Trailer Talk (Inside)

Dublin Core


Trailer Talk (Inside)


A group oral history detailing experiences of living in trailer camps in Hanford and the Tri-Cities area during WWII and the late 1940s.




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




RG1D-4A / T.2010.052.023

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Terry Andre


Bob Hall, Marylee Hall, Nancy Minhear Simons, Anita Mannery




TITLE: Trailer Talk Inside
INTERVIEWED: Bob Hall, Marylee Hall, Nancy Minhear Simons, Anita Mannery

TERRY: I’d like you folks to introduce yourself. Tell us where you lived during the time of Hanford. What brought you here briefly. And then I have some questions to get us started. This week is “Inside the Trailer” next week is “Outside the Trailer”.

BOB: I’m Bob Hall my wife Marylee is at the other end. We came in 1948 when I graduated from college. It took me a little while longer than usual to get through college. I had this government tour of Europe. We lived in a trailer at 411 D Street. It was a tiny camping trailer where the kitchen, dining room, and bedroom were all one room. And no bathroom. The bathroom was across the street. You’ll have to talk to Marylee about living indoors because I was working.

TERRY: You didn’t want to stay indoors much?

BOB: Not much if we could find somewhere else.

NANCY: I don’t know about you guys but I’m a little nervous today. Shouldn’t be. My name is Nancy Simons. I don’t know if any of you here in the audience and I bet some of you do know of the Minhear brats that were here early early. My name was Nancy Minhear later Simons which it is now. I moved here in February 1943 and that was fairly early. When we came here it was the old Hanford. And the reason we came here my dad owned a furniture factory in Illinois. They asked him to go up to Chinook Field and build some hangers. That kind of got in his blood and the money was good. So there was another job and another job and they were all pretty short. We ended up being in Camp Pendleton, California. When that little job finished this one was ready to pop.

ANITA: I’m Anita Mannery and I came as a young bride. My husband was sent over I came in ’45 and he was sent over to England and was in the war. He left on the East coast of course. I came to Missouri just in time to get in the trailer with my mother and my brother just younger than me who had just graduated from high school and my younger brother who was 9 at the time. My father had come here in September of 1943 which was when the project really started. He was here before there was any men’s barracks even. He was on the very beginning of the construction for the workers to live. He told mom that she had to sell the farm and animals and everything and buy a car and a trailer house to come out here. And she did all that. In some of my papers I found since she died I found the sales slip for the stuff they had in the auction. Because there was 5 of us living in a little trailer I don’t know how we slept. I can’t figure it out at all. My dad worked as a carpenter in construction. My brother who was younger than myself was a truck driver. And my mother worked making sandwiches for the workers. So she worked at night. She took care of all the buying of the groceries. I didn’t do much except go to work. I worked in the administration building as a messenger the lowest paying job on the project I imagine. But everyone worked. I never heard a lot of complaining. I worked 6 days a week 9 hours a day. I brought home a check for $33.39. And I didn’t have anywhere to spend it. I didn’t even want to drink Coke on the Coke breaks. It was more Cokes then than it was coffee. Coffee was rationed. And my younger brother polished shoes for the men and carried groceries for the women and did odd jobs. So everyone worked. And one time I got bored so what did I do? I waxed the floor 3 times in one day. (Laughter) Which wasn’t a big area.

MARYLEE: I’m Marylee Hall which my husband just spoke to. We came as he said in ’48 with a 4 month old baby. Moved into a 16 foot trailer. Bob worked shift work. It was great fun trying to keep the baby quiet during grave yard. But what I disliked the most was staying in that 16 foot trailer by myself all day long. It was not fun. We lived in the trailer court until a week before Christmas. Moved into a great big ranch house with no money to buy furniture from a 16 foot trailer. It was fun. And everybody was in the same shoes so we had lots of fun. We knew all of our neighbors. And if we didn’t know them we met them when the wind blew which was garbage day. We had to go out and find our garbage. (Laughter)

TERRY: This is great. What I would like to do is think about a typical day in the trailers. I visited the trailer that we have out here in the parking lot.

MARYLEE: It’s big.

TERRY: It’s big?

BOB: Oh yeah!

NANCY: I think ours was bigger than that. That’s got 2 rooms actually. That’s got a private bedroom.

TERRY: I guess that was luxury. Ok. Well one of my first thoughts as I noticed our Curation staff has hung a little rubber duck in the doorway to remind people to duck as you go in because the ceilings and the doorway are so low. Any stories about that sort of thing?

NANCY: I can tell you one. My dad built our trailer. We had a furniture factory in Champagne-Urbana Illinois which was a university town. And he was quite a craftsman so he built our trailer for hobbies. For going fishing and stuff. I brought a little picture of it which I thought was kind of interesting. The doorway was pretty low because dad went up to Chicago and got things like ice boxes and stoves and sinks and things like that so the door was standard at that time. However when we decided to move around with it and we had all kinds of people in there as company everybody bumped their head so my dad raised the ceiling of the trailer. He took the center panels you know like where the lights are and took it up like the old fashioned railroad cars. He put the long skinny lights along the side you know that you could open up for ventilation and let in day light. You still had to duck to go in but at least you could stand up. (Laughter)

ANITA: Well I’m going back to the Hanford days. There was so many trailers and then there was a bath house. The women were on one side and the men were on the other side. There were several wash basins and several stools and several showers on each side. And then at the far end was a laundry. And it had the concrete tubs to rinse in. And my mother and dad bought an old square Maytag with a ringer. They put it in the bathhouse where we went. Put out a coffee can and …you used the washer you put some money in. I don’t know how much they paid for it but that was living in the trailer. And behind us there was a young woman. She had twins. And she had at the end of her trailer, I don’t know how we slept, but at the end of her trailer she had bunks for her babies. And after a while my father built a lean-to on to the trailer and I bought a daybed and I slept outside on that daybed. And I bought a good wool blanket when it started getting cold.
Of course my husband was wounded the second time before the Battle of the Bulge. So I left and I guess my brother slept there after that. When you got a notice that your husband was wounded they didn’t bring the telegram to your house. There was no telephones. So I went to work and I was at work a few minutes and they came and told me…called me to the front and gave me the telegram. And I had dreamed the night or two before that I had that telegram in my hand. So I just tore it open and looked to see if it was seriously wounded or killed because I knew it was one of the two. And it was seriously wounded. I went back and because I had ditto ink I time stamped everything that came in on the project. And I had ditto ink on my arms so I went to the closest restroom to gather myself together a little bit and to wash my arms. I took off my watch my husband had given me before we was married and I forgot to pick it up and of course I never did get my watch back. But it didn’t bother me at all and that day I did the work of 3 people because the other 2 were absent. So I didn’t take even 15 minutes off from the job. And then after he came back he got well enough out of the cast and everything. He was wounded through the knee and was in a body cast and in the hospital in England. And when he got well enough they sent him to the United States on the Queen Mary.
And I quit my work and went to be with him. I guess that finished my job at Hanford. But anyhow we came back then in ’47 and lived in Richland. We moved in with my parents and younger brother. They had a two bedroom pre-fab. We had one baby by then and was expecting the second one. Then here came my aunt and uncle to that two bedroom pre-fab. So my mother put in for a larger house and she got it. But whenever you are doing what you need to do you can take a lot of inconveniences and still enjoy life. And of course when you are young as I was then nothing mattered but just enjoying life.

TERRY: One of your comments brought up something that I hadn’t even thought about. It’s not on my list but keeping in touch with other people. Obviously there were no telephones for the trailers.

MARYLEE: The telephones on that… there was a public telephone hooked on to the bathhouse when we got there in North Richland.

ANITA: I never had anyone to talk to. I didn’t use the phone two times I don’t imagine.

TERRY: Did you have a comment about keeping in touch with someone? To me not having a phone is unheard of.

MARYLEE: I bet you can’t imagine not having any scotch tape either. (Laughter)

TERRY: Boy do I feel special. (Laughter)

ANITA: In my job as a messenger when there wasn’t anything to timestamp I wasted scotch tape. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as scotch tape before I came here.

MARYLEE: There was lots of life without scotch tape.

ANITA: When I lived in the trailer court I was married and I wasn’t interested in any one area or social thing at all. My best girlfriend was a 16 year old girl and we’d go out on the swings. At the end of the park they had a children’s playground and I’d swing in the swing. And a few times my dad took the car and we went to Yakima. I went there when I was hunting for shoes. I wore out my shoes so I had to have some shoes. I went over to Pasco and Kennewick and then went to Walla Walla. And I went to Yakima and finally found some shoes. And they were red and I felt like the whole world was looking at my red shoes. Of course they weren’t. I had little feet and they just didn’t have them. And shoes were rationed too.

TERRY: What about storage? Thinking of shoes and thinking of you know all of the things what about storage? Where did you put things?

NANCY: You didn’t have very many things like we do today. You know we crave things and we store things and I fight trying to find a place for things everyday. There wasn’t a whole lot of room there really wasn’t. Let’s go back about communication and mail. I think it’s kind of interesting very few people were here as early as I was. Very few people know about the first post office at Hanford that we had.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Nancy you said you came in February ’43. Before the people had received the notices to leave. They received notices in March of ’43. Did you end up staying in Pasco when you first came?

NANCY: We ended up staying on the street on Park Street in Pasco. My dad brought his crew. And I think it was late February. It was getting close to the first of March. They had absolutely no place to put us in Hanford. They had no idea what they were going to do. They were just expecting a lot of people. So they parked us I think it was 5 trailers my brother says 4 but there was 5 trailers and they parked us underneath the big trees. If you know what Park Street in Pasco looked like then there were huge big trees. And that’s where we spent a week or two until they got a place to put us. And they moved us into what was the little tiny city park in this little old farm community town at Hanford. The park was a little speck of grass. And at the end of it was kind of a deck with an outdoor screen. And that’s where they got together and watched movies or whatever they had to watch in the outdoor theaters at that point in time. But that’s where we stayed and they then knocked down all the big houses all around us with the big cranes with the balls and scooped them up and built that big trailer court around us. It was dirty. There was lots of wind. It was a dry desert. There was no water. One of the times a big sand storm you couldn’t see the trailer next to us and we were parked close together. But storage was not very much. You want me to tell you about the normal morning in the trailer?

TERRY: Yes that would be a good idea.

NANCY: There was 6 of us and as soon as we got situated dad usually put up this thing like a deck. Then it was kind of like a little cabin pretty small. And he built the framework for bunk beds and went out and bought a couple of twins and that’s where the boys stayed. That’s where they slept and we got to store a few things and that’s where a little coat closet was built. We didn’t know how long we were going to be here so you didn’t put a lot of money into that stuff. But the typical morning of getting up and getting ready for school. Everybody up with the alarm clock. 4 of us kids grabbed our towels, our soap, our toothbrush and some cloths and headed for the bathhouse. We had to be out of there because where we were sleeping was the breakfast table and the 2 benches to sit on. Once we got out of there mom and dad could get up because you came in the front door and you had about that much room you had to walk sideways to get to their bed. If you had to get up in the middle of the night you were in trouble. You had about a foot space between the edge of their bed and the kitchen cupboard. You used to shinny out of there and go to the bath house. When we got back in every morning you cooked and washed dishes in a thimble because the sinks were so small. Hot soapy water wash cloths washed off the table and the counters because of all the changing of cloths and the dust and lint. Everything had to be scrubbed every morning before you could even think of getting food out and fixing breakfast. So by the time we’d get back all the beds would be made up and mom would have the breakfast started and the floor swept after everything was all scrubbed. So that was our beginning every day.
Like I said they really built that trailer park around us because we sat on that piece of land which was the only piece available out there. Believe me it was awhile before any other trailers started coming in. When they did we started getting a community and things like that. The first mail was to General Delivery. General Delivery was a shack like with a lean-to. So like when you go to the carnivals they raised up the front of it and you put a 2 by 4 underneath it and you stand up there and ordered your hot dogs and whatever. The mail was General Delivery in alphabetical order. You had like 4 lines so the alphabet was divided into 4 lines. Whichever you were was where you stood. They just had a box of cubby wholes back there. You gave them your name and they looked and sorted through the Ms to see if you had any mail and gave it to you. They did that every day. You knew when the mail came in. You knew when to go stand in line to go get your mail.

TERRY: What about this is going to sound so bad. I take care of the inside of the house and my husband takes care of the outside. What kind of division of chores did there need to be in order to keep the trailers maintained? I’d like to get a male perspective on that.

BOB: Neither the inside or the outside amounted to much. I do remember building a dug walk so that we didn’t have to wade across the mud to get to the bath house. We didn’t move in until September and it rained in the fall. As a matter of fact in ’48 it got cold. That was the last winter it really got cold. It was 20 below.

TERRY: What was your heating system?

BOB: I don’t remember what we heated with. It must have been propane. But I don’t remember. It could have been oil. But I don’t remember at all. It was so small it didn’t take a whole lot of heat to heat it.

TERRY: What about anchoring the trailer? Obviously you’re not going to build a foundation. How did you keep it from shifting and rolling when there was 3 people in it?

BOB: Yeah I think it was on jacks or blocks of some kind. Ours was a small camping trailer and it actually had wheels. But they must have had concrete or something to set on. We had storage a plywood box on the back of our property for storage. You know we didn’t have much so storage wasn’t much of a problem. You don’t have anything you don’t have to worry about storing it.

NANCY: In that second trailer court didn’t everybody have a storage compartment in the back of their lots?

BOB: I’m pretty sure they did.

Anita: At Hanford we didn’t have any.

TERRY: You know I bet there are some people who aren’t aware that there were 2 different…

BOB: Oh 2 different campgrounds? The Hanford Campground existed for the original construction in ’43 ’44. And it was at Hanford town site out north of Richland. And North Richland was where Battelle is now. As a matter of fact our trailer must have sat someplace not too far from where the Supply System offices are now.

MARYLEE: We lived on B Street and A was the river.

BOB: And in North Richland they had a school. It was on A Street. It was on the river side of the campground. West of George Washington Way there were some barracks. As a matter of fact I lived in barracks for about a month before Marylee came out. Then they had a bank a theatre. They had all kinds of facilities. Of course none of which exist now. A big fire house. Yeah they had stores. They had businesses. They had a trailer supply place that I used to go to buy parts.

TERRY: So it sounds like a lot happened between the time you got here. I’m jumping all around here. I’m going to ask one more question then I’m going to see if anybody here has a question. What about the kids? What did they play with? My son would be absolutely devastated without his Game Boy. (Laughter) So what did they play with if you didn’t have much storage to bring toys? What did they do?

NANCY: Well actually one thing I can tell you that I saw many kids do and the younger kids did in our family and they still have. The kids would take blocks of 2 by 4s. They’d find any piece of wood, hammer, and nails build some boats… find some mud puddles to float them in. You know we did get to go swimming in the Columbia River. We used to ferry across…now this is the ferry that most people don’t hardly even remember ever existed but we used to ferry across to pick fruit on the north side of the old Hanford. We used to ride the ferry a lot. And little kids could do that. The kids could go out…I was 13. I worked in the drug store making milk shakes.

TERRY: You worked at 13?

NANCY: Yeah At the little Hanford…yeah. Who cared?

ANITA: My brother was 9 and he carried groceries for the women from the grocery store to the car. And they would give him a tip. And he’d polish shoes. He was working all the time. I don’t think he ever played. And went to school. There was the play ground at the end of the park for the younger kids but I don’t ever remember him being there.

NANCY: If the kids could make a buck they did. And there was ways of making money out there. It was hot. People were thirsty. People worked commuting through the sand to go out to go to work. And they got off the buses and they walked to barracks. If you didn’t have family and a trailer you stayed in a barracks. The men in one and the women in the other. You used to see them holding hands through the fence a lot of times. But I was 13 my younger brother had to be about 10 ½ or 11 at the most. He and my older brother who was 15 and I brought an article where they interviewed my brother about the days at Hanford some of the stories that he remembered because he was a little older than me. But my younger brother they used to buy Nestles Orange all kinds of pop put it in a big old fashioned wash tub with ice. Chill it down…stand out there where the people were walking buy commuting. They’d make $50.00 in a day just in nothing flat till they were out of pop. And my older brother was 15. Right up here at the Jackpot was the first gas station in this town.

ANITA: That’s where you had to stop before you could go out to Hanford and they took your guns and your camera.

NANCY: And the only way to get gas was right there. And when gas came in they trucked the gas in 55 gallon barrels. And covered it in the barrels to keep it cool and watered it down until they could get it into the pumps. You had to wait like 3 blocks long was the line in order to get gas. And it was rationed. You could only buy so much. There was no such thing as filling up your car like he said in his article. He was offered $100.00 just to give somebody a tank of gas. Those days kids found things to do to keep themselves pretty busy. And if there was a buck to be made…shining shoes, doing anything, running errands for somebody, going to the grocery store for somebody that couldn’t. There was a lot of work. I think kids in those days didn’t know a lot about play.

BOB: One of the other things that kids did to entertain themselves was to play games. These kids that are playing computer games and all other things they are not playing with other kids. But it was more common for children to play with other children. We used to play kick the can.

TERRY: I imagine that kids you wouldn’t have to worry about them wanting to stay inside. They would want to get outside. The trailers would either be too hot or too cold. No air conditioning. So probably it would be more fun to be outside with a bunch of other kids and go do something than to stay inside. There was nothing to do inside. Scissors, coloring books, crayons. Do we have any questions in different areas?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We interviewed a gal that was talking about how much time she had spent standing in lines to buy stuff. And she would have the older child baby sit the younger one when they got back. She said many days it was 6 to 7 hours of standing in line to get stuff.

NANCY: Yeah that’s very true. Everything was rationed. We saved all the aluminum foil off of packages of cigarettes. Talking about buying stuff and having things available. We used to save we gathered the aluminum foil off cigarette packs. Back in those days anyone who smoked the cigarettes were wrapped in paper lined aluminum foil. You could turn that in for a buck or two. Everything was rationed. My mom used to go out and find farmers that raised rabbits and buy rabbits and fresh chickens. When we came up here from California shoes were rationed. My dad built this trailer and we had a little wheel on the front of it. It was a 23 footer but the front of it was to be a bathroom which never really got completed. And so it was storage. It was a place to pile stuff. It had a window to the front and a window through the inside wall so it took up a lot of room. So the actual living in part was only like 18 feet. Shoes were rationed in California. When we came up we came through L.A. and we couldn’t get tires. We had blown out tires on the trailer and we couldn’t get tires. They sent us to a tire place and then another one and another one. And we actually ran into a black man who was on the radio show. I’m forgetting what his name was right now. But he was really known at that time. He worked at this tire store. They went out and bought 2 of those great big metal wheelbarrows that were heavy duty that construction outfits did. They took the tires off them and put them on the front dolly of our trailer because that was the only way we could get those tires. And when we were coming to Hanford to work on the Hanford Site and it was a government project we had priority. We had priority for gas getting up here. We had priority for tires getting up here.

TERRY: But this was even before people knew?

NANCY: My dad came with his crew and he was in the position where they were looking for him. So I think that’s why he knew about it early.

ANITA: And when my folks came. I mean when my mother came with the trailer my brother was just out of high school and we had some flat tires. And there was a time when that trailer was sitting clear down on the ground without any tires on it at all. She stopped in Cheyenne and got new tires and when she got out here at this new gas station what she was concerned was afraid that she had too many tires in the car. They were all wore out mostly but they were still tires and that was what she was concerned about. And when we got here we was running on an inner tube which used to be inside tires. I don’t know how my brother got that trailer up off of the ground. I couldn’t have done it.

TERRY: With the other trailer court was there the same problem with standing in line and with difficulty of services?

MARYLEE: I don’t remember ever standing in line for anything.

ANITA: Well they’re talking about the first days in Hanford.
MARYLEE: Alright but this 5 years later is what I’m talking about.

TERRY: Because in 5 years a lot changed.

ANITA: My dad stood in line to get mail in that little tiny place. But that was all taken care of before we came. I don’t ever remember getting any mail. We didn’t write letters.

NANCY: They eventually put in a big theater out there and a big Rec. Hall and the adults had you know like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Big Bands Anything to keep people entertained.

ANITA: They put up a big auditorium and one place in the books it says 10 days and in another it says 12 days. They put up a big auditorium and there are pictures of the decorations for Christmas in ’43 or ’44 I think it was.

TERRY: Do we have any other questions?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ok life was a little bit tough over there some times and so how the government did things for you they based what they were doing for amenity purposes based off how long they would actually have you stay there for awhile. Do any of you have any stories about any of the amenities they brought in? You know like you said the theater and things of that nature. And did it really make a difference to keep you there.

NANCY: In these pictures of the trailer camp like in ’44 people were coming and going with the dirt storms and stuff a lot of people didn’t stick around. They would come fast and leave faster. They did all kinds of things to try and keep them. Of course once they got into Richland and they got into the housing that was different because they even furnished the coal in a lot of the housing. We lived really close to the office of the original 1944 trailer court. We were the first ones in and we were one of the first ones out and we were also close to the big Rec. Hall. We could hear the big bands playing being outside on a summer night. They had dances all those big bands everything you could think. Everything was long buildings kind of like barracks like the drug stores. Best that I can remember I remember the drug store. I don’t remember a whole lot about the grocery store but there were lines everywhere. There were lines for everything. The big mess halls had all kinds of great food. I was in them. I know my brother worked in one of them. You didn’t go hungry. They fed you very well.

ANITA: I have a pamphlet that was sent all over the country trying to get people to come out here. And it says…What will my rent be? You will either stay in a hutment or a barracks at $1.40 a week. This includes janitor service, your bed is made, your room is cleaned every day and the linens are changed once a week. The wash room in each barracks has a wash basin and plenty of hot water, showers, and toilets. Is the food good? You won’t get fancy food but it’s wholesome food for hardy men. You will eat in the mess hall family style. You always get plenty to eat. The meal tickets for 21 meals is $12.98 but they punch your meal ticket every time you go in. They made the sandwiches for the workers to take out on the job every morning. And that’s what my mother did was fix the sandwiches.

MARYLEE: I was going to suggest that after we moved into town in the ranch house we had lots of things. The rent, the coal, and the phones everything was very low priced. We paid about $50.00 for rent including we heated with coal. They delivered the coal. Even after we moved into town it was ’48.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: When they came along with all the trees how many trees did they let you get?

MARYLEE: They even planted them.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Especially since what happened is they bulldozed them all down. There was grass and green and everything and them it became dirt.

ANITA: The big trees along George Washington on that first street you could have all the trees you wanted but you had to plant them yourself. And my brother he was a teenager by then and so he helped the neighbors plant their trees. But to go back to how they got people to come here. They would go around the country getting people to come and build the barracks and everything and of course we didn’t know what we were doing. Security of course was #1 after they found out what we were doing here. They would advance your transportation money to your last job. And then each week they would take out a bit. And if you stayed for 4 months you received a check for that amount. If you stayed another 3 months you got another check for that amount. So they paid your transportation both ways if you stayed 7 months. They didn’t want you to go back. People did quit by the thousands.

NANCY: Going back to the very very early days when we came. Most of you probably know there was a little town of White Bluffs. It was farther on up the river and farther west. We had to go to White Bluffs for ice because in the trailer was an ice box. It looked very nice. It looked like a refrigerator. There were no electrical units in it. It was ice. And also to the drug store. If you were sick and needed medicine or needed anything from the drug store you went to White Bluffs. Fred English Drug Store was the name of the one in White Bluffs. And you probably know the Juvie here is named Fred English Center and as I understand it is named after Fred English from the old White Bluffs days.

TERRY: You said something earlier that caught my attention you said it was fun.

MARYLEE: It was the first home that we had. My husband was in college until June of that year. And then I came out a month later with the baby. And so it was our first little house for a 16 foot trailer. I can remember going to Portland for a friends wedding and I painted the floor of the kitchen area and then we got in the car and left to go to Portland. It would dry while we were gone.

ANITA: Everyone was interested in winning the war. They weren’t thinking about their personal comfort and if they did they went home. When Richland first started there wasn’t anyone here. People if they got sick or died they went back home. Everybody was young and this was when the baby boomers came along. Richland had the highest birth rate of anywhere in the nation in ’46 ’47 ’48. A lotta fun!

BOB: Yeah the average age of the population was fairly young. So indeed when Richland was first built the families were of a child bearing age.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Isn’t it now known as the fastest growing retirement area?

BOB: There is a lot of those old people that are still here.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Were there doctors for the people that were having babies and things like that?

BOB: Oh yes there were doctors. In North Richland there was a standard Army hospital. Well Kadlec Hospital in Richland was modeled after an Army hospital. There were doctors and they were enticed by the same kind of enticements that they used for the construction workers. And I’m sure there were a lot of them that came and went because of the conditions.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question I guess because I didn’t look at the pictures that closely. Did everyone bring their own trailer or were there some provided?

BOB: We didn’t. We bought one that was here. We bought one that somebody had moved out of and moved back home. That wasn’t uncommon.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: So when you first say you were going to come here you didn’t have something already set up for a place to live?

BOB: We came here from college. We didn’t have anything! The clothes on our back that was about it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did you buy the trailer or did you just rent it?

BOB: Yeah had to buy it…paid $700.00 for it which was a lot.

ANITA: My dad said if you come to bring the house because there’s none to buy.

BOB: Yeah in the town of Richland you couldn’t live here if you did not have a job on the project. And as a matter of fact some friends of ours he retired. When he was older he had to move to Kennewick. You absolutely couldn’t live in town. I would hear stories about people you know needing security to get across the Yakima River. It was that tight.

NANCY: One of the things I was thinking about …talking about people and friends and what you did. Like we said before everybody was in the same boat when people came. Some of the cartoons and some of things that you can probably remember seeing was “Hanford or Bust!” You had everything. You had people from all walks of life. Some who had enough money to buy a trailer when they could find one to buy. Trailers weren’t really that plentiful in those days. Trailers were actually camping and recreational and they were expensive in those days. A lot of people made buses into trailers. You’d be surprised at how many old school buses and different kinds of buses were converted into trailers…something they could live in. They could put a kitchen and stuff in there. What was really fun was that people lived so close together that you knew everybody. Everybody was in the same boat. But you got acquainted with so many people. I can remember to this day a couple by the name of Helen and Clyde Dresser that came in here shortly after we did and lived really close to us. They had a little girl. I can remember the Phillips that lived next door to us that were from Arkansas. Everybody came from somewhere. Their cooking techniques were different. We loved to cook and have commune dinners with the Phillips because being from Arkansas her food was good. It was fattening but it was good. We were learning about different types of food that different people had. There weren’t outdoor bar-be-ques in those days that I can remember. I was trying to remember what we heated our trailer with and then in this interview that my brother had stated that it was kerosene. I can remember that underneath the cook stove was a door that opened. We used a pump. So I’m thinking it must have been a kerosene of some kind. But I can’t remember any kerosene fumes or anything like that. I really don’t remember a heater. We didn’t have electric heaters that I know of. All I can think of is that mom just turned on the burner of the stove or left the oven door cracked open.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Was there propane in the ‘40s? There is a propane tank on that trailer.

NANCY: In the late ‘40s I know there was. But I don’t know about the early ‘42s ‘43s. I can’t remember when those trailers started getting propane. You guys had propane didn’t you in ‘47 ‘48?

BOB: I don’t remember. We must have had.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: The furnace in the trailer is named DuoTherm so it sounds like it runs on 2 possible fuels. So I was wondering about maybe oil and gas.

NANCY: I remember there was but I don’t remember what year that was.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: When I was a kid my dad worked on road construction and we lived in a trailer. We had a kind of a crew that went with us so the people were familiar. We did a lot of things together as families. We cooked together. We played cards a lot. Did that go on too there?

BOB: You talked to your neighbor. You jolly well better. You didn’t have anybody else to talk to.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What if you didn’t like them? Did that happen?

NANCY: I suppose so. But you had a whole lot of them around you that you could find ones that you did.

MARYLEE: We lived next door to a family. Their trailer was a lot longer than ours. They had the grandma and grandpa and at least 2 couples with 3 or 4 children and they were hollering “Shut up!” to those kids constantly. We never said shut up to our children after that. We were not friendly to that couple they were too busy with their family. But I didn’t want to be anyway.

ANITA: I don’t remember any neighbors. I was just working and being myself.

NANCY: I think it’s interesting about what a small parcel of land that you had. Because you talk about inside or outside we didn’t have lawns. If you walked outside of your trailer we had like what’s in front of this trailer out here. You had a wooden walkway. It was like a deck. So for water or rain whatever you could hose it down. We had such a small piece of land it was interesting to see what people would do with their little piece of land. The fences and arches and they would whip into Pasco somewhere and buy some roses and plant some rose bushes. Some of them were just like doll houses. They were just adorable. Some of those women were so neat you could eat off their floors. They were scrubbing them all the time. They were real cute and others were not quite so cute. (Laughter)

TERRY: What about water? Were there water lines hooked up to the trailers? So it wasn’t like having to go sluck buckets of water from some where?

NANCY: The best I can remember was garden hose hooked up to a water facet. It came up to the side of the trailer. You didn’t pipe it. We used a garden hose.

BOB: We were up town. We had copper pipe. We also had a grey water drain from the kitchen sink.

NANCY: That’s what they learned from the first one to the second one.

MARYLEE: Our trailer had a round front with benches and storage under the benches.

ANITA: You had washcloth and towel if you had a bathrobe you were doing good.

TERRY: So I don’t imagine you could do wash every single day. So you wouldn’t have anywhere near the closets full of clothes that we have today.
So thank you so much for coming. I hope you get a chance to hang out for a little while and be sure to see the museum also. Thank you.



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CREHST Museum, “Trailer Talk (Inside),” Hanford History Project, accessed May 25, 2024,