Interview with Kathy (Brouns) Harvey
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: All right. My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Kathy Harvey on June 29, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I’ll be talking with Kathy about her experiences living in the Tri-Cities. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?
Kathy Harvey: Full name.
Franklin: Yes, please.
Harvey: Katherine, K-A-T-H-E-R-I-N-E. Helena Brouns Schiro Harvey.
Franklin: Yeah. You were born here, correct?
Harvey: I was born here in Richland, mm-hmm.
Franklin: And so your—when did your parents come to Richland?
Harvey: My father—after the war. They both came after the war. My dad came—I know he interviewed for his job here during that big flood that you see pictures of, often.
Franklin: The ’48 Flood.
Harvey: Yes. He came then for his original interview and then came to work then, about that time.
Franklin: Did he come when it was flooding?
Harvey: Yeah, he talks about coming for his job interview, and he got off the plane and they had to drive out to Benton City to get to Richland, because it was all flooded.
Franklin: And he still took the job.
Harvey: He still took the job, yeah. [LAUGHTER] Well, he didn’t want to stay in Oklahoma. That’s where he was working.
Franklin: Ah. Ah. And what did your father do—what position did he interview for?
Harvey: He was a research chemist with, I guess it was GE then. Yeah.
Franklin: Mm-hmm. And was that his background, chemistry?
Harvey: Yeah, he was a chemistry—he had a PhD in chemistry from Iowa State University.
Franklin: Oh, wow. And then when did your mother—
Harvey: Well, probably after the war, because she was in the Army. She was a nurse. She went to Japan after the war. I think the day she finished basic training, the war ended.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Harvey: And so then she was sent over after the war, during, I think they called it the occupation. She was there for I don’t know how many years. When she got out of the Army, she came to Richland, because her parents had moved here during the Manhattan Project.
Franklin: Oh, so your parents met here.
Harvey: Here, yes.
Franklin: Not before.
Harvey: They met here, because my mother’s parents had come out here, and I don’t know if they came after the war ended, to work. I believe it may have been. I don’t know if my grandfather actually helped build the Manhattan Project or if they—I can’t recall, if he came after for a job. But her parents came out from Wisconsin and they brought, I guess, you know, three of the kids. There were four kids in the family, and three of them came. So two of them graduated from Richland High School. So, they must’ve come when their kids were in high school, I guess. But my mother was the oldest, and she was already gone and moved out. But then she came back here after the Army, because she was discharged and now her parents were here. So she came here to live with them.
Franklin: And how did she meet your father?
Harvey: It was a blind date, from what I understand. My dad lived in one of those boarding houses that the single guys lived in, down by, I guess it was that big flat area where the hospital, Kadlec Hospital, was. I remember seeing those places. He lived there, and his roommate I think was Jerry Saucier, who also worked out at Hanford.
Franklin: Yeah, that’s a name that’s familiar.
Harvey: Yeah, okay. They met somehow through Jerry, and possibly my mom’s brother, Bud Neidhold, who—there was something about them hooking up this date. And I do recall my mother’s sister, who is still alive, said that my mother was a rowdy. She was 30 years old, she’d been in the Army, she’d been—had a wild life. She liked a good time. In fact, all of her pictures of her time in the Army, there was young, handsome men hanging around her, most the time. She had this date with my father, who was like the most decent person she could ever go out with. She had spent the afternoon out on a boat with some other construction worker, and she came home drunk, and she had a date with my dad that night. Her sister was furious at her, because she said, this is going to be the nicest guy you ever met and you’re ruining it! And she was so mad, she put her in a cold shower and filled her full of coffee and sent her out on the blind date, because she didn’t want her to mess it up with this nice man. Somehow he must’ve been impressed. So he stuck around. [LAUGHTER]
Harvey: So he was this quiet, sedate, chemistry guy and she was this wild partying animal. But somehow she settled for him. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Wow. And did your mother ever work out at Hanford?
Harvey: Yeah, she did. She was a public health nurse out there.
Franklin: Public health nurse.
Harvey: Yeah, she worked in the industrial health stuff. They hired their own nurses then.
Harvey: Yeah, mm-hmm.
Franklin: And when were you born?
Franklin: ’54, okay. And so tell me about growing up in Richland.
Harvey: Well, it was very odd, looking back, although at the time we thought it was completely normal; we thought that was the way the world was. And then when you look back, you realize, oh, that was really strange. You’ve probably heard this before—you know, all of the dads went to the Area every morning on buses. And we didn’t know what they did. They just went to the Area and did their job. And they came back on buses in the evening. And they didn’t talk about what they did. Some of them were engineers, which we thought was odd, because there were no trains around. Some of them were technicians, which we didn’t know what meant. And then there was the people like my dad who were chemistry scientists and we didn’t know, what did that mean. And they never talked about what they did; there was no conversation ever about it. But we didn’t care; we thought that was completely normal.
The other interesting thing was, because nobody was from here, very few people had family in the area, other than themselves. And of course we didn’t—I didn’t think of this until later—every summer, in our neighborhood—because there were lots of families with children our age; there was a pack of us. Every summer, the families left and drove to the Midwest on road trips to see their grandparents. Because nobody had grandparents in the area. So that was an interesting thing, that everybody was from the Midwest. And we just thought that was normal. When you read other kids’ books about having family around, we thought, that’s odd. Now, I had my grandfather and one other friend in our neighborhood had a grandmother that lived in the area, but they had come there because they were there. So that was an odd thing, too, that we thought was normal.
One of the oddest things was that it was completely flat; there were no tall buildings. We thought that was completely normal, too, and we didn’t realize there was a reason why there were no tall buildings. The hospital was flat. When the Federal Building was built, it was a huge deal because it was the first elevators we ever saw. And it was only so high because you couldn’t be high enough to see out to Hanford. So they kept the height down, is what we were told.
Franklin: Is that why--?
Harvey: That’s what they told us. That was the word that got out. And one of my friend’s mothers worked in the Federal Building, so she was in the know. It was limited to, I don’t know how many, seven stories or something. But the reason why, it couldn’t be tall enough to look out at Hanford and see what was going on. So everything was very flat. There were no elevators; there were no escalators. There was two stores that had second floors and you walked up the stairs to them. That was very odd, too. And, of course, it was dusty and dry, and the dust blew and stung your legs and the dust storms would come in and mothers would yell, close the windows! Put towels under the windows! To keep the dust out.
Franklin: Even in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Harvey: Yup, yup. Because right around town, it was green right in the city. But we were over on the west side of the city, and you were right on the desert line. So the dust came in, yeah.
Harvey: The other interesting thing, looking back, is the wildlife: there wasn’t any. That may have been normal at the time, because there was a lot of pesticides used and DDT around that time. But there were no squirrels. There were no crows or blackbirds. Chipmunks. The only snake you saw was a rattlesnake once in a while that would sneak into town. Very few spiders. And the only birds I remember were a few robins now and then. But when you read children’s storybooks about wildlife, we thought that was odd, because we didn’t have that. There was badgers—stories about badgers out at Badger Mountain. The boys would go out there and shoot them and hunt them, but I never saw one. I never knew anybody who ever had one, that ever got anything. Because there was no wildlife. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Right, right. Yeah.
Franklin: How did your parents become involved with civil rights issues?
Harvey: Well, the story—this is, again, my mother’s sister, I think she was the one that told me this, she asked my mother one time, how did you get involved? Because in their families, nobody else was. It was not anything that they were raised with. But my parents were Catholic, and they were very involved with Christ the King parish, and Father Sweeney was there then. There was a CFM, Christian Family Movement, I think it was like a Catholic married couples’ family, like a prayer group or something that would get together once a month, and there were small study groups in people’s homes. And I know my parents did this. We had people from the parish would come over for an evening and they would probably do a Bible study, something like that, and talk about Christian family life.
My aunt Dode told me that when she asked my mother, how did you get involved in civil rights, why did you do this? She said, we were in the CFM movement and we spent time with couples talking about Christian life and living Christian values as a family. And we, Dick and I, we felt like this was something that we needed—we wanted—we had a passion to do something rather than just talk about it. And we looked at what could we do? What would Jesus do? What was the thing we could do in Richland? And that was why they chose civil rights, was that, we can work on that. That’s going to be our passion that we’re going to go with this, because that’s where God was sending us. That was kind of what got them into it, from what my aunt Dode said.
They did it, they came home from a meeting, and maybe there had been a discussion at the meeting about African Americans or civil rights or black people, and my parents probably spoke up and said something and realized they were a minority and they were going to move from this prayer group to find a more action-oriented group of people that were willing to fight for social justice.
Franklin: Where did they settle? Or, where did they—when they decided to act, where—how did they do that?
Harvey: What did they do? The next thing I remember is that they quit having the CFM group and instead they started going to meetings in Pasco, in east Pasco. Because there was nothing much, there was nothing going on Richland; there were no black people in Richland. So, they must’ve connected—I think CORE was pretty active then, or it was a group over there. They became very involved in CORE. I remember hearing lots of talk about CORE. They would go to CORE meetings, we would have CORE meetings at our house—
Franklin: And that’s the Congress of Racial Equality.
Harvey: Congress Of Racial Equality, mm-hmm. And then the NAACP came in there, too. I don’t know which was first. Shirley might remember all that, because that’s where she met—my parents met the Millers then, through that group. And they met the Slaughters. But the Slaughters came later. I don’t even know when the Millers came to town, I don’t remember that. I just know that whenever this happened—which you might be able to see by the file, by the minutes of the meetings of what years my father was the secretary of the group. I was probably in junior high level then, because they couldn’t have done much before then, because there were so many of us kids that my mom and dad couldn’t have—we had too many little kids running around the house. So I remember it, probably when I was in junior high, they started getting, or maybe fifth, sixth grade, they started getting into it.
They would go to meetings several nights a week. They were going to meetings or there were meetings at our house that they would attend. People started coming around, we started meeting black people coming into the community. And then slowly they must’ve identified black people in Richland, because then we started—there was the Jacksons, which you’ve probably heard about from Wally Webster and Robert Jackson. Yeah, they became very close with the Jacksons. In fact, Mrs. Jackson became my brother’s piano teacher. So we were very close with their family. I don’t know, I mean the Mitchells were there, but we weren’t close with the Mitchells because they were republican. From what I understood. They also were very involved with the democratic party. Then it kind of went into the democratic party from civil rights, it kind of evolved.
Franklin: So they were republican before the civil rights era—
Harvey: No, no, my parents were never republican.
Franklin: Oh, no, the Mitchells were—that was the—
Harvey: Yeah, there was something about that, that they were republican or—you know, CJ was a businessman, and he was more, from what I heard from my parents, and from what I learned, because I was friends with the Mitchell kids, too; I went to school with them. You know, their family was focused on business. Taking care of his family and having a successful business. And not—they weren’t going to speak out on social justice. He was focusing on his family and his business. And my mother, she was pretty radical and if you didn’t believe the way she wanted you to believe, she let you know about it.
Franklin: But you were friends with some of the Mitchell children.
Harvey: Yeah, in high school. Because then we all went to the high school. And then I met—my sister was in class with the oldest one, and then I was in class with Nestor. And then my brother—I mean, they were the same ages as us, so we were all in the same classes. We knew each other.
Franklin: Did you ever see anything in high school, any kind of discriminatory treatment or adverse treatment?
Harvey: You know, I personally didn’t. I’m sure it happened, and it was probably that more subtle, that it wasn’t blatant. In our high school, at Richland High School, there was a small—there were not that many African American kids. They hung out together and they had a club, I think. We were friends—I was friends with them, mostly because they hung out right near where my locker was, and I knew them because I knew the Mitchell kids and the Skinners?
Harvey: Okay, the knew the Skinner kids because my mom was real close to Eddie Skinner; she was kind of in our neighborhood area. So I knew the Skinner kids real well and I knew the Mitchell kids, and then the Thurmans. Have you come up with that name?
Franklin: I think I’ve heard that once.
Harvey: Okay, they actually were Catholic and they came to Christ the King and lived in Richland. I remember that they were one of the first black families that moved in. So we were close friends with them, because they were Catholic also. Well, any black family that came to Richland, we became close friends with because there weren’t that many of them. So, out of this group of African American kids in the high school, probably half of the families were friends of our family. So, you know, I knew them. And I’m sure there was discrimination going on, but I don’t remember seeing anything blatant. I’d hear more about it from my mother, and it wasn’t in the school, it was more with the older kids that were being treated roughly by the police or by the courts or something like that. Particularly, I remember the Skinner kids. There were some older boys that I used to hear about getting in trouble.
Franklin: What kinds of civil rights issues were the focus of CORE and of NAACP? What was the focus?
Harvey: What did I hear the most of? Well, housing was an issue. That was a huge issue. I don’t recall Richland—I mean, Kennewick. The housing in Kennewick was the huge issue. That was the one that my mother got involved in. You’ve probably heard the story from the Slaughters about them getting their house and, of course, we didn’t know what anything was going on, but we heard later that my mother went with Mary Slaughter to look at homes. She would pretend she was the one renting the house and get the landlord to say this would be fine. And then she would turn to Mary and say, okay, Mary, will this work for you? And then the landlord would be trapped.
So I know there with the housing in Kennewick was the big issue. I don’t know, in Richland in particular. I know there was a lot of political stuff that I don’t even remember, because the issues—we used to hear about issues but I can’t really think what they were. But we just went along with them. There would be picketing, there would be rallies, and the kids would be making the signs. We’d have, in our basement there’d be all these posters hanging out, and us kids would be down there painting the signs that would say whatever they were.
I remember, though, the one that my youngest brother, Tom, who still lives here, he remembers—because he was younger; he was in grade school. There was a white supremacist Ku Klux Klan guy coming to talk at a rally in Richland. And I don’t remember the guy’s name, but he was pretty well-known. My mother had a sign—she carried a sign that my brother painted. She had told him what to paint, and it said—his was name was Clark, because it said, Ku Klux Klark, you’re whistling in the dark. And she got arrested for that rally and there was a picture of her in the newspaper holding that sign. She got arrested and I don’t think she spent time in jail. But I remember seeing that picture of her in the paper. My younger brother who was a kid was with her at the time, but I don’t remember his picture. He could tell you more about it if you want to talk to him.
Franklin: Do you remember around when that was?
Harvey: Well, Tom was born in ’61 and he was probably seven or eight years old maybe. Less than ten, I think.
Franklin: Okay, so like 1968.
Harvey: Yeah, probably between there and the ‘70s.
Franklin: Okay. Interesting. I’ll have to see if I can—
Harvey: Yeah, he was—I can find out the guy’s name, because my brothers remember who this guy was.
Harvey: He was a Ku Klux Klan guy from the South that came up for some white supremacy rally. And I remember, this was a huge issue. Anytime they could make a stink about something and bring focus to civil rights issues, they did.
Harvey: My parents and their group, the group. I just remember a lot of this, rallies, a lot of letters to the editor, letter to the senators. I remember letters to Senator Jackson and Slade Gorton, I remember letters to him. And they were getting us kids to get involved and stuff and write letters whenever there was some perceived injustice going on, which there was, I’m sure.
Franklin: Do you remember any other notable picketing or rallies?
Harvey: You know, I’m thinking, there were so many, and I didn’t go to a lot of the rallies. We were put together making signs for them. And then the rallies would happen—I don’t know why I wasn’t there. Maybe I was in school, maybe I was out doing high school stuff, independent, maybe I was working by then. I don’t recall that. No, I’m sorry. I don’t remember what the rallies are.
Franklin: No, that’s okay.
Harvey: And then evolved until voter rights issues. That was another big issue, too, was getting people registered to vote. I know I did do a lot of that, canvassing to get people out to vote. I did a lot of that stuff, too.
Franklin: : And was that mostly in east Pasco?
Harvey: No, that was—I remember doing it in Richland, mostly, in my own neighborhood area. Just around Richland, going from door-to-door to get people to register to vote. And our parents would set us out to do that with some of the other, the Miller kids and the Jones kids, Sabrina and Junior Jones. I remember, we had lots of stuff we were doing with them. The Slaughter kids. We’d be out doing that stuff.
Franklin: Who were some of the important leaders of civil rights efforts in the area?
Harvey: In this area?
Franklin: Yeah, in the Tri-Cities.
Harvey: The names that I heard, Robert Jackson, I heard a lot. Dallas Barnes, I heard. Ernie McGee, and he passed away, but he was a name I heard a lot of. Herb Jones, until he left the area. Norm Miller was big. My dad. The Slaughters. There were the Pollards, too, have you talked to them?
Harvey: Hope Pollard. The Bauersocks.
Harvey: Bauersocks? Yeah, they’re friends with Shirley. Phyllis and—hmm. Shirley—Andy would know how to get in touch with them. And the Pollards were there. You know, if I look through all the notes over there, I would see all the other names and remember them. But you’ll see them when you look through there, you’ll see the names of people, yeah.
Franklin: Sounds good. What were some of the notable successes of the civil rights movement here?
Harvey: Well, getting black families into Kennewick was notable. And I remember getting the Thurmans into Richland. That was a big issue. When the Thurmans moved to Richland, that was big. I don’t know if there were any black families. The Jacksons came, and the Thurmans, and the Mitchells. And then the Skinners came. If I look through my high school year book, I’d see all the other ones that were there, but I can’t remember off the top of my head. Just getting people there.
And they were good people; they were good kids. In school, they were well-known, they were popular, they were—people respected them, liked them, from what I could tell. I think one of the things that was really noteworthy was the presence. Because in my circle of friends, we lived in, of course, a white middle-class neighborhood in one of the government houses. All the people around us were just white middle-class people from the Midwest. They didn’t have any inclination towards civil right or social justice. And here my parents came in, they brought this to the forefront.
I think one of the most noteworthy things was educating the other children that we were friends with. Because there were six kids in our family, and we all had a lot of friends. And the friends all hung out at our house a lot, because our home was one a lot of people came to. It was a very open home, and my mom—the door was always open. There was lots of kids around all the time, the neighbor kids running around. And my mom was very vocal and she talked a lot about what was happening. It was the process of educating and spreading the word out slowly. It wasn’t doing big things, picketing, making a big name for yourself doing public speaking. My parents didn’t do that; they were more the behind-the-scenes workers. The influence they had on the people they met day-to-day, because you kind of slowly infiltrate the thought process of those people.
My friends now still talk about the influence my mother had on them and my father had on them to change their thinking and make them look at civil rights as something acceptable. Because what they would hear from their own parents or from the television in this white middle-class neighborhood was that was an issue that was somewhere else. During the race riots of the ‘60s, those are troublemakers, they’re dangerous. As the Black Panther movement and some of those, like, those are really bad organizations. But from my parents, and being around my parents, they learned that, no, those weren’t. And my mother tried to join the Black Panthers, that was another funny thing she did.
Harvey: Oh, yeah. There was something about the church, instead of giving money to the parish, she wrote a letter and said her funds were going to Black Panthers that year. She sent a letter to them with a membership and wanting to join the group, I think it was in Chicago. Well, they wouldn’t take her. They said, no. They sent it back and said that—I don’t know what, that was what I heard, that they didn’t let her join. But she wanted to join all those militant groups. She got angry. She had a temper and she would get pissed off and angry and want to do these things.
But the fact that she did that influenced all the children that hung out at our house. They were young kids from grade school all the way through high school, because they were all there. So that was probably a huge—I would say that was a huge influence that they had, not just on us kids, but on the non—the kids who weren’t coming from families like ours, that had no other exposure to this.
Franklin: Right, kind of raising awareness of—
Harvey: Yeah, mm-hmm, throughout the whole community. So we’d go to school and we’d talk in our classes and my friends would talk. It became—I think it brought awareness of what the issues were, especially in Richland, because you weren’t surrounded by other cultures to be exposed to, to see that there was—you didn’t see discrimination, because there weren’t other cultures to discriminate against.
Franklin: Or for the few African Americans in Richland, especially those in Pasco, it was so much more kind of informal racism—
Harvey: Yes, yes, yep.
Franklin: --or, what’s the word I’m looking for? Beneath the surface. It wasn’t outright like Jim Crow of the South; it was subtle.
Harvey: Yeah, very subtle, yeah. Very subtle, yup, mm-hmm.
Franklin: Did your parents spend much time in east Pasco with the community?
Franklin: Did you go out there with them as well?
Harvey: I did, but I remember going to houses to do things. You know, pick up this, do that. But my younger brother actually spent more time there, because of his age. When my parents—because my mom got more and more involved as us kids got older and got more independent in school. So we were getting up to high school and then she was free to go, but she still had this young kid at home. So he got tagged-along. So he actually would have more stories about going into homes and he might remember the people there more. Whereas I was watching from afar.
Like, I remember, instead of dinner coming at a reasonable hour, now dinner was always hours late because she wasn’t home. And it was some thrown-together thing, because she was gone doing something in east Pasco. She was there a lot. And then she got involved in the Hispanic community over there, too. That became another big focus, that she became very involved with the farm workers union. She became involved in, what was it, Community Action Council, over there that was in Pasco. And that was more—well, now, I don’t—I think it was more of the migrant farm workers active stuff. But I’m not sure, you’d have to look that one up. Because then she got very involved with different groups. We didn’t have any other big ethnic groups around that I recall, other than the blacks and the Hispanics, because they were the farm workers. So those were the two that she got real involved in. And then we started to have—you know, we had friends there in the Hispanic community, too, that became part of our circle.
Franklin: As opposed to successes, what were some of the biggest challenges of the civil rights movements?
Harvey: Well, from my parents’ perspective, one of the challenges she had was with the Church, because my parents were Catholic and they were very involved in the Catholic Church. And she was very, very angry that the Church wasn’t more progressive. If she would get in fights with the priest, Father Sweeney—she called him a white, racist bigot because he wouldn’t put a political sign in the yard about something about civil rights, in the rectory front yard. And she would get very angry at the Catholic Church about women’s issues. Because then, of course, it evolved into women’s rights, too. That was probably one of her biggest challenges, was her frustration with the Church. Because she was born and raised a Catholic, and she was a very strong believer.
I do remember a conversation that—frequently when I’d come home from school, they’d be sitting around—she and Shirley Miller and my mom and whoever else some of the women were in the group—sitting around the kitchen table, talking. Oh, Margaret Gregor was another one that was part of the group. She was in Richland, too. And talking about how pissed off they were with the Catholic Church, and they should just leave the church and go to some other, more accepting—I think Margaret Gregor was the one who said, but if we leave, there’ll be nobody left to change it. So we have to stay and fight. So I know that was a challenge, to stay and fight the Church. And my mother did. I mean, she fought until she died. She fought the Church the whole time. But she kept going, every week, she’d go back to mass. And my dad was more quiet. He didn’t talk as much as she did. He was more of the silent type in the background that was doing the work.
Franklin: Did your father or mother ever face any blow-back or recrimination for their work in civil rights, either professionally or in the community?
Harvey: Well, in the community, through the parish, they did. I remember them going to some parish party one time, and we kids were home alone because we were older. They went to—it was at a house that I won’t mention the name, but—it was some big parish house. And they came home furious, early. And my mother was just livid red because they were telling racist jokes there. And she told them there was a goddamn white bigot—racist bigot, to the host of the party, she went up and screamed it in his face and marched out the door. Then I think she became labeled in the parish after that. Not that it bothered her at all. Most of her friends became—she became social in this other group. But maybe there, they did.
I don’t know about other—my older sister, I think confided—she confided more in her about her feelings about things. So my mother might have confided more—she might know more about it. And I don’t know about my father, either.
I do remember the first black man we ever saw—that I ever saw was a scientist who came out to Hanford to work. He was doing some sabbatical work or guest—and he was from Africa. He came out to work at Hanford and my dad brought him over for dinner. I don’t know if—I remember he came to dinner and he had this beautiful African accent. But us kids were just amazed because we’d never known a black person before, and it was just like, wow, this is really cool. So I don’t know if he ever received—if he ever had any repercussions of what he did. I don’t know. I never heard anything about it.
Franklin: Was he out there marching as well?
Harvey: Yeah. In fact, I have pictures of my parents marching on George Washington Way when my dad was in his late 80s, still standing there picketing the war.
Franklin: Oh, the Iraq War?
Harvey: Yeah, yeah, mm-hmm. When he was—he was 90 when he passed away, so he was in his mid-80s, probably, and he was still standing on the sidewalk picketing with Jim Stoffels—he’s another name you might talk to, is Jim Stoffels.
Franklin: Oh, I know Jim—I’m a member of BRMA.
Franklin: I know Jim well, yeah.
Harvey: So Jim was out there on the sidewalk with him, yeah.
Franklin: Yeah, World Citizens for Peace.
Harvey: Yeah, so he was out there, yup, ‘til the very end.
Harvey: And my mom, too. I have a picture of her doing it, too, yeah.
Franklin: Good for them.
Harvey: In fact, when she passed away, the Social Justice Committee at Christ the King Church put up a plaque for her in the church vestibule, in honor of her and her work on the Social Justice Committee at the parish. So I think as the church became more accepting, she became more involved. And they did create a social justice committee and then she became active in that.
Franklin: Richland also had its own Human Rights Commission; were your parents involved—
Harvey: They were, and I don’t know anything about it. It’s probably in the files.
Franklin: Okay, that’s fine, that’s fine. Were you directly involved in any civil rights efforts?
Harvey: Not—you know, in high school, other than painting signs—but us kids were more like, it was more like a social activity. It was fun. The parents would be upstairs putting something together and we’d be down in the basement playing pool and ping-pong and painting signs and having a great time. It was this—I don’t know how many kids, whatever parents were up there, we were downstairs doing it.
And then there were political—I remember political gatherings at the house. I remember Jim McDermott had a campaign function at our house, and a lot of those people were there, multicultural, multiracial group there. I participated in that, mostly because there was a keg of beer and you could drink. Even though you were only in high school, you could sneak in and get drunk off the beer.
And hearing a lot of the politicians’ names that were running for office. I remember Jay Inslee’s name, he was there. Hearing these names all the time—because then as my parents moved into the—you know, it became—I don’t know if CORE disbanded or what happened to CORE, but it went from NAACP and then into the democratic committee, and a lot of those people moved into the democratic party and started becoming more mainstream active there. And they kind of joined, I guess, NAACP and democratic group. Because my dad’s efforts went there, too. So I remember those types of functions.
But as far as doing more on my own—other than going to political rallies when I became high school, I remember going to McGovern rallies and Shirley Chisholm rallies and stuff like that. But I don’t remember doing other things.
Franklin: How did the larger national civil rights movement influence civil rights efforts at Hanford and the Tri-Cities?
Harvey: Well, probably because it brought it up to the forefront. It was in the newspaper, it was on the news, and made people in the community aware. Even though you didn’t have—in Richland, there was nothing going on. I mean, you didn’t see it. And if you didn’t go to Pasco, you didn’t see it. I mean, us kids didn’t see it because you were living in this white community, middle-class community. But seeing it on TV brought it to the forefront. We’d talk about it in school, we had classes that you’d talk about it. And then the Black Power movement with the youth group—the African American kids in school, they had some sort of club they formed—and they would talk about it. So the national brought it in and brought it to the awareness, I guess.
Franklin: From your perspective, what was different about civil rights efforts here?
Harvey: Well, I don’t think we had the violence that you saw. And we didn’t have—I don’t know about the poverty. It was different, maybe, because it wasn’t inner-city poverty. The poverty was in east Pasco. But there wasn’t the violence of the rioting and stuff that you saw elsewhere. I mean, I never felt unsafe, even when I was in east Pasco. And I had a good friend whose father had a business in east Pasco, and they were white. They traded business with the east Pasco community and were respectful of each other. I don’t remember anything in particular about it. So maybe that’s how it was different. It was smaller, I guess. From my perspective as a kid. And it was just something that was part of—we didn’t think it was anything unusual; this was just the way our family was. So it was mainstream. It wasn’t anything unique to us; it was just life.
Franklin: What did you know or learn about the prior history of African American workers at Hanford?
Harvey: You know, I didn’t know anything until I saw the video that CJ Mitchell was in. I didn’t know anything about it that I can recall. I don’t remember my parents talking about it with us. They probably did with their own group, but with just the kids, I don’t remember them discussing it. Their conversations were more right now, what’s going on now, what do we need to do right now, with their friends.
Franklin: Right. From your perspective, what were their most important contributions in the areas of work, community life and civil rights?
Harvey: Of my parents?
Franklin: Of African American workers at Hanford.
Harvey: Okay, repeat that again? What was--?
Franklin: What were their most important contributions in the areas of work, community life and civil rights?
Harvey: At Hanford?
Harvey: Well, probably that they built it. That was probably huge. I mean, I can’t imagine that whole Manhattan Project happening without the workers. And they made up a piece of them. And the people—you know, the people that were out there at Manhattan building it, they weren’t from here; they all—so they probably were aware of African American people. Maybe some of them had worked side-by-side with them before, I don’t know. I mean, the fact that they actually came and did the work, that’s pretty significant.
Franklin: Yeah. Do you remember when you learned about what was being made at Hanford?
Harvey: Well, we knew, because of the Richland Bombers. And we knew that was our mascot. But it wasn’t really something you even thought about. Really, until I got—I remember in high school, seeing the bomb mascot, and then, I remember being very aware then, because—you’ve probably seen at the high school, there’s the bomb on the floor, and you weren’t allowed to walk on the bomb; you had to walk around it. You know, I don’t remember—probably—
Franklin: Really? You weren’t allowed to walk on the—why was that?
Harvey: Oh. Because it was sacred. It was the school mascot. And it was the warhead. Have you seen it?
Harvey: Yeah! Okay, so, when you were walking—that was the mixing area. I haven’t been in the high school in many, many, many years, but that was the main mixing area, and you didn’t step on that. That was—you didn’t step on the mascot. You walked around the mascot. That was the rule. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Interesting that they painted it on the floor then, but okay.
Harvey: Well, it was a tile or something, isn’t it? Or is it painted? I don’t remember.
Franklin: I think it’s painted.
Harvey: And it’s kind of right in the center, so it’d be like the cougar was right there, the Wazzu cougar was right there. Don’t step on the cougar!
Franklin: Sure, sure.
Harvey: Or the Husky, you know. You don’t step on, that’s our motto. Yeah. So I don’t remember ever not being aware that what we did at Hanford, I mean, we made plutonium for a bomb. But I don’t remember ever thinking, well, what do they do there? I never even thought about it, you know, as a kid you didn’t think about it.
I do remember, one of my friends who went to school with me, and she went to Gonzaga, and at our five-year class reunion, we were at our reunion here, and we’re sitting around talking, and she said she never realized how weird it was to grow up here. Because like I said, we thought this was normal. She was sitting in her dorm room at Gonzaga and they were talking about things you did in school to get out of school. Like, you’d pull the fire alarm. We did that a lot. Or you’d pretend you were sick. Or you’d pretend it was that time of month and you had to go to the bathroom right away. Or you’d have, somebody would call in a bomb scare to the school, you know, one of your friends would skip class and call in a bomb scare. And they were all kind of laughing about these things.
And Barbie says, oh, yeah, I remember when the Whole Body Counter came to school. That was great! And they look at her and go, what? And she says, the Whole Body Counter. When it used to come to school. And they said, what was that? Well, you know, you’d get your whole body count of your radiation count, your uranium count done? And they all looked at her like she was completely nuts; they were horrified. So then she explained what it was. But she’s told us, I never realized that that wasn’t something everybody else did. That we did it, and nobody else did that. But it came to the school, and you went through it. And that was what it was like growing up here; you thought that was completely normal stuff.
Franklin: Wow. Did your parents ever talk about—being so focused on civil rights, did they ever talk about their reactions to Hanford’s role and the building of the nuclear arsenal?
Harvey: You know, I don’t remember them talking about it, other than it was a job at a time where there were no jobs. You know, my mother’s father, when they came out, he was unemployed and they were destitute. So it saved their family. It created a new home for them. And my mother had a very close affinity to Japanese people, because she lived in Japan, and she became friends with some Japanese people and she had a very high respect for them. She never talked about feeling guilty or remorseful for that. I never heard that.
Yeah, that’s interesting, because—and they weren’t really involved in the stopping nuclear proliferation; that wasn’t something they were involved in at all. I think Jim Stoffels is involved in that more now. He was the one in the group that went that route. But they were not that—they were in peace, no war, but they didn’t specifically target nuclear war, atomic war. That was something we grew up with; it was just a part of life. And the bomb ended the war. That was it. That was what you learned.
Franklin: Sure, sure. And purportedly kept wars from happening.
Harvey: Yep, yep, mm-hmm.
Franklin: Was Jim involved in civil rights efforts with your parents? How long did that relationship go back?
Harvey: Well, he—I don’t recall. His name is on some of those papers in there, though. So, I believe it is. Or you could ask him, because I don’t know when he came and became involved with it. He was more of the peace thing, I got the impression that his focus was world peace and ending war. So it was probably more about the Vietnam War issue or that sort of thing, that he kind of came and became friends. Because I don’t remember when I was a kid if he was around. He was more somebody we got to know when I was older, like maybe even out of high school, that he came on the picture.
Franklin: Sure, sure. I’ve interviewed Jim, just we never talked about it, because I knew of his peace/war concern and down that route.
Harvey: So you’d have to ask him that. I haven’t seen him in a year.
Franklin: It’d be interesting to—
Harvey: Yeah, you’ll have to ask him that, because I’m not sure when he came in.
Franklin: Sure. I just have a few more questions here. So you graduated from Richland High, right, a Bomber. And then what did you do after that?
Harvey: Well, I knew I didn’t want to go to college right away, because I was really sick of school. So I actually moved to Tacoma, because one of my friends from high school was going to college in Tacoma and she wanted a roommate. So I moved up there, lived there for a year with her together. And then met a man and fell in love and we moved in together, and he wanted to go back to school at Wazzu to get an engineering degree. So we left Tacoma and ended up in Pullman together. And I started college there, then. Actually, I started at CBC and then I went to Pullman. After a year, I transferred to the University of Washington. So I went to school there and that’s where I graduated from there. And I married this man and we had children and we divorced 15 years later. But we stayed over there in Tacoma. And I went to school and I got my degree in nutrition. So I’m a dietician.
Harvey: Yeah, mm-hmm.
Franklin: What would you like future generations to know about living in Richland during the Cold War?
Harvey: [LAUGHTER] It was very interesting. Very unique. It was just such a unique, interesting thing. I don’t know. The only thing, I didn’t realize—you can’t explain it to people, it was so strange. But when my daughter, my youngest daughter was in a book club when she was in grade school, and one of the books the book club read was, I think, The Great Glass Sea. It’s a children’s novel about living in Los Alamos during the same time period. And it’s a children’s book. A young girl and her father or her mother or something are physicists or something that go and live there. And when I’m reading this book with my daughter, I realize, this was my life exactly. That the way this story this girl is talking about growing up in this government village, building a nuclear bomb—and there was mention of Richland in the book, because they were all part of the same project. And I just said, it suddenly dawned on me, this is what my life was. And I didn’t realize it was anything unique or different at the time. You didn’t even know it until you talked to other people that came from other places. And I told my daughter that. Because she had been in Richland lots of times. And I said, this is what Richland was like.
And you don’t see that now, because now you see this—there’s a lot of green. It’s such a different—almost a normal community now, compared to what it was then. It was not normal. It was weird. But you thought it was normal, that was all it was. As you got older, you could go to Pasco and see a little bit of normalcy over there, that that was what the world was like. Kennewick was kind of odd, because it was more like a suburb; it wasn’t—there wasn’t much in Kennewick. There wasn’t much reason to go to Kennewick; it was kind of just a dull place. Whereas Pasco had some big buildings and old houses that really look cool, like farm houses. So you felt like there was some culture in Pasco. Richland had nothing. It was just ugly. [LAUGHTER] And there was nothing to do, as a kid, you know. There was just—there was nothing to do. You could walk to the river and float down the river. There was not a lot to do.
Franklin: Is there anything else you’d like to mention related to civil rights and how they impacted your parents’ life and your life in the Tri-Cities?
Harvey: Well, I thought it was really unique and very brave of them to take that on. My mother was like that. She would get a passion about something. And then the thing I learned from them is that if something’s wrong and you’re going to complain about it, don’t complain unless you’re willing to do something. You don’t have to do something big. Because neither one of my parents were leaders; they just became the working bees. And I heard that a lot from their friends over the years. John Slaughter says that to me all the time. He says, your parents were the working bees. I ran into Jay Inslee one time on an airplane flying back from Washington, DC, years ago. I went up to him, because we were walking in the aisle, and I introduced myself and I said, Jay, I remember your name as a kid growing up, and I told him who I was. And his response was, oh, yeah, Dick and Nyla, they were the workers. They were the workers. Those are the people that you really need in your organization.
And probably what I learned was that that work is as important as any work. You don’t have to be the leader; you just have to say, I’ll be the person to stuff the envelopes, or I’ll be the person to get the poster board and paint the signs. Any little bit can make a difference in the outcome. And I learned that a lot. And that’s kind of the way I’ve always taken things, that when there’s something—a project that needs to be done, I’m not afraid to say, well, you know, if I don’t volunteer, nobody will. And I have no reason—I don’t have any right to complain about it, if I’m not willing to volunteer.
And so I guess my legacy from my mother and father is that I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with the nutrition field that I work in. I work in kidney disease and dialysis. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone many, many times to—I say, well, okay you need a volunteer; I can do that. And it’s a lot of extra work. It is. I mean, my parents did a lot of extra work. And the family survived. My mother wasn’t there cooking dinner, doing laundry, cleaning the house. We didn’t have any of that stuff, and we survived. She was out doing other things. She was working hard to see what she could do to make the world better for other people. And my dad, too.
And I think that’s one thing that I’ve learned from them is you don’t have to be a leader; you just have to be a worker. And if you’re not willing to step up and be a worker, then quit bitching about it. Just shut up and go stick your head in a hole. So. And that was kind of the, I guess, that was the way I see them. Now, my brother and sister may say something completely different. That’s just my impression.
Franklin: Sure, sure, sure. Well, thank you so much for coming and taking the time to interview with us today. I really appreciate your perspective on your parents.
Harvey: Thanks! Mm-hmm.