Eva Dunigan Oral History

Dublin Core


Eva Dunigan Oral History


Hanford Atomic Products Operation
Richland, WA


Part of the CREHST 2003 Oral History public programming. Interviews filmed in front of a live audience.




Hanford 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 ourhanfordhistory@tricity.wsu.edu.




RG2D_4A / T.2010.052.06

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Eva Dunigan



INTERVIEWER: This is Eva Dunigan. Did I say that right?

EVA: Yes. That is with one “n”.

INTERVIEWER: With one “n” that’s right.

INTERVIEWER: She came out of Kentucky many years ago. Her birthday is coming up the end of the month, so remember. Send a post card or something. She married Paul in 1942.

EVA: Don’t for get FX.


EVA: Francis Xavier

INTERVIEWER: Francis Xavier, okay. They both worked at the University of Chicago, and if you guys are knew to their history a lot of the real center piece of Nuclear power the ideas came out of the University of Chicago with Enrico Fermi and Robert Oppenheimer. If I understand this right, you were able to work with these fellows, and cross paths with them.

EVA: Oh, yes I worked for them. I took dictation, typed-up their reports. So that they could send the reports out. In those days we had dittos and mimeographs we didn’t have any other way to do it.

INTERVIEWER: The other thing here is when later on just the when the work got going. You and your husband came on out here to Pasco.

EVA: We were transferred here. My husband was transferred by Dupont. Dupont didn’t transfer me they didn’t take me on until I got here. The day I got here I signed up with Dupont.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us what “Enrico Fermi”, what he was like? Are you guys’ familiar with Enrico Fermi? He was the one that did experiments, if I remember right, under the bleachers of University of Chicago as the first chain reaction.

EVA: Yea, right, that was Decent, I think that was David, in December 1943; it wasn’t “43”, and I don’t know I forgot the date. We were transferred there in the spring if “43” and we were there until December and then transferred out here. So we left Chicago, December 31, and every one in our apartment was all dressed-up for the New Years Eve party; except for us, we were dressed to go down to get on the Northern Pacific and come out here. We had studied up on the state of Washington and thought we were coming to the “Evergreen State”.

INTERVIEWER: So what did you think when you got here?

EVA: Well when we arrived in Pasco, actually the train stopped about, it seemed to me like about at Ethiopia. But I guess it wasn’t that far out, but it seemed like it at least, because we had to walk on the tracks for quite awhile until we got to the station. The Pullman cars were way back at the end, of course, like they are. There were a lot of other cars in front of us that had GI’s that were going to Fort Lewis. There were about six of the men being transferred out, and I was with them. A lot of gentlemen opened doors for me and stuff.

INTERVIEWER: So when you first stepped out of that train what was……..the?

EVA: It was in January, it was the middle of the night, and it was darker than I don’t know what. We then went into the….First of all, the smallest town I’d ever seen. The smallest town I’d ever lived in was Tulsa, OK, of course that’s not really small. When we got here I just thought it was nowhere. We walked on the ties and walked along the walk until we got to the station, and then we went in; there were real dim bulbs on the ceiling. All these people were in there, well I guess there in their work clothes, very un-kept though. They are sitting around and lying around sleeping, some of them even on the ground. It was kind of scary. They kept asking people if they were with the “operations” or “construction”. I happened to hear my husband say “He was with “operations”. So I said, “Operations! Operations!” because we had been separated. The reason they were doing that because they took these “panel cars” or whatever you want to call them, for the people on construction, and took them out to Hanford. We just went to the “Transit Quarters” which they called it then. They had just opened the week before one-way; the Hanford House now. So we did have some place to stay that day. It was still like I said, “So black you couldn’t see anything”. There was one traffic light in Pasco, and later I learned that it was at 4th and Lewis. That was about the only light we saw, because there were no lights on the bridge; although I could see the river down in the darkness. So, that was quite a different experience than anything I had ever had.

INTERVIEWER: Did you think most of the people knew what they were doing there? What was the point and what they were there for?

EVA: Well they knew what their job was, if that is what you mean. I don’t know what they knew. I knew what I knew, of course; we had the “office secrecy” we did not talk about it. So, I should not talk much about things I tell people. I was never released from that “office secrecy”.

INTERVIEWER: So may I interrupt you? So before you left you had to take an oath of secrecy?

EVA: Well, I went to work at the University, and I was with the “MedAllergic Laboratories” there, in the information office. That is were we got our reports and did our secretarial work for all these “PhD’s” and what have you. Also, they had the “Engineer” the “Army Engineers” you know like….what’s his name….

INTERVIEWER: General Groves?

EVA: Yeah, Yeah, General Groves. They had an office for them, and if their secretaries or whatever it was were ill, well one of us was called to work for then. So, I also worked for the General. I really called them by mostly “Gentleman General” or most of the other ones at the University we would call “Doctor”, because most of them were PhD‘s at least.

INTERVIEWER: So did you have opportunity to meet “Mr. Oppenheimer”?

EVA: Yes, I met him and Dr. Teller, Dr. Fraunk. I also, did work for them. I took dication for him. I happen to be able to understand a lot of accents. They were speaking English, but they had accents, but I grew-up with the people, a lot of people from Geremany. So I had grown-up with that, I didn‘t have a problem with that. I worked for a lot of them.

UNKNOWN: Because of question system, are you doing “Okay”?

EVA: Yeah, I’m doing okay.

INTERVIEWER: Living in this area, I have heard some stories about…..for recreation type things that people did around here. What was there to do?

EVA: Well I….We went to work (hah, hah) and so…the first week we had a room with a couple that lived in Kennewick. They had a duplex, a two bedroom duplex. We were in, we were staying with them and she, we had our, we were more fortunate than a lot people, because she had our meals there too; she cook and served our meals; and packed our lunches. Now our lunches were sort of strange and kind of different too. We might have: a bear sandwich; a deer sandwich; or a stuffing sandwich. That was the strangest that I have ever. You know homemade mayonise on some bread, and put some bread stuffing off the turkey, you know, and then put that in the white bread. I must admit that went in my waste basket. We were at 300 Area, of course there was really not……in Richland there was the cafeteria, big cafeteria, which was…well that building right across the street from the bank. We’d go in there in the morning and they had so many people, and they were cooking so fast. That you’d get a pancake and it was raw in the middle, but the outside was burned. The same with your egg…the outside of your egg would be almost black, and the inside would be just not cooked. I mean really raw not just a runny yoke, but the….That was not a happy time for our breakfast, that is why I said we were fortunate that we had our meals with them. So we were in there until our house was built, and we got a “B” House on Hunt. When we arrived they were digging basements, and then we go to move into the house, it was ready to live in in May. That was kind of different too.

UNKNOWN: What year was that?

EVA: Pardon.

UNKNOWN: What year was it?

EVA: 1944. May “44” is when we got into the house; like I said we were in Kennewick in a room there. I worked in “300” and then, of course, like I said I had been in information, in Chicago, so you would think I would go into information. In those days, it was working like them, like you worked for the people in army. You didn’t go in with your origin, you went into something completely different, and so I went into payroll. That was okay, I just knew how much everybody made then.

UNKNOWN: How did you like the winds? The dust storms.

EVA: I didn’t like those. I especially didn’t like it, sometimes when I lived on Hunt. Sometimes the buses would breakdown; the bus would breakdown I guess from the sand, I don’t know why. You would get on the bus to go home, and you would end up walking. So you’d walk home out George Washington Way, by the time I would get home….of course we wore skirts and nylons. I had nylons, because I got those in Oklahoma before we left. Anyway, that sand went right threw it. I’d get home and have little blood spots all over my: arms; face; legs; and nose. If I happened to get home first, I said “Don’t speak to me” until I get this washed off. We had a very quite time. As far as past-time there were all kinds of clubs starting and that sort of thing. Like I said though, “We were pretty busy because we did get to work a lot of overtime”. You had Sunday off, but not Sunday if you had to do your laundry, your house, to shovel out the sand.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any children?

EVA: Ah, yes. I had one son. He works for the DOA, and his name is Paul FX Dunigan Jr.

INTERVIEWER: How was it with him growing up in Richland?

EVA: He likes Richland. Because he wanted to come back to see us after he got his degrees. He came back

INTERVIEWER: So when you got here were they just starting up the schools?

EVA: Well, we lived closer to Jefferson School. Jefferson School was going at the time we moved into
Richland. That is all we really knew about the school, because at that time I didn’t have nobody at school.

INTERVIEWER: After they dropped the bomb….did you. What was the sense, of the feeling of the people of the community? Was it dog low then? Or do you know?

EVA: Well I think people were excited they thought, well we finally know what’s going on. I new they were making something to blow stuff-up. I didn’t know when or how they were going to do it. Because I handling all those reports all the time. Even though I was in Payroll out here I still knew what we were working for. Yeah, that was very good. I was telling somebody awhile ago, after this gentleman talking. I got letters from my bother and his buddies who were in Japan. Their Company was getting ready to go into the main storage (inaudible), instead they got to go into occupation, and they went to school for about a year. None of them were getting killed, you know what I mean.

INTERVIEWER: So, so, after the mission was completed you guys must have decided to stay here or did you move away and come back…..or.

EVA: Oh, we stayed here. My husband like it, he was kept as an engineer, he liked to work. He changed companies though, you know what I mean. They were with Dupont and GE. He went on, and he was with Bechtel and then he was with Westinghouse. The last few years he had the same office with three different companies. He was out at “300 Area”.

INTERVIEWER: You guys have questions?

UNKNOWN: Did a lot of the people that you worked with did very many of them stay here? Did a lot of them move on and did not come back here that you know of?

EVA: The ones I worked with, you want to know where they are now or what did they do or what?

UNKNOWN: Well did some stay?

EVA: Some stayed a lot of them left, especially the girls, because they went back because their fiancés, husbands and so forth were out of the service and they had jobs where they had been. All the gentlemen I work for are dead and a lot of the other people too.

UNKNOWN: Were all the dams in the river when you came?

EVA: No, there was Bonneville.

UNKNOWN: There’s only one.

EVA: And then the one that is up that way on the…..

UNKNOWN: Grand, Grand the big Grand Coulie.

EVA: Coulie, yeah Coulie. The one at Wenatchee, I guess.

UNKNOWN: Oh, so the river was a lot different then.

EVA: The Snake did not have all those dams on it.

UNKNOWN: So the rivers were a lot different when you went down to them, and stuff I mean, as far as.

UNKNOWN: You were here in the Flood of “47”?

EVA: Yes I surly was.

UNKNOWN: And that was an exciting time, because we were all flooded in here.

EVA: Yeah, that was 1948, in fact the reason I know is because my son was born in June of 1948, and my mother-in-law was coming out from Boston. They had to go by way of Vernita to go all that way to get into the station to bring her out. Then some friends of ours did stay with us just before that. They had a room in Pasco they couldn’t get to work at the “200 Area” very easily everyday, so they stayed with us.

UNKNOWN: So, now what areas flooded?

EVA: Well the river was up here, it was up to where the hill is-up to George Washington. Is that what you mean?

UNKNOWN: Up, Up above the dike?

EVA: No the dike wasn’t there.

UNKNOWN: Okay, alright.

EVA: They put the dike up during the flood in fact. That’s why we didn’t get any top soil out on Davison where we live.

UNKNOWN: They couldn’t get across the Yakima River.

EVA: They couldn’t get across the Yakima and they couldn’t cross the Columbia into Kennewick either, remember?


EVA: The other year where the river was up pretty high well, down at the end of New Comer. We were living there, we just moved out of Davis house just before that. Well the river was up the other year just as it had been that year. And the road, the bike road was covered down there.

UNKNOWN: What exactly did they have your husband working on out there? What exactly was he doing?

EVA: He was a chemist. He was working on Alana Lab.

UNKNOWN: He was working on………..

EVA: Alana Lab.

UNKNOWN: And he was creating what…..what were they…..

EVA: We were not talking about that remember? Remember I told you.

UNKNOWN: I can push.

UNKNOWN: I heard that when you came into Richland you had to have security clearance just to be (not audible). Just too even go. (?)

EVA: We didn’t have to. Now we came in an old car, like an old pasture car, like I said the operation people got brought out here from the station to what is now the Hanford House. In pasture cars, but the people in construction were taken on out to Hanford. Well they were just trucks with some wooden seats put on it on each side of these great big trucks, and that is the way they came in. The reason I said we were fortunate that we got with this other couple in Kennewick, because at that time they had just opened some jobs in Richland for men but they didn’t have women’s jobs built yet, so I would have had to live in the jobs out of Hanford and then go into the “300 Area” and he would have lived in Richland. So that made it a little bit better, like I said I liked having my meals fixed, because I didn’t exactly care about cooking anyway.

INTERVIEWER: So, there was a big trailer park out there.

EVA: Oh, yes.

INTERVIEWER: Was that saved for construction?

EVA: That was construction families, yes.

INTERVIEWER: Did you intermingle a lot with mainly the construction people or the professional people more?

EVA: I didn’t, I really don’t know…..When we went through sign-up we had to go out there for some of or part of the sign-up for the x-rays and all that stupid stuff. That was really the only time I was out there. When I went through their employment stuff out there. Shortly after that they changed so then the room right next to us in the “3706 Building” was being used for most, except for the physical part. Then they moved into town before the year was up. When they got the “ADD Building” and that stood out where the Federal Building is now. We had offices there. We moved into there.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember roughly what the payroll was and how many people were on it?

EVA: I don’t remember.

INTERVIEWER: There were thousands.

EVA: For construction, yes. For operations, I don’t think so. Also, they had monthly payroll and weekly payroll. I was in the weekly payroll, most of the time.

INTERVIEWER: If there was one thing that you would want to, say to our students and schools to remember (UNAUDIBLE), what do you think it would be?

EVA: I would like them to remember or hope that they would not have the same experience that we had. So many people were uprooted and unhappy. So many people broke up because of that. I knew so many of them where the wife, this was it, she just didn’t want to stay here. It was the end of the world; which it was. I was working it did not matter, I would rather work out here where my husband was than back in Chicago which I would have done if they had not let me come along.

UNKNOWN: How did you feel in the fact that there was no poverty here? Everybody had a job. Everything was getting completed; there was low rent; if you needed a lawn mower you come out and got it; you needed a garden hose you got it. There was no poverty out here what so ever and if you didn’t live here you didn’t have a job.

EVA: There was poverty in Pasco. I saw a lot of that. Yes, that was good, but I figured we had earned it, because after all they brought us to where there was nothing they had to get us something for us to stay.

INTERVIEWER: So would you be able to keep those items? So if you needed a lawn mower you’d …….

EVA: No, you just used it. The neighbors could use it or you had to take it back.

UNKNOWN: Are you kind of amazed that the way it was when you came; has turned into what it is now the Tri-Cities?

EVA: I’m glad it did.

UNKNOWN: Oh, yeah.

EVA: Well of course we were just going to be here, I mean that is what we were all told. This was just going to be here until the war was over. Well, I don’t know what war they meant, because we have had a war ever since. I ask them then and I still ask that question. Maybe someday when the wars are all over, uh.

INTERVIEWER: Were people relieved once they got here and relieved…..that?

EVA: Oh, yes. You have heard of the “Termination Winds” and usually toward the end of the week the winds would be really bad and we were really busy in payroll with their checks and bonds and their everything all… so they could get out of here.

UNKNOWN: Termination notices.

UNKNOWN: Noise can not understand question.

EVA: They were scary, especially like people like….transit men from Oklahoma where they went threw tornados all the time. They were thinking they were getting a tornado of course. They were scary too, because I had never been in those kinds of winds and have never had sand chew me up like I was telling you. We saw them in movies. My friend somehow got, I wrote and told them about this the tumbleweed rolling down the road and stuff like that. They thought I was just kidding. They thought I had seen to many westerns.



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CREHST Museum, “Eva Dunigan Oral History,” Hanford History Project, accessed May 28, 2024, http://hanfordhistory.com/items/show/4628.