Interview with Jim Buske

Dublin Core


Interview with Jim Buske


Hanford Site (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)
Nike-Zeus missile
Military bases


Jim Buske was stationed at the Camp Hanford U.S. Army base from 1954-1956.

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.




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 the US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Franklin


Jim Buske


Washington State University - Tri Cities


Robert Franklin: Are you ready, Tom?

Tom Hungate: We’re rolling.

Franklin: Okay. My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Jim Busk on September 12, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I’ll be talking with Jim about his experiences at the Hanford Site. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?

Jim Buske: Okay. It’s Jim Buske.

Franklin: Buske, sorry.

Buske: B-U-S-K-E.

Franklin: Okay.

Buske: And the address?

Franklin: No, no, no, no address. And is Jim short for James?

Buske: No. My given name is Jimmie. I-E.

Franklin: Okay. J-I-M-M-I—J-I-M--?

Buske: M-I-E.

Franklin: Okay. So, Jim, tell me how you came to the area, to the Hanford Site.

Buske: Well, Uncle Sam decided he needed me here. So, that’s how I got here. I was in the Army at the time, and I was due to be sent to Alaska. And I got as far as Fort Lewis and come to find out they were so far ahead on sending the replacements up with the same job number that I had, that they were just dividing us all up and sending us all over the world, really. I ended up, along with, I think, five other soldiers at that time being sent to Camp Hanford, Washington.

Franklin: Okay. Let’s—if you don’t mind, let’s back up a little bit. Tell me, where and when were you born?

Buske: Oh, I was born in Stockton, Illinois, October 11, 1934.

Franklin: Okay. And when did you join the services? Yeah. Were you drafted or was it—

Buske: I volunteered. On November 29, 1954.

Franklin: Okay. Had you been to Washington before? Before you came to Lewis and then came over to Camp Hanford?

Buske: No. Never been to Washington.

Franklin: What were your first impressions of Camp Hanford when you arrived?

Buske: Well, a whole lot different than it is in 2018. When I first got here, it was very hot and dry. There was—if you didn’t water something, it just didn’t grow. The population was way down from what it is today. Quite an area, actually, today. It’s surprising. But vineyards and things like that were still somewhere in the future.

Franklin: Where was Camp Hanford located?

Buske: Well, the camp itself?

Franklin: Yeah.

Buske: Okay. The headquarters—and it was part of what they called 5th Group, which is about the size of a regiment, I think. But being anti-aircraft, which was our mission, we had groups instead of regiments and brigades, and batteries instead of companies. I was in Headquarters Battery of the 83rd AAA Battalion Nike Missile.

Franklin: What was your job?

Buske: Well, I was a—the Army told me I was a wheeled vehicle mechanic, but I knew better. When I got out to the permanent spot where I was stationed, I was assigned to a grease pit, just changing oil and greasing vehicles. That’s really about all I was capable of, but they thought I was a mechanic, so that’s what they called me. Anyway, shortly after I got there, the dispatcher was assigned to motor sergeant school. So he left and I became the dispatcher.

Franklin: Like radio dispatcher? Or, sorry—

Buske: No, just a—it’s a paperwork job where you kept track of maintenance and assigned vehicles to certain areas. It was a fun job, really.

Franklin: What was the purpose of Camp Hanford and the Nike Missile Program?

Buske: [COUGH] Excuse me. Well, of course, Hanford in World War II in 1943, along with Oak Ridge, Tennessee were the two main nuclear—atomic energy development places in the country. Hanford made plutonium for the A-bomb. It was one of the A-bomb types. It was a real weird place, because, to this day, if someone says, where were you stationed, and I say, Camp Hanford, I just get a blank stare. [COUGH] Excuse me. It was just a hush-hush thing. When I got my orders to Camp Hanford, Washington, I thought they were talking about Washington, DC. Being from Illinois, I thought, well, I’ll get a delay in route and stop by home and see Mom and Dad and the siblings. They put me on a Greyhound bus from Fort Lewis and I went over the Cascade Mountains and right into Richland. That was it.

Franklin: How much did you know about Hanford when you—and how much did you learn about Hanford when you were stationed here?

Buske: Well, to begin with, I knew zero. I found out that it was really a serious mission that they had. It sounds, maybe, grandiose, but we had just an early warning board, they called it. It was a Plexiglas outline of the whole west coast, all the way from the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands, clear down to the border with Mexico. We were the defenders, supposedly, of this whole area, along with several other Nike missile outfits. They were posted—I think there was one up in Seattle at that time and others around. But people didn’t talk about them very much, but they had quite a serious duty to perform. It was pretty hush-hush.

Franklin: So your job was not just to protect the Hanford Site but to protect a much larger area.

Buske: Correct.

Franklin: But you were stationed at the Hanford Site.

Buske: Yes, mm-hmm.

Franklin: How long were you at Camp Hanford?

Buske: A little over 19 months.

Franklin: 19 months. What did you do for R&R?

Buske: Well, you probably have never heard of the Kennewick Highlands Dance Hall?

Franklin: A little bit. We have a little bit about it in our archives. But, yeah, it’s gone now.

Buske: When we would get a pass, which you could get every weekend if you didn’t have duty, we’d come in from the area and—actually, right across the road from here, and maybe up or down a little bit, but there was a drive-in movie theater. That was real popular then. Of course, they had their dollar-for-the-carload nights like most of the rest of them did. That was a very popular thing with the soldiers. There was a few bars that were, I think beer and wine bars, that if you were over 18, you could get beer.

It was just really—we enjoyed getting acquainted with the local people. They were very receptive to us. Primarily, the biggest share of them by far worked on the Hanford Works, out in the same area that we were stationed in, you know. But you just tried to blend in as much as you could. We never—to my knowledge—never caused any problem or created any trouble. We were treated accordingly. The people took us in real well. We were grateful for that.

Franklin: Yeah. Could you describe what a Nike missile site—what goes in, what kind of buildings are there, how big is it, how many men?

Buske: Well, okay. Typically, a battery, which is the equivalent of a company, is maybe 150 soldiers at a given site. Their primary mission was to maintain and operate the missiles in the event that they were needed. So maintenance was performed, alerts were held constantly. In Headquarters Battery, we did pretty near all the service work that was required: either vehicles or had all the personnel records and administrative duties.

It was small enough to be a pretty close-knit group. Everybody knew their job and did it. And it was more or less almost like a nine-to-five job, except you didn’t go home at night. You just went to your barracks and sacked out.

Our barracks were actually 12-men huts. Prefab huts. Which, shortly after I got here, before—I don’t think I’d been here a week, and they had a pretty bad sandstorm. The first morning I woke up and got out of my cot and I stepped right into a sand dune that was on the floor right next to my cot. Luckily they never had too many of those sandstorms. But it was very, like I say, very hot and dry.

We were treated good. We didn’t have a lot of harassing and things like that. It was almost like a nine-to-five job, just about. Except it didn’t end at five.

Franklin: Yeah. So there was the main headquarters, and then I assume there were sites.

Buske: Correct.

Franklin: Around. How many sites were there, around—missile sites around the Hanford Site?

Buske: Okay, good question. We were Headquarters and we had actually four batteries: A, B, C, and D. I don’t know, maybe you’ve heard this, but D Battery was the one that wasn’t too far from where we sit right now. It was out on Rattlesnake Mountain. I think Highway 240 goes up by that way.

Franklin: Mm-hmm.

Buske: And it was just as you’re going northwest, it’d be off on your left-hand side. We were responsible for them, but I think actually they were probably over 50 miles away from headquarters—from our company. But you had to—when you cross on the ferry across the Columbia and went up the cliff side, and started north, you went right past C Battery. These were all probably around 150 soldiers per unit. Straight ahead was Headquarters and part of A Battery. But that was just the launcher platoon part of it. The headquarters for A Battery was up further north towards the direction of Moses Lake, but not near that far, but up on Saddle Mountain. And they tried to put the radar units for each battery on high ground so they could cover a lot more sky.

Franklin: Sure, sure.

Buske: For defensive purposes. So the Saddle Mountain was a pretty high elevation. But they controlled the missile sites down by where we were. Then if you went further down the road about maybe 20 miles was B Battery. Each one of those sites, if I remember right, had four missiles that were actually capable of being fired. Which, thankfully, never were. But anyway. We were really spread out.

Franklin: Were you—did you have cause to—did you visit each one, were you rotated through? Where were you stationed, respective of all those different batteries?

Buske: Well, in my particular situation, we were all in the battalion headquarters.

Franklin: Okay.

Buske: So all the maintenance work came to us and we were only capable of a real basic maintenance program. Otherwise, they came back to the rear, to ordnance for overhauls and more complicated repairs.

Franklin: Where would that be?

Buske: Well, I think, if you’re describing it from here, it would be north on George Washington Way. [COUGH] Excuse me. And you’d come into the base camp and the headquarters were just to the left of—you’d have to turn left off George Washington Way and then head north again, and the group headquarters was, oh, maybe a mile. From here, I would guess maybe around three or four miles away. That was the headquarters for the whole Hanford facility, really.

Franklin: For the Army part of the Nike missile sites. Were there any incidences or surprises while you were out here?

Buske: Militarily, or--?

Franklin: Yeah.

Buske: Well, there was one that was really sad. Headquarters of A Battery was up on that Saddle Mountain, but it was just like two-thirds of the battery; the other third were with us down by battalion headquarters. Our mess hall supplied all the food to them, up on the Saddle Mountain. So we had what they call the chow run. As a dispatcher, I’d write out the paperwork and I’d supply—assign the vehicle, and they would haul the food up there usually at noon. It would have enough food for the noon meal and, I guess, maybe breakfast or something. And in between, like, for the third meal, they’d have cold cuts or something like that. But this chow run was everyday about noon or shortly after. The one noon, I wrote the guy up a trip ticket and off he went. About half an hour later, we found out, he’d gone over the side and got killed. I don’t think they ever did really determine whether he was going too fast or he fell asleep or—anyway, there was nothing underhanded about what happened. It was just an accident.

The other one that comes to mind was more—looking back, it was more humorous than anything. They had, in probably late summer of 1956, they had a nationwide, maybe global-wide, I don’t know, operation called Operation Crackerjack. It was SAC-based—SAC aircraft, and the airplanes or whatever were trying to attack us like our enemies would do. Our mission was to theoretically not allow that to happen. Shoot ‘em down or whatever. Of course no one fired anything live.

But just before that, one of our leading officers was a strict believer in everybody should know everybody else’s job and be capable of filling in when needed, blah, blah, blah. So he had people like me and some other people from the motor pool doing radar work. Which we knew nothing about. [LAUGHTER] Well, anyway, we were in the main radar location and I was assigned to the early morning board. It had the whole post with the Aleutian Islands and everything. It was, oh, about maybe three feet wide and five feet tall or something like that Plexiglas.

I had to stand behind that with headphones on and listen to all this information being rattled in my ear. I didn’t catch most of it, and the ones that I did catch, I really didn’t know for sure what they said. But they would give the coordinates of a bogey, and I was supposed to put an X on the board and then write backwards—because the duty officer up on what they called the bridge could see it from his direction and looked okay. But it was all totally confusing to me. And I wasn’t alone. There was several others of us that really loused up bad. Well, anyway, the officer on the bridge, they called it, he was looking down here and I remember finally he said, Buske, what are you doing? And I said, sir, I don’t have any idea. So he said, well, you might as well come up here and sit with me then, because you’re not doing any good down there. So the whole operation went—while I was on duty, I was watching with the officer-in-charge, doing nothing, really.

And the actual—I didn’t know it at the time, but a plane flew right over us, and nobody knew who it was. Needless to say, that didn’t bode well with the higher-ups, wherever they were. So I think it was about a week or two later, the orders came down later from higher up that we were going to have this exercise again, and this time we would get it right. And everybody knew what that meant. If it happened again, heads were going to roll. So they held it again in about a month, and it worked like clockwork, supposedly. Nothing got within about 800 miles of us, and everybody did their job. They knew what to do and they did it.

But those two, I remember that, especially that Operation Crackerjack. We just laughed about it. Because we knew it wasn’t working well. When people were looking up and saying, what is that up there? Well, it’s an airplane, but we don’t know whose it is! Whether it’s ours or the enemy. That wasn’t supposed to work that way. No.

But anyway, it was mostly just a job and you did what you were supposed to do, and tried not to be noticed, really. They always said if you were real successful, when you got out of the Army, one of your commanding officers was still saying, hey, you. He didn’t know your name. They’d say, if that was the case, then you were successful. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: How long were you in the Army, total?

Buske: Just two years.

Franklin: Oh, just two years. So Camp Hanford, then, was the majority of your—

Buske: Yeah.

Franklin: --of your service.

Buske: Absolutely.

Franklin: And when did you leave? Do you remember when you left?

Buske: When I left Hanford?

Franklin: Yeah.

Buske: Well, it was November 28, 1956.

Franklin: And where did you go?

Buske: Back to Stockton, Illinois.

Franklin: And what did you move on to?

Buske: For career?

Franklin: Yeah.

Buske: Well, I got back home and I had been a tool and die maker apprentice when I first went into the military. So I went back to work with the same company, and finished my apprenticeship and became a journeyman tool and die maker. And ended up working for that same company for over 41 years.

Franklin: Wow.

Buske: It was good duty.

Franklin: Yeah. Yeah, I bet. Let’s see here. A lot of my standard questions for working at Hanford don’t always apply here, so let me see what does fit in. What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your work here at Camp Hanford?

Buske: Well, I think we tried to make light of what our responsibilities were. But I know that, in my case, and in almost everybody else that I knew, we were really concerned about what might happen and how to help us defend our country. And, maybe it sounds hokey, but we really believed in what we were doing. We weren’t out to cause trouble, but we didn’t want it to happen to us, either. Korea hadn’t been over with all that long, and there were a lot of combat veterans in our ranks at that time. They were really held in high regard, because they had been through a lot more than we ever would. We gave them credit for that.

I remember one of our staff car drivers was talking to me one morning and I don’t know how we even got started on it, but he told how they were overrun one night in Korea. He held up his shirt and showed me. He had a cigar—scar on his stomach in front and another one, he turned around, in the back, where he had been bayoneted in his sleeping bag. The only way he survived was by playing dead. You know, when you hear some things like that firsthand—you know, these are people that could very easily not be here.

Our motor sergeant was a real conscientious, very nice guy. World War II veteran. There was a lot of them in our outfit, too. He told me one time about in Europe, he was right on the frontline and they were in a town in, I think, either France or Germany. Anyway, there was a lot of street fighting going on. He got to a corner and when he came to the corner, went around it, right on the other side was a German soldier, just like him. Each one went for their weapon, and he got his first. He shot the other guy and killed him. Of course they had to always search them for any valuable papers or anything like that. He was telling this pretty matter-of-fact-ly, and he said, I found out he was almost identical in age, he had a wife and the same number of kids, boys and girls. He said, it was just weird how we were the same. And it’s just because I was just a little bit quicker it was he that went down and not me.

I never forgot that. I thought, how things turn out. A lot of times it’s just a reflex. He wasn’t real proud of what he had done, but he didn’t have any choice. It was either him or me. Anybody that has an experience like that has to be looked up to, I think.

Franklin: Yeah, I agree. What would you like future generations to know about working at Camp Hanford, being in the Army, during the Cold War?

Buske: Hmm. Well, I think a lot of us wondered sometimes what the reason was for some of the orders that came down. Whether it was just to make work kind of a thing, or whether it really served a purpose. We may have wondered or even doubted, but we did it anyway, because we knew that we weren’t the ones in charge. Somebody else was calling the shots, and when you were told to do something, you tried to do it.

I remember, the first Fourth of July I spent out there, there was three of us that had gotten there about the same time. Fourth of July in ’55 was a pretty long weekend, like three or four days, a holiday. Our motor officer, who was a crusty old—oh—warrant officer. He was really a nice guy, but he liked to pick on new people. He told us when they left—when he left to go back for home here in Richland for the weekend, that they’d like all the fence posts around the motor pool facility whitewashed by the time he got back. There was an awful lot of fence posts that were kind of like railroad ties, so they had to be whitewashed on all four sides. I remember, it was beastly hot. And nobody else around to tell us that we had to do this, really. But he left those words, the orders, so we did it. And when he got back at the end of the holiday weekend, he was almost aghast that we had gotten it all done. It paid off supremely, because we were on real good terms with him after that for the rest of my duty. And that’s how I made dispatcher of the battalion’s motor pool. That’s good duty. You got things pretty much easy after that.

Franklin: Yeah.

Buske: But I mean, we could’ve found a lot of ways and reasons why we didn’t get it done. But we never thought about that. He gave us a job to do and we did it.

Franklin: Great, well, Jim, is there anything else you wanted to say about your experiences at Camp Hanford?

Buske: Well, Robert, it’s been a long time ago, and there aren’t too many things that I can remember that the locals knew anything about. Because I guess I’ve just outlived them. But I remembered how well we got along with the people here. I didn’t get involved too often with church, but it was—every time I went, I was really welcomed and we never took advantage of them, and they never chastised us. I think they kind of realized that we were there for a reason, and it wasn’t because that’s where we necessarily wanted to be, but that we were sent there. So you do the best you can with what you got. But I think the area was really—it was quite an experience.

Franklin: In what way?

Buske: Well, you realize you have responsibilities, and I guess you grow up a little bit. You find out that getting away with something really doesn’t solve much. It seemed like it’s always lurking there in the background somewhere. But I don’t know, it was just maturing deal. I got to play a lot of softball and we played in a town league in 1956. We won about as many as we lost. But it was a lot of fun meeting the locals on the ball field. It was a good time.

Franklin: Good. I do have one more question. When did you—so when you came out here, you just knew you were coming to Camp Hanford; you weren’t really sure what it is you were going out to protect. When did you learn what was being made out at Hanford and its connection to World War II and nuclear weapons?

Buske: Wow. Well, I, for one, was here a while before I realized it was—actually, I think the whole facility then was kind of under the rule of the AEC. Those people didn’t fool around. We always recognized them, because they were the suit-and-tie people. But they were the police that really had a lid on things. And they always said that if you—we could have our civilian car out where I was stationed, but if you were in the car, like, from our unit, we could drive over to Othello on that dirt track road. And they said, don’t worry about if you have a breakdown, because you won’t be there very long until somebody will show up. That they had the eye-in-the-sky airplanes flying around a lot. As long as you were moving, they didn’t pay much attention. But if your vehicle stopped—and I don’t know this to be a fact, but—they said, you’d be noticed right away, and somebody would be out there wondering why you weren’t moving. So it was really kind of hush-hush. It just kind of soaked in on you, I think, really how important it was, what you were doing there. Pretty hard to put into words, but it was, you weren’t in a foxhole, but you were still kind of on the frontline.

Franklin: Huh. I think that’s a really great way of explaining it.

Buske: Well, oh, why, thank you. This is a new experience for me.

Franklin: It is for most people. Well, Jim, thank you for coming down and sharing your experiences out at Camp Hanford with us. We don’t get a chance to interview too many people that were out there, because so many people like yourself who were stationed there and then moved away and didn’t come back. Unlike Hanford workers, many people came here, put down roots here. So I appreciate your information. That will really help us kind of reconstruct that camp which was torn down decades ago when all those sites were decommissioned, decades ago.

Buske: One of the things that I did remember, and the standard procedure was, if you were going out to George Washington Way to 5th Group Headquarters and then went a little further to your left as you’re going that direction, you hit the main road, which I think maybe turns into 240 now. And you went out maybe three miles, something like that, which was where the barricade was. When we first were assigned here, we got a temporary barricade pass. Just a piece of paper, really. But you got that while you were being processed, they called it. We heard that we were being checked on back in our home towns, and were we subversive, and blah, blah, blah. Usually it took about a week or a little more, and then you got this permanent card, like a driver’s license, that sort of thing. But that was your barricade pass.

And when you came in from the forward area, you were issued a barricade pass—your barricade pass, which is an ID card thing, at your own headquarters. And then when you got back in the rear, you turned that in to a quartermaster or somebody. He took your barricade pass and gave you bedding so you could make your own bed up. And when you got ready to go back into the forward area again, you turned in your bedding and you got your barricade pass back. They put you on a bus and you got out as far as the barricade and an MP came onboard the bus and checked everybody. Because your picture was on there and the whole thing. If you didn’t produce that barricade pass, you were put off the bus.

Like I say, it was about three miles out in the desert. And I never knew of anybody that it happened to, but they claimed that somebody got put out the bus right there. And you get back out to headquarters the best way you can. But the situation really was, it didn’t happen twice. But it was really kind of a procedure. And we found out later that we had been checked back home. They had certain people that would ask about your character, who are you, blah, blah, blah.

Franklin: Right, interview friends and family and probably even pastors and stuff like that.

Buske: Yeah, it was a confidential clearance, they called it. It wasn’t “secret” or anything like that. It made you feel kind of a level above. You passed. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Right, like even a level above what the Army would’ve asked you for, yeah. Interesting. That’s really interesting. Tom, did you have any questions?

Hungate: We haven’t heard a description of the installations. You said there were four missiles there. When were they installed, when were they removed, and what were they like? You mentioned doors opened.

Franklin: Yeah, could you describe the installations, what you know about the missiles, when they were there and what they were like, what shape and size--?

Buske: Okay. Well, actually, everything was there before I got here. But, like I say, each battery had four of these in-ground launchers, they called them, and they pointed straight up in the air when they were fully operational. Actually, I never got down into below-ground where the missiles were. There were four launchers per battery. So, if you figure with the four batteries, there’s 16 that were ready to go at any one time. And I remember seeing the TO&E, or Table of Operation and Equipment, for the whole battalion. They said at one time we had over a hundred Nike missiles capable of fire, reload, fire, reload. You know, I don’t know how long it took to reload, but it had to have been pretty fast. Yeah, I didn’t know much about any of that stuff when I got here. And I didn’t know much more after I left.

Franklin: I know before the Nike missiles, there were anti-aircraft placements. Were those still in operation when you got here?

Buske: Yes, they were.

Franklin: And that was also part of the larger Camp Hanford.

Buske: That’s right. That’s a good point. There were at least three 120-milimeter gun battalions and each one of those had different batteries of anti-aircraft capability. They would go down to, I think, White Sands, New Mexico or someplace for training to take their guns down there—and they were huge, by the way. 120-milimeter gun is a large weapon. And they would bring them back and then set them up and fire them to settle them in, they called it, to make sure that all their readings were correct and everything. And when they fired them, we could hear them, and you could almost count to ten, and way up there, all of the sudden you’d see a little puff of black smoke, like flak, you know. And I’ll tell you, it was up there a long ways. 120-milimeter could really get up there in altitude. Not as high as we could with our Nike, but they had a job to do to.

Franklin: But they actually got to fire theirs off, though.

Buske: Yeah, yeah. It was exciting for us, because we never got to fire our weapons.

Franklin: Well, that’s probably for the best.

Buske: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. The overall is pretty good. But it was real good duty, because, like I say, it was small and you knew the mess sergeant and he knew you.

Franklin: Is this the first time you’ve been back to this area since you left in ’56?

Buske: No, actually, it’s the second.

Franklin: Okay.

Buske: The first time, we actually went—it was before the state highway went through or anything. But we got out to where the headquarters were, and the way I could tell was—one thing that never changes out there is the horizon. I could look and I could remember seeing what the horizon looked like from a certain spot. And I found the spot, and it also had a few trees around it, which is kind of unusual, too. And I thought, well, boy, no way to really tell for sure, but I think this is where the motor pool was. I got to looking around, and everything was—you get that kind of a weird feeling, you know. Wife was standing there, and I said, I really get a feeling about this, and I’m going to pull some sand here a little bit and see if what I think is there is there. I dug down in the sand, oh, maybe six or eight inches, something like that, and I came to a concrete curb that was yellow on the top. And it was the top curb of my grease pit that I worked in and I had probably painted the top of that curb with yellow paint. This is probably, oh, at least 15, 20 years after I was there.

But—oh, a funny thing, maybe as a final, but when I was in that grease pit—like I say, the Army said I was a mechanic, but I knew better. And I had a good buddy that had a truck. It was a civilian-type truck but it was a supply truck or something. He and I were talking one day and he said, my wife’s windshield wipers are not operating right. Do you suppose you could fix them? And I said, well, yeah. It’s kind of a challenge but I’ll have a look. They were vacuum wiper blades, so it can’t be too complicated. So he said, when can you do it? And I said, well, it’s getting to be late afternoon and I’m not busy. Let’s take it in there and have a look. So he drove it in and got it running and I started pulling hoses off to see if that was where the problem was, if the vacuum part was leaking or whatever you know. Well, anyway, I probably pulled off more hoses than I should and when I replaced them I didn’t replace them—well, anyway, it got so bad, his truck wouldn’t even run.

By this time, it’s quitting time, and our motor officer—this crusty old warrant officer had a fetish about emptying out the building every evening, so it shows everything was done. Well, we had to push it out and push it back onto the deadline. Next morning, we came in and I went to one of the mechanics that was a real mechanic. He was a good friend, and I told him what had happened. I said, you suppose you could help me out? He said, oh, I don’t see any problem there. So he goes over and he starts monkeying around. And the truck wouldn’t run and he replaced this that and the other. Didn’t take him ten minutes and he had it running like a charm and the wipers were running like they should. And he said, well that’s great, thanks a lot, and off he went.

It must’ve been a good week later, I was down the grease pit and all of the sudden, I could hear this cackling and giggling and tee-hee-ing and I remember looking up out of my grease pit and all I could see was legs outside the door. There were quite a few pair of legs out there. I thought, I don’t know what’s going on. But I came up out of the pit and walked out and looked and they’re all standing out there by my door, looking up and just laughing and giggling. So I went out there, and here’s the warrant officer and the motor sergeant, and they’re all looking up there. And I looked. The sign painter for our unit, who was pretty good at what he did, painted this nice, real big sign up there, over my door, said, Buske’s Bay, Drive ‘Em In, Tow ‘Em Out. Everybody was getting a kick out of that, so you can’t fight it. I started laughing, too. From there on, I really got along well with everybody. It was a nice experience. But I kept telling them, I am not a mechanic. They said I was, but I know better. That was a funny experience.

Franklin: That is funny. Anything else, Tom? Well, Jim, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us.

Buske: Well, I appreciate the opportunity. When you mentioned this, it pleased me to be able to have a bit of nostalgia with you.

Franklin: Oh, good.

Buske: It’s fun to be able to reminisce.

Franklin: Good, good. Okay.

View interview on Youtube.

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Buske, Jim.JPG


“Interview with Jim Buske,” Hanford History Project, accessed October 28, 2021,