Interview with Vanessa Moore
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’m conducting an oral history interview with Vanessa Moore on May 11th, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I’ll be talking with Vanessa about her experiences living in the Tri-Cities and working at the Hanford Site. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?
Vanessa Moore: Sure. My full name is Vanessa Bernetta Mitchell Moore, I guess. That’s with the married name. So, V-A-N-E-S-S-A, B-E-R-N-E-T-T-A, maiden name M-I-T-C-H-E-L-L, married name, M-O-O-R-E.
Franklin: Great. And Vanessa, when and where were you born?
Moore: I was born in Richland. And December—well, December 2nd of 1956 is my birthdate.
Franklin: December 2nd 1956. And how did you or your family first come to Richland?
Moore: They came to Richland in the ‘50s, I believe, as a family. We came as a family. My parents and a couple of older brothers. But originally, my father and mother both were born in Kildare, Texas. They actually lived, basically, next-door to one another. So they grew up there. My father first came out here, I believe he told me 1947 as a single teenager. He was following a couple of uncles of his. It was William Daniels and Vanis Daniels, Senior. So he came up and was here, I think, briefly at first. Now, I may not be 100% accurate because it’s second-hand, but he was here for a while with them, went back to Texas and got married. And then he went briefly to I think it was Chicago, because his older brother, William Mitchell, was in Chicago. So he was there for a bit. And I don’t know if my oldest brother was born there or before they went. But anyway, it was in the early ‘50s that Mom and Dad came to, I think, Hermiston, maybe, first, and then they lived in Pasco when the three oldest children were born. I’m number four, and I was born in Richland. I can’t remember if Nestor was born in Richland or Pasco. But we lived down on the south end of Richland—what I call the south end. I don’t think they call it that anymore, down near Aaron Drive and Winco.
Franklin: Right, the south of old—you know.
Moore: Right, old Richland.
Franklin: Before the river.
Moore: Right, that used to be called south Richland. So we lived on, I think it was Craighill. 100 Craighill Street, that’s where I was born—or where I lived when I was born.
Franklin: What first brought your father and his uncles, your great-uncles, to Hanford?
Moore: Opportunity for work and to make more money. The way I understood it, wages were low and they were in southeast Texas, and people either farmed—my mother’s family farmed. My father’s was a single mom household because Grandpa had gotten killed when Dad was young. So I think she did domestic work, and he as a teenager did some work at the sawmill or something here and there. But the opportunity to come and make more money in construction, I think it was, because I know Dad worked on McNary Dam and what we call the Blue Bridge in Pasco, and some other construction-type work. As I said, part of the time, they lived in Hermiston and then also in Pasco. Dad was a, I think a chem tech for General Electric in the early days.
Franklin: A chem tech?
Franklin: What—do you know anything about that?
Moore: Because I know he took chemistry. He would always go to school. So we were little kids, and he was working, but I remember him taking a lot of night classes at CBC. He was a—I guess they worked in the chemistry labs or something, the chem techs. We have them still now at PNNL now. So that was one of the things he did before he got into what they called personnel back then instead of human resources.
Franklin: What was your father’s educational level?
Moore: He had graduated, I think, top in the class or high in the class in high school, Perfection High in Kildare, Texas, I remember that. At the age of 17, because he would tell me—or 16 or 17. Then, as I said, when we were young, he took a lot of night classes at CBC and I think he got his associate’s degree at some point. My older brother may have more accurate information, but I believe he did. And he would be studying, like, he’d work shift work. So sometimes he was off during the day, and some of the little ones who were still home, we’d go fishing with him or something, but when it was time to study, he’d just say, hit the road. [LAUGHTER] We knew what that meant. And he said—one time he told me, he said, I want to stay ahead of you, of all you kids, so that I can help you with your school work. And he insisted we all had to take chemistry. I didn’t do that well in it; I think I got a B. But it wasn’t my favorite class. And you know, like, math and all those different things. Or he was taking some sort of course to learn to do something, like small appliance repair courses and things like that. So he could make a little extra money, or save a little extra money. Either one.
Franklin: The way I understand it, there was a large extended family migration from Kildare up to Pasco and Richland. What other—what were some of your other relatives that came up from Kildare?
Moore: As I said, the Daniels. So, my great-uncles, Uncle Willy and Uncle Vanis, and then Edmond Richmond, I didn’t know we were related until some of these projects started but he also—they called him Shorty--I knew of him all my life. And Sparks is another family name, Groves. Trying to think of some others. Brown. I know that his name is Primmer Brown, and his wife, Suzanne, is somehow related to my mother. So there were the Browns and the Miles, because she had two or three sisters whose families were also here, so. The older I got, the more family I met. So it’s quite a few.
Franklin: What was your mother’s name?
Moore: Her maiden name was Castleberry.
Franklin: Castleberry. And what was her first name?
Franklin: Bernice Castleberry.
Moore: She worked out in the so-called Area at one point, also.
Franklin: What did she do out there?
Moore: She was—they had a differentiation between secretaries and clerks, and I think that she was considered a clerk. She started in a time—let’s see, my youngest brother was just going to school. So she was a stay-at-home mom until the sixth child was like in kindergarten. And there was a program, I don’t know whether it was Battelle or GE at that time, but where they were trying to increase the number of women and I think minorities in particular—I could be wrong, but I think so—into the workforce. So you might think of it as like a steno pool, or the secretarial pool. Quite a few ladies came to work at that time. Before that, maybe they were doing domestic work or stay-at-home moms or doing other things. But it was an opportunity to learn while you worked, you were paid while you learn, and then you would be sent out on assignments. So I remember her taking speed writing and typing and different things. So you may have an assignment to fill-in for someone who’s on vacation, and eventually have an opportunity to have a full-time position yourself. So I know she and several other ladies that I’m familiar with did that and worked until retirement. Unfortunately, Mom had to retire early for medical reasons. But Opal Andrews, I think, is another individual that you were going to interview. She did that. She’s in the Miles family, so she would be CW Brown’s first cousin, I guess.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Moore: Yeah. And I think she last worked for Westinghouse or DoE. So I’m hoping she will eventually come sit with you.
Franklin: Yeah, me, too. You mentioned, you have five siblings, right? So six of you total.
Franklin: Duke, Greg—
Franklin: Robin. And you’re fourth?
Moore: I’m in between Cameron and Robin. So Duke’s name is actually David.
Moore: So David Mitchell, Gregory Mitchell, Nestor, Vanessa, Cameron, and Robin.
Franklin: Okay, thanks. [LAUGHTER]
Moore: But some people say there’s no girls in that family, so. All my life it was, what? There are no girls in that family!
Franklin: And how did that make you feel?
Moore: It was all right. [LAUGHTER] I said, well, there must be, because I’m here.
Franklin: What else do you know about your parents’ lives before they came to Washington?
Moore: On my mother’s side, I know that Grandpa had about 150 acres that they farmed, because he was able to participate in the, I think, forty acre and a mule program. So he had an opportunity to get that going. My mom had, I don’t know, five or six siblings. So they raised what they ate and they had some animals, and mom would say, people thought we were rich. And she’s like, huh? They’re just making a living. But they would help others around them maybe who didn’t have as much. Maybe it’s time to kill a hog or something, you know, how families would get together and share whatever, share the work and share the benefit. So I think they worked hard and school was always very important. Mom and Dad went to the same little one-room schoolhouse in Kildare. I’ve been there a few times. It’s very small. It’s still very small. It’s kind of like a cross in the road, it seemed like an intersection for the city, when we were little, although there were homes around there. And it’s in southeast Texas where it’s very humid, so we’d go in the summer and that wasn’t that much fun.
But, like I said, my father’s father was killed, I believe in a railroad accident. We were always told that he was hit by a train. But I don’t know if they were certain of that, or if it was just because of the circumstances of where his body was near the train tracks, they assumed. So there’s still some stories around what happened there. So my father as a young person had to kind of assume the father role. I know his younger sister, Emma, who lives here also, she followed him up and is still here, that he was more like a father to her because Grandpa had been killed so early and Grandma just had to work really hard to try to make ends meet. So I think his life was a lot harder there than here. He and Mom, from what I’ve been told, were like high school sweethearts because my aunts, my mom’s sisters were always saying, oh, he just loved Bernice. CJ and Bernice. So. They were like 18, 19 when they got married.
Franklin: Oh, okay, wow. Did either your father or mother ever talk about their first impressions when they came here? Because it’s such a different environment from east Texas.
Moore: When we asked them about it in our latter years, you know, as we were older, they would talk about it. I don’t recall them talking a lot about it when we were growing up, except the way they did things. Because my mom, having grown up on a farm, she still had ways she did things, from carrying on from the farm to the house to the yard, the way you work and when you work.
Franklin: Do you have any examples?
Moore: Their work ethic, I think, was good. Let me try. Some of the remedies and things that my mother would come up with. She would make us drink cod liver oil. Like once a year, she would get about a quarter of a cup of orange juice and stir a tablespoon of cod liver oil in it really fast and say, drink this.
Franklin: My grandmom, when I was young, made me do the same thing.
Moore: Yeah, and those were things—
Franklin: She grew up on a farm in the Depression, and yeah, I don’t--
Moore: I don’t—it was supposed to keep you healthy, I guess.
Franklin: Well, you’re still here!
Moore: And she would talk about people eating a little bit of sulfur to keep bugs from biting them. We never did it, but that was something they did there, where they would put—and I remember seeing this once when we visited and I was a child—they would take powdered lime and put it in a ring around the house to keep critters from crawling in. Have you ever heard of that?
Franklin: I have, actually.
Moore: I think that’s what it was for.
Franklin: That can still be done today. You can get that bituminous earth that you can line your house and it’s sharp and pointy and any bugs that try to crawl over it get all shredded up.
Moore: Oh, okay.
Franklin: So they don’t—but it’s harmless to people and animals.
Moore: Sure. So that was one thing she would do. She talked about Grandma, when it was time to like kill chickens, bring in the chickens and axe and how you did all of that. And using the lye to clean all of the stuff off like a pig or something, if you’re getting ready to butcher animals. I remember visiting in--it was in the ‘60s, so I don’t remember how old I was--but I was amazed that my grandmother was so strong. They didn’t have indoor plumbing, so you’d have to go to the outhouse in the cow pasture. [LAUGHTER] That’s where the outhouse was. But all the boys, all my brothers, had these Levi jeans. You know, in the old days jeans were really thick and heavy. She would just wash them and wring them out like this, these arms. I thought, wow, Grandma! Grandma knows what she’s doing. And she had this habit of—I shouldn’t put this on tape—snuff. You know what snuff is?
Franklin: Yeah, the powdered tobacco.
Moore: Yeah, she always had some right here. And she’d have a little can that she carried around with her. And I know Grandma couldn’t read and write. My mom would—she made an X and then other people would sign for her. My mother used to tell me how she spent a lot of time with her dad, helping him get ready for his preaching. He was sort of like a—even though he was a farmer, he was also like a circuit preacher. So she said, I’d run Bible verses with him. So she would help him, or she would read things to my grandmother if she needed that.
Franklin: Did he know how to read?
Moore: Yeah. Oh, Grandpa did, yeah.
Franklin: Oh, great, your grandfather did.
Moore: My grandfather did, yeah. But Grandma, she did not. It seemed like a time where she had to take care of everything at the home, in the house. Making sure there were meals there when people came in from the field, because you had to eat and get back to work. By the time—Mom would say she would get everything ready for everybody else, but she never had time for herself. So I always thought that was kind of sad. I felt bad, because Grandma didn’t get a chance to do some things other people got to do. She would make their clothes. My mom would tell me stories of—I think she had four sisters, Robbie, Dessie, Marjorie—about four. She’d get bolts of material like every year, say, okay, we’ll go to the store, I’ll buy five bolts of material. You guys tell me what you want. They’d look at the Sears catalogue or whatever and say, I want the sleeves from this dress and I want the bodice from this dress, and Grandma would make them. I thought that was amazing, too.
Moore: How do you do all these things? They’re like wonder women back in those days! So, anyway, that’s kind of a side story.
Franklin: No, that’s really wonderful. It’s nice to kind of set the—you know, inform people what life was like in the South and the kind of conditions that people left. Did your grandmother, did she stay in Kildare her whole life?
Moore: She and Grandpa would come up here during the off-season from farming, because my grandfather would work at Hanford to make extra money so that he could pay his farm off faster.
Franklin: And that was your mother’s father, or your--?
Moore: Yes, my mother’s father.
Franklin: And what was his name?
Moore: David Castleberry, my oldest brother is named after him.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Moore: So it was David and Rilland. Grandma’s name was Rilland, R-I-L-L-A-N-D.
Franklin: That’s an interesting—
Franklin: I can’t say I’ve ever heard that name.
Moore: I know! But it’s kind of an interesting story that later on in my life, I found out that my husband’s grandmother and my grandmother actually were neighbors. When Grandma was living here when she’d come up to visit, they lived in houses that were back-to-back. Here, what, I don’t know how many years later, their grandchildren end up marrying each other. To me, that’s just amazing!
Franklin: Yeah, that is amazing. Wow. So you’re talking about your grandparents and then your husband’s.
Moore: Right, my mother’s parents and my father-in-law’s mom. My husband’s grandmother.
Franklin: Your husband’s grandmother. And what was her name again?
Moore: Her name was Campbell.
Franklin: Right, the last name was Campbell. Okay.
Moore: Yeah, I don’t remember her first name. I think they called her Mama or something like that. But Grandma Campbell.
Franklin: What did David Castleberry do at Hanford? Was he just a general laborer?
Moore: That I don’t know. I imagine. I don’t know. Vanis might know.
Franklin: He knows a lot of things, that Vanis.
Moore: He’s enough older than me that he would know, kind of the in-between generation.
Franklin: Sure. He just also seems to soak up all of that lore. So for yourself, growing up in Richland, how many other black families were there in Richland when you were coming of age?
Moore: I can think of a couple. The Rockamores, the Wallaces, the Browns. I guess more than a couple. And a family named Shirley, Calvin Shirley, I think is the son’s name. Oh, and I think Fred Baker. My dad had a friend named Fred Baker, and they were here. So there were a few. When I was in grade school, sometimes there wouldn’t be anybody else in the school except for me and a cousin, or me and a brother, that type of thing. So it’s not—it certainly wasn’t like it is now; it was very rare. You’re probably going to be the only black face in the school class picture back then. And everyone pretty much knew the other families, I guess, because the parents knew each other. Maybe they would socialize or maybe they were related or worked in the same area.
Franklin: How would you describe life in the community?
Moore: Well, to me it was normal. You play with the kids on the block, and we went to school together. I’d get some odd questions sometime.
Franklin: Like what?
Moore: Like, is that your real hair? Or, if someone touched you, would it rub off?
Franklin: Are these questions from kids or from adults?
Moore: From kids. From kids. And then as I got older, there’d be name-calling here and there.
Franklin: Like racial name-calling?
Moore: Yeah. Not real harsh, maybe like Oreo or Tootsie Roll, or something like that, the type of thing a kid would say. I remember one time I was at Jefferson School, and I think I was in fifth or sixth grade, and my brother, Bill Mitchell—excuse me, not brother—my first cousin, Bill Mitchell, he and I were actually in the same class, and I want to say my younger brother Cameron was there, Nestor was already out and Robbie was too young. So there was like probably three of us in the whole school. I was always a good student, always thought of as the leader. You know, you put kids in groups and the teacher would always say, you’re going to be the leader in this. Or if you have to pick the leader, they’d say, well, why don’t you do it?—the other kids. So, I think one thing I noticed is that the teacher would remember my name by the first day. Because you’re the only person who looks like you, and my name is a little unusual so maybe that had something to do with it. But you know what I’m saying? It’s easier to associate and remember that person because they look different than everybody else. I had positive experiences for the most part, but I remember one time a boy saying something, calling me a name and another boy who heard it said, you better not say that; her brother’s going to beat you up. And I thought, Cameron? He’s not going to beat anybody up.
But I think my brothers’ experiences—I know their experiences were different than mine. And I know my parents protected me a little bit. Like when we got older, I couldn’t go to, say, a basketball game in Pasco just with my friends. My brother had to be there. Part of it was the Pasco/Richland rivalry, but part of it, too, was, we don’t want you to be there by yourself. Or wherever it was. Just to be careful. So I know it was there.
I learned some things sort of after the fact or by figuring things out. For instance, we were looking for a house. We first started on the south end and then, I think I was going into third grade, and we moved to what’s called Richland Village, which you would not know what that is. But these houses like Newcomer Street, just south of here, like the other side of Spangler, the older ones that kind of all look alike, that was called Richland Village. Those were the government homes that you couldn’t buy them at some point. The ability to buy them came about when I was a child. I don’t know exactly when, but my parents bought a house in there. But we had looked somewhere else and everybody liked the house and we didn’t get it. Found out later that, well, no, they weren’t going to sell that house to us. That was in Richland also. And my father became a realtor later on after—well, maybe right before he retired and continued on. So seeing some of the documents that realtors work with opened his eyes about some other things, too.
Franklin: Right, the covenants.
Moore: Redlining and the covenants and things like that. But anyway, he knew those things. I remember Dad saying he moved to Richland to be closer to work and also to move us to where we would have maybe a different experience.
Franklin: Different from what?
Moore: Because originally most everyone was in east Pasco because that’s where you could be. And so was he. But the community, maybe, was a little smaller and more—not close-knit, that’s not the word I mean, but isolated, maybe? Separated? So we would go over, a lot of times, Sunday after church, Mom and—I don’t know if my dad went so much, but you’d visit. That’s what people did after church, is they’d go visit friends and family. So we’d go to Pasco and visit with a lot of people that she knew or was related to. And Mom and Dad would, sometimes both, and the kids would play and that kind of thing. But I don’t know, he just wanted to reach out and branch out and do some other things. I thought it was interesting.
Moore: Can’t tell you all the reasons why. But it was deliberate.
Franklin: I mean, I guess in hindsight it’s easy to—or you can kind of understand. It seems like more opportunity maybe, a better chance for—because east Pasco was physically separated from the rest of Pasco by the railroad tracks, by the underpass, but always had that reputation that followed it and its citizens, undeservedly, but it certainly was—might be fair to say that less was expected from people in east Pasco than would have been from people from elsewhere.
Moore: I don’t know, that could be. And then you may spend a lot of time reminiscing in the way we used to do things and where we came from, instead of moving forward to new experiences.
Moore: And I think he liked to see what was new and try it out, and wanted the kids to get involved in different things, so.
Franklin: Yeah. What did you do in your spare time?
Moore: What do I do in my spare time?
Moore: Like right now?
Moore: Back then? When I was a kid?
Moore: Oh, gosh. It was always, go outside and play. [LAUGHTER] There were no video games, and there weren’t places to go and hang out and that sort of thing. So you spent time either with your siblings or with your friends or by yourself, just coming up with things to do, exploring the outdoors. I didn’t get involved, really, in sports, like the boys did. I liked to run and chase with my friends and ride bikes and things like that, but not really organized sports too much. Seems like there wasn’t a lot of spare time. Really when you think about it, school and church and chores and—[LAUGHTER] We lived in a two-bedroom prefab with eight people when I was small. [LAUGHTER] You just didn’t—you’re trying to picture that, right?
Franklin: I lived in a two-bedroom prefab for about a year—a little more than a year, actually.
Moore: Did you?
Franklin: Yeah. So I’m really trying to—
Franklin: It felt small for two people, honestly.
Moore: Oh, yeah. I don’t know how we did it. I slept in the living room. Mom and Dad had a room; the youngest child was in a bassinet in their room. And then four other boys had two bunk beds in the other room. I do remember my dad busting a hole in the back and putting a backdoor in so you could get out the back. Yeah. So, just—I don’t know. You’d go to the park, you’d go fishing with family. That kind of thing.
Franklin: Do you remember any particular community events, either here or in east Pasco?
Moore: I remember picnics. Like after church picnics. One was—I don’t know if it was a regular event, but everybody went to Sacajawea Park and we’d take all kinds of food and just spend the day. I do remember that. And then in my early married days, the Juneteenth celebrations that go on in Pasco every June, those seemed to become more and more regular. Other than that, I don’t recall.
Franklin: What can you tell me about Juneteenth? What’s its importance to the black community?
Moore: It has to do with the Emancipation and when the news of Emancipation made it to the community in Texas, and people realized we’re free. So it’s a celebration of that.
Franklin: What does that mean to you?
Moore: Well, a tradition. Right now, it means a tradition to me. It’s an opportunity to inform people of history, remind others of history, and to appreciate what your ancestors went through and did for you in order for you to be who you are and where you are. That’s what it is for me.
Franklin: You mentioned attending church. Which church did you attend?
Moore: As a child, I grew up going to Richland Baptist Church here on George Washington Way. That’s where I was baptized when I was nine. But Mom and Dad would also take us to Morning Star Baptist Church in Pasco. I think before they moved to Richland, they attended either there or New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, which—before my mother passed away, I know she had started going back to that church. I came to find out that it’s like a sister church to a church in Kildare. So that’s one thing that I’ve realized as a child that people did the things they did because they brought it with them. The style of church, the fact that you’re there all afternoon. Because they were farmers. So when you would go to town to go to church, it’s too long a trip to just go and come back. Like, you and I, we can go and go home and get home in five minutes. But it came an event in itself, a social event as well as your worship. When you finished, you would stay and socialize.
Franklin: Right, because it would also—back in the day, it would have been hard to socialize given that people were so—farming communities were so spread out.
Moore: Right, so now we’re all here, bring a pound cake. Some of the food traditions are because of that.
Franklin: What other food traditions did people bring?
Moore: Oh, pound cake, greens—I never liked chitlins, never had them, but—just some of those traditions. I asked my mom about it once. I said, why didn’t you ever make those? She goes, because I don’t like them. [LAUGHTER] And they don’t smell good. But anyway, I think the barbecues you see, some of the things that happen at Juneteenth, people will come in and they’re making their special form of barbecue, or their cakes and jams and pies, whatever it is. Those were traditional to them. Sweet potato pie, that’s one of my favorite ones. And I’m perfecting my recipe.
Franklin: Awesome, I’d like to try it sometime.
Moore: Yeah, I’ll let you try it. It’s pretty popular.
Franklin: I don’t think I’ve ever had sweet potato pie.
Moore: Oh, you’d like it.
Franklin: It’s never been a tradition in my—
Moore: I had never had pumpkin pie until—I didn’t know—when I did have it, I thought, ehh, I don’t know. Do you like candied yams?
Franklin: Love them.
Moore: Then you’d like sweet potato pie better.
Franklin: My family’s a big rhubarb family because in Alaska that’s what grows.
Moore: Oh, really?
Franklin: Rhubarb and strawberries. So strawberry rhubarb pie is just like—
Moore: I’ve heard it’s good.
Franklin: Oh, man, nothing beats my mom’s strawberry rhubarb pie.
Moore: Oh, okay. I’ll have to try that. So some of the things you start to see, the traditions, the way, like I said, the style of a church service or the picnics. Even the reunions now that have grown up. My family has a reunion that’s been going on for I don’t know how many years, the Daniels-Cole reunion. It’s every-other-year, the first week of August. People come together.
Franklin: Does it happen here, or--?
Moore: It happens here or Seattle or California. This year it’s here.
Franklin: Oh, the Daniels-Cole?
Moore: Daniels-Cole, and that’s because Vanis Daniels, Senior, his wife was a Cole. So they’re starting at those two, and that’s where the---
Franklin: And it radiates out.
Moore: Right, so I’m considered third generation from that. For years and years and years, my father was very involved. Vanis is still very involved. I’m not as involved as I used to be.
Franklin: Well, I’d love to come to that and map the family tree. Because I’ve interviewed so many people in this extended family network. I didn’t realize when we started this project—I got all these different names—
Moore: How many people were related. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Well, and then it’s really like, it seems like a lot of the town just picked up and—I’ve interviewed a few folks from—
Moore: That’s what I wonder about.
Franklin: I’ve interviewed a few people not from Kildare, and even not from Texas. But 80, 90% have all been from Kildare.
Moore: In recent years, we’ve talked about, people should just have a Kildare reunion.
Moore: Because there’s so many people. Don’t even call it a family reunion. Just anybody who can trace themselves back, this is your reunion. That would be quite an undertaking. The last Daniels reunion where I hosted something, I want to say we had over 100 people, and most of them were within Tri-Cities/Seattle/Portland. Before you even leave town, there’s a lot of people. Sometimes it’s like, I’m going to have Thanksgiving at my house, but mum’s the word because I don’t want to have 50 people. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Yeah, no kidding. You mentioned your mom didn’t cook chitlins, but did you ever grow up with any other—were those food traditions—any other Southern food traditions an important part of your diet growing up?
Franklin: What else--?
Moore: Dressing. And I called them dumplings—she called them dumplings. I don’t know what other people call them. For Thanksgiving, she would make cornbread. Cornbread and buttermilk was one from my dad. Whenever Mom made cornbread, it was like in a 13x9, and he would take a swath off the end of it and crumble it up in this special rectangular bowl that he had and pour buttermilk over it and eat it. He loved that. I just thought it didn’t sound very good. I’ve never had it, but that was a tradition for him. She would use cornbread and all these other ingredients to make a dressing to go with turkey. Well, she would make pie crust to make the sweet potato pies and the scraps from the crust, she would boil like a broth, like the stock from the turkey innards, you know? Where you’re making broth, and she would just let those down in there and let them boil and they were like big, thick, fat noodles. We called them dumplings. I think they’re called slicks or something, somewhere else. I was watching the cooking show one day and they were making “slicks.” I thought, looks like dumplings to me. So that’s something I love to pour over the gravy and turkey at Thanksgiving. My father made really, really good candied yams. It wasn’t the cans with the marshmallows and all of that. He would take yams, not sweet potatoes, and slice them in spears and bake them with lots of sugar and butter and nutmeg. So when I would host Thanksgiving, I’d have him bring the candied yams. Those are the things that I really liked that she made. And she had some—oh, it’s like beans, pinto beans, but I think it was something she developed on her own; I don’t think it was a tradition. It became a tradition. She was known far and wide in the Tri-Cities for her chocolate chip cookies, because all of my brothers’ friends from the sports teams would want—why don’t you get your mom to bake cookies? That was our thing. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: This question seems kind of self-evident, but I’d like to hear your take on it. Were there opportunities available here that were not available where your parents came from?
Moore: Most definitely.
Franklin: What kind of opportunities?
Moore: More work, just the availability of work. Education, schooling. I don’t think there was higher education there. Like I said, the one room—not necessarily one room, but the schoolhouse was where everybody in every grade grew up there, went to school all together. Mom talked about the difference in the quality of the books from the school she was in versus where the white kids went to school down there, that there was a time where the superintendent came to their school and they were all supposed to put their books on the desk, and he walked around because he wanted to pick the best one to take back to the student at the white school who needed a book. I just thought, are you kidding me? That’s how people were? But that’s just how it was.
Franklin: Right, it’s kind of hard to believe.
Moore: So those kinds of things are evidence to me that what people have told us is true. When we would go to visit--this would have been in the ‘60s I guess, we were going to Texas to visit and my dad told the boys, I remember him saying to them, it’s not like Richland. Now, when you’re here, just—giving them instructions about what to do, what not to do, who you speak to.
Franklin: Do you remember what some of those instructions were?
Moore: Well, I think, like if you were walking down the sidewalk and there was a woman coming, you would need to move over to the other side, or don’t look people in the eye, that kind of thing. So you’re listening to this, thinking—because his thought was, you can’t act the way you act in Richland, because it will not be accepted, is basically what he was telling them, telling us.
Franklin: Right, because your father had grown up in a segregated society.
Moore: Right, right. Yeah. So certain things you do and don’t do.
Franklin: Was that shocking for you and your brothers to hear, or was it just kind of accepted? Did you have knowledge that Texas was different from Richland?
Moore: It was a little bit shocking to me. I must’ve been, I don’t know, eight or nine. I didn’t say anything. In those days, too, when your parents told you something, you didn’t really question them. You might think to yourself, wow, I wonder why that is. Well, Greg might question it, but—[LAUGHTER] It depends. I guess everybody has their own personality. Some of those kinds of things bothered me a little bit. Some things, maybe we should do here, like yes, ma’am and no, ma’am. It was interesting. I thought to myself, I see why people wanted to leave, why you wouldn’t want to live there. I could see that.
Franklin: You got kind of the push and pull factors in play.
Moore: Yeah, you might miss your family, but I wouldn’t think you would miss that way of life. And when they came here, things were still—there was still the “colored” areas, I guess, as far as certain stores or lunch counters. I understand, like in Pasco, there was a lunch counter in the drug store that wouldn’t serve. So it wasn’t like it wasn’t here. But by the time we were of age, that type of thing wasn’t happening.
Franklin: It wasn’t happening at all?
Moore: Not to my knowledge, but I’m sure it happens more covertly. Because I do remember a time when—and this was after I was married—my husband and I—I don’t know if the kids were with us, but we were with my parents, and we went into a local restaurant. It was pretty evident after a little while that they didn’t intend to serve us. You know how you’re just ignored, or we don’t have that, or whatever the case may be. So either you make a decision that you’re either going to make a ruckus, or you’re just going to go somewhere else.
Franklin: Is that a restaurant that’s still around?
Moore: The building is still a restaurant, but there’s not the same restaurant. There’s a restaurant in that location, I should say. And I wouldn’t want to say because I don’t want to infer anything about them.
Franklin: Oh, sure. Do you remember the name of the restaurant—is the business since closed?
Moore: Mm-hmm. I’m trying to think. I know the name had—I don’t know the actual name. I think I know the previous name, but I don’t want to say it.
Moore: But my husband was the one who picked up on it first. He said, let’s go, they don’t want us here. And he tells me stories of going—he and I are the same age, okay, and he grew up in Pasco and I grew up here. He and his family were going to Spokane. You know how a lot of us stop in Ritzville, you have the bathroom break or whatever. They didn’t want them to use the bathrooms. So if he was five or six—he was born in 1956, so this was maybe early ‘60s? The attendants were telling them everything’s broken, you can’t use, they’re out of order. Leonard’s this little kid, he’d already jumped out of the car and run to the restroom and back. He goes, no, they’re not! I was just in there! [LAUGHTER] But you know, just that sort of treatment, I have experienced that as an adult here. But not often. And I think it’s—in my opinion and the way we were raised is you just kind of consider the source and move on. Because it’s not worth your energy. So.
Franklin: Sports was very important for your father.
Franklin: Right? Was it something that was brought—baseball, specifically—was that something that was brought from the South?
Moore: I think so. I think so, because he talks about them playing with a stick and a rock. The more people you talk to, that’s what they did. They played baseball. My father-in-law talks about it, Vanis talks about it. Because it was something you could do with whatever you had. You didn’t have to have special equipment, right, you didn’t have to have special facilities. So you could just mark out a diamond in the dirt somewhere or lay some pads down on the grass. I remember us even doing that in the backyard, or out in a field. So everybody played baseball, from what I understood. So it was very, very popular and he played it here. He played, I think they call them the merchant leagues or whatever, like the stores would sponsor them maybe. Dad also played a little basketball here, too. I saw a picture of him on the Battelle team.
Even my mother did, too. There’s a picture of her in uniform. She played basketball in high school, and she played a little bit out here in one of those leagues, which, I can’t figure out how she had time. She had six kids and lots to do. But she played basketball. And she did teach us—she was the one who was out there teaching you how to shoot and playing the game of horse or whatever. So that was kind of fun. But baseball was my dad’s greatest love. If he could’ve been a professional baseball player, he would’ve liked to do that. Then he switched, of course, to umpiring later on. So he stayed connected to baseball. He could tell you so many details of so many games, no matter when it was.
Franklin: In what ways were opportunities limited here because of segregation or racism?
Moore: In what ways. I would just be giving my opinion, I guess. Job opportunities were limited in some respects, because people—I think it’s human nature to gravitate to people who are like you. So if you’re going to fill a position or if you’re going to do a job search, you have something in mind. Or you have a preconceived notion about a particular group of people, so maybe you don’t make an effort to reach out. Or these people, you would make an effort to reach out, but you’ve got to have trained, skilled people, so who has those skills?
So there was some effort made to help improve the skill set of people, too, so there would be more opportunity. So that was a good thing, a very good thing and that opened doors for people. So there are things maybe externally that you can benefit from if you take advantage of them, or you can kind of make your own way, or you are, I guess, hurt or disadvantaged by the practices that exist. I do believe that happened.
But I don’t know, I guess I just don’t want to dwell on it a lot. Because people are making progress, but we can’t forget there are those who don’t want to make any progress. And would like it to be, no, you’re not allowed in this area because I don’t want you here. That still goes on. It’s just done differently.
Franklin: Hmm. Where did you go to school?
Moore: I first started in Lewis and Clark, kindergarten, first and second grade. And then when we moved up to Richland Village, to Jefferson, then to Chief Joseph when it was still a junior high instead of a middle school. It had a different mascot, different colors, because it closed there for a while and then reopened. I went to Hanford High School the year it opened, 1973, I was a sophomore. I was going into my sophomore year. At that time, we didn't have four-year high schools. So your freshman year was in junior high school. And we lived on Newcomer Street, which was the line. We lived on the Hanford side of the line. So I was one of the first classes to go there. But I ended up transferring back to Richland High. When Hanford opened, we had no seniors, because they allowed everybody who was going to be a senior to finish at Richland. And then we also did not have all the classes. So you may be going to Hanford, but your accounting class, you had to get on a bus and go to Richland.
Moore: So for me, I was kind of doing this back-and-forth and got involved in the Cooperative Office Education program when I was a junior. So I was only going to class for half a day anyway.
Franklin: What was the cooperative office—
Moore: They call it COE. It’s where you take business classes at school, and then you have a job where you work at least four hours a day, so you get credit for the work and then also for the class. They still do it. They still do it. They call it something else. I work at PNNL, and we hire students who do that. You’ve heard of DECA, which is the retail type? Have you heard of the DECA clubs?
Moore: No? Tsk. You didn’t grow up here.
Franklin: I did not.
Franklin: No, very much no.
Moore: So anyway, that’s what I did, and that’s how I got into banking. Actually, I wanted to work at Battelle, because many of the students were picked by Battelle and they paid better. At that time, minimum wage was $1.65 an hour, in 1973 when I was 15-going-on-16. I wanted to go to Battelle, but they wouldn’t allow me, because my father worked there in the personnel department. Some of my friends did, and I ended up going to Seattle First National Bank. Which is what it was called then; now it’s Bank of America. Yeah. So graduated from Richland High, ’75.
Franklin: Your brothers had been pretty involved in sports.
Franklin: Right, kind of sports. And it seemed like a lot of—the Browns were also really big—it seemed like sports was a big avenue of acceptance for young black men in Richland. I wonder, from your perception, were things—being a girl and really not being able at that time—there weren’t a lot of sports options available to you, right?
Moore: Not a lot.
Franklin: Because Title IX hadn’t really come into effect yet.
Moore: Yeah. There weren’t a lot. I mean, there was softball and tennis. There were opportunities I didn’t particularly choose to get involved with. I think I went out for tennis in seventh grade and didn’t think that was my thing. But sports, that’s an avenue where a lot of young men kind of excelled and were interested. The Browns were—they were kind of a half a generation older. Because they were teen stars, I guess you would say, at Richland High back in the ‘50s, like in the mid-‘50s. Whereas then my oldest brother graduated high school ’69, so it’s kind of a—I don’t know if you were—Theartis Wallace, he’s first cousin to CW and Norris. He played for the Sonics when they first—didn’t they start out with an expansion team or something? He played. His family’s here still.
There was a lot of sports activities which was good because everybody liked—sports were huge, period in the Tri-Cities. I think part of that was Hanford, too, providing outlets for people to have activities. Remember when we went on the tour and you see the size of the schools and the gyms and the pools. They had teams. So these young people would have had parents who were maybe on these—like my dad, he played. And Vanis’ relatives, they’re already playing on what they called the merchant leagues or the Hanford leagues. So it was going on, and people would get you involved.
Like my dad coached, for one, and I remember him helping get Little League started in Pasco. We were out the house one day and Vanis and Edmon—I think Edmon was there, too—but they had this big bag full of, you know the wool baseball—baseball uniforms were wool. They were going through bags of uniforms trying to sort out some things that they might be able to use, and I think that was sort of the beginnings of Little League in Pasco. But I know my dad coached my brothers. One of the reasons he got into coaching was because he wanted to be there. He was concerned about their experience.
Franklin: What was the root of the concern?
Moore: Just how are the kids going to be treated when they’re out there on the ball team. I don’t think he did it initially. If you were to talk to my brother, Nestor, he might be able to elaborate. But I think at one point, he was having some—some experience that he had led my father to want to be a little closer to the game. I don’t think it was necessarily—it wasn’t a racial thing; it was just the coaching interaction with the kids type of thing.
Franklin: How were things different for you, just compared to your brothers. Or was it different for you, not having that sports outlet?
Moore: Probably less social for me. Less social. I had my few close friends, we walked to school together, we played tetherball at recess or whatever. I had a lot of friends in school. I got along with people, I was involved in things, like ASB and that sort of thing. So I wasn’t like in my shell, but it was different, because you look at boyfriend/girlfriend interactions, right? I’m a black teen-aged girl, and there’s mostly just white guys in the whole school. So there wasn’t as much interaction as far as dating and that kind of thing. I didn’t really date.
Franklin: Was that discouraged, do you think?
Moore: I don’t think it was necessarily openly discouraged; it just was not done. You know what I mean? It just was understood that it really wasn’t done. Especially not black female and a white male. Maybe the other way was more likely that you would see. But then you had to be careful, because how’s that going to be received by your peers, by parents, by the public? I know they could probably tell you some stories. Or even church, because there are certain sort of things that—we just don’t do that.
I remember my mother, seeing the cover of a, they call them quarterlies, what you’d get every quarter for your church for your next upcoming Bible studies. And I think maybe there were a black teen-aged boy and a white girl or something on the cover, and that was like—[GASP] for some people. We can’t use this! Or if you wanted to date someone’s daughter, I know the boys would have to think about that, because it would be different. I didn’t experience it because it wouldn’t be that dynamic, do you know what I mean?
Franklin: Right that was even—your situation would have even been rarer.
Moore: Rarer. Yeah, you get it. That would be rare and this would be rarer. I do remember there was a guy that, we were friends and he’d asked me out to prom or something. We went and kind of started dating a little bit. At some point, I think I said to him, I felt uncomfortable. Like if you’re walking down the mall and people are looking, and I felt a little bit uncomfortable. So I thought, hmm, I just don’t want to do this anymore. He got really upset—and I don’t know if you should show this on your tape, but I’m just going to tell you. He says, do you know how many friends I lost because of you? So, you know, like I went out on a limb, and now you’re saying this? And I just remember thinking, well, then I guess they weren’t your friends, were they?
Moore: That’s the first thing that came to my mind.
Franklin: Yeah. Yeah.
Moore: I mean, it’s out there.
Franklin: I like how that’s somehow your fault.
Moore: Right, it’s my fault.
Franklin: Well, I mean there were—it’s funny, because I try to teach—when I teach American history, I teach this in class that there were miscegenation laws up until the ‘60s and ‘70s in a lot of states. Interracial couplings were illegal for—and today, I think we look back on that and just be like, well, why? What was the rationale? The decay of society, and the loosening of morals, and it seems silly now. But 40, 50 years ago, it wasn’t—it was very alive. That thinking was very alive. It’s interesting to me how quickly that has changed and how normal that is to a lot of us now.
Moore: Yeah, but then there are those that it’s not okay.
Franklin: For still, yeah. For some.
Moore: Depending on where you are, you’re taking your life in your hands.
Franklin: That’s true.
Franklin: Yeah. It’s become a lot more unpopular to express an opinion about that, a negative opinion towards that.
Moore: Right, it has, but.
Franklin: Yeah, interesting.
Moore: The reactions to it are—some are out there.
Franklin: So many of your brothers and other men I’ve interviewed have mentioned that sports was a vehicle to acceptance. One person, I can’t—I think it may have been Emmitt Jackson that mentioned that he thought it must have been—he heard it was—imagined it was harder for girls. Because without that outlet there for acceptance, there just wasn’t—because everyone liked sports. So if you were a good sports player, people overlooked a lot of maybe other prejudices they might have had and were able to accept you better.
Moore: Because of the—I don’t know, it’s almost like you’re being unique. Because there was a lot of acceptance. People looked at me as an individual. Not as a black person. Because they would say things, and I’m thinking, I’m right here. [LAUGHTER] Or make a generalization. And I’d say, well, you can’t say that about everybody. And they’d say, well, that’s not you. You’re Vanessa. You know what I mean? So they’re saying that because they know you, that’s not you.
Franklin: You’re the good one.
Moore: Yeah, you know what I’m trying to say?
Franklin: Oh, I know exactly, yeah. I have heard things like that before.
Moore: I’m not sure I expressed it very well, but—they don’t see it. But I could go all day and never see another black person until I went home. But I’m not thinking about that. Just like they’re not thinking about it. That’s Leslie, this is whoever, this is Pam, this is me. We’re just who we are. It’s not that they’re white and I’m black. Which is, I think, the way it should be. But it seemed hard for people to be like that if it was someone they didn’t know personally.
Franklin: How did racism or segregation affect your education?
Moore: I think, for me, it probably affected it in a positive way, because my parents emphasized it, emphasized education being important. Because people who were denied it, they saw it as the way to have a better life. So it was just sort of assumed, you’re going to work hard in school and that’s your job and you’re going to get good grades, and college is what comes after high school. So it affected me probably in a good way in that sense.
But the overall opportunities, I don’t know. Because where I lived, it probably wasn’t a big factor. But in a way, too, though—this is kind of an odd way to say this—but when I was applying to colleges, I kind of had this, I don’t want to go too far away from home feeling. Maybe that’s normal, but in retrospect, I think it would have been neat to seek out some of the historically black colleges and universities, just to have the experience. I had been accepted, but I was afraid to go, or thought my parents couldn’t afford it or whatever. We have odd ideas when we’re teenagers, right? So the experience could have been different.
My father actually wanted me to apply to the Air Force Academy, because that was the year they took girls, and my brother, Duke, had graduated from the Air Force Academy. And I thought, oh, no. [LAUGHTER] Nope. I ended up, I went to WSU for my first year. I got married spring break, and kind of went to school off and on after that, ‘til I finished at CBC, and now I’ll finish here at WSU this December. After all these years—
Moore: --I’m back to finish what I started back in 1976. So I’ll graduate and retire. How does that sound?
Franklin: That sounds good. It’s never too late. It’s never too late to finish something.
Moore: Some people think I’m crazy. Like, why are you doing that?
Franklin: You know what? If it matters to you, then that’s what’s important. You want to be able to say you did it.
Franklin: Yeah. Who are some of the people who influenced you as a child?
Moore: Mostly my mom.
Franklin: How so?
Moore: Because she was a person who trained us and explained how the proper way to be, what was important, value systems. My dad also as far as—but he was gone a lot more. So I think Mom—and that happens to a lot of families. That’s the person you’re closest to. Teachers, also. Teachers would encourage me, like, say, nominate you for this position or that position. Or choose you as the—I think I was the—you know you have the patrol that go out in grade school and have the sign for you to cross the street?
Franklin: Oh, the crossing guard.
Moore: Yeah. The fifth grade teacher, of course, appointed me as captain. So I remember that experience. There was this one big kid who didn’t want to listen to me, and so we had a run-in. [LAUGHTER] So teachers. And the encouragement about your skills or your abilities or your potential and your future. So I got that from teachers from grade school all the way up to high school, and then people that I worked with who were very encouraging.
Franklin: Members of your family had worked out at Hanford, some of them during the Manhattan Project like your great-uncles and things and your father later, and the Cold War. What was your reaction, or what do you know about your parents’ reaction in learning that the work they had done out there had contributed to the development of atomic weapons?
Moore: My father, I think he looked at it as having done something good, and I think most people did when they realized, because it was to help stop something from getting worse. And for many of them, I don’t—I can’t speak for what they thought, but what amazes me is the fact that everybody was so consistent with keeping the secret, and saying, you just don’t talk about that. And dedicated to the work that they were doing. The people that I’ve talked to and interviewed myself, they were thankful to have been able to raise families and make a wage that they could have a good life. And I think people were patriotic that they were supporting the war effort, I suppose. But then there are also times where you think, that’s just so horrific. When I learned about it in school--and I didn’t connect it back to Hanford when I first learned of it, when we talked about Nagasaki and Hiroshima and all of that, I thought, oh my goodness, how could we do that to people? You know? Just the devastation and the killing power of it all, it was just kind of upsetting to me that any country would do that to any other country. And then the way that people were treated. I had an art teacher who—he still lives here, Mr. Yamamoto—who told us the stories of the internment camps when he was a little boy. It just was very upsetting to think that anybody could treat—that people could treat other people the way that they were treated.
Franklin: I think that kind of—you kind of get right to the heart of why this is such an interesting issue for people not from here, and kind of the divide. Because I think the horror is often what people who are not from here immediately think of; whereas when you first mentioned that people were grateful for the opportunities it gave, that it helped to win the war, that it provided stable income is something that people from here think of. There seems to—I guess what’s—the truth is really in both. I mean, those are both true experiences, those are both true reactions. You can’t say that one side is objectively true. And I think that’s--
Moore: And some things we just blindly went along with. You know, like, when it came—I don’t know how long ago it was—but, okay, growing up in Richland, you have the mushroom cloud at the school. It’s on everything. Everything’s “atomic.” And the plane and all of that. We thought nothing of it. And then when some—I think it was students or some people from Japan, years ago, coming in, seeing those things and being so upset and insulted, and you realize, oh my goodness. Why do we do that? You just feel bad.
Franklin: Mm-hmm. That’s what—in March, we had the visitor from Nagasaki who survived the bombing. He toured the B Reactor. But I think what upset him the most was the mushroom cloud symbol, and that it was a source of pride for the community.
Moore: Talk about insensitive, right?
Franklin: Right, and it wasn’t a source of pride to him. He had been a child during the bombing. Yeah. It’s reconciling that. So you had mentioned, though, when you first heard about the bombings you had felt this kind of shock. What about when you connected—do you remember anything about drawing that direct connection from that event to where we are right now? Because there is a very—there’s a very distinct line—
Moore: No, not at that time.
Moore: Not at that time, because it was just something we were reading in the history books, and I’d never heard about the Manhattan Project.
Franklin: What about when you did find out?
Moore: I wondered what people, like the question you asked, the people who had been working here and didn’t know what it was, what in the world did they think when they found out? Some of them must have felt like, I wish I hadn’t been a part of that. We don’t know. We can just speculate. I never really talked to anybody about that. But it comes to your mind, what must they have thought?
Franklin: Or maybe what—yeah, because I always feel like there’s a difference between what feelings people might harbor inside and what they say outwardly. Because they don’t want to criticize or be unpatriotic. Certainly the physicists had deep misgivings about it. But it’s always interesting to hear. Yeah, I’ve always wanted to know what people really think.
Moore: Yeah, I would like to know. I guess there’s some of them we’d better ask before it’s too late!
Franklin: Well, I’ve asked a lot of folks, you know, over 100, and it’s always kind of—
Moore: That were actually there and doing it at that time?
Franklin: Only a few that were actually there, but it’s interesting. So the last question, the second-to-last question I ask in all these interviews is, “What would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford and/or living in Richland during the Cold War?” And I’ll ask you that question later, but just to bring that up, because usually when I ask that question, for people who, their parents may have worked here or even some that came here in the Cold War, nine times out of ten, they always say, well, the bomb won the war, and we should always remember that. Even though they weren’t directly involved in that event at all, that has seemed to be this unifying point of this community’s history, this kind of objective truth. Not that it’s not true, but it seems to just be—it dominates the whole thing.
Moore: Is that to make it feel okay? [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: I don’t know. Sometimes I—I don’t know if I should say this on camera, but sometimes I think so. It’s just interesting, because as an outsider, I have a different perspective.
Moore: Mm-hmm. We’ll have to talk about that. [LAUGHTER] But you know, when you’re talking about that just now and the actual war itself, I think some of the things I remember were the whole-body counters and the drills. Get under your desk.
Franklin: Did you have to do the whole-body counter?
Moore: Yes, yes.
Franklin: And tell me about that. Because I’ve—I haven’t talked to people about that direct experience.
Moore: They would bring a big like semi-sized truck to the school every once in a while, and we would have to go in and lie down and go through what they called the whole-body counter. Just because we lived here. We lived near Hanford, so they were checking us. I want to say, I think the building is—it hasn’t been that long ago, don’t they still have a building downtown where they have a whole-body counter?
Moore: Okay. Yeah. But they would bring it to us.
Franklin: It was like a mobile one.
Moore: Mm-hmm. And I was in grade school, so I know I did it at least twice. And then we would do some of the other drills where if you heard certain sirens, you were going to have to get under your desk. At the time, we just did it. But you think back at it now and you’re like, what would that do for you? You would be dead anyway. It’s not going to help you. Because we’re talking about, in case of a nuclear attack, get under your desk? No. But the body counts to check and seeing the symbols on certain buildings so that you know that that’s where there’s a shelter.
Franklin: Ah, the civil defense.
Moore: Uh-huh, and the radiation in the bomb shelter symbols.
Franklin: Did the whole-body counter ever—did you ever connect that with the possibility of receiving something that could have been picked up by that machine?
Franklin: Did that—what kind of feelings did that elicit in you?
Moore: Just that we just did it and nobody ever seemed to have any problems so it must be okay. But I remember also—and not knowing the significance of it, but I remember my father having to leave specimens. They’d put these little kits on your porch.
Franklin: Yeah, that would be like a metal—
Franklin: With a glass—
Moore: Yeah, and so you had to leave a urine specimen, and then someone would come and pick it up.
Franklin: Yeah, we have some of those in our collection. Unused.
Moore: We didn’t think about it. It’s just like, oh, that’s, my dad works there.
Franklin: Right, he just has to do this.
Moore: he just has to do this, or seeing the guys come with their lunch pails. Everybody had those black metal lunch boxes like you see in the cartoons. They’d get off the buses on the corners and be walking home. Because the big—like, the bus they had down there at CREHST, I think it’s brown and yellow, those buses were driving the streets everyday. Only in Richland. It didn’t dawn on me until quite a bit later that, well, some of the people that worked out there lived in Pasco or Kennewick. How come they don’t get a bus? But there was a reason. I mean, you had to be in Richland. It was just part of life. As a little kid, you just see it go by, and that’s what happens. But I do remember as a young adult, the scene, that incident that Vanis described to you when we were on the tour and the man fell through.
Franklin: Oh, yeah.
Moore: I know his family. And I asked Vanis the other day if that was who I thought that was, and he said yeah. And I remember when it happened, because his sister—well, his parents and my parents kind of knew each other because everybody’s kids played baseball. So they knew one another and I just remember thinking how tragic that was for their family. How could something like that happen? But people go on and life goes on and it just does. And then when—was it McCluskey? Was that the contamination?
Franklin: Yeah, the americium.
Moore: Yeah, that one really got me.
Franklin: How so?
Moore: Because you realize how easy it would be for something to happen and people to be contaminated. When I worked out there, I know they checked us all the time. It took me a while to get used to the term of being “crapped up” because we didn’t even say words like that. [LAUGHTER] I thought, what are you talking about?
Franklin: Just very quickly, because I know it was much later, but when did you go out to work at Hanford?
Moore: It was 1991.
Franklin: And you started on with Westinghouse, right?
Moore: Westinghouse. I was going to be a field clerk at PUREX, at the PUREX facility. I was going to be supporting the radiation technicians. We called them—they have had different names, HBTs, RCTs, the rad tech people. So I was their clerk to keep track of all their records and reporting and doing some different things and it was quite an experience, because it was another world to me. I was used to being somewhere where you had nice surroundings, you had an hour lunch, things were comfortable. And I interviewed for this position in town, but then the assignment was out there. And later on, the manager told me, well, if I had let you see it, you wouldn’t have come. And I think he was right. It was like Hogan’s Heroes. You’ve seen the building, the camp where they’re in? That’s what it reminded me of. The razor wire and the guard shack, and you had to put your purse—everything down and it went through the little turnstile to check it and the guards had their guns, and you went through radiation monitors to go through different sections of the building. So it was a real eye-opener for me the first day. They were getting ready to go to shutdown; nothing was being produced anymore. So I was after that. It was all about remediation and then restoration.
Franklin: How long did you stay out there?
Moore: I think I came into another position that was into the 300 Area, maybe a couple of years later, and then back out to the 200 Area in the 2750 Building I think it was, so it was in more of an office building. There it was more like being in town. Like, once you get there, it’s no different if you were at the Federal Building; it’s just that you’re far away. And you can’t run to Zip’s or something on lunch. [LAUGHTER] But it was nothing unusual. My brother, Greg, worked out there at that time, too, and I had other relatives. And I realized once I went from my banking world to the Hanford world, a lot of classmates, former classmates, that I thought didn’t live here anymore, they worked out there. So everyday I saw somebody that I knew. So it was interesting to kind of get reacquainted and I didn’t feel so much a fish out of water, because I knew people and there was help to learn what was going on.
Franklin: Kind of like one big extended family.
Moore: I know! If you’re not related to me, I went to school with you, right? At one point I became an activities administrator, so I monitored the budget for the Tank Farm’s HBTs to make sure they had the equipment that they needed and they weren’t overspending, or if there was going to be training, that kind of thing. Bob Heineman, I think I saw him on one of the films for these productions—
Moore: He was my boss at one time.
Franklin: Oh, okay. Yeah, I had a really interesting interview with Bob Heineman.
Moore: I thought it was good. I just heard part of it.
Franklin: He was quite an interesting guy.
Moore: Yeah. He and my brother, Duke, went to school together, I think.
Franklin: Right, yeah.
Moore: So Bob was—he was one of those encouraging people that kept after me. When are you going to finish school? When are you going to do—what are you going to do next? Just that kind of thing. So the community was—people were pretty close-knit and my family was, in a way, kind of known. So if I just said the name, they knew you were a Mitchell, then it was like, okay, I know you, practically. So that’s the value of a small community. My kids say it’s not, because, Mom, I can’t go anywhere with you. Everybody knows you. To me, it’s comfortable.
Franklin: Right, right. Because you would’ve been used to it, right? I mean, your father had such a large role in the community, and it seems he was a very beloved figure. What were the major civil rights issues for African Americans at Hanford and in the Tri-Cities during your time here?
Moore: During my time here? I think equal pay would be probably one. And in some realms, acceptance. I know my dad tells a story about moving into a particular neighborhood, and—
Franklin: Just kind of down the street here?
Moore: Yeah, and you have neighbors who are your peers and behave as if, ooh, you’re getting a little too close to me. You-shouldn’t-be-able-to-afford-to-live-where-I-live kind of reactions. So he’s told me a couple stories about that. Not too long ago, actually. Several years back, but, I’m like, really? Because I knew the people. And he says, oh yeah. So you just—and Mom and Dad were not the type to fill our heads full of a lot of things that were going to get us agitated. You just kind of deal with it, I don’t need to talk—and maybe it was just kind of a generational thing, too, though. There’s grown-up conversation and you don’t need to know everything. So they lived life without burdening us with their troubles. And my mother would say sometimes, you just don’t need to worry about that. Whatever “that” was. And I think that’s, in a way, a good thing, but then it also shelters you from some things maybe you should be aware of.
Franklin: What actions were being taken to address the issues that you just mentioned?
Moore: I know some of the major employers, just from having been in the workforce here, have deliberate plans. Like they pay attention to affirmative action, and they maybe have set goals that they try to adhere to. And sometimes, depending on who is in charge at the time, how much effort goes into some of those things. You understand what I mean?
Moore: Yeah. Like they exist, but are you actively working your plan, or is it just one of those things that, you know, I’ll do it if I have to? So I think that’s one thing, from my point of view from being in the workforce.
Franklin: Who were the most important leaders of civil rights efforts in the area?
Moore: My goodness. I’m not sure I’m the person to ask. Are there—yeah, not like the ‘60s, like people organizing marches and things like that. I can’t—
Franklin: Were you directly involved in any civil rights efforts?
Moore: I kind of fell in the in-between, where there was not a lot of activity. I do remember having cousins whose parents were kind of involved, and so would be marching in downtown Pasco, I think it was maybe ’65 or something, when there were some civil rights marches. They would make posters and get involved and get the whole family involved in. We didn’t participate so much in those kinds of things, not that—I as a child wasn’t aware a lot of it was going on. I’d see it on the news or something. But not direct participation. So I don’t know if that’s because I was too young or wasn’t active enough.
Franklin: So now to the big question that I mentioned earlier. What would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford and/or living in Richland during the Cold War?
Moore: I think, about working at Hanford, that you should study it and understand it to—study the history of it to understand why things are the way they are now. Because there’s legacy in regards to behaviors, I think, in this community. Maybe people’s expectations and worldview of—maybe it’s not the worldview—but what they should be entitled to, or how life should be. Because it’s residual from that timeframe, where things, for some people, were just provided to them and handed to them, or you just get this job and you’re going to do that forever, you don’t have to worry about it, you’re going to get a good pension, you’re going to get to retire. So they got to remember that one thing they should learn is, things change. Right? Don’t get too comfortable. Because life can change, even though in past generations they just thought it would go on and on and on. At some point, it’s got to be changed. Because the government can’t support everybody. And people should have a work ethic and some people would tend not to feel they had to. Right? Don’t let yourself be complacent, I guess, is what I’d think they should learn. And to always be looking for opportunity and doing what they can do to grow.
Franklin: Yeah, I understand. I’ve been out there a little bit. [LAUGHTER]
Moore: I had a hard time coming from outside Hanford and going to Hanford, and people’d say, oh, don’t worry about it. Or, you’re working too hard. And I thought, what? This is my job.
Franklin: I was surprised—you know, I started in the summer of 2015 being out there a bit. I was surprised at how much of the good ole boy attitude is still there. You do think that’s a thing of the past, but—wow.
Moore: Yeah, it hasn’t died out yet. It hasn’t.
Franklin: No, it’s a strange incubator. It’s just its own world out there. And some things are great about that world. What about living in Richland during the Cold War? And growing up during that time and in this kind of unique community?
Moore: It was kind of a unique community, because of so many people in the town had the same employer, basically. So it became one of those things, if you didn’t work there, or your parents didn’t work there, you just felt like you were somehow out of the loop. You know, you couldn’t be in a conversation around dinner or going out with somebody, because they’d get onto the Hanford, and you'd have nothing else. You’re just the outsider. So I learned that it’s definitely a culture of its own. But it’s a big supporter of the community, and the companies made sure that the schools were good. So I think educational opportunities were much improved because of it. Look at all the things that go into CBC just so that the contractors can have what they need. Community college—I don’t think it would be what it is today without Hanford and making sure that the high number of highly educated and trained people in science and technology is what drives part of what goes on with all the STEM everywhere. This school is going to have a computer lab, because my kids are going to go there and they need to know this. You almost get the feeling that you’re getting the extra support that some other community is not going to get because they don’t have a Hanford in their backyard. So there’s a lot of horsepower there.
Moore: I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but there is.
Franklin: No, no, no, believe me, I very much have. People have high expectations for their children here.
Moore: They did, which translated into high expectations for their educators and all of that. I remember being struck that non-Richland people—like I said, my husband grew up in Pasco—there seemed to be more entrepreneurs outside of Richland. Like you have very successful farmers, or, his father had his own business. There’s dentists and lawyers and just people that were in different walks of life, because they had a different experience. I thought it was pretty cool. Because, like, not everybody works for Hanford; some people do other things! [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Right. Did you spend a lot of time—you mentioned that sometimes you would go to Morning Star Baptist Church. How connected with the community in east Pasco was your family? Did you have a lot of friends—did you have friends over there?
Moore: My parents were very connected. We as kids weren’t so connected, because we were almost, I think, by other children, looked at as outsiders.
Franklin: You mean, like other children in east Pasco would have looked at you as—
Moore: Yes, yes, yes. Because, you live in Richland, you think you’re better than everybody. That’s quote-unquote, you think you’re white. Or why do you live there? Because my parents do. I live where my parents live. That was very hurtful for me. When I got married, I moved to Pasco because my husband’s business and family were in Pasco. And I saw a change in some people who had been that way toward me. It was like, okay, now she’s okay. And I never understood that. I’m the same person I’ve always been.
Franklin: You left your airs behind.
Moore: Yeah. Because Richland people think they’re better than everybody else. Did you know that? That was the talk.
Franklin: Oh, no, I’ve heard that. A lot. I mean, I’ve heard—
Moore: We Richland people don’t understand why. But I was subject to that, too. From relatives and non-relatives.
Franklin: I think that happened, from a lot of the folks I’ve talked to for this project and the general oral history project, that seemed to be existing for just people from Richland in general, from Kennewick and Pasco were just like, oh, you Richland people. It wasn’t a secret closed city, but it did—everybody there had this Hanford connection, and it was different enough—
Moore: And there was a time where you apparently couldn’t live in Richland unless you worked—you couldn’t own property. I mean you might live on a trailer camp, right, or rent, but you couldn’t own.
Franklin: Well, you couldn’t own property, period. And you couldn’t rent unless you either worked at Hanford or you were a contractor in the way—like, for the folks that ran the retail in the Uptown, they were contracted through the Atomic Energy Commission to do that, and so they were allowed to do that in Richland. But, you know they were still—
Moore: And for a time, if you were a black, you couldn’t either, so—
Franklin: Right. Well, you had to work at Hanford and most of the jobs for blacks were menial. They weren’t recruiting people into the science and engineering for a time. Certainly it was mostly construction.
Moore; Right, construction and laborers. Because you hear that over and over. I was a laborer; oh, I worked construction. And some people it became very, very skilled and built all kinds of homes. Well, the people who built Morning Star. Joe Williams was one of the people who helped build that and he was a skilled worker out here that helped with the lining of the tanks. We have him on one video, and he talked about his work.
Or my uncle, Willy Daniels, who—he was a school teacher when he was back in Texas. So when he came back here, he was one of—some people, I guess, couldn’t read and write or needed some assistance, so that was one of the things that he helped with, which put him in positions that other people weren’t. Even when he was an old man, I’d say Uncle Willy was in his 80s, and I remember—I was a stay-at-home mom then and I lived in Pasco and I would see Uncle Willy every once in a while. I’d go visit him. He’d say, oh, I have to go to take so-and-so to the bank, because I have to help them. He was still doing it. Up until he died, I think, he was still helping people with things.
But yeah, you just—you don’t know what your life is going to be like. It’s been interesting. Everybody has their own story to tell, right? But I did have that experience where it hurt my feelings that people would talk to me that way or feel like I thought I was better than they were. Yeah, it upsets me still.
Franklin: Understandably. Is there anything you would like to mention related to migration, work experiences, segregation and civil rights and how they’ve impacted your life here at Hanford and Tri-Cities?
Moore: Here at Hanford. I don’t think there’s anything in particular. I am thankful for my ancestors. I am thankful for the upbringing and training that I had, and the exposure that I’ve had. And the opportunities that I’ve had. I think I would want to try to carry that on. I’ve been involved in the community as far as volunteering and working with non-profit groups and trying to help keep history alive. So I think maybe I could’ve been more outspoken or involved. It wasn’t my nature; it wasn’t my experience. But I think, speaking up when something needs to be said is something that we should do.
Franklin: Great. Well, Vanessa, thank you so much for coming and taking the time to interview with me today.
Moore: I appreciate being here. Thanks for having me.
Franklin: You’re very welcome.
Moore: All right.
Franklin: All right.