Glen P. Stein Oral History
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GLENN STEIN INTERVIEW- Recorded on 8/1/92
Well my name is Glenn B. Stein. Stein is S T E I N. I came from Denver up here I was working at Remington Arms in Denver which was owned by Dupont, of course. And a fellow by the name of Dunkleburger was one of the head men down there in the department I was in which was inspection in, uh, Denver; and ,uh, he was the one that recruited me because he was up here then and he was out recruiting. And uh, well I had heard rumors about the plant. It was a terrible place to be. There was people killed every day, and uh, there was drinking and gambling and such well the works that we were getting was Hanford see rather than Richland and so I was doubtful about coming up.
Well, I was doubtful about coming up here because of the rumors I’d heard. So I was called over to Dunkleburgers office , and uh, so he told me about it, wanted to know if I was interested. Well, the job down there was about out. We probably at that time felt we had maybe six months to go. So I thought well, I’m young I’ll take a chance on it! So I talked to the wife and I said well, I said, they’re gonna pay my way up there I certainly could pay it back if I, if it is as bad as I hear it is see. So I come up here, they sent me up on the train there were six of us from Denver. Earl Kirkwood another instrument man who has passed away was in the same group I was. And uh, uh, we came up here it was the first part of July. I’d say probably around about the 5th or 6th of July. And we came in here of course and checked into the hotel and they give us three days in the hotel. And uh, the next day they took us through orientation which kinda scared the pants off from us, I mean, the security end of it. And uh, I can remember when I got here on the train in Kennewick I asked the bus driver who was makin the trip about 4 or 5 times a day how far it was to Richland and he said “well I don’t know”. That’s how tight the soc, the , security was in those days, see.
THIS WAS 1943?
1944, July ‘44. Well uh, we went through orientation, of course, and the next day we started school. And I went to school approximately 3 months before I went to D area because instruments was new to me as it was to practically everyone else and we had boys from back east that was teaching us that uh, had worked in instrumentation or they had some instrumentation back there, see. And taught us a little about control. But now I look back we were pretty green out there! I had no idea what we were making, no idea whatever. In fact, I never knew what we were making until they dropped the bomb. It was the first I knew of it. Of course...
YOU SAID YOU HEARD STORIES AND RUMORS BEFORE...
Well, it was all on, you see the work that was comin back to us, the work that we was gettin there in Denver was construction which we all assumed it was the plant here, see. Never stopped to think there was a construction camp all together different down at Hanford. And oh, it was just, there was gangsters and everything else. And they threw a bunch of people in jail and it was just rough supposedly according to what we heard see. And of course I assumed that that’s what it was like here. The other thing was that it got to be in the summertime 135 degrees, and uh, you could fry an egg on the sand out here and there was a dust storm everyday and part of that true was the 135 but the dust was true, you know, no grass, no lawn so when the sun did shine it reflected right back on you it was hot. But not unbearable like we kinda thought it was down there.
AND WHAT WAS THE DEPARTMENT...
Instrument, yeah. Which is controls and uh, recorders and things like that see.
TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT INSTRUMENTATION...
The instructors but I don’t think any of us did. I mean I’d had little exposure to it I was in inspection and actually our inspection was measurements. And we had gauges and stuff like that see, which you do have on instruments here but no controls whatever, see. So they had real good instructors uh, those fellows knew what they were doing and of course they had their manuals and stuff and we had manuals to read too and uh, so we were taught to calibrate and we used to actually they give us the instrumentation and we went ahead and we’d calibrate it, work it over so that we knew what we were doing when we got out there see that was the main thing because there was nobody to help ya.
WHAT DID YOU HAVE AVAILABLE AS A TEST SOURCE...
Oh no uh, we weren’t calibratin radiation instruments, it was, there were controls see. Now we would read radiation, yes, but we had a bug, we called it a bug that we used to test radiation. The amount of radiation that was coming, see.
WHAT TYPE OF OTHER INSTRUMENTS WERE YOU WORKING ON?
Well we had recorders that recorded everything out there. We had temperature instruments, we had flow instruments. We had controls that are instrumentation controlled the uh pressure of your pumps. There was controls on every pump out there to control the pressure because that had to be maintained. Uh, it was just within a couple a three pounds see. And uh, powerhouse controlled the boilers the temperature, the pressure. And uh, then pressure readings on everything. All your uh, water pressures off of every pipe practically uh. We had controls, I mean uh, gauges.
CAN YOU RECALL YOUR FIRST TRIP TO B REACTOR...
Well, I really can’t say that I can. It wasn’t what I expected. I got out there and it was petty barren; there wasn’t any growth or whatever. And uh, everything was fairly new, scraped up you know and as far as the earth was concerned we weren’t operating then yet. So uh, about the first thing we did was to get acquainted with the instrumentation what we had to see if we knew what we were doin and actually study some of the manuals they had there. And uh, as I remember the uh, supervisor was a Dupont man from back east too. That guy just was a real good man, he got us along pretty good.
It was Hanford that was the tough part, this wasn’t see.
Yeah, it’s down at Hanford itself. The old Hanford camp was a construction camp see. I was just tellin about goin through the beer hall I guess is what it was, a fella took us through. He worked here too but he’d been there, he’d worked construction first and so he told us he’d take us through there. When we got ready to go in the door he said well go in this door and out the back. He said keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. And I could remember one fella as we was goin through, one fella slid under another fella as he raised up off the chair and a fight started. You had to sit down to drink beer in those days see. And uh, we went right on through and came out the other side. And uh, I went to some dances down there uh, which you had to watch yourself but it wasn’t too rough really.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE OUT THERE?
At Hanford? Or B area?
Oh, goodness I don’t know. An awful lot. There was trailers all over the place. And they had these big dorms you know, women’s dorms and men’s dorms. But I didn’t have any experience with that. All I did was just go down and they showed us around and come back see. I did go down to a few dances at night and they but they weren’t real rough down there the dances weren’t.
DID YOUR WIFE JOIN YA?
She didn’t, my wife couldn’t get here until, I think it was October before we got a house. So I was here about 3 or 4 months before she came here.
YOU BEGAN WORK AT B REACTOR ABOUT WHAT TIME?
I think it was about October, I’m not positive of that but I think it seems to me I was here about 3 months goin to school and uh, then I went out to be and I was there probably 3 or 4 months and then I went to D areas.
WERE YOU THERE AROUND THE TIME OF START UP?
Oh yes, I was there when it started yeah.
TELL US ABOUT THAT.
Well, of course I can’t tell you much about 105 because I was on the water side see. And uh, everybody was on their toes, I mean we had control of the water pressure for em see, which had to be maintained close. And uh, so we were naturally nervous; I mean, you know, it was our first experience too. I had no idea what they were makin, what they was doin over there. It was so darn secret you couldn’t find out nothing see. But uh, yes, it was a little nerve racking because you knew you had to keep that pressure there and you’d worry about whether you could keep it there or not see. Because our instruments was doing the controlling.
AND I UNDERSTAND THEY DID...
Of course that I didn’t know see. Like I say I was on the water side. And uh, I never knew, they didn’t tell us nothing. But I know we was checking our instruments and keepin our eye on them at all time in the beginning there to be sure that we had what they was asking for and we could maintain it see.
WERE YOU OUT IN THE BIG PUMP BUILDING THEN?
190 building, I was 83. I was in all the power buildings. The powerhouse. I worked all the power buildings what we had to change charts. I went on shifts I think it was C shift, I can’t remember exactly. And on the shifts the first thing we did was to go down and change all the charts. Well at the time you change your chart you checked your instrumentation to see if that for the last 24 hours has run true or if it’s been off balance or the pressures been up or down or what’s happened see. So it gives you a pretty good idea once you’ve got your charts changed as to how your instrumentation was working. I think there was 8 of us on shifts to start with and we wound up with one man on a shift about 8 years later. But at that time there was 8 men on a shift.
IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF THIS WAS DONE...
Well it’s nerve racking really. You worried all the time see. If something was gonna happen that you wouldn’t be able to take care of it that’s what you worried about mostly. And you worried, of course, that they was getting what they wanted. I mean they told us what pressure we wanted to keep it at. Uh, whatever the instrumentation had to do because they depended on the instruments to tell them what was goin on see. But I wasn’t on the 105 so I can’t tell you much about, I understand they was pretty nervous over there. I went over there later but at that time I was always at the water side. They took us through, I can remember makin a tour through 105 but uh, I can’t say exactly how long they’d been in operation before I started workin in the 105 side. But uh, right at the very beginning I was on the power side.
YOU WERE HERE WHEN THE BOMBS DROPPED.
Oh yes. uh huh. ‘46.
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT THAT?
Over the radio. There was everybody was, it was all over the papers and everything see but first we heard it on the radio when they dropped it. We got the message out there uh, but not from the radio but that’s the way they got it see. But uh, about the bomb. Well, by that time we knew we’s having something that was very explosive but you see we only made part of that bomb. So they put the rest of it together down in New Mexico. So about uh. We knew we was dealing with radiation but just what we was makin, I’m talkin about my own experience now I had no idea we was makin a bomb! I didn’t know what we were makin. At times I thought we was makin fuel for an airplane. Or a submarine or something like that see.
WE HEARD STORIES, RUMORS...
Oh yeah, I can’t remember. There was a lot of rumors I can’t remember all the rumors that have been around but I can remember one of em was that well that this uh fuel we were makin for airplanes see. That was just all rumors and you didn’t spread none of it because security was so tight well one of the fellas was fired that was workin with me and uh, in those days you had two badges. You had the badge you wore when you come out of the area. But you had another badge that you called your name and number when you went through the guard house out there see. There was guards, there was an entrance to the area. Besides you still had known that you (?) at 105. You still had another guard house there see. Once you’s inside there you still can get to 105 unless you was (?) for that see. But uh, well I can remember they got so they remembered my 809 and they’d say 809 Stein when I’d come in the door. They got so they knew ya but to start with you called your number they picked up that badge looked at you and what’s your number and if it matched okay they’d give it to you and then you went see. Well this fella went home and told his wife. He was tellin her about what we went through to get in out there see. At 9:00 the next day he and I was on a job a calibration job where uh, they had used everything but one piece of this thing that they had left. And they was afraid somebody else would break it and they didn’t have another one but he and I had done one before and worked it alright see and they broke all the rest of em so they kept, he and I and so they told us that mornin that we’re gonna put you two on this because you’ve done it and you was able to put it together without breaking it and that’s the last one we got. So we go over and it wasn’t half hour before another fella comes over and he said “Stein, I’m supposed to help you.” He said Kelly’s supposed to go to the uhm, administration building down over here. Well it was the last I saw of Kelly. I mean they took him right to town that day, of course that night I went over to see him because uh, of course he didn’t tell me what was happenin either, he just said he had a good job on construction but we found out about a week later that he got fired. That’s how tight the construc, the uh, well what happened his wife was on the bus. She was tellin somebody else about how uh, we got in the badge house. After we got to the badge house out there how we went through what they did see, the procedure. And there was a (?) (?) intelligence man sittin in the seat right behind her. That’s how come the man got fired that picked it up see.
GENERAL CLIMATE OF COUNTRY. WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT?
The importance we were yes, very much so. We, we never talked about it once we got out of the area see. Now my folks lived down in Vancouver and I’d go down there when I was workin shifts on long change, you know. Well of course they’d start askin me. Well I’d just say well I can’t tell you nothin about it it’s secret. Anything I know I don’t dare tell you about. It to me, I was afraid to talk about it because I didn’t what was secret and what wasn’t see. I knew what was secret but I thought some of the other stuff that might be secret I wasn’t aware of it see. Because nobody’d ever say anything to us about not to tell anybody how you got through the area. And when a man got fired over that then they’d uh, pretty careful see. Yeah.
TAKE 2, ROLL 2 - SURPRISED WHAT’S BEING MADE HERE?
Uh, yes I was. I was yes, uh, very surprised. I knew we had radiation stuff like that to deal with but, you see, we had the one part. All we did was charge that uranium, I knew we had the uranium there, we knew that. But uh, what they was gonna do with it was what we didn’t know see, or at least I didn’t. I would imagine there was some people that did but I didn’t.
END OF WAR, GENERAL FEELING SATISFACTION?
Yes, my feeling was yes. I felt myself I know there was a lot of people killed when that bomb was dropped, true. But at the same time it saved an awful lot of our people from being killed and probably saved them the lives of other people because if that war had continued they’d have been all of them killed as well as ours see. Yeah, it was a shock to me, I mean, uh, I never dreamed we had anything that potent or would blow up a whole town you know. But uh, I uh, yes I felt that I’d contributed quite a bit once I heard that, you know. Before I didn’t really realize, I knew it was important but I didn’t really realize exactly what it was.
WERE YOU AWARE OF ANY PERSONAL DANGER?
Uh, just the radiation, we knew that was dangerous, see. But, we wasn’t too worried, I wasn’t myself because see we were in the instrumentation; we knew that we were protected as long as those instruments worked and which we were sure that they were working see. And I thought they were very good about taking care of us in there, I mean, there was as far as we knew none of us were getting overexposed and they were real careful about hauling us out. We had alarms on em, you know, so that when we had a certain amount of exposure they went off and uh, of course you’d protect yourself on that you came out, see; out of the zone. We was always dressed in what we called PWP clothes, you took your own personal clothing off and put the PWP’S on which was coveralls, head covers, gloves, shoe covers, everything - you was covered completely, you know. Even had a face mask if that was necessary. And so, no I felt that uh, oh I guess there was probably times I might have worried a little bit but uh, most of the time I felt that they were pretty much taking care of us.
ENTRY NUCLEAR AGE
Well, I uh, I’m happy that I had something to do with it. That I had my little small part in it. Yes, I’ve been proud of that all the time, but uh, I was never disappointed that I came up here. I remember my wife was worried, and uh, so I told her when I got up here, I said “No, you can live here pretty good,” I said. “It’s not as hot as they said” and I said “the people aren’t bad people in this town” and I said “they’re the nicest people you’ll ever run into”. And so but we had the awful rumors down there in Denver, see.
DID YOU LIVE HERE IN RICHLAND?
Um huh, when I came up I did. I got a B, uh, I got a two bedroom pre-fab (?). See, I had to take, my, my wife had sold the house see we put the house up for sale and sold it down there so she was living in an apartment in a basement apartment, see. So I wanted to get her up here as soon as I could and uh, so I had to take a two bedroom pre-fab to get her up here. I stayed in that for about 4 years. But it was a little crowded, we had one child then and uh, I think we paid if I can remember right we paid $25 a month and that included lights and heat and everything. We planted our own lawns and so on of course. And uh, the telephone, I think we paid for a telephone. When we got it was pretty hard to get a telephone and when we finally got one well I think we paid that but everything else for that $25 as I remember was $25 a month; I may be wrong maybe it was $35 but, anyway it was plenty cheap and everything was furnished and there was no light meters in town see. Everybody was uh, you paid your rent and that included everything. Water and the whole works. No water meters, nothing. But I think that people coming from all over the country were real friendly. You got acquainted fast back in those days. Nowadays you probably don’t know your next door neighbor for a month or so but in a couple days you knew em in those days. Cuz everybody was new, see.
YOU COULDN’T TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING.
No, but they knew it too see. They knew you couldn’t so, there was no pressure put on you really. Most of the pressure I would have would be from outsiders like I’d go see my folks. Then I’d get pressure, but, they understand after I explained it to them but. The work was something we couldn’t talk about here, it was secret so I. Well we never told anybody how far it was up here even. Just like that bus driver told me, he said he didn’t know how far it was, he drove it 6 or 8 times a day!
WAS THERE ANY SENSE OF THREAT, WARNINGS?
Not to my knowledge. I can’t really recall anything in that order. I can remember something about they picked up some things on the beaches someplace. I don’t know if they were balloons or what they were, but, there was some stuff picked up I heard; I’d just heard rumors of it, you know. But here not much we didn’t, at least I didn’t get much of it.
ORGANIZATIONS, SOCIAL THINGS FOR PEOPLE?
There was dancing was about all I knew. Well of course, see, I was married and my wife wasn’t here so when I got my dorms which was the third day then I was in a dorm room, to be honest with ya, I wanna be honest I played poker with those construction guys. And uh, I’d send my wife my whole check. I’d make enough playin poker to live on see. Course you didn’t need much in those days, I mean everything, your room was, uh, well that was paid for out of my check see but otherwise I’d send her the whole check. It seems like those construction guys was always tryin to buy stuff and you just played (?) your belly button why you could win. I’d never played poker in my life before, but, I had to do something at night so that’s what I did. That was after I got out in the area when I was here there just seemed to be, I don’t know, there wasn’t much as far as entertainment was concerned. You’d just sit around and talk. I wasn’t a drinkin man so, I never got in much on the booze, (?). I don’t know if there was much in here. I don’t think there was ... I’m trying to remember. There were very few taverns, if there were any here in town. I know for (?), in those days it was uh, uh, I guess hard to get because they had they wanted to know, I know one fella asked me if I would get uh, a liquor permit see. Which would allow me to buy a quart or two a month or something like that, and then, I’d go down and get it and then he’d pay me for it so he’d have his liquor see. Cause I didn’t drink it so I’d get it for him. In fact he was one of the bosses.
YOU’D COMMUTE TO B REACTOR?
On the bus. We all road the bus or I did at least all the time out there until later years, when I’d come in. It left from down here, yes uh huh, you see in those days, course I was livin in a dorm the bus would just stop, you know where the stop was and pick you up. For the people living in town they had free bus service, you know, that went around to the stores and went around town. It just, I don’t know if they charged em a nickel or something like that I can’t remember, but uh, after work I think it was a dime it cost us, I don’t know I can’t really remember that for sure either.
MOST REMARKABLE THING YOU REMEMBER.
You know it’s so long, I can’t, I get so mixed up whether it was B or D area cause I was, it’s like I say, I was in B for about, oh, 3 or 4 months and then I went to D and they was gettin ready to start that up, you see. I was down there then. But uh, no I admit all I did like I say was to play poker and I don’t (?) either one not the one I was in but another one a couple down from me and a lot of these construction fellas would come by you know and play. We were pretty well satisfied with our pay although it was very little in those days, I think. Well I started $1.65 an hour and you couldn’t even live on that now. But a lot of em started $1.10, trainee. I come in as a technician because I had some experience but uh, then we thought we was makin big money. And for what it cost you, I think I, as I remember we used to go over here and eat at that uh, the only restaurant they had in town, that big one. And uh, as I remember something like 50, 60 cents for a meal, it wasn’t very much I remember that.
Well, I, in a way no. I did, I knew the government was behind it but you see I was under security down there too in Denver, see. You always had to pass, a lot of fellas wouldn’t be hired because they couldn’t pass the uh, uh, I say pass I should use something else, but they uh, when they checked them out they just uh, couldn’t take em see. So I had been under security there but not as tough as here, yeah, it scared me. I was scared to say anything to anybody and that was I think one of the reasons why they scared all of us that way, I don’t know, it was the best way for you to keep quiet.
SCARING - LOSE JOB OR BIGGER THREAT?
It was, because you know anything that was gonna throw you in jail you’d be aware of something like that. But uh, I was always afraid after this fella got fired, see. Cause he’d said something, he didn’t realize he was doin see and I didn’t say nothin.
EXAMPLE OF SOMEBODY EVERY SO OFTEN.
That might be, I don’t know. But the military intelligence men were around in those days and there was one sittin in the seat right behind his wife, see and she was tellin this other lady “well, I know how they get in out there”.
PROBLEM BETWEEN WORKER & SPOUSE?
Well, not that I know of. I uh, my wife just didn’t ever try to find out so we had no problems that way see, and I just didn’t tell her anything about it how we got in or stuff like that you know. And uh, no it never was a problem with us. Some of em may have had a problem that way but we didn’t have any.