Interview with Benny Haney
Kansas City (Mo.)
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.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Vanis Daniels: Okay. Could we ask you your full name please? What is your name?
Benny Haney: Benny. Benny Haney.
Daniels: Okay. Mr. Haney, can you tell me when you arrived in the Tri-City area or in Pasco?
Haney: In January ’44. 1944.
Daniels: Okay. Did you come by yourself or did you come here with a group of people?
Haney: No, I came with a group of people.
Daniels: Who were the people that you came with?
Haney: Charlie Harper.
Daniels: Charlie Harper, okay. Did you have any relatives here in the Tri-Cities before you came here?
Daniels: Approximately how old were you when you came?
Haney: Around 21.
Daniels: Where did you live before you came here?
Haney: Kansas City.
Daniels: Kansas City, Missouri?
Daniels: And before Kansas City, Missouri, where did you live?
Haney: Texarkana, Arkansas.
Daniels: Texarkana, Arkansas. What kind of work did you do before you left Arkansas?
Haney: After I left?
Haney: The same thing you done. [LAUGHTER] He know what that was. [LAUGHTER]
Daniels: Okay, but when you got ready to leave Arkansas, were you headed to Hanford, or did you go—well, you already said you went to Kansas City, but while living in Kansas City, how did you hear about the work at Hanford and Pasco?
Haney: Charlie Harper, he was already here. And he come home for Christmas. I come back with him.
Daniels: Mm-hmm. So, how did you travel when you came to Pasco? Did you come by train, car?
Daniels: And after you arrived here, where was the first place that you lived?
Haney: What now?
Daniels: Where did you live when you got here?
Daniels: At Hanford?
Haney: Oh, overnight here and then went Hanford the next day.
[off-screen speaker]: In the barracks?
Daniels: And was it in the barracks or at the trailer camp?
Daniels: In the barracks, okay. Were the barracks segregated, or did white, black and all live together, or did the blacks have their barracks and the whites—
Haney: Oh, no, they’d bust up the men. They would separate the men when I got here.
Daniels: So they would separate you when you got here. Okay. And when you got your job, from the barracks to work and back, what was your transportation mode? How did you get there, did they have buses?
Daniels: So you rode on a bus, okay. What kind of work did they have you do out there?
Daniels: Like digging ditches?
Haney: The lumberyard.
Daniels: Lumberyard, okay. Can you remember the name of the company that you worked for?
Haney: DuPont, but I don’t—
[camera operator]: Okay, go ahead.
Daniels: How did you feel about working at Hanford? Was it better than Arkansas and Kansas City? What I mean by that, how did the people treat you?
Haney: The people did me all right. Yeah.
Daniels: Did you work on a segregated crew? Was it all black or was it mixed with black and white?
Haney: All black.
Daniels: An all-black crew. Do you feel that your boss at the time stood up for you? In other words, did he—if you had a problem with, let’s say, a white worker, did he stand up for you? In other words, he didn’t let them mess with you while you were working?
Haney: I had no problems.
Daniels: What was the hardest thing you had to adjust to, coming from Kansas City to the Tri-Cities and living here?
Haney: What now?
Daniels: The hardest thing you had to adjust to? In other words, you came from Kansas City, which was basically a city, to Hanford, which is the country and dust and—well, there’s nothing here other than what you’re working for! I mean, how did you feel? Did you feel like that you would rather be back in Kansas City for the entertainment part of it, or—
Haney: I did right then. Back in Kansas City right there and right then—there wasn’t nothing here. No nothing.
Daniels: Yes. And did you—did they furnish any kind of entertainment or anything? Did they like bring singers or quartets or did they have dancers or anything for you?
Daniels: None of that, huh? So, in your off time, like on weekends when you wasn’t working, what did you guys do?
Haney: Well, right here at Hanford, nothing. We’d go to Yakima, on weekends, go to Yakima on the weekend.
Daniels: Now, when you got to Yakima, did you have motels that you could live in?
Haney: No, I didn’t go stay all night there, just go and come back.
Daniels: I see, okay.
Haney: There was girls in Yakima.
Daniels: Okay, what did you guys do up there when you got up there?
Haney: In Yakima?
Daniels: In Yakima, yeah.
Haney: I just sat around and talked. Have a little snort once in a while.
Daniels: Well, all right! [LAUGHTER]
Haney: That’s where the company was. There wasn’t no company at Hanford. Just the barracks, you go for bedtime, and you get tired of going there. The girls all liked that one place. [LAUGHTER]
Daniels: Yeah, yeah! Well--
Haney: It was top-rated.
Daniels: Now, when you got to Yakima and you was able—could you go in the tavern and sit down and drink?
Haney: No tavern.
Daniels: No tavern.
Haney: It’s like a house.
Daniels: I understand. [whispering] We’ll do this one and then the next one.
Daniels: Do you remember any other black people that you worked with out there at Hanford?
Daniels: Do you remember any other black people you worked for at Hanford, their names?
Haney: Worked with me?
Daniels: Yeah, that worked with you.
Haney: Reverend Singleton.
Daniels: Reverend Singleton?
Daniels: Okay. Can you think of anyone else?
Haney: They’re all about dead. They’re all gone.
Daniels: Now, you want to tell me about your job at Hanford? What did you guys do, other than work in the lumberyard? Describe what you did.
Haney: Well, I worked on—[stuttering]—I learned digging then—shovel—digging.
Daniels: Now, in the lumberyard, were you in charge of grading the lumber—
Haney: No. I didn’t grade number. I pulled the nails. They called it boneyard.
Daniels: You worked in the boneyard, mm-hmm. Now, did you do any other type of work, other than that? Do you have any funny stories or anything you can tell that happened while you was at work? Anything, maybe something that happened that’s unusual on the job, or something while you was at work? Anybody ever get hurt?
Haney: No, no.
Daniels: At work, anybody ever get killed out there? Anything that you know of?
Haney: That I understand, no.
Daniels: Well, you got anything else you want to talk about that may have happened, not only out there at Hanford, at work, but since then? I mean, you’ve gotta have some stories you can tell me that happened after you moved here to Pasco. Tell me a little bit about your family, your mom, your dad, your kids.
[camera operator]: I want to—
[camera operator]: Go ahead.
Daniels: Okay. Did anyone ever—did you know what you were working on while you were out there working?
Haney: What I was working on?
Daniels: Yes. Did anyone ever tell you that, we’re building—well, let’s say for instance like, we’re building a car?
Haney: Nobody tell me nothing.
Daniels: Okay, now, did you know what you were building when you were working out there?
Haney: No, no.
Daniels: Did you have any type of—anybody ever come around and tell you that you wasn’t supposed to talk about what you were doing out there? Did anybody ever tell you that?
Haney: Yeah. I couldn’t talk about that now. I couldn’t talk about that.
Daniels: So what you did out there, you did not know what it was for?
Daniels: I mean, were you curious? Did you ever ask anybody what, say, what are we building here?
Daniels: As far as clearances go, did—what kind of clearance did you have? Did you have L clearance, Q clearance, or just a right-to-work—
Daniels: Just a right-to-work permit.
Daniels: How were your wages compared to—working out here at Hanford, how much money did you make, compared to when you left Kansas City?
Haney: I made more in Kansas City than I made at Hanford.
Daniels: Okay, then, you made more at Kansas City than at Hanford, but did you make more in Kansas City and Hanford than you did in Arkansas?
Haney: I made nothing in Arkansas. You didn’t get nothing. [LAUGHTER]
Daniels: After Hanford, what made you decide to stay in Pasco?
Haney: I already told you that. I got a past I ain’t told you. [LAUGHTER]
[Off-screen]: Go ahead.
[Off-screen]: Say it.
[Off-screen]: Go ahead.
Daniels: So when you left Arkansas and came to Pasco, you considered yourself coming from a bad place to a better place.
Haney: A better place.
Daniels: Okay. So you decided to stay here. You want to tell me a little bit about where you lived and what you did after Hanford?
Haney: Come on with that again, what you said?
Daniels: What you did—
Daniels: Now, when you came back, I understand that your mom and dad owned a trailer court and you rented little houses and—
Haney: That was in 1947. When they owned the trailer court, ’47.
Daniels: Well, when did your mom and dad come here?
Haney: My dad was here in ’43.
Daniels: Now, can you give me the names of your other sisters and brothers that was here with you, including your mom and dad’s name?
Haney: I ain’t go no brothers yet. And then my sister here. My sister came here in ’44.
Daniels: When did Joe Baby and Johnny and all them come?
Haney: I think it about—I think it was in ’46. He come out in ’47 here, Joe Baby. Johnny was cantankerous. He couldn’t make it. [LAUGHTER]
Daniels: Okay, now, you—how many kids do you have?
Haney: Oh, phew.
Daniels: “Oh, phew”?
Haney: By that noise—by that noise—five.
Daniels: Okay, do they stay in the area? Do they live here?
Haney: Yeah, one of them, my daughter—your [unknown] and my daughter. Their home, they raised them in my daughter’s home.
Daniels: Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about Pasco and the things that have happened to you that you know about that have happened around here since you’ve lived here?
Haney: What now? What now? How’d you have that?
Daniels: Tell me a little bit about Pasco. Were there any businesses here? Did black people own businesses here?
Haney: Well, not really, yeah, in the east part. Yeah, in part of the state, black people have their business. Apex has their business out there. You couldn’t go to no—you couldn’t go in no white place now. No café, nothing, no tavern.
Daniels: That’s some of the things we’re trying to get you to tell us, about like Apex, that you couldn’t go into taverns, you couldn’t stay downtown in motels or hotels or—
Haney: No, no.
Daniels: --or nothing like that. But what was the east side like?
Haney: What now?
Daniels: The east side, the east side of Pasco. What was it like?
Haney: There wasn’t no businesses, nothing.
Daniels: Wasn’t nothing over here?
Haney: Wasn’t nothing. Millie’s house down there, about all. Baby’s house and Joe’s house up there.
Daniels: About all that was up here, huh? Okay, your mom and dad had the trailer court. They rented to the people that worked at Hanford?
Daniels: [whispering] I asked that wrong.
[off-camera]: Yes, you did.
Daniels: Boy. [LAUGHTER] Now, did they—I mean, did they have families that lived on their trailer court, or were they just rooms?
Haney: Some had families.
Daniels: Did she also have a place for entertainment and stuff for the people after they got off work?
Haney: No. No, they had a café. They had a café, that type of a place. It was a pool hall.
Daniels: And in later years, for the people that worked out there and lived on her trailer court, there was, you said, a café, a pool hall. Was there a record shop and a barber shop there?
Haney: Wasn’t no barber shop. It had a pool hall and a café. About it. And it had a tavern. The Caterpillar Café.
Daniels: Okay, were there other places like maybe Kennewick or Richland or even on the other side of town that black people could live while they worked at Hanford?
Haney: No, Pasco was all for Hanford. It was recent. Couldn’t stay in Kennewick.
Daniels: They couldn’t stay in Kennewick and they couldn’t live in Richland.
Haney: In Richland and in Kennewick.
Daniels: What about west Pasco?
Daniels: What about on the other side of town?
Haney: Pasco’s all right. It was Kennewick.
Daniels: Mr. Haney, is there anything else you’d like to tell us? Well, anyway, we thank you for the interview, and you were real helpful. So this concludes our interview with Mr. Haney.