well, we just got in the car and we went out and sat on the side of the road and watched him drive by. That was pretty much it.
Franklin: Did you go out to N Reactor and watch the speech and all?
Guice: No, I think we were on George Washington Way. Him and his buddies, they got the day off. Just waved at him when we drove by.
Franklin: Okay. So, eventually—after graduating, you—what did you do after you graduated?
Guice: When I got out that summer, I got employed by Employment Security for the State of Washington. I was interviewing the counselor for the unemployment office—Employment Office, not the Unemployment Office. They taught us the right way to say that. But I was there for 13 months, and then I got wind of United Parcel Service, UPS, was hiring. Back in the day, they didn’t advertise, so it was somebody that worked there that I played softball with that let me know that the main guy from Seattle, Mr. Campbell, was coming down. And I got hired in ’75. I worked for UPS from ’75 to ’80. And then in 1981, I left there—I was getting into the fitters, so I was just kind of waiting on the list. I went out and I worked at Boise Cascade for 13-and-a-half months and I then got in the fitters in ’82.
Franklin: And then where did you—and that’s how you came to Hanford, right?
Franklin: So tell me about that. Tell me about your time working at Hanford and the different jobs you did and things like that.
Guice: Okay, well, I’m a seam fitter out of Local 598 in Pasco. 35 years in the trade. My first job was at Hanford #2, when they were building 2. We had 1, 2 and 4, and 3 and 5 were across the mountains over at Satsop. I was doing the construction, and that was a really—that was really a wild time. I’m surprised that place is still standing up.
Franklin: I’ve heard that. Well, 2 is—is 2—one of them is not completed, right?
Guice: Well, see, we got 2. 1 and 4 is sitting out there; they’re mothballed.
Franklin: That’s right. Yeah, I’ve heard stories about that.
Guice: “The Boomtown Cowboys,” it was an article in Playboy about the Boomtown Cowboys.
Franklin: Really? And that was the people that worked at WPPS?
Guice: Yeah. A lot going on, man. [LAUGHTER] And a lot of travelers. I think at the time there was probably 3,000 travelers in the Tri-Cities from all over the country working there. They had all three of those places going. Well, five of them: 3 and 5 were going also over in Satsop. So it was a bunch of people here and bunch of stuff happening.
Franklin: And then it all went bust, right?
Guice: Yeah, in what? ’80—God, right, I was only out there for a little bit right at that time—I think in ’83, ’84, they shut it down. The bonds went bad and—shew.
Franklin: And what did you do then?
Guice: I hit the road.
Guice: I hit the road. Traveled all over the United States. Mostly on the west side. Because of my radiation experience, I worked in Pocatello, Idaho at INEL, on their side. I worked there off and on for three to five years. And then just all over the country. I worked at Oswego, at the nuclear plant in Oswego. Just all over the country. Once you got that clearance, you could pretty much bounce around all over the place at these nuclear plants in the United States. They’d even pay you to apply if they didn’t hire you.
Guice: They’d send you 100 bucks just for applying. Because it was so hard to get people that had already been cleared and they didn’t have to go through all the schooling. So that happened right out here.
Guice: Yeah. Some of the best training around.
Franklin: What are some of the other sites out at Hanford that you worked at?
Guice: I worked at 100-N, K Basin, FFTF, Fast Flux Testing Facility, over at 1 and 4 for a little bit, and my last job, I was a general foreman over at the warehouse on Stevens, right down Battelle Boulevard, that big warehouse there. That was my warehouse. I ran that. The pipefitters’ general foreman for 12 years right there. And all that pipe that’s out south of that, that was my laydown. I still call it mine. I’ve only been retired two years, but I still say mine. But we took care of all that, and when they had a material request for the Vit Plant, we put the stuff on the trucks and sent it out to them so they could build the place. And it’s still going on now.
Franklin: Great. You mentioned a bit ago about Affirmative Action and the CAC. Did that also play a role in—when you got into the Pipefitters’ Union? And how diverse was that union when you—
Guice: Well, like I said, I went to college in ’70. But from ’68 to ’70, and it went on after that; I’m just talking about some of my friends. If you done okay in school, and you—you had to take a test, you had to go the employment office, your math test, your dexterity test—if you got past that, there was a pretty good chance that the people at CAC and Affirmative Action, you could get into the Electricians, Laborers or Pipefitters, depending on your test scores. And it played a big part—I could’ve gotten in in ’70, but like I said, I went to school. So I missed out on probably like 12 years. I didn’t miss out; I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. I wouldn’t say I missed out. But the opportunity was there, if you were a person of color, to get one of these jobs. And that was the way—that was the tunnel to it. That’s how most of the people from Pasco got—Affirmative Action was big.
Franklin: Yeah. What are your feelings about Affirmative Action?
Guice: Well, it helped me. It helped people of color. I don’t know how it really started. But I’m glad it did. I guess it was equality in numbers. Quotas, if you don’t mind me saying. And they had to have them. Wrong way to do it, but they had to have them. And then—it even went into females after a while. So, it just helped people when people don’t want to stand up and do the right thing, to get your foot in the door. Sometimes you have to knock them down, and Affirmative Action done that.
Franklin: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. In what ways, if any, did security and secrecy at Hanford impact your work when you were—
Guice: Can’t talk about it.
Guice: I signed. I can’t talk about it.
Franklin: Okay. Really?
Franklin: Okay, that’s cool. That’s funny; I’ve never gotten that answer to that question before.
Guice: I was—I don’t—there’s things I can say, and I’ve seen stuff. I was supervision, so I’ve seen a lot. Some of that stuff—I’m not going to say, to get to where—should I say this, or should I say this—I’d rather not.
Franklin: Oh, no, so I’m not asking about what kinds of secret things did you see; I’m asking, like, in what ways did that focus on secrecy and security impact your daily work at Hanford? How was that different from working in a non-secure environment?
Guice: Structure, discipline. You had to have it, because there was like zero tolerance. There was, for instance, walking by and looking at somebody’s screen. That was a no-no. Leaving your screen on for more than two minutes, that was a no-no. Just certain things that, due to training—harassment, zero tolerance. That was really a big deal, also. It was just things you learned in your training to get out there. Certain things that you didn’t do.
Franklin: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Let’s see here. I’m just kind of looking through the rest of my—
Guice: That’s fine.
Franklin: Where did you—when you came back to settle in the Tri-Cities—do you still live in Pasco today?
Guice: Yes, sir.
Franklin: And how come you choose to move back to Pasco?
Guice: Well, for work.
Guice: I came back in 2000. And I helped build the plant at the Chemical Depot, the demilitarization plant, to get rid of all the bombs.
Franklin: Oh, down in Umatilla.
Guice: Yeah, Umatilla, the Chemical Depot. So we built that, and that’s the reason I came home. Get on the phone and call, my number came up. And I went out there in 2000, and I was there from 2000 until 2003, and we completed that plant. That’s the reason that I came home, and then shortly after that, 2004, I came here, and I was there until ’16.
Franklin: Do you still have family in the area?
Guice: My brother’s here; my sister’s in Waukegan, Illinois. Mom and Dad have passed, and I have ten grandkids, nephews and nieces that are still here.
Franklin: Wow, that’s quite a big family. I forgot to ask about siblings. You said you have a brother and sister?
Guice: Yeah, my brother Rayford, he’s a welder-pipefitter, retired.
Franklin: Older or younger?
Guice: Younger; I’m the oldest.
Franklin: Okay, you’re the oldest. Then you have a sister as well?
Guice: Sister, Jackie. She’s a respiratory therapist in Waukegan, Illinois.
Franklin: Okay. That’s great. What would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford during the Cold War? Or actually—you didn’t work at Hanford during the Cold War. Well, you did a little bit at WPPS 2. I guess, what would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford, how about that?
Guice: This generation?
Franklin: This generation and future generations.
Guice: What would I—I don’t understand the question.
Franklin: I’m going to rephrase that question. In fact, I might just scrap that question.
Guice: No, don’t scrap it.
Franklin: I think I have a better question.
Franklin: What would you like future generations to know about growing up during Civil Rights era?
Guice: I would probably share what my parents shared with me. It’s to respect where you come from, respect your elders, because there was people before you that paved the way so you could have a better life, and to respect that. And if they carry that on, it’s never going to be okay; there’s just too many people. It’s never going to be okay, but if people keep their eye on the prize, and do the right thing, and respect where they come from, and give back. When you get to wherever you want to go, try to help the person next to you or behind you to get into a safe place.
Franklin: That’s beautiful. Is there anything else that you would like to mention related to migration, segregation, civil rights, and how they impacted your life in the Tri-Cities?
Guice: Well, I would like to say I’m probably really grateful that I didn’t experience the really, really bad stuff. I’ve always had pride in my color. I was raised that way. But I was also taught you got to get along to get where you want to get. I’m not saying kissing any butt or anything like that—I hope I didn’t say nothing wrong—but you got to get along with people. And we did that when I grew up. That’s the reality, and it’s life. But you can—if you want to, there’s probably nothing that you can’t do if you really want it. Not saying it’s not going to be a rocky road and you’re going to have to take some stuff, but if you keep your eye on the prize, you can get there. And some people do and some people don’t. I wanted it.
Franklin: Yeah, and you got it.
Guice: Yeah, well, I was raised that way.
Franklin: Well, it sounds like your parents did a good job.
Guice: Well, thank you.
Franklin: Gordon, it was really a pleasure to interview you. Thank you for coming out and talking about your experiences growing up in Pasco and working at Hanford and just your whole life.
Guice: Well, thanks for having me.
Guice: Appreciate it.
Franklin: Yeah, no problem. Okay.
Guice: Thank you.