Interview with Edward Ash, Sr.

Dublin Core


Interview with Edward Ash, Sr.


Hanford Site (Wash.)
Tacoma (Wash.)
Pasco (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)
Kennewick (Wash.)
Nuclear reactors
Radioactive decontamination


Edward Ash, Sr. moved to Pasco, Washington in 1947 and worked on the Hanford Site from 1947-1981.

An interview conducted by the African American Community Cultural and Educational Society (AACCES) as part of an oral history project documenting the lives of African Americans in the Tri-Cities during the Manhattan Project and Cold War.


African American Community Cultural and Educational Society


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




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



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Vanessa Moore


Edward Ash, Sr.


Home of Edward Ash, Sr. (Pasco, WA)


[camera operator]: Sound check.

Vanessa Moore: Sound check? For me?

[camera operator]: Yeah, for both of you.

Moore: Okay. State your name and address one more time for me, Mr. Ash.

Edward Ash, Senior: Edward L. Ash. 923 West Leola, Pasco, Washington.

[camera operator]: Okay.

Moore: Okay.


Ash: --L. Ash--

[off-screen]: Look this way.

Ash: Huh?

[camera operator]: It doesn’t matter.

Moore: We’re just checking the sound. Go ahead.

Ash: Oh, you want me to look at you, huh?

Moore: Yeah.

Ash: Oh, okay.

Moore: --story that goes with whatever I’m asking about to tell that, or kind of elaborate on the answer, rather than just if I say, what year were you born, or—well, that’s not a good one. But if we were to say something where you could just say “yes” or “no,” it helps us to hear a little bit more, okay? And I’m gonna try to talk not too much so that we can allow you to do that and he won’t pick me up on here—

Ash: Oh, that’s okay.

Moore: --so much. So if I hesitate and I go like this, I probably mean, keep telling me about that, okay? [LAUGHTER]

[off-screen]: You might want to tell him to stop.


Moore: That’s all right, that’s all right.

[off-screen]: If you get him started, sometimes, boy.

Moore: If I get him started, he’ll keep going? Oh, that’s good! That’s what we’re after. So you ready to go?

This is another interview that’s being conducted for a project for the Triple-A-S History and Recognition Committee’s Hanford Project. My name is Vanessa Moore and today we’re speaking with Mr. Edward Ash, who worked here in the Hanford area, back in the 1940s and later. So, Mr. Ash, I appreciate you taking time to talk with us today, and just wanna ask you a few questions.

First of all, I would like to know when exactly did you arrive in the Tri-Cities and tell me a little bit about that.

Ash: When I was over in Tri-City. Let’s see. We went over to Tacoma. Let’s see what year—’46—wasn’t it in ’46 we came from Tacoma?

[off-screen]: I think it’s ’47.

Moore: ’47?

Ash: Yeah, ’47 was when we came from Tacoma.

Moore: You came from Tacoma?

Ash: I came from Tacoma over to Pasco.

Moore: Mm-hmm. You said “we,” now who came with you?

Ash: Well, Forrest Lee White, he came over with me. We was a little north of Tacoma. I came over here because I was working over in Tacoma and I forgot about that job. He had been here once before, he had, during DuPont time. I wasn’t over here during the DuPont time, so he said, let’s go back over there. So we went over and he said—when we got over here, well, you understand that J.A. Jones was moving in to start back the Hanford Area.

So we went down to the union hall that day and we sit up at the union hall all day long. They were calling people to go to work on the Hanford Area. So Forrest Lee said I’m going over to the pool hall and shoot some pool, he said, because, oh we may not get out now because we got to wait. I stayed at the union hall and they kept calling up and the business agent was saying, we’re calling just the union members now, and everybody that’s going over are union members, union. I said to myself, I said, why is all them folk union members?

So I sit down there until 12:00, and the guys sort of scattered. So I walked up there and I said, I’m from Tacoma. I used to be in the union myself, I said, but since I worked in civil service, then I went back to the union told me I had to, if I come in and pay all my initiation fees up, that I could go back in. So I said I’d come over to Pasco and rejoin the union and get back in the union. If I wanted to go back to Tacoma, I’d go back to Tacoma.

Moore: What union was that? Which union?

Ash: Laborers’ International.

Moore: Laborers’?

Ash: So I said, well, one thing I might like to ask you. He said, what? I said if I pay all my initiation fees and everything, could I get in? He said, can you pay all the initiation fees at one time today? I said, yeah. He said, okay. So he wrote down a receipt for the job. So then I didn’t have no way of going to the job, because Forrest had the car. So I went over to the pool hall and I told Forrest, boy, I got hired out. He said, yeah? I said, come on and go with me.

Moore: Tell me your friend’s name again?

Ash: Hmm?

Moore: Your friend’s name?

Ash: Forrest Lee White. We went on back over to the hall, and I asked him what about—this guy got the car. Could we get him out, too? He said, yeah. And so we got him out. So then we went on out to Richland the next day. J.A. Jones just moved in and they didn’t have no tools over there to go to work. So we got there and they told us, well, we just gonna sit around until the tools come in, but nobody have to leave the personnel office. You have to come in here at 8:00 and you stay here and sit out there and go to sleep or whatever you wanna do until 4:30 in the evening.

Moore: That’s easy work.

Ash: He said, y’all will get paid for sitting up here, he said, until we get the tools and start up working. So we went there everyday for two weeks and we draw a paycheck before we ever did a lick of work.

Moore: [LAUGHTER] What kind of work would you eventually be doing?

Ash: Well, I worked in the Laborers’ all the time. The Laborers’ District.

Moore: Uh-huh, with J.A. Jones.

Ash: Let me see, J.A. Jones had the Hanford Area until—you see, they had taken the whole Hanford Area.

Moore: This was for construction work?

Ash: Yeah, construction work. Construction, and then after construction work, why, then they’d take you over to the reactor and everything over there, too.

Moore: What buildings did you work on?

Ash: Well, I can just about call every building they have. I worked on first over in 300 Area, I worked on there. Then I worked at 34-5. I worked at 100-H, B, C, D, DR, K East, K West, all of the N, and I worked at K East and I worked at all the other Hanford buildings. But I done worked over the whole place from every building from 300 and all the 105s and everything. That was on the river, on the riverside.

Moore: Could you describe for me the type of work that you did?

Ash: Well, the type of work that I did, I first went there, I started working in the construction part. I helped to build, I built all the 105 area. We got them built and then we helped them putting in the machines and everything in.

Moore: Mm-hmm, so was it like concrete work?

Ash: It was concrete work and I worked some of everything. You know when you’s a laborer, you do some of everything. I worked with the cement finishers, I worked with the electricians, I worked with the pipefitters, I worked—I just worked with every craft that was there. Then when they got the building all finished and then they went in, then you—I got my Q clearance. I think me, myself and another white guy was about the first ones that got a Q clearance. The reason I got my Q clearance as quick as I did because I worked for the US Navy supply base in Tacoma during the war. So I got my Q clearance about the same week when I put in for it.

Moore: So it didn’t take a long investigation for your clearance?

Ash: No, it didn’t take no investigation at all, it didn’t. Because when I put in for it, why, I’d just left Tacoma from the US Navy supply base. I worked there all during the war, see, I did.

Moore: What kind of work did you do there at the Navy?

Ash: Well, I worked there shipping and receiving and all. Then I was working in the warehouse, and we were shipping stuff overseas where the people were fighting at, and armor. Then they come to the place where we had to—everything that was going overseas had to be waterproofed. Like jeeps, all that different stuff going had to be waterproofed. So the ship would sink, all that stuff would float and they can pick it up later.

So after they classified me in army for number one, I suppose, I went in the service. Then one of the head lieutenant come out there one day and asked me, how would you like to be deferred? I didn’t know what deferred was. I asked him, I said, what’s that gonna be? He said, well, your supervisor said you’ve been doing a good job of waterproofing all of this stuff that’s going overseas. He said, they done give you your papers. I got a bunch of women and men both, you’re the overseer of it. So they want to keep you here because you’s qualified for this. So I said, okay. So then he went and fixed up the papers. I didn’t have to go the army, so he said, now, you, in a few years, you probably have to go when this run out. But it didn’t run out until V-J Day when the whistle blow. The whistle blow like the day that my papers run out, tomorrow.

Moore: And that’s when it was time to come to Pasco?

Ash: Yeah, after a while, I worked for another building there in Tacoma. So then I came to Pasco because I didn’t like that job. But we came over to Pasco and I started working. I worked out there for J.A. Jones construction. We worked, when we first started, he wasn’t in the radiation and all of that. We built, or we helped to build, finish that high school in Richland. We built the first jailhouse, was in Richland. And the school on George Washington Way, we built that. And J.A. Jones built all the houses going up George Washington Way going down to the river, we worked in there. That school up there and going to north Richland and all those houses up there, J.A. Jones built them. So then they started to moving up, they got all the barracks built and all the trailer camps built and little things. Then we started moving out into the Hanford Area.

Moore: I see. Where did you live, when you first arrived, where did you settle down? Where did you live?

Ash: Well, I lived in Pasco.

Moore: Okay, were there many African Americans or black people in Pasco at that time?

Ash: Yeah, there was quite a few, there was. I lived in Pasco ever since I came from Tacoma. I been living in Pasco ever since.

Moore: So you must like it here.

Ash: Hmm?

Moore: You like it here. You settled down and stayed.

Ash: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Moore: And you raised your family, you have—your wife is here with you.

Ash: Well, I was only here one week and then I went back and got the wife and the two children and the other two were born over here in Tacoma. So we went and got them and we came back. Because I couldn’t stay over here by myself. So I went back and got my family.

Moore: So you never lived in the barracks.

Ash: No, I didn’t live in the barracks, mm-mm. The water got so high one time that you couldn’t get across from Pasco to Richland, you couldn’t. You had to go way around down there and come across the ferry, and come all the way around from back on the other side of the river—

Moore: The ferry was—

Ash: Come over there and we had to stay overnight until the water went down. But it worked it out okay. But I just never did like to stay in Richland. One thing [UNKNOWN] I didn’t. And I got to Pasco, and I went and people was in Pasco, so I just stayed there.

Moore: Yeah. Do you recollect the names of some of the people who were here when you came?

Ash: Oh, boy, let’s see. I can remember Newborne. Newborne was there. And [UNKNOWN] was here. Boy, I tell ya, it would really take me a good while to remember lots of little peoples.

Moore: Okay, we can come back to that then. Tell me, Mr. Ash, how did you feel about working at Hanford? And I mean by that, the kind of working conditions, treatment of people, interacting with other workers?

Ash: Well, after I went out there and started working in the area, I worked with lots of different people, and I got along because I tried to do my job well. I worked steady, I did. And I got with some good foremans and things, I did. And after they started Q clearing peoples to going in the Hanford Area, then I went down in the Hanford Area and we were going from building to building, started working in the radiation and stuff like that. When I got going in the Hanford Area, my superintendent was Ralph Erickson, and that’s the first superintendent that I was under. And I stayed under him 27 years, under Ralph Erickson. He really was a good superintendent. He was over all the whole 100 Area, starting at the river, plumb back all over the 100 Area, he was the superintendent over that whole area, he was. And after I went over to 2-East and all those different places, and got in there with him. I stayed in 100 Area from that time I went in there until I retired. But he didn’t stay there himself that long. I was under him 27 years, and then they sent him to another job out back down South some place—

Moore: And you remained there. What year did you retire?

Ash: Huh?

Moore: What year did you retire?

Ash: I retired, I got that in my—right in my purse here.

Moore: You keep that with you.

Ash: Well, you want me to get it out right now?

Moore: Sure.

Ash: Okay. So then they had another superintendent in the Area. He was a good guy. There’s one thing about it. I got along with black, other peoples. Now, I retired Seven and 31st, 1981. And I served out there for 35 years.

Moore: 35 years.

Ash: Mm-hmm. I raised up my whole entire family, raised, put all my children through school, everything on that one job. But I can say one thing, my daily prayers were, when I started working out there. I worked for lots of good peoples. I worked with lots of ornery peoples. You gonna find that everywhere you go, see. But I seen peoples quit, I seen people leave. But one thing I had in mind, I wanted to take care of my wife and children, I wanted to raise them up. And my prayer was, each day of my life, it was the good Lord to bless me to stay on that job and get along with my foreman, my supervisor, raise my children up while they get an education and put them through school, all for that one job.

Moore: And your prayer was answered.

Ash: So the good Lord blessed me to raise all my children up to get grown and to finish school. Me and my wife have been together for 80 years—62 years. We’ve been married that long.

Moore: Congratulations.

Ash: And I can say one thing—61 years. I can say one thing, one thing we can say a lot of people can’t say, we never passed a lick through fighting or mad or cussed one another out in our whole life. We really helped and we raised up our children.

Moore: And that’s saying a lot.

Ash: And we’ve taken care of them off of that one Hanford job. See? So I give the good Lord the credit for that.

Moore: Mr. Ash, you tell me you have raised your children here and I was just curious if you could tell me the children’s names and where are they living now?

Ash: Well, Angie, she’s in Pasco. And Betty’s in Pasco, and Mary’s in Pasco. They all three of them are. And Ed, he’s in Texas. What is it, the name of the Texas town? He’s in Texas.

Moore: So you have four children, and three of the four are still here.

Ash: I have four, mm-hmm, three girls, one boy. So after we—then we started going into the radiation and all like that. We really went through lots of radiation and laying houses, going through there. It was a job. I must say I met good peoples, I met some bad ones. But I tried to get along with everybody, and so—

Moore: Let me ask you a question about that, because some of the people we’ve interviewed have talked about a time when at least the barracks, say, were segregated. Could you tell us about segregation that you observed, or was that on the job, off the job?

Ash: Well, one bad part, before we went into the Hanford Area, we were in downtown Richland, and we were building all them houses and barracks and all like that, they had one superintendent over the whole job down there, he did. And when they got started, they had—this guy tried to segregate the peoples in the restrooms. He wanted the black over here and the white over there, this superintendent did. And so I just remember now who was it that reported that guy. But it was somebody reported him, and one of the head peoples came down there and told him, said, we’re not gonna have that. You’re gonna build one restroom—one for the men, one for the women. And they’re all gonna go in there. They fired that superintendent and took that job away from him. J.A. Jones put in another—J.A. Jones were building them houses.

Moore: So this was not a J.A. Jones policy.

Ash: Huh?

Moore: J.A. Jones didn’t have a segregation policy.

Ash: No, uh-unh. I didn’t have one. Of course they had peoples working there, you know what I mean, this and that. Just like, one time when I was out in the Area over there, we had—we used to—they had a big animal farm. They were testing radiation through lots of these animals. They were testing peoples, you know, through there. And so I was in there. So one guy, my superintendent, and then they had another superintendent, and then they brought in the little superintendent from somewhere down in Arkansas. And you know how a bunch of men get up. They had cows, they had a few hogs out there, and they had some hog that they were testing all kinds of animals to see how much radiation could an animal take. We had several black guys up there had a good job feeding these animals radiation to see how much can they take. Then they had a bunch of sows and a bunch of dogs and had pigs, I think. So, a bunch of men got together to come up with one standard one time. I had a couple of problems with this guy, this assistant superintendent.

So we all men were working in there with the animals and all. So you know how a bunch of men get, say, oh, I’m gonna take this here for my girlfriend, I’m gonna take this here. So we had—talking about them pigs. So they had some sheep and they had—so this superintendent that they brought from down in Texas or something. Now, I’m the only black guy in the whole bunch. I worked in there one time with 60 white people, and I was the only black guy in the bunch. Course, I finally got along with them, because I’m like this, I can work with a guy all day. If he don’t want to speak to me, I don’t have to speak to him. That’s just the way I am. But this superintendent, he come in there, he ends up. So they had this little shed, and they had a whole bunch of white Chester hogs. So everybody picked hogs, some had picked a little dogs, some had picked—you know a bunch of men. So he jumps up said, he says, Ash, I pick one for you. Because he said, those sheep over there got a black head, so you pick out you one of them with a black head. I said, okay, that’s fine, that’s okay, I said. That’d give me a girlfriend, too. He said, I’m gonna take these sows, he said. They’re my girlfriend. Clean, white girlfriend, that’s mine. I said, okay.

So it rocked on there for months, oh, seven, eight months. So they were trying to breed those sows and things and get a whole bunch of pigs so they could have more animals to, you know, they could feed radiation. So they had a white male in there and he stayed there, and that sow come up with piglets, and that sow got pregnant. So they killed him. They killed him. I went down there one day, there was a black male pig in there, didn’t have a white spot nowhere. I don’t think his tongue was even red. I mean, he was black from head to foot. About three months, all the white sows were coming up with pigs.

So this superintendent—at that time we had a whole bunch of supers—the head superintendent and all, they were down there, going over, they’d go over and do different things. So here come Lee—that was that little superintendent I was telling you about that told me, you could—so, me and truck driver standing there, and Lee come in there. I told him, I said, watch, I’m gonna make Lee mad. I knew it would make him mad. I said, hey, Lee, come here. And he come up there. I said, look at me and all these white girls in here. I said, just look at me, all these white girls. I said, boy, we got white pigs, and I got a white pigs, I got white children here. That Lee turned red, oooooh, he turned red, he got mad, he walked on out.

So the head superintendent come up there and said, what’s wrong with Lee? So the truck driver told him, Ash told him look at me and him with all these white girls. He said, Lee got that mad? He said, we can’t stand for nobody being here like that. Said, I thought Lee was a better guy than that. So they got rid off Lee. They told Lee, he’s got to get it right otherwise he’s not gonna stay. But Lee was so mad, he got rid of Lee anyway because he just didn’t like it, so they told him he had to—they got rid of him. That’s the one thing I have. Of course, it tickled me, everybody was in my favor anyway.

So I had to call the business agent on one superintendent. So I got that scrape. At first, before we started, before I was union, [unknown] were getting double time for all overtime. Why, then, we had another agreement, if I were working with another guy overtime and he got double time, we got double time. Until we got [unknown]. So we had this assistant superintendent, he had just got set up there. So when I was working there, I told him, I said, don’t forget the double time now of working with these ironworkers. He said, just ‘cause you working with the ironworkers is no sign I’m gonna pay you no double time. I said, well, I’m supposed to get it. I says, that’s a union agreement. He said, well, I’m not gonna put it on your card. I said, okay, that’d be fine with me. So that Friday when I got paid off, my double time wasn’t on there. So I called the timekeeper and he said, well, let me get in touch with downtown. And the people downtown said, well, he told him not to pay me the double time. So then I called the union hall, called my business agent. He said, okay, I’ll be right out. So he came out and got with the head superintendent and had a dealing with the superintendent over the whole entire rig. He told him about it. I done called this superintendent downtown to the head office and asked him, the union told us, now listen. He said, I pulled up the main office here. I put up a picket here and then nobody would be down here working. Because the union that time had this agreement. If one union put up a picket, the other members can’t cross it. They had this agreement. No union could cross another union picket. So, he called that superintendent down there and told him. He said, well, I just felt like I had the power that I didn’t have to pay. He said, you don’t have that power. He said, I’m the only man who had the power to say what they can get. He said, you out there, you got to follow union scale. So he said, now the business agent is here, and the business agent said Mr. Ash has got to get his money before the day is out. That was Friday. He got to get him his money back out there what you was supposed to pay him.

So this timekeeper brought my extra money back out there. So here come this superintendent that the timekeeper brought my extra money back. And the old superintendent passed by me. I shook my check in his face. I said, here it is, big boy. I said, it ain’t over your dead body, but I got it. [LAUGHTER] And he worked around there—we worked around there about three weeks before he would speak to me. But he found out he couldn’t do nothing about it and he finally calmed down.

Moore: Yeah, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Ash: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that’s about the only problem I really had had.

Moore: I have one other work-related question. You’ve talked about radiation and construction. Did you have any idea what everyone’s mission was and what they were working on?

Ash: On radiation? Yeah, we had quite a bit of radiation.

Moore: And what it would be used for? I guess I should go back, because you were after the Manhattan Project, so it wasn’t necessarily for the bomb, was it, at that time. So the mission was different.

Ash: Well, you see, when we was out there, all the reactors was under radiation. Every spring of the year, they would close the reactor down and they would go through them and remodel them. They would do about five months of work remodeling them, fixing this, putting new stuff in this. All that work was radiation. You works in there for the whole time you’re remodeling. You did. See, you worked in there. I worked in radiation. I worked in the Hanford radiation. Lots of days I worked in that radiation for weeks and weeks at a time.

Moore: So were the reactors producing plutonium?

Ash: Well, no, we were remodeling. But the building is all crapped up with radiation. Now, some places like the Pipefitters’, now, if they had a job that they gave to them to put in some pipes, they said the radiation was too high or too strong, it had to be cut down. You know, go in there and sterilize it and cut it down to a certain point to where a person could work in there. Well, that was the laborers’ job. I was in that job like all the time. Every time I had to go in there and decon radiation, clean it up to where some crafts could go in there or leave it where we could go in there.

Moore: So you were involved in decontamination.

Ash: I was in that deal. Every one of the 105s had that deal. But every year, they would close down to remodel. And then you’d go in the remodel, back there, everybody went back in there, I don’t care what craft you were, you were in radiation. You had to put on, oh, we had shoes you had to put on, pair of boots you had to put on, we had to put on an extra pair of clothes. You put off all of your clothes and then you dressed in the radiation. Sometime you got a mask on, sometime you got—oh, just anything, because then when you get in there to work, you got a timekeeper in there to check how much time you can stay in there. You got a pencil in your pocket—

Moore: That’s a dosimeter pencil?

Ash: No, that’s just a pencil that picks up the reading of what you’re getting. You got that in your pocket. Then you got another little deal that they puts on you, that if you got radiation it’d beep—a beeping pencil. So you had an RM that do the check you out. He’s standing right out there. And if you’re out there deconning a place to where these guys can work, the RM would get you with a machine.

Moore: The radiation monitors?

Ash: Yeah, radiation monitor. He’d tell you, say, well, this place then is clean. This guy can work in here now for eight hours. Or he can work in here for four hours without picking up radiation. That’s what we were doing. In some places it was so hot, you can work in there under an hour, then they got to change peoples. Then when they got through decon, we got to go in, pull of our clothes, and you got three step-off pads. You got a guy helping you to undress. Now all the clothes you got on now is all hot and full of all that junk. One guy got to pull all of that off of you. He got to pull them boots off of you, and then you step on this pad. You go to the second pad, and you pull the rest of your clothes off. They supposed to be cleaned. Then you step on the next pad, and the only thing you got on there is just your shorts. Then the man come down, he check you all over. You don’t put nothing in your mouth, you don’t smoke a cigarette until you wash your hands. Until he done check you out, you don’t, until you wash your hands.

Moore: So they were very careful.

Ash: Yeah, mm-hmm. So then you go and you’d come out there and you’d sign out. You got to sign in on a piece of paper when you go into radiation zones, and you’ve got to sign out. And when you sign out and that’s just the way it is. And if you go in there and you got all sort of crapped out with the radiation, then they’ve got the monitor to come out there and they’ve got to clean you up. Sometime it’d take half a day to get you all clean. They got to scrub you down, wash you down, then they got to put this on, and wash you down, wear that, and check you all over again. I got so heavy one time, they had to cut a piece of hair off my head and scrape my head quite a bit. So it’s—but if a person fall into radiation, follow the—the only time a person really got crapped up, and some guy—now, I know several people have got it in their skin. If you had a cut place on yourself, you supposed to come out of there right now. But some guys, some of the people feel like they got more education than other people, they can stay in there for a while. Oh, I can do this and I can do that. That’s the time you’re gonna get caught up with it. So that’s what happened with quite a few people. But I got crapped up several times. Several times, they’d taken two and three hours to get you clean. But they gonna clean you before you leave away from there. And then you’d come back the next day, they still gonna check you again.

Moore: They can’t risk it spreading.

Ash: Huh?

Moore: Can’t risk it spreading?

Ash: Yeah. Because it is a risk. Yes, if you get it inside, you get sick. It just stay in there as long as you live, and that’s the way it is.

Moore: So when the work day was over and you go home at night or it’s the weekend, what kinds of things did people, did you or your friends do away from work? Did you have social things that you did?

Ash: Things we did away from home?

Moore: Mm-hmm.

Ash: Oh, well, I’d say I didn’t do too much. I come home and stay home. Stay home with the wife and children sometime. Sometime we’d get up there and we would go downtown some place. Sometimes we’d go out of town but by the time we’d go out of town, me and the wife and children would go in Oregon someplace, drive around. Just about everywhere where me and my wife would be going, the children was with us anyway.

Moore: Was there much to do in Kennewick and Richland and Pasco?

Ash: Well, I didn’t find too much to do. Of course a lot of them people I guess were going in taverns, drinking, they probably were having beer. But I wasn’t drinking so I didn’t need to go in no tavern.

Moore: I hear you.

Ash: So my place was, I’d go to church, this place right there. I’d go out of town some weekends. So that’s about the size of it.

Moore: Okay, well, I appreciate all the information you’d given me today. After retirement, have you kept in touch with people from the Site at all?

Ash: Yeah, well, since I’m retired now, I just really couldn’t, I’ve been working taking care of myself ever since I was 14 years old, 15 years old. So I just can’t—some people retire—I can say this, but we got what you call the whole J.A. Jones retirement picnic. We go to Prosser every year, there’s a big picnic, I guess you’ve heard about it.

Moore: I think you told me something about it in August.

Ash: Yeah, I did. And we got about three or four women there. You go there, they call the roll, how many’s gone, how many J.A. Jones left here. They call the roll, all of them J.A. Jones people that died and all of us that’s left. And you know, I go over there and I look just at the people that retired and just sit down. Boy, coming out there that can’t walk, they got on crutches and canes staggering around. But I found out one thing about it is the second—you can take a brand new car and you can sit it in that garage for two years and it’s no good. That’s right. You can’t start it. It won’t never run good. So that’s the way it is when a person just sits down. But I feel better doing something. I do a little odd jobs now since I retired. I didn’t retire and just sit down. I got me a little odd job to do. I’ll do a little hedge trimming. I fool around, I got experience on trimming shrubs and like anybody want ‘em, what shape they want ‘em, I can trim ‘em.

Moore: Keeps you busy, keeps you young.

Ash: Huh?

Moore: Keeps you young.

Ash: Yeah, so? I got some good peoples. I got [UNKNOWN]. I got my doctor, I been taking care of his place for 23 years. And I got another business guy over there. I’ve been taking care of his yard and shrubs there for 27 years. The whole west side, I worked on their yard, because I used to take care of them when I was over at Hanford part-time. So I just got to keep a-doing something. Now, you want me to feel bad, and loaf, if I can sit around here for a whole week or something like that, I’d go out of town for a whole week, I ain’t got nothing to do, when I get back here, I’m just about [unknown] I gotta get out there and get to doing something.

Moore: [LAUGHTER] Well, I think you have the right idea, because it’s keeping you fit and keeping you young.

Ash: It do. Well, like they say, if you used to doing something, then you got to keep active. They said that. I’ve seen too many people—I worked with a guy, him and I worked together. And I was somewhere in the neighborhood and I was way older than he was. He retired since I retired. And I met him one day down there, and looked at him. Here you come, some peoples on this side of him, other people on this side of him, holding him up so he could walk. And I’m somewhere over ten years older than he was. I asked him, what’s wrong with you, fella? He said, well, when I retired, I was gonna take it easy. He said, so I retired and I went home, I got me a case of beer, and I sit up and drink beer and I watch the football game. That case out, I go get me another case of beer, sit home and watch the football game. So I says, now, you just watched the football game too long and now you can’t walk. He said, mister, that’s about the size of it. But if you believe it or not, if you used to working, you gonna have to keep something to do. It may not be much, but you got to be active. If you gonna sit down, you ain’t gonna be there long, and that’s for sure. If you go sit down, you just gonna be—

Moore: That’s good advice for all of us. It sure is.

Ash: Rip Davis, one time, he was a guy—he was a head man over at the operators. He retired but like I did, and he went home, he went home and he said, I’m gonna take it easy. He hired a guy to take care of his yards, he hired a guy to take care of his shrubs and everything. I said, Rip, what you doing? He said, oh, I got everything hired out. I said, Rip, you better start a-doing something. He said, oh no. And about, oh about a year after that, I seen him, he come dragging along. He said, Ash, you looking awful good. I said, yeah! He said, you know one thing, I’m gonna run that guy off of my yard and I’m gonna start doing my yard myself. He went up there and he run all them people off his yard, he started doing it and the man looked better the next time I seen him, he looked better. [LAUGHTER]

Moore: There you go. Yeah. Oh, okay. I’d like to ask permission, if it’s okay for us to film some of the photographs of your family just so we have them on tape.

Ash: Yeah, that’s fine with me.

Moore: And the editor may bring some of those into the final tape. So thanks for all of that information.


Moore: The other one is 20. He lives at home still, works for Leonard. But, yeah, they’re big boys. I wish we could recognize some people in this one, but there’s just too many shadows on their faces. Some of those workers? With those hats and everything.

Ash: Yeah, those are some hardhats. I know about them. I wore them a lot. Them hardhats. You had to wear them hardhats.

Mrs. Ash: When we first came in, they had a little joint down there on Lewis Street, and boy that was a jumping new place. All the peoples went. But you know it was never much [inaudible]

Moore: Virginia Crippen, I heard about the Chicken Shack, and Tommy Moore’s Poulet Palace and some other places.

Mrs. Ash: Virginia, she found herself having chicken [inaudible] really good.

Moore: Yeah, we interviewed her too. I guess she came up just because—she didn’t ever work out there, but she heard that people were here and they could use some places to eat. And she lived out in California or Portland or somewhere and came up and opened her chicken place.

Mrs. Ash: She did!

Moore: She did all right, I guess.

Hanford Sites

J.A. Jones Construction
300 Area
345 Building
K East
K West
100 Area
200 East Area

Years in Tri-Cities Area


Years on Hanford Site



Ash, Edward Sr.JPG


African American Community Cultural and Educational Society, “Interview with Edward Ash, Sr.,” Hanford History Project, accessed May 28, 2024,