Interview with Sharon Kent

Dublin Core


Interview with Sharon Kent


Hanford Site (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)


Sharon Kent moved to Richland, Washington in 1943 as a child.

An interview conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by Mission Support Alliance on behalf of the United States Department of Energy.


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.

Date Modified

2016-08-19: Metadata v1 created – [J.G.]


The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are the primary contractors for the US Department of Energy's curatorial services relating to the Hanford site. This oral history project became a part of the Hanford History Project in 2015, and continues to add to this US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Franklin


Sharon Kent


Washington State University - Tri-Cities


Robert FranklinOkay, let’s go. My name is Robert Franklin. I’m conducting an oral history interview with Sharon Kent on July 26, 2016. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Sharon Kent about her experiences growing up in Richland. So, I—the best place to start is at the beginning. So when and where were you born? 

Sharon Kent: When was I born? 

Franklin: Yeah. 

Kent: In 1941. I was born in Salt Lake City. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: But we were one of the first people that moved into Richland. In fact, we lived in Moses Lake and Sunnyside until the prefabs were built. 

Franklin: Okay. So coming to Richland at that young of an age, you had to have had family that worked at Hanford. 

Kent: My father worked here, yes. 

FranklinOkay. Then what did he do at Hanford? 

Kent: I think he was a policeman at that time, but I’m not sure. I know he was a policeman, and when he retired he was a safety engineer. 

Franklin: So he had several different jobs then. 

Kent: Yeah, right. 

Franklin: When did he retire? 

Kent: Well, he died in 2000. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. He lived for quite a long time. 

Kent: Yeah. And probably 1980 would be my guess, but I really—I don’t know. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Okay, well— 

Kent: Whatever 65 was, he retired. And he was born in 1913. 

Franklin: Okay. ’76. So needless to say, he spent most of his career out—he had a long career at Hanford. 

Kent: Right. 

Franklin: Okay, wow. That’s really—and did he have any other jobs besides policeman and safety engineer? 

Kent: Well, you mean a side job? 

Franklin: Any other job, any other careers out there or jobs out there? 

Kent: At Hanford, no. 

FranklinNo? Okay. Do you know how your father found out about—what was he doing before he came here? 

Kent: He was at a plant in Utah and a lot of people came from it. I can’t remember the name, but a lot of people came from that particular plant. I don’t know if they went there. I guess they went there and told people about it and a lot of them came here. 

Franklin: Do you know what kind of plant it was? 

Kent: No, I don’t. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Okay. Did your father talk much about his work as a policeman? Maybe not during the time, but after, did he talk about where he patrolled or anything interesting he saw, or--? 

Kent: No. Not that I can remember. We just talked about—what I remember, one time he said—this is probably too far—but somebody asked him if he knew what they were doing here. And he gave this answer and he says, sir, don’t say that to anybody. [LAUGHTER] So he’d figured out pretty close what they were doing. But I—you know—I don’t know. We just—I was young enough that—in fact, my first memory is the day that Japan surrendered in the Second World War. I can remember we were lived in a prefab, and the sirens were going. They had sirens at noon and different sirens. And my mother and all the people were outside yelling. I can remember my mother says, our brothers are coming home, our brothers are coming home! And that’s my first memory. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: So I don’t remember any of the problems people had during the war with lack of this and that. Just the prosperous time. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Right. What size of prefab did you live in? 

Kent: We lived in a three-bedroom, and because we lived in a three-bedroom, at one point they had a gentleman living with us. 

Franklin: Oh! 

Kent: And I don’t remember that. But right at the very end, before we moved—just before we moved, Mother had the third baby. And we didn’t have anybody living with us. And I remember—it must have been a peach orchard, because I remember peach trees. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. That makes sense, because most of the prefabs were on the western side of Richland at that time which had been orchards. 

Kent: Right. 

Franklin: And I’ve heard stories from other people about all of the fruit orchards that were there in that side of town. So where did your family move to after the prefab? 

Kent: We moved to 321 Goethals, which is now 321 Jadwin. And that was an H house. And that’s pretty close to—[LAUGHTER]—I forgot the school. Lewis and Clark. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: And we were real close to—there was a market there and a gas station. I remember—we didn’t have freezers in our home then. So there was just one house between us and the market, so we would rent a space in the freezer and go get it. I remember going in there once and pushing the alarm button. [LAUGHTER] Oh, kids! I thought, oh, boy. I was a pretty good kid, but I—[LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Did you know it was an alarm button? 

Kent: Yes, I did. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Oh, a troublemaker. 

Kent: Not usually. [LAUGHTER] Not usually. 

Franklin: How long did your family live in the H house for? 

Kent: Well, the family—I got married in 1959—the end of ’59, and they were still there. They moved out of the H house when—let’s see. Sterling was three years old, and he was born in 1966. So ’69. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. So then your family purchased the H house after Richland— 

Kent: Yes, they did. 

Franklin: After Richland became a [INAUDIBLE]? 

Kent: They did. 

Franklin: Do you know offhand how much they would have paid for that? 

Kent: What comes in my mind was $7,000. My husband-to-be lived around the corner and up a ways, and his two-bedroom prefab, I believe, was between $2,000 and $3,000. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. So you grew up next to—how did you meet your husband-to-be? 

Kent: Well, he lived, like I say, close by, but where we actually met was at church. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: There was a group of people that—young people that would get together, because there were soldiers here. And then there were people like my husband that had been in the Korean War and had their education and they still weren’t married. So there were a lot more men than there were women. So one summer when a lot of the girls left, they went down to a younger age girls that were part of this group. My husband happened to be the oldest, and I happened to be the youngest. 

Franklin: How much older was your husband? 

Kent: 13 years. 

Franklin: Oh, wow! 

Kent: Yeah, that’s what my mother said. [LAUGHTER] But she didn’t know how old he was until—at the reception.  

Franklin: Wow. What age were you when you met him? 

Kent: Met him? I was 15 or 16. 

Franklin: How long after that did you get married? 

Kent: I got married at 18. 

Franklin: Okay. Interesting. And then did you settle in Richland after that? 

Kent: Yes. My husband was working—I don’t remember—GE. Then it was GE. And we got married in December, and in September we left. My husband got a full fellowship for Berkeley in health physics.  

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: So we went there and then when we came back, we came back and came back here. 

Franklin: When would you have left? Do you remember what year that would have been? When you left to go—sorry—when you left to go to Berkeley? 


Franklin: So then Richland had passed into private. So tell me—I imagine that leaving—because you—so you were born in Salt Lake City, but really your formative years were in Richland. I imagine moving to Berkeley would have probably been quite a culture shock. 

Kent: Well, it was very different, that was for sure. My in-laws lived close by and my brother-in-law worked at Berkeley as a paleontologist. So we saw them often, and that helped a great deal. 

Franklin: How so? 

Kent: Just knowing family was close by. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: I didn’t feel like I’d just been let off. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Can you describe some of the ways in which Berkeley was different from—or some of the kind of maybe new experiences or differences that you encountered at Berkeley? 

Kent: Well, the buildings were a whole lot older. And we lived in a very old two-story house, and we had the basement apartment. I remember we went to Goodwill or something like that and got one of those wringer washing machines and hung the sheets out. But my husband knew his way around and this type of thing. So it was a much bigger city—much bigger area. When we settle in a place, we go and take advantage of it. So we saw a lot and did a lot. 

Franklin: So your husband was from the area, then, originally? 

Kent: Yes. He was born in San Francisco. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. And how did he get to Richland originally? 

Kent: I don’t know; when he graduated from Berkeley with a physics degree, he somehow got to Richland. I don’t— 

Franklin: Oh, okay. 

Kent: Yeah, I guess GE. 

Franklin: And he’d been in the Korean War before that? 

Kent: He was in the Korean War, and he did that so his education was paid for. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: He knew that—you know, that was the way to get an education. His brother was already in the Korean War, so he didn’t have to join, because there were just the two boys. And if one’s in the war, the second one doesn’t—you know. 

Franklin: Doesn’t get drafted. 

Kent: But he wanted to get an education, and this was the way to get it. And he said it worked for him. 

Franklin; Do you know what he did when he was in the Korean War? 

Kent: Yes. He repaireSabrejets—the radar equipment in Sabrejets. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: So he was about 55 miles from the line. 

Franklin: Okay. Backing up a bit, what did your—did your mother have a job at Hanford or working during the war or after the war? 

Kent: Yes. When I was a teenager, they called and begged her, begged her and begged her. She says, I don’t want to go to work. I have children. And to work in one of the libraries. So she went to work and it turned out she enjoyed it. And I remember there was a graduate school—somehow there was schooling there. It wasn’t a campus like this, but she worked in that library. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. 

Kent: And I remember I could go with her sometimes. 

Franklin: And how long did she work there? 

Kent: I don’t know. I know then she went out in the Area and then she worked in the Richland City Library. 

Franklin: What do you mean, out in the Area? You said then she went out in the Area? 

Kent: She worked for Battelle. 

Franklin: Oh, she worked for Battelle, okay. Out onsite. Or at the--? 

Kent: That’s what I thought. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: I’m not—I could make mistakes, but— 

Franklin: Oh, no, that’s totally understandable. And then you said she worked for Richland? 

Kent: Richland City Library, yeah. 

FranklinSo how long did you and your husband live in Berkeley for? 

Kent: One year. 

Franklin: Just one year? Okay. Then what happened after? 

Kent: Then we came—oh. He decided—he got his degree in physics, and he got his fellowship in health physics, and that wasn’t the right field. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. 

Kent: So he came back in physics, and then as soon as computers came to the Federal Building, he went into computers. And that was definitely his thing. [LAUGHTER] 


Kent: Oh, yeah. 

Franklin: Then he worked with computers for the rest of his career? 

Kent: Right. 

Franklin: Wow. So those would have been the days of punch cards and the—yeah. What did—you said he worked with computers; do you know a little more about what he did in the Federal Building with the computers? 

Kent: No. All I know is—well, I remember my daughter, my youngest daughter was old enough to remember the incident. They let us go down, and it was in the basement of the Federal Building. We couldn’t go into the room, but they had these white coverall things on, and it was temperature-controlled and everything. And she was old enough to remember. That was the first computer I saw. That was my youngest child, so—[LAUGHTER] And then it wasn’t too much longer before we had a computer in our home. And my husband said, this runs circles around what was in the Federal Building. But at the time, the Federal Building, it was phenomenal. 

Franklin: Wow. So was it a large mainframe? 

Kent: Rooms and rooms—yeah. Room after room after— 

Franklin: Wow. Do you have any siblings? I forgot to ask. 

Kent: I do. I have two sisters and three brothers. 

Franklin: Older, younger—or where are you? 

Kent: I’m the oldest. 

Franklin: You’re the oldest, okay. So were they all born in Washington? 

Kent: No, my sister that’s younger than me, she was also born in Salt Lake City. 

Franklin: Okay. And the others were born in Washington? 

Kent: Right, Richland. 

Franklin: Okay, and what’s the age difference between you and your youngest? 


Franklin: Yeah. 

Kent: 19 years. 

Franklin: Oh my. That’s a good span. And how many children did you have? 

Kent: I have five. 

Franklin: Five children as well. And you said your son was born in 1966? 

Kent: ’60. Oh—the third son—or the fourth son was ’66. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. 

Kent: The oldest was 1960. And then I had four sons and then in 1972, we had our daughter, and she was born on the first day of school that my youngest went to first grade. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: [LAUGHTER] So I’ve never had much alone time until the last ten years, after my husband died. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Finally some peace and quiet in the house. 

Kent: Yeah. I’m surprised that you haven’t asked me about what life was like when I was a child. I had some interesting— 

Franklin: I was getting there, but please, take over. 

Kent: Oh, okay. 

Franklin: No, no, no, go ahead. 

Kent: Well, what I remember was before the houses were owned, there were no fences. So there were no big dogs.  

Franklin: Interesting. 

Kent: You just—you didn’t own your yard, so you just walked through and everybody—you know. We just walked through the middle to go to the grocery store and whatnot. And I liked it that way. I didn’t have any problems with the neighbors. Some other people did but, I, myself, didn’t. It was just so different once they bought the houses and built these fences. Of course, then, that’s when the big dogs come in. Before, they weren’t—you know. There weren’t the big dogs—I don’t remember—where I lived. There were cats and we had a dachshund that we kept in the yard—you couldn’t just let them run. 

Franklin: Right, so I guess they would have been indoor pets a lot of the time. Because without the fences they could just run off. 

Kent: Yeah, to me, it just made such a huge difference once those fences went up. 

Franklin: Oh, I bet. Well— 

Kent: It was just a whole different feeling. It wasn’t near as warm and friendly. Whereas—and then there were a lot fewer people then, too. You know, you felt like you knew everybody. In fact, I think it was only about 20 years ago before I went anywhere that I didn’t see somebody that I knew. 

Franklin: Wow. 

Kent: [LAUGHTER] And then all of the sudden I go places all the time that I don’t know somebody. 

Franklin: Right, right. What about—I guess it’s interesting to hear you say that, with this lack of fence—because we, nowadays, we associate fences and things like that, with the feeling of security and privacy. But you’re saying, at least for you as a child, it was much more of an open, friendly feeling. 

Kent: Well, that’s what it was to me, but like I—you know. Nobody teased me. I had a brother that got teased something fierce, but nobody bothered me. So it felt good to me. 

Franklin: To just kind of be able to wander around. 

Kent: Right. 

Franklin: And what did you do for fun, growing up, what kinds of activities did you do? 

Kent: Well, we went swimming. My dad enjoyed swimming and they had a pool down in Howard Amon Park. They had the little pool and then they had the big pool. If you went to the big pool, you had to be a certain age—I can’t remember—if you went without your parent, and you could only swim for one hour. But if you were with an adult, you could swim all the time. And there just happened to be a lady that lived across the street that liked to swim that didn’t have any children that liked to take us. So we didn’t have to stand in line, we just went in and swam as long as we could. I always loved the river, and swimming was something I did a lot of. 

FranklinWas the pool in the river, or close to the river--? 

Kent: Close to the river. You know where that little pool is now at Howard Amon Park? 

Franklin: Yes. 

Kent: It was right close to there. And the tennis courts—my husband and I played on the tennis courts. I’m sure that they have renewed the surface, but it’s the same place as when my husband and I played. And he claims we played at 115, but I keep saying the weather man never says it got that hot. But it was plenty hot. 

Franklin: I’m sure it felt like 115. 

Kent: We—you know, there was no air conditioning. There were swamp coolers, but my mother had asthma, so we couldn’t have a swamp cooler. So I felt very put-upon until I got married and my husband had a wall air conditioner. I just thought I was in the Ritz.  

Franklin: [LAUGHTER] 

Kent: But we had an interesting—we were in Lewis and Clark, and supposedly there were a canoe out there that was decayed. And supposedly, it was from Lewis and Clark, I think. My brother’s wondering if it wasn’t from the Wanapum Indians. But the other thing, we had a principal named Lee Carlson. And he went around traveling around the United States. He was a rock hound, and he got these big, big blocks of the state rock. And on George Washington Way—oh, just north of Lee, on the east side, I—oh, yeah, it was a theater, the Liberty Theater. And anyway, they built this water fountain and had each one of these rocks from the state. And I’ve often wondered what happened to that, because it was very nice. I hope they put it somewhere, but if they have, I haven’t heard about it. Also, it wasn’t—then in those days, not very many people traveled that widely, so it was very interesting to—you know. 

Franklin: Oh, right. Well, especially, I imagine, growing up in Richland, until ’58, the only people that could live in Richland were people—employees of Hanford. So I imagine that, as you were saying earlier, always knowing everybody, I imagine that would be exceptionally true in Richland where everyone you knew worked at Hanford, or was a family of someone who worked at Hanford. So the community had kind of a close knit feeling? 

Kent: It did to me. 

Franklin: What else about your childhood strikes you? 

Kent: Well, I was in high school when the houses sold. And other than the Globetrotters—anyway, I had hardly seen black people, other than when they came in town. They did a thing at Columbia High School that’s now Richland High School. And then the houses sold and four black families—maybe more than that—moved in. But anyway, they were in high school and the two brothers were CW Brown and I can’t remember his brother—Norris. And he was married to one of the girls. And the other brother, Norris, was engaged to other. They were really good at basketball and we got number one at state in basketball that year. There were other great men, too, but I don’t think anybody contested the fact that they were a big thing. 


Kent: Big part of it. And I never saw any—I was raised without prejudice because I didn’t see it, if you know what I mean. And another interesting story is I went to high school with Sharon Tate. 


Kent: And the incident I remember is I was in the bathroom, and there was a lady—well, a girl I guess, and anyway Sharon Tate was there by the sink. This big black girl asked her if she would help her, and she says, very graciously, said yes. I mean, you just didn’t see any prejudice. And that was my—so when I hear about this other stuff—in fact, people would come to our high school. This one girl just came from the South and was talking about all these murders and this kind of thing. I just hadn’t seen it. 

Franklin: You mean during the Civil Rights era? 

Kent: Right, right. Like I say, I saw no prejudice whatsoever. 

Franklin: It’s very interesting you mention Sharon Tate, because I used to ask that question of people who grew up here, and I’d never met anybody yet who had actually met her. So did you know her well, or did you— 

Kent: No. I knew she was in high school. I never had a class with her. That’s the only—that was the closest. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: But she was very gracious. And everybody knew she was gonna be a movie star. She made no ifs ands or buts about that. And then she was Miss Richland, which was one of the last Miss Richlands. 

Franklin: Right, then, yeah, she moved away. 

Kent: She moved to Germany just a few weeks later. She knew when she became Miss Richland that she was gonna do that, but— 

Franklin: Right. And then of course you obviously remember the tragic event that happened to her. 

Kent: In fact, I think I lived in California at the time. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Oh, really? 

Kent: I think I lived in Los Angeles County when it happened. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. Did you have any other friends that knew her or had grown close to her, kept in touch with her? 

Kent: Not that I’m aware of. 

Franklin: Okay. That’s just interesting to have finally met somebody who actually had some sort of experience with her. 

Kent: But I—what it was, was I was just really overwhelmed at her beauty and how gracious she was and patient. You know? 

Franklin: That’s great. Do you remember—well, I guess you would have been gone for the Civil Rights activity in Kennewick. There were marches— 

Kent: What year was that? 

Franklin: ’64, ’65. 

Kent: We were back. Oh, no, we left again in ’65 and ’66. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: But I don’t remember. 

Franklin: So I’m sure you’re—did you ever go much to the other two cities, Kennewick and Pasco, for any shopping or social events, or anything like that? 

Kent: I know we did, but I can’t—and I remember when we passed East Pasco, you knew where the blacks live. There was one very lovely house that was a black man’s house. The other thing is, the whole time I was growing up, if I ever saw a Hispanic person, they were in the field, working.  

Franklin: Did any of them live in Richland to your recollection? 

Kent: If they did, I wasn’t—like I say, the only time I saw them was when we drove to Sunnyside and they were working in the fields, the whole time I grew up. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: And my daughter worked at Wiley School in Pasco, first grade, and the Hispanics live where the black community was now.  

Franklin: Right. 

Kent: So that has definitely changed. 

Franklin: Yeah, Pasco is heavily Hispanic now. What can you tell me about civil defense growing up? Because you would have went to school and gone to school at the real high point of the Cold War-- 

Kent: Duck-and-roll? [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Yeah, exactly. What can you tell me about what you remember about that and how it made you feel? 

Kent: Well, I can remember my father was in safety. 

Franklin: Right. 

Kent: He also, on side jobs, he went around teaching first grade and things like that. So we were really into that kind of thing, and we were very safe. But I remember the duck-and-roll, and I remember the—oh, is it Jason Lee that was built, and it was a bomb shelter and whatnot? I don’t think Lewis and Clark was built that way. Jason Lee was built later. You know, we were told what to do. Exactly what it was, I don’t remember. But I knew that we knew we were vulnerable and we also grew up with the feeling that as soon as the war was over, the town would be taken apart. Which, obviously it wasn’t. And I think—I don’t know, but I have a feeling the Cold War really kept us in there a lot longer. Now we—[LAUGHTER] remember hearing about it and learning about it. The other thing I remember was when I was young, Dr. Corrado came to the house and I had scarlet fever. He gave me one of the first shots of penicillin that they were giving the public. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: It was a thick green goo. 

Franklin: When was this? 

Kent: I was five, so it was ’46. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. That is very early. 

Kent: Yeah, yeah. So Dr. Corrado at that point—well, these were—they worked for Hanford and it was very different. Different size and whatnot. And that was—big quarantine sign. It was by Christmas and, like I said, the grocery store was right there; it was Campbell’s then. And my father—our heritage is mainly Swedish—and my dad had invited all these people for lutefisk. 

FranklinThat Swedish delicacy. 

Kent: Yeah. And they put this quarantine sign up on our door. And this fish came in to the market and they call up, Mrs. Roos, you’ve got to come and get this fish. It stinks up the whole store! [LAUGHTER] So that’s one of my fun memories. I mean, it wasn’t fun for her, but— 

Franklin: Did you ever develop a taste for lutefisk? 

Kent: Well as a—a few years ago, when I was widowed—you know, they have the lutefisk festival every February or March at the Lutheran church, and I have a friend that is Finnish. So I called her up and I said, let’s go. And she said [GRUMBLING] but she went with me. Well, we had no idea where to go in this church, and we just laughed and said, well, we’ll just follow the smell. And by gum, there was no smell. They do it differently now. And it tastes like cod. I guess it is a cod, prepared. So we go almost every year now. 

Franklin: Oh, wow.  

Kent: But we figured if anybody knew how to prepare it, it would be the Sons of Norway.  

Franklin: Yeah. Yup. [LAUGHTER] That makes sense. Anything else about growing up that you’d like to—that comes to mind? 

Kent: Well, I remember when the fireworks down at—just below the high school on whatnot, that’s where we saw the fireworks. Then they had a baseball field down there at one time. But this was—I think I was an adult then. They had a team called the Triplets, which is similar to the Dust Devils. And I remember they gave out jackets and I still have my Triplets jacket. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: And the circus came to Sunnyside—the great big one—and we went thereWell, the other thing is, one of the first things that happened was the Richland Players. And Mother said, there was this man that was there on business and he had nothing to do that night but go to—so he went to the Richland Players. And he stayed over the next day to go and tell people how extremely impressed and surprised on how good they wereThe community concerts came. Anything like that that came—they brought things in like that. I remember Ronald Reagan came. He worked for GE. 

Franklin: Oh, right, doing the promotional films, right? 

Kent: Yeah, I remember going when he was here. 

Franklin: Were you living here when President Kennedy visited to dedicate the N Reactor? 

Kent: Yes. 

Franklin: That was in November of 1963. 

Kent: Yes, I was, in fact— 

Franklin: September, I think. Sorry. 

Kent: In fact, my brother was a Boy Scout. And he was right there and he got to shake his hand twice. 

Franklin: Oh, really? 

Kent: Yeah. 

Franklin: Did you go to the dedication? 

Kent: I don’t remember that I did. I think I had a brand new baby or something. [LAUGHTER] But about—when we had a brand new baby in the ‘60s, we were going through one of those trees that you could drive through as President Kennedy was giving the oath of office. 

Franklin: Oh, in— 

Kent: In California. In California. 

Franklin: The redwoods on the highway, yeah. 

Kent: I remember that. 

Franklin: Do you remember President Nixon’s visit in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s? 

Kent: You know, I can’t say that I do. 

FranklinThat’s okay. I haven’t met anybody who has yet. I’ve seen pictures of him at Hanford, but I don’t think it was as widely touted as President Kennedy’s visit. 

Kent: Right, right. 

Franklin: He seems to have a little less mystique. 


FranklinHow was it, raising—I imagine that—I guess I’d like to ask you to reflect on maybe how the experience of raising children in Richland, and maybe how their experiences would have been different from your experiences growing up in Richland? 

Kent: Oh, that’s interesting. Well, we had fences. [LAUGHTER] And more multicultural. 

Franklin: How so? 

Kent: Well, anybody of any race could move in. There were very few Asians and very few Hispanics. Hmm. That’s a good question, but—well, they still knew it was a nuclear situation. I don’t have a good answer to that, other than it was a nice place to live. We felt safe. 

Franklin: That’s interesting. It’s interesting, I guess, for many people who might be—who might ever see this or who aren’t as familiar with Hanford to hear in the same sentence that there’s all this nuclear material being produced here but that it was also a very safe community. Did you ever feel any greater existential fear from the Cold War? 

Kent: I didn’t. Well, not that I remember. I certainly didn’t when I was a child. 

Franklin: Right. 

Kent: And I think I was just so used to it, I don’t remember. But another thing I do remember about my kids and whatnot is when I grew up, everybody had the same furniture. 

Franklin: Right, because it was government furniture. 

Kent: Yeah, and everything else. So when my kids grew up, we went to Bell Furniture. People had different furniture. And like I say, they had dogs and whatnot. More cars during—when I grew up, the men always went to work on buses. Everybody usually had a car, but they had one car. So as my kids that—a lot more people had two cars, and the bus system wasn’t near the thing that it was. Where I live now is right by where the bus barn is, and they just built that new facility and then they stopped using the buses. But I thought the buses were real nice, because you knew when your dad or your husband was coming home and this type of thing. 

Franklin: Right. And probably a bit safer, too. Less cars on the road. 

Kent: Well, and it—you know, a lot less—fewer of us had two cars when the husband had a way to work every day.  

Franklin: Right. So then he wouldn’t need to drive—to take the car with him all the time. So how long did your husband work out onsite for? 

Kent: Until he retired. 

Franklin: Okay. How long was that? 

Kent: Well, he came in like ’56 or ’57. He was born in ’29. And he retired at 65. So—[LAUGHTER] what would that be? ’86? Or something like that. 

Franklin: Kind of right when things were—production was starting to drop off. It says here that you’d been in the same house for 48 years on Saint Street? 

Kent: On Saint Street, yes.  

Franklin: And is that an Alphabet House, or is that a newer— 

Kent: No, it was—we’re the only family that lived there. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. 

Kent: And it was a Stanfield-Nelson house. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: And—no, it was—we were gonna build in that area, and I hadn’t picked a plan yet. But we were on our way to buy a lot around the corner. And I said, hey, look, this house. Let’s go see if we can walk through. And we walked through, and I says, well, that’s what I want, build it over there. And they said, why not here? And I said, well, you’ve already picked up the carpet and whatnot. I’ll probably have one new house—I’m gonna pick out everything. They said, it’s on hold. And it was—I’m real glad I did, because I have four little boys, and they had all these things done—you know, the people that built from scratch—running into all these problems. And the cabinets were in, they were beautiful. They built them right in there. And they were beautiful; they were walnut—I loved walnut. And they did—and outside, the patio, there was a hole there and I said, I can’t have that. So they custom-built a beautiful bench that we sat on top of—you know, where the window was for the dryer. And I’ve been there 48 years, and there isn’t another house in the world I’d rather live in. I wish everybody felt that way about their house. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: I wish I felt that way about my house, honestly. 


Franklin: Did any of your siblings ever go to work for Hanford— 

Kent: Hanford. 

Franklin--end up staying in the area? 

Kent: Well, my brother Richard is here now. 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: He would be somebody—and I forgot to bring his number—that would be interested. He works out on the grounds and keeping track of radiation from the animals and this type of thing. 

FranklinOh. Wow, interesting. 

Kent: I don’t know—I think I can tell the story. This one man came to him and he said, there’s a building out there, and these people won’t let me go in and check on things. And he says, there’s some birds on top of this building. And he says, I had an idea that they have a lot of radiation, and they won’t let me in. So he and Richard went and said, we’re coming in. And the birds were full of radiation. By the time they decided what to do about it, they were in Argentina. [LAUGHTER] But he says, the saving grace is whatever kind of bird it was, it wasn’t the kind people ate for dinner. 

Franklin: Oh, right. So— 


Franklin: At least there’s that. It’ll have to work its way through another couple animals to get into the human food stream. 

Kent: And the other thing was when Rattlesnake Mountain—I have allergies. And when Rattlesnake Mountain burned, my allergies were the best they’d ever been. 

Franklin: Really? What is it that you’re allergic to? 

Kent: I don’t really know. I’ve been here so long, I’ve just—but anyway, guess who was the one that had them helicopter to reseed it. My brother. [LAUGHTER] They came in with helicopters. I said, I don’t know about that. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Since you’ve—we’ve talked a bit about how the neighborhood changed from—or how kind of the town changed from—in ’58 when things were—when they privatizedand you said some African Americans came in, fences came up, and things. How was—what changes have you noticed in your house now, where you’ve been living for almost half a century— 

Kent: Well, yes. We were one of the first houses in that area. And where Lynnwood Park is now—I don’t know if you’re familiar with that—but anyway, when they put the park in, it was in the paper, and I think on the news, there was this big oval spot that they couldn’t get grass to grow. And Mark says, well, I know what that is. That was clayed in for water for the horses. There were horses out there. 

Franklin: Oh, right. Like someone’s ranch. 

Kent: Only, what was interesting was the mobile home park was—this was my house, and this is where the horses are, and the mobile home park was up there. So anyway, he says, well, that’s what’s the matter with that. So, yeah, we were one of the first ones. So it’s really built up.  

Franklin: Oh, yeah, I imagine. 

Kent: And my kids—we moved there just before Sacajawea was built. So they went to Jason Lee, I believe. One day—the two older ones went to school; the two younger ones didn’t go to school yet. And they horsed around, and I didn’t have a car that day. So I told them get out and walk, and it was quite a ways. But they had only walked a couple of blocks and the bus that was picking up the kids more north was passing by. And they said, they’re from our school! So the kids said, we only walked a couple of blocks. [LAUGHTER] But they weren’t late again. [LAUGHTER] And then after that, they went to Sacajawea and then Hanford. 

Franklin: Okay. And when was Hanford built? Do you remember? 

Kent: Well, I know they started—Mark was born in ’60, and he started junior high there. He was one of the first. I don’t think it was the first year, but it was pretty close.  

Franklin: Were you involved in any groups or social organizations when you were being a mother and raising children? 

Kent: I was—one of the things—Robert Leduc was the superintendent of schools. And I was in a group called citizens for something-or-other. We met with Robert Leduc, I believe once a month. And I really enjoyed that. 

Franklin: What did you do in this group? 

Kent: We just discussed all kinds of things and gave our feelings. Only other person I can remember that was in it was Dr. Sara Gergel. 

Franklin: And who was that? 

Kent: She was a pediatrician. 

FranklinOkay. So I imagine this was school-related? 

Kent: This was all—this was Richland Schools. I can’t remember the exact title, but it was citizen—you know. And how they picked us, I don’t remember. I was also vice president of PTO at Sacajawea. We decided not to be PTA, so we were PTO. 

Franklin: Oh, and why was that? 

Kent: I can’t remember. I can’t remember. I know I was in a discussion, but I can’t remember. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: What—is the O for organization? 

Kent: Organization. For some reason, they didn’t want to join the PTA. Now I kind of laugh and wonder why, but we didn’t. I was in Girl Scouts, in fact there’s a house on Falley—George Washington Way and Falley—that was unused at that time. But it was owned by an uncle or something of—it was one of the old, original houses. 

Franklin: The pre-Manhattan Project? 

Kent: Right. And anyway, we had Girl Scouts there. The building is still there and nobody—I don’t think it’s ever been occupied in all these years. 

Franklin: Oh. And where—this was at--? 

Kent: It’s yellow. Fallow and George Washington Way. 

FranklinAnd Fallow? 

Kent: Fallon? I think. It’s right at the end of downtown Richland.  

FranklinHmm. Interesting. 

Kent: I’m pretty sure it’s yellow. 

Franklin: Okay. I’ll have to look out for that next time. 

Kent: But—yeah—I know I enjoyed going to the things here and most things were free except—you know. They had a lot—GE had a lot of things for the people. I do remember the dust storms and the women didn’t like them. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Why is that? 

Kent: Well, they called them termination winds. 

Franklin: Right. 

Kent: You know, the women would clean up, and those winds would just seep into the house. 

Franklin: Would these even happen when you were an adult? How long did these dust storms continue for? 

Kent: Until all the irrigation started. The more the irrigation, the less of this. And one of my sons—Sterling—was talking to me. He says, the other day, you know, when I grew up here it was very little humidity. He said, now there’s a lot of humidity and he says, if you’re out driving at five or six in the morning, there’s all this water going up in the air from sprinklers and whatnot, and it’s a lot more humid. 

Franklin: Mm-hmm. 

Kent: That’s a definite difference. But that hasn’t bothered me. 

Franklin: Right. I imagine that—didn’t really think of that. Do you remember clearly when kind of the big irrigation projects were happening? Do you remember that—what kind of era that was, or decade? 

Kent: Not really. I remember going out and picking fruit from when I was a kid and when I had young kids. That’s what I remember. And asparagus and things like that. But I don’t ever remember it without all this. 

Franklin: Right, okay. Interesting. What can you tell me about the history of the Latter Day Saints in the area? Was that—were there any Mormon settlers in the area before the Manhattan Project, or was the main bulk kind of brought in during World War II? 

Kent: Well, the main bulk was brought in, but—I don’t know if you know anything about Bickleton that’s out there. The Brinkerhoffs lived in Bickleton. And they came in, and he was the one that not too many years before he died and not all that long ago, he remembered as a child, there were bluebirds in Bickleton. So he did a project—oh, I don’t know how many years ago—20 or so, but not—where he made all these houses or had all these houses made, and now the bluebirds have come back to Bickleton. 

Franklin: You mean like birdhouses? 

Kent: Yeah. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. And where is Bickleton? 

Kent: It’s not too far from here, but I’ll tell you—when we went there, I didn’t see any street signs or anything else. It’s just out, you know. My brother knew how to get there. I thought, well, I couldn’t drive there. There’s just—it’s farm and whatnot. He was saying, there’s a bluebird, there’s a bluebird, there’s a bluebird. But they were one of the families. But most everybody else came. And I can remember, we were in schools and whatnot and then in 1950, the steakhouse on Jadwin was built. At that time, we stayed a branch. And when the church was dedicated, we went in and we were divided into two wards—branches are usually quite small. Also, I was—the first baptism in that building was April of 1950, and I was baptized during that baptism. I know my mother didn’t want me baptized in December in that dirty, cold Yakima River, and I didn’t put up any fuss. [LAUGHTER] We’ve really grown since then, that’s for sure. 

Franklin: I imagine. Do you remember any—was there any sort of—did early LDS settlers or people who came come across any hostilities or were there any troubles between—any types of persecution or anything like that? 

Kent: Well, if there was, I didn’t see it. But I’m one of those that—I don’t—if something happens, I just walk away and it’s gone. So I didn’t see any of it. 

Franklin: Sure. 

Kent: And I don’t remember my folks talking about that at all. We get in and we do things with the community. We usually are quite an asset, and I think we were looked at that way. One of the things I remember as a kid that I loved, that I really miss now was the Atomic Days—they had Atomic Days. One of the things that—they had floats, I mean gorgeous floats. I know Mother and Dad would work on these floats for Toastmasters and Toastmistresses. I remember all that crepe paper and whatnot. I miss those kind of floats. It was fantastic. They really put a lot of effort in that. I can’t remember what else but Frontier Days, but there was all—and I don’t know exactly when Art—first it was Sidewalk Show, for this, that’s coming up this Friday. And it was on the sidewalk in downtown. And then it’s turned into this big thing. And then it was local artists, and I’d—oh, I know her, I know her. And even as an adult when I was taking a lot of painting classes, I knew a lot of the people that were showing down there. Now, I don’t. [LAUGHTER]  

Franklin: Did your husband share a lot of what he worked on, or was there still a culture of secrecy that kind of persisted-- 

Kent: Oh, no, he did not share what he worked on. But I do know that he was this kind that could be very isolated and very—so if there was something that people didn’t want to work on because it was tedious or they had worked on it for years and couldn’t solve it, they just handed it to him and gave him no deadline and he solved all the problems. That’s the only story I’ve heard. So he was very highly valued. Then his bosses, they honored him and this kind of thing—paid as somebody like that. And his bosses that were his age or a little younger, when they were retiring, says Roy, you’ve got to retire. This young guy does not have any respect for overpaid, old geezers. So he retired early—he retired at 65, where he would have gone to 70. 

Franklin: Yeah.  

Kent: But they said, no, no. And it’s really a shame, because—you know. They lost a very valuable person.  

Franklin: Right. All that learned experience on the job. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to talk about? 

Kent: Not that I can remember at this time. I’m sure as I walk out, it’ll fill my head, but—[LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Lightbulb going off? 

Kent: But it was a very happy experience for me. It wasn’t—my parents, I could see that—well, the other difference was between—everybody here, on vacation, always went home to their parents, because the parents didn’t live here. Whereas with my kids, my folks lived here. My husband’s folks didn’t, but my folks did. And that was a big difference. So when we went, we went to his folks’, but we weren’t trying to equal our time to both families. So also then we took time to go and do other things. That was a big one, to have the grandparents and the aunts and uncles here which my kids had and have really enjoyed. 

Franklin: Right, that larger extended family structure would have been missing—or if your aunt or uncle didn’t work for Hanford, right, they wouldn’t live in the area. 

Kent: Oh, I have another funny story. 

Franklin: Sure. 

Kent: My folks, when they moved from Jadwin which turned into Goethals, at—there’s Jadwin in the Uptown, and then Williams, and then south of Williams, it wasn’t Jadwin, it was Goethals. Why it was that way, I don’t know. But then they—several years ago, they changed it so it was Jadwin all the way down. But anyway, when they moved from Goethals, they moved to Hains, which is across the street from the dike. They had that wonderful walking path, and if you haven’t walked on it, it’s marvelous. I just love to walk there. Anyway, one year, all these walkers were complaining to the City of Richland about the skunks, the skunks, the skunks. So they went in and got rid of a lot of them, and all of the sudden, all the neighbors were just covered with mice. But nobody was talking about it. I can remember my mother was real sick, and the cat came and dropped a dead mouse on her chest. My little daughter, who is real little, came in squealing with a mouse. And then she flushed it down the toilet. The neighbors just didn’t say a word ‘til it had gone on for quite a while. 

Franklin: Wow. 

Kent: So that’s a funny story. I mean, it wasn’t funny to my mother at all, and she certainly didn’t like the present the cat gave her. [LAUGHTER] She couldn’t believe that my daughter would run around with a mouse. Why they flushed it down the toilet, I don’t know, but that’s what she did. 

Franklin: Do you remember the flood of ’48? 

Kent: Yes, I do. In fact, it was on a Sunday morning, if I remember right. There was a friend and I—he was in the church, but he obviously wasn’t active and he was working at a tavern just south of what was Richland there, on the way to Richland Wye. And he went up to change a lightbulb and was electrocuted. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. 

Kent: And, like I say, I switch the names around, so I don’t know what his name was. All I know is I knew him from church. But at that point he wasn’t very active. And yes, I do remember the flood, but not—that’s what I remember. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: That’s what you remember? 

Kent: And that’s when they built the dike across from Hains and whatnot. But it didn’t get to our house. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. And then they built what they called the Miracle Mile then as well—the long structure there to keep the water out. How else has Richland changed since you were—I mean, obviously there’s so many changes since you were small, when you first remember. But what else strikes you as— 

Kent: Well, at first, until I was a teenager—it started a little before I was teen here—just downtown Richland. And then the end of Uptown was finished when I was 13. 

Franklin: The Uptown Mall? 

Kent: Yeah. The movie theater and Spudnuts were one of the first ones built and then the north end was finished when I was 13. That added a lot of stores and this type of thing. And more and more and more people, and—so, like I say we kept—well, I didn’t worry about it, but you kept expecting it to close up. I remember my dad saying, they found out that once a community like this can get over 100,000 then they can support themselves when that one plant moves out, and can survive. They won’t be what they were before. But I’m not worried about it finishing before I die, so—[LAUGHTER] Plus, I’m on pension and social security, so— 

Franklin: Well, at this point, I don’t even—it’s hard to say when they’ll finish, given the task before them. It’s a really, really big one. 

Kent: Well, there is something that I’ve never figured out and they keep doing it. I remember my whole time when I was a kid and through the whole thing, is when they took a bid, they took the low bid. I don’t remember that there was ever once that it didn’t go way, way, way over. But they kept taking the low bid! They didn’t learn. And the other thing I don’t understand is, why, when somebody got the bid, why didn’t they say, you have to finish it at this amount of money? That, to me—now, if I was doing something on the site, I would have something in there like that. [LAUGHTER] It just never made sense to me, and they’re still doing it. Does it make sense to you? 

Franklin: No. No, it doesn’t. [LAUGHTER] 

Kent: You know, because I think they lost out by taking low bids.  

Franklin: Yeah, there’s definitely a—well, part of the issue is that, I think, that they’re spending taxpayer dollars and people want to know that they’re getting—that they’re going with the least expensive option. But if I’m understanding your point correctly, it’s that the least expensive option sometimes turns out not to be the least expensive option— 

Kent: Well, it never did. 

Franklin: --if it’s not quality work. 

Kent: Oh, I see, I see. 

Franklin: Or yeah, the nature of it is cost overrun. And yeah, there should be a-- 

Kent: It always went way, way, way, way, way—I mean it wasn’t—it was way, way, way, way, way over there. And it never made a bit of sense. 

Franklin: Yeah, I’ve never heard of someone finishing a project at Hanford on time and under budget. 

Kent: Or anywhere close to on-budget. 

Franklin: Yeah, they just—like the Vitrification Plant keeps getting delayed, and finishing the closing down of the Plutonium Finishing Plant. 

Kent: Once they got the contract, they—they don’t always get to keep it forever, but—so I don’t know. That’s one thing that’s never made a bit of sense to me. 

Franklin: That actually—brings me to another question. Did you notice any changes in the town when Hanford would change contractors? 

Kent: Not really, except when they brought in new contractors, then they brought in more people and different types of people—you know, different expertise and this type of thing. But it’s just changing—when it was just one company, I don’t really— 

Franklin: What about during the shift in the late ‘80s from production to cleanup and kind of the rise of the environmental consciousness, if you will. Can you talk about what you remember about the community at that time, and kind of how the people negotiated that change in Hanford’s role? 

Kent: You know, I don’t remember that at all.  

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: Like I say, a lot of things, when I had a bunch of little tiny kids, I had my own little world. [LAUGHTER] The ‘60s are a pretty big blur. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Right. What about later, in the ‘80s and the early ‘90s when cleanup started to become a high priority? And the actual production was being shut down. 

Kent: Well, I just remember, maybe this is coming to an end kind of a thing. But it didn’t affect me. I didn’t see anybody seem to be bothered. You just get—because you’ve been there for so many years, and it just kept going on. 

Franklin: Right.  

Kent: So—my husband didn’t talk about how it affected him or anything, or my dad. My mother—but I remember one thing, she—the last library she worked on was the old Richland Library. They—I guess the new one’s over 30 years old? A lot older than I thought it was. But anyway, she says, they just had to build this new one. They just couldn’t—they could not use that building anymore. And then they build a new one, and somebody was in it for another 30 years.  

Franklin: The old building? 

Kent: The old building.  

Franklin: Where is that building?  

Kent: It was between George Washington and Jadwin and Swift. You know, where the city hall is? 

Franklin: Yeah. 

Kent: It was right south of the city hall. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. 

Kent: And it was a domed—orange dome. 

Franklin: Oh, okay. Isn’t that a vacant, or an empty space now? 

Kent: They took it out, yeah. 

Franklin: Interesting. 

Kent: Just like the old community house. They cut it in half. [LAUGHTER] But I don’t know. And yet, to look at the theater—the Richland Theater, that’s still there. 

Franklin: It is, yeah. 

Kent: But the one we went to as kids was the Village Theater, which was just a couple blocks away on George Washington Way. On the other side of Lee. They had the westerns on Saturday morning. So we were there for the westerns. The other thing I remember about the movies that’s so different from now is that we didn’t get the movies for two to three years, until—you know, the big—evidently, they didn’t make a jillion copies.  

Franklin: Right. 

Kent: And we didn’t get them for two or three years. 

Franklin: Wow. 

Kent: I can remember that. So a lot of the big ones, people had gone on vacation and already saw it. But there was enough of us that didn’t that there were still big, big, big lines. That’s one thing I remember.  

Franklin: Do you think maybe that had something to do with government procurement, maybe? Or the movie theater being run by the government? Or do you think it was the availability—just the size of the city— 

Kent: The availability of the film is what always entered my mind. 

Franklin: Huh. Okay. 

Kent: And the other thing is not a lot of people flew when I was a kid, because—and I might be way off—but it seemed to me that they were paying about as much then as I—to go to Arizona as I—going to go this Christmas. Very few people flew, and it was in the hundreds of dollars. And I’m paying $300 to go to Arizona at Christmas. [LAUGHTER] And that’s another thing that interests me. Of course, now, most of us fly nowadays. 

Franklin: Right. Yeah, that’s kind of the default. Or we get prepared to drive long distances, which—I imagine would have been—I imagine getting to Kennewick and Pasco when you were a child would have been quite an undertaking, in terms of just the roads. 

Kent: We didn’t go very often. 

Franklin: You didn’t go very often. 

Kent: But the other thing that isn’t mainly about here, but—I don’t know if you’ve ridden much in Benton City, but there’s Acord Road, that is a two-lane road, and not much on the sides, and it goes ssshhh on a canyon. Well, that’s what our highways were when I was a kid. It took—the two places we went was either Salt Lake or the San Francisco area. It took us 18 hours to get to either one. Well, it takes us ten now. See, these freeways, they’re wide, they’re one-direction. You’re not loofing around— 

Franklin: Safer, too, I imagine. 

Kent: Only place you loof around is on Cabbage Hill, really, to an extent. That has been a big change. But I remember, we’d have the kids in the car at 4:00 AM and get to Grandpa’s at midnight. [LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Wow. That’s a long day. 

Kent: That is a long day. 

Franklin: With kids in the car. 

Kent: Yeah, but it was easier than stopping. But we didn’t always do that. In some ways, when you have four little kids, it’s easier to do that than to stop. That’s one big difference. But that’s just in general; that has nothing to do with this area. 

Franklin: Right. Well, that’s still a really, really important difference. You mentioned earlier that your parents had worked on Atomic Frontier Days floats. Do you remember which floats specifically that they worked on? 

Kent: Yes, they were Toastmasters and Toastmistress. 

Franklin: Oh, right. 

Kent: And I think Dad worked on one of the Lions. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. Was that something they just kind of did for fun to help out? 

Kent: Yeah, they were in those organizations, and— 

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: And, boy, they put in the work and the designing. People were—well, when they first moved, when they were just building the place, it wasn’t a high-educated group of people. And then when they built and whatnot so they could come in—the scientists. And then I remember Dad saying when I was in high school, it had the highest percentage of PhDs in the world kind of a thing. 

Franklin: Mm-hmm. 

Kent: When people talked about, nobody talked to them about going to college, I said, you’re kidding. I just—everybody I knew went to college from here. The schools were very good here. At least the ones I went to—very, very good. Then I went to BYU and got married the last day of the quarter and came back and started at CBC. I think that was the third or fourth year of CBC—but it already had a good reputation.  

Franklin: Right. Did you finish? 

Kent: No, I didn’t. I’ve been taking courses—until just a few years ago, I’ve been taking courses off and on. And then I was in the seniors programs that they had, and they quit that. So— 

Franklin: What kind of courses did you take? 

Kent: Well, we had two businesses when the kids got to teenagers, my one son—well, he was a scout, and for one of his merit badges—my husband’s boss was the scout master. He also, on the side, had bees. So we checked with the neighbors, and they were okay, and we had two or three hives in our backyard. My son couldn’t find a job for the summer, so he said, Dad, can we have bees? So I don’t know, we had big contracts and whatnot and we worked together with the other ones, and were very involved in the state bee organization. It was the most wonderful thing for our family. We just—we worked hard, and we worked together. But then the older ones were leaving, and the two younger ones got deathly allergic. So then when we didn’t have the bee business anymore, our son says—I knew a man that was selling his carpet business, so we bought the carpet business. But anyway, when we had the bee business, I took two years of accounting.  

Franklin: Okay. 

Kent: Okay? [LAUGHTER] Yeah, I kind of went off on that, didn’t I? And I’ve taken about every--oil painting, whatever it is kind of thing. But when I first went, I was taking the basic courses. 

Franklin: Right, the general education. 

Kent: The general education. And then I just went off on the different things. So I kept the books for the businesses and answered the phone. We liked the beekeeping business much more than the carpet cleaning business. 

Franklin: I bet. 

Kent: And like I say, we worked together. One of the things is, one of my boys took them out—you know you move bees at night? 

Franklin: Mm-hmm. 

Kent: And he was out in the farm somewhere and the truck turned over. They said there were policemen all around keeping cars from going, but none of them were out helping. [LAUGHTER] It was a stinging proposition, but it was good for us. It really brought us close. The kids learned if you work hard, you could have anything you wanted. They got the skis, they went skiing. They’re still real hard workers. They found the benefit of that. My one son, when we were getting rid of the carpet business, he decided to—he was going to go to college, and we had some problems—well, some men that worked for us came in and had keys to our house and came in and stole our truck and a few other things and whatnot. 

Franklin: Wow. 

Kent: And we got a call from a policeman in Oregon, and there was this little box that looked—that was locked and whatnot, and they took that. It didn’t have anything that they wanted, but it had a lot of personal papers. So the police sent it to us. Anyway, when we were getting out of the carpet keeping business, my son, David, took it with him to school and took the debt and whatnot and built up a carpet-cleaning business in Las Vegas. 

Franklin: Oh, wow. Does he still do that? 

Kent: No. He works for Costco now. And he’s in Selah. He was at the Kennewick store and they transferred him to Yakima. They have moved to a house that’s over 100 years old. And they’ve kept adding to it and adding to it. I don’t go upstairs because I need the bathroom often, and you have to know exactly which staircase you go up to get to the bathroom up there. [LAUGHTER] His wife’s family grew up there, and they said, oh, we’re so interested. We always walked past this house. We wondered who owned it now. And so it is a very interesting house. But—[LAUGHTER] 

Franklin: Right. Well, Sharon, is there anything else you would like to add or that I haven’t talked about before we— 

Kent: Not that’s coming. [LAUGHTER] 

FranklinRight. Well, I just want to thank you for sharing so much about your life. 

Kent: Well, you’re welcome. 

Franklin: And opening up to us about your experiences growing up in Richland. 

Kent: Well, you’re welcome. 

Franklin: Okay. 

View interview on Youtube.

Years in Tri-Cities Area



Kent, Sharon.JPG


“Interview with Sharon Kent,” Hanford History Project, accessed December 7, 2022,