Interview with Marilyn DeVine

Dublin Core


Interview with Marilyn DeVine


White Bluffs (Wash.)
Hanford Site (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)


Marilyn (Em) DeVine spent part of her childhood in White Bluffs, living in an old farmhouse during the Manhattan Project. Her father was a patrolman and had to be stationed on the site.


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities


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, who can provide specific rights information for this item.






The Hanford Oral History Project operated under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who were 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


Marilyn Devine


Washington State University Tri-Cities


Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Em DeVine on May 21, 2018. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Em about her experiences growing up in Richland and working at the Hanford Site. For the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?

Em DeVine: M-A-R-I-L-Y-N. D-E-capital-V-I-N-E.

Franklin: Great, thank you. And you prefer to go by Em?

DeVine: I prefer Em.

Franklin: Okay.

DeVine: Although most people down here know me as Marilyn, because I didn’t change it until many years later, after I had left.

Franklin: Oh, okay, gotcha. So tell me how your family came to the area to work at the Hanford Site.

DeVine: Well, we didn’t come from far. We’re from Ellensburg, Washington.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

DeVine: My dad was a fireman there. And I know nothing about how he heard about the Project or anything like that. But he came to work at Hanford in 1943 and then the family didn’t move—he came early. Perhaps July or June. But the family didn’t move until December 6th of [19]43. And the reason I know that is because it was my brother’s 10th birthday. That’s the only reason I know the date that we moved.

We lived in a farmhouse that of course had to be abandoned by the owners. It was ten miles from Hanford; it was three miles beyond White Bluffs. So we were in the country. And I’m so sorry I didn’t ever ask my dad why—how we happened to have the privilege of being there.

Franklin: Maybe because they wanted him to be close, close to the fire station in case there was—

DeVine: Possibly.

Franklin: --an emergency.

DeVine: Right, that’s certainly plausible.

Franklin: Because I know that some patrolmen were allowed to live in some of the old houses, because they wanted them close. And how old were you when the family moved down?

DeVine: I was nine.

Franklin: You were nine, okay.

DeVine: Yes, I had just turned nine the month before.

Franklin: So your father leaves some time in the middle of 1943. And did he tell you why he was coming down to Hanford?

DeVine: No, I don’t remember knowing why he was gone. They must’ve told us he was working someplace else.

Franklin: What were your first impressions of the Hanford Site when you moved here?

DeVine: Oh, of our house?

Franklin: Yeah, of the whole thing.

DeVine: And that area? Well, it was definitely old and dead and dry. The house was old and not a very—well, it wasn’t very good. We didn’t have running water. We had one electric light. We had a wood stove, of course. The bosses, the rulers of the Project, they had people build us a water barrel. It was up on stilts, and they would bring water every week. That was our water supply, except that it was a farm house and there was a barn a little bit down a hill. I can remember my brother and I loading up pots of water from that well and taking them in our Little Red Rider wagon to the house, and that was what we bathed in.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

DeVine: We drank and cooked with the other water, yeah.

Franklin: Right. Did the house in Ellensburg have more modern—

DeVine: Oh, my, yes. Yeah, it had a telephone, running water, lights in every room. It was very different situation. Actually, there were four kids. I had an older sister. She was eleven at that time, and my younger brother was probably about four, three or four, years old. The house had a kitchen, of course, and the dining room, and what was probably called a parlor, and then a living room, and one bedroom. But it had a covered, or a screened-in sunporch, I suppose it would’ve been.

Franklin: This is the house here out at Hanford?

DeVine: That’s the house at White Bluffs, right. So we three older kids had beds in that room. And then my baby brother had a crib in my parents’ room. It was—well, my mother had chickens. I think she had five chickens. And we had a dog that we had taken with us. While we were there, we bought two young goats, which were an awful lot of fun.

Now my sister, Charlene, didn’t have a good teacher. The school system was not great. It wasn’t well-developed at that time. So she and my younger brother, because our mother was sickly quite a bit at the time, they moved back to Ellensburg with relatives. So it was just Terry and me for most of the time that we were there. It was a wonderful place to live, I thought. I mean, for kids that age, exploring and—it was just a really, really great opportunity, experience.

Franklin: Were you near any other houses?

DeVine: No! No, there was a number of fields between us and the houses that were along the Columbia River. They looked big and nice. They were painted white and all that stuff. It was really nice.

Franklin: Were there any crops left on the farm?

DeVine: No, just—well, actually, there probably was wheat or hay. But I didn’t really recognize it as such. But looking back, thinking back, there probably was some. But it was more just like weeds. Yeah.

Franklin: What can you tell me about the school system out at Hanford during the war?

DeVine: Well, the grade school kids went to what had been Hanford High School. It was a two-story brick, or block, construction. It’s still there. The high school kids were bussed into Richland, here into Richland. We went on double shifts. We had the morning shift, so that meant, I think, school was like from 6:00 to 11:00. Something like that, maybe 7:00 to 12:00. Very crowded rooms, although we all had desks. Because our mother was sickly, my older sister, my sister and the baby went back to Elle—I said that already. Sorry.

Franklin: Oh, sorry, go ahead.

DeVine: You go ahead.

Franklin: Okay.


Franklin: What did you do for leisure time when you were out there in this farmhouse?

DeVine: Oh, gosh! We explored. Not too far from our house, there was a gravel pit. And one of the things that I especially remember is that my brother would stand up at the top, and I would go down below into the gravel pit. He would throw rocks down, and we would see if we could break them open to see if there was something interesting inside. We knew about thunder—hmm, now I have to think, the rocks that have something really—thunder eggs. I don’t think we found anything precious. If we thought it was, we would take it to our mom and have her look at it.

That summer, spring after we were—before we had to leave, there was a meadowlark nest not too far out in one of the fields. That was fun to go watch the babies grow, and then they flew off. And as I recall—I could be wrong—as I recall, I was there when they took off, and each of the four birds went in a separate direction. Like, as if it had been planned or scripted, you know. I don’t know about that. Sometimes we would go down to the river and wade and catch minnows and take them home in jars. That was pretty much what we did.

Franklin: Did you go like shopping with your father or down to the construction camp or into the town of Richland at all?

DeVine: Not to Richland, no. We went into Hanford; there was a doctor’s office there. I was having health problems, too, so we would go there for odds and ends of things. Yeah. And my mother was hospitalized there for a short—a few weeks. And, no, I never did see the inside of any of the—well, let me take that back, because different famous groups came through to entertain as part of the war effort. I remember Truth or Consequences came, and then there were some others. We went in to those events.

Franklin: So you’re kind of a local—like, I guess almost as local as you could get, coming down here, except for the people that had been displaced.

DeVine: Right.

Franklin: But you must’ve went to school with kids from all over the US, right?

DeVine: Yes, yes.

Franklin: I’m wondering if you could talk about that, about being in this community where everyone was brand new.

DeVine: Yes. There was a huge campground—trailer park, and I met one of the girls there was Louanna Ivers. She and I were friends up until she passed away just a year or so ago.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

DeVine: Yeah. Which was fun. It was fun to have someone that went all the way from fourth grade through.

Franklin: Where was she from?

DeVine: Mm, Oklahoma somewhere? I don’t know exactly. But yeah. Everybody else that we knew was from someplace else: Utah, the South, the deep South. Yeah.

Franklin: Did you know anything about the communities that had been there before the Manhattan Project? Did you ever run into anybody who had been displaced from the area?

DeVine: No, not that I know of.

Franklin: Okay.

DeVine: I surely must’ve. I know that I heard somewhere along the line. Some of the people went to school to learn what they needed to do so that they could move back and work. But they weren’t allowed into their old homes, into their old homes out there anyway.

Franklin: Did you live near any of the Hanford facilities? Or did you watch any of them go up?

DeVine: Actually, the reason we had to leave in June of 1944 was because they were building B Reactor. We couldn’t see anything except that this concrete thing was going up. But we had to leave anyway, and our house wasn’t finished in Richland. So we had to go to for a few months, and then I think we came from Sunnyside in August to a prefab. Yeah. That was kind of interesting, too. We lived about a block from the stockyard, which was rather odorous. [LAUGHTER] Given the wrong wind direction. [LAUGHTER] But, gosh, we had a real house. It was a real kitchen, toilets, running water, electricity—

Franklin: This the house in Richland?

DeVine: No, the house in Sunnyside.

Franklin: Oh, this is Sunnyside.

DeVine: Right. So then when we moved to Richland in August, I think, of ’44, we were in a little prefab. And I asked—I wish I had remembered to ask my dad—I think I said this before—why we had gotten to live north of White Bluffs, because we didn’t have a telephone. There wouldn’t have been a way for them to contact him. That I can think of. Of course, my memory’s fuzzy at this point. Yeah. In Richland we had a prefab on the corner of Swift and Wright.

Franklin: How many buildings—bedrooms, sorry.

DeVine: Three.

Franklin: Three-bedroom prefab?

DeVine: Yeah. And I asked my dad not that many years ago why we had a prefab when there were bigger houses. I said, was it because of the money, the rent? And he said, probably. [LAUGHTER] He probably didn’t really remember either; he was pretty old by that time. But that was the last street west at that point, and that’s why my mother chose it. She did not like being hemmed in.

Franklin: Oh, right. Yeah, because at that time it was just open—everything was just fields and--

DeVine: It was open. We played all the way to the Yakima River. And there was an old car body chassis out there. And of course there were rattlesnakes and bull snakes and scorpions. But nobody that I know ever got hurt with any of those things, yeah. It was a good place to live.

Franklin: How did the prefab compare to other houses you had lived in? Was there anything unique about it?

DeVine: [LAGUHTER] Well they were called cracker boxes. You may have heard that. Because of their shape; they were just a big square put on a platform that was about three feet on over side smaller, so that you had a place to play in—[LAUGHTER] I guess a place to play in the shade.

Franklin: And they had the flat roofs then.

DeVine: And they had a flat roof, yes. They had a swamp air conditioner in one window.

Franklin: Swamp cooler?

DeVine: When the sand blew, it came in the house. It was very dusty anytime we had any kind of a wind storm. We were lucky. We had nine peach trees. We were planted right in the middle of a peach orchard. My dad, being a farmer at heart, knew exactly how to take care of those trees. He had the best peaches in the city, and he would have contracted each year with a store to sell the peaches to them. Every year we had a big wind storm that blew most of the peaches off. So, yeah, that was very—a sad situation for him, especially. Because it sort of made him feel like nothing he did went right. You know what I mean?

Franklin: Oh. Yeah, yeah.

DeVine: Yeah.

Franklin: I know exactly what you mean.

DeVine: And we didn’t have grass; we didn’t have paved streets, no sidewalks. We had irrigation water, one irrigation hose in the yard, which was different than our house water.

Franklin: And from when you moved in until ’58, they—did your parents stay in that—did you stay in that home the whole time?

DeVine: No.

Franklin: Okay.

DeVine: We moved in ’48. We moved out to a ranch house, and it, again, was on the last street west, on Cottonwood. That was before Cottonwood Loop was built. So, once again, we were out as close to the open as we could be. And that made us all very happy. It was nice. It was four bedrooms. We fit in a little bit better. I think I was going into high school at that point. My sister, she lived with us for two years before she graduated and went to college. And then my older brother and I graduated in ’52. My younger brother graduated in ’57. So we’re all Richland Bombers. Although the high school was called Columbia High School at that point.

Franklin: Yeah, Col High.

DeVine: We consider ourselves—yeah.

Franklin: It’s always interesting that it was Richland High and then became Columbia and is now Richland High again.

DeVine: Right, right.

Franklin: So you were in Richland—you moved into the house on Wright in ’44.

DeVine: Correct.

Franklin: So you were in Richland when the war ended.

DeVine: Yes.

Franklin: What do you remember about—I’d like to ask you about two events. The first would be the dropping of the bomb. What do you remember about that, that day, that time?

DeVine: I remember that there was jubilation and people were saying, the war is over, the war is over. I don’t know why we had the car home that day; maybe our dad was—he worked shiftwork, so maybe he was sleeping. Anyway, the four of us kids got on the hood of the car with American flags and my mother drove us all around through town, yelling and celebrating that the war was over. It was later, I think, that I realized that the Hanford Project had had such a pivotal response to that.

Franklin: Hmm. And that’s also a time when a lot of people—

DeVine: Contribution to that.

Franklin: Contribution, right. That’s also a time when a lot of people found out what was being done, even a lot of the workers.

DeVine: Exactly.

Franklin: Do you remember your parents talking about that moment when they realized what they had—

DeVine: No. I don’t remember, except that I know my uncle, my mother’s brother, was in the war. And he went around—supposedly went around yelling, my brother-in-law did that! My brother-in-law did that! [LAUGHTER] And I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s the story that was passed on to us. So it was a wonderful time.

It had been such a fearful time for us. When we lived in Ellensburg, we had—the college had been taken over by the Army. We had war bonds to buy; we had parties and weekends and people coming to town to try to get people to spend more on war bonds. And you could buy victory stamps, and when you got your book full of stamps, then you could buy a bond. And my brother and I sang over the radio—it was a really big thing, and there were airplanes flying over. There was a tank in a parade. So there was a lot of fear. We knew that we could be bombed, or we were led to believe that we could be bombed. We practiced air raids by ducking under our desk, which is pretty ridiculous. All of the houses had cans of sand in case of fire. All of the houses had blackout curtains for nighttime. So there was a lot of fear. But also a lot of joy in our lives. You know, I think our parents and our relatives did a really good job of trying to neutralize that fear.

Franklin: Did you have a victory garden as well?

DeVine: We did, yes! My dad, being a frustrated farmer, he had a big garden in our yard there. But he also had what we had a victory garden at my great-grandparents’ home. So he had two big gardens going on.

Franklin: Richland, for all this time that you were living—or until 1958, was a government town.

DeVine: Yes.

Franklin: I’m wondering if you could—what you remember about that era in respect to that peculiar nature of there being really no private property in Richland.

DeVine: I don’t think we knew the difference.

Franklin: What kinds of things was the government responsible for in terms of people’s housing?

DeVine: Well, they chose the designs. [LAUGHTER] They chose the colors. They chose what would be where. They did not dictate anything about landscaping or anything like that, that I know of. It just seemed like a normal town, really. Except that we didn’t have the streets and those kinds of things. But that didn’t really affect us. And then when we did get pavement downtown, when we’d go to a show on Saturday for a dime, we would go barefoot and we would stand in the shade of a building and then we would run as fast as we could across the pavement to the next shade. Because the pavement was so hot—blacktop pavement—was so hot on our feet. But it just—well, I remember one thing, too, that we had very long lines at the post office and they probably had long lines at the bank, although I don’t really remember going to the bank. I remember going to the post office.

Franklin: The town had a pretty active bus system.

DeVine: Yes, they did! And it was free.

Franklin: Yeah.

DeVine: Later. All the workers could ride the bus to work. And in fact, many years later, I did that when I was working at 300 Area. I rode the bus a lot of the time. Not all the time, but a lot of the time, yeah.

Franklin: What schools did you go to?

DeVine: Well, we started out at Sacagawea because Marcus Whitman hadn’t been completed by that time. But that was only until maybe Christmas break. Then we went to Marcus Whitman. And then, of course—there was no junior high at that time, so then we went straight to Columbia High School from eighth grade. So it was a four-year high school.

Franklin: And what year did you graduate?

DeVine: ’52.

Franklin: ’52, okay!

DeVine: Yes.

Franklin: And then you went to—you being working out on Site, shortly afterward?

DeVine: Yes! I was 18. So I had to have a birth certificate to prove that I really was. I worked at 300 Area as a lab assistant. What we did was process sheep pee to—it was just for a local control of the nuclear activity in the animals. I don’t even, to tell you the truth, know what they were looking for. We just were told what to do and we did it. I loved it.

Franklin: Yeah, why?

DeVine: I like anything science or anything medical. A number of years later, I came back. I had married, moved, had children, came back. And then I got a job as a chemical analyst. And, oh my goodness, that was such a good job. I really loved it. It was important. It was also in 300 Area. Then our little unit ran out of money, and I was the last hire, so I had to go to work at B, in B Reactor for six months until the new budget was passed.

Franklin: What did you do out at B Reactor?

DeVine: I swear to goodness, I do not know. I know we were processing samples. I don’t know what they were looking for, I don’t know where the samples came from, anything about it. Except that when I went on the tour of the B Reactor, I thought, oh yeah! This is—I do remember it. So I don’t know very much about that. It only took about six months to be out there. And then I remarried and got pregnant and moved to Alaska.

Franklin: Okay.

DeVine: So that kind of—

Franklin: So you worked out on the Site—for how long total did you work out there for?

DeVine: Oh, total, oh gosh. Not very long, actually. Maybe five years was all. I really hated leaving Richland, because for one thing, I really enjoyed the work. And I loved the people that I worked with. And it was important work. So—but I left, because I had to. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: What were the most challenging or rewarding aspects of your work out at Hanford?

DeVine: Well, the rewarding part, especially when I was a chemical analyst, was knowing that it was so important for our safety, locally. But I think it was an international safety, as well. All we were permitted to say was radiochemical analysis of fission products. That’s how secret it was. But we did know, because they thought it was important for us to know, what we were doing so we would be especially careful, and especially precise.

I guess the hard part would’ve been being in a closed system for the entire work day. The challenge was just doing a good job, you know? It was just a wonderful job. Harvey Tenney was our chemist, and then they went on up from there.

Franklin: Did you have to wear any type of special protective clothing or equipment to handle—

DeVine: Yes. Well, we wore lab coats. And of course gloves and safety glasses. We did not wear the masks. We didn’t have our hands in places where the radioactivity was so great that we had to wear the big gloves. These were just medical nursing gloves.

Franklin: What about radiation monitoring? Were you monitored at all?

DeVine: Oh, yes, absolutely. We wore a badge and on the badge was some sort of thing that could detect radiation. We checked our hands before we left work, and then we turned in our badges once a month to be read.

At one point, I did get what’s called crapped up when I was working out at B Reactor. It was interesting. At one point I had to take off my dress and wash it. And of course I had a lab coat to put on. They washed it. And then I wore it home, of course. And another time, they were going to check my house, but I hadn’t taken anything home. If I had, I would’ve been fired right then. But I hadn’t taken anything home. So it was fine.

Franklin: Where did you—did you live after you graduated and you started working on Site? Did you still live with your family?

DeVine: I lived with my parents for a while, and then when I came back, I had three children, so I bought a prefab, a little three-bedroom, added another bedroom and remodeled the bathroom. It was on the corner of Hoffman and Smith. So I was on another corner, yeah.

Franklin: Okay. I know that area pretty well. It’s kind of over by where I live. Could you describe a typical work day as a chemical analysis—

DeVine: As a chemical analyst?

Franklin: In the lab?

DeVine: Well, yes, we would go and show our badges to get through the gate, go into the building, 325, I think it was. And put on our white shoes and our lab coat. Go into an airlock, close the door behind us, and then we could go into the actual lab. I can’t really give much about that, except that we prepared samples and then they were taken out to be radiated. And then we would get them back a few days later and process them again to see what the radioactive content had been. And I have no idea of any of the finished information, of the ending information. Yeah.

Franklin: Right, yeah, that would’ve been passed up the chain.

DeVine: No! [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: What are some of your memories of any major events in Tri-Cities history, such as plants starting up--?

DeVine: No, I don’t really remember anything like that. Atomic Frontier Days was the big celebration of the year in the summer. A big parade and all that. And the sports activities were an important thing.

Franklin: I’m wondering if you could talk about the Atomic Frontier Days. What kinds of themes were there and what kind of activities were common in those celebrations?

DeVine: Well, we had a parade, like I mentioned. And we had a Miss Tri-Cities. Hmm. I’m sure we had baseball games that were connected with it. Speakers, politicians would come and speak. I don’t remember any famous entertainers coming like they did at Hanford during the wartime.

But—oh, one thing that I thought was fun. We had a swimming pool, Richland, the town of Richland had a swimming pool down by the Columbia River. And I thought it was really a huge pool and it may not have been. But there were so many people here that you could only swim for an hour, and then you had to get out and stand in line again for another hour to try to get in again. That made an impression on me [LAUGHTER] because I just had never heard of such a thing before. There wasn’t enough space for everybody to swim at the same time.

Franklin: Yeah, wow.

DeVine: They since filled that in and built another one up at Richland High School.

Franklin: Yup. Yeah, the George Prout pool.

DeVine: Yes.

Franklin: Were you here when President Kennedy visited?

DeVine: Yes, I was!

Franklin: Did you go out to see him?

DeVine: I did not.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

DeVine: My mother went. She was sick with cancer at the time, and she felt like she had touched him when he walked by. Whether or not she actually did, I don’t know. But it suited her to think that she had actually touched him. It was a very big thing, that visit was a very big thing around here. Yeah. I’ve seen pictures of it. But I didn’t—and I knew it was going on. But I don’t know why I didn’t go. I might’ve been at work. I don’t know what day of the week it was or anything.

Franklin: Could you describe the ways in which security and/or secrecy at Hanford impacted your work?

DeVine: Well, we always felt real safe. [LAUGHTER] It’s not like life today. It wasn’t a big deal; we just had our badge, and we turned them in each month and got a different one. So probably we rotated. That’s the only thing I can figure. They wouldn’t have been able to do all the badges, like, for instance, over the weekend or something. Because that job in 300 Area was just straight Monday through Friday, 6:15 to 2:00-something. Yeah. So it wasn’t a big deal.

Franklin: What about the secrecy aspect? Did that ever impact your daily life or your friendships or relationships with anyone?

DeVine: In a way, it probably did. You know, we had the signs: we will bury you; Khrushchev saying, we will bury you. And loose lips sink ships. And how important security was. Now, when I first got that job—maybe I shouldn’t say this, but when I first got that job as a lab assistant, I was telling a friend, a neighbor, about it. And she thought I went too far.

Franklin: Oh. Like you had said too much about what you were doing?

DeVine: What I was doing, right.

Franklin: Oh.

DeVine: She asked me, thermal heat or—? [LAUGHTER] And I said, oh, yeah—no. So, her sister, I guess, was the one that told me that she thought I’d said too much.

Franklin: Oh, wow. So there was like kind of community policing in that regard.

DeVine: There was, yes.

Franklin: Do you remember—I’d heard stories that there were FBI agents that would kind of walk down the street or go to people’s houses to interview people about—

DeVine: I think we were aware of that, yes. Yeah. Interesting.

Franklin: Yeah, isn’t it? It’s kind of—it’s strange. When you were in school, did you have to do the duck-and-cover drills, civil defense drills? Was that a concern?

DeVine: No, I don’t—I may be wrong. But I was so impressed with the ones that we had in Ellensburg, that anything else probably wouldn’t have been important enough to even think about.

Franklin: Knowing what was being made at Hanford, and knowing the geopolitical situation—you mentioned the ‘we will bury you’ signs—and knowing that Hanford played a large role in the development of atomic weapons, did you ever feel like you were on the frontlines, or like the Hanford community might be a target in case of an eruption of hostilities?

DeVine: You know, I think probably a lot of people did. I don’t remember feeling that. Now, I may have. That’s been a long time ago and a lot of things have happened in my life since then. Maybe that’s why is not a big memory. But I don’t think that I—there’s always fear of war and terrorism and stuff like that. But I don’t think it affected my life significantly at all.

Franklin: How long did your father work out on Site until?

DeVine: Well, he started in ’43, and then he would’ve retired probably when he was 60 or 65. He retired as a fireman there.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

DeVine: And I don’t—I was gone. I don’t know what year it was.

Franklin: Did he stay in Richland his whole life?

DeVine: He did, he did. They moved away for a little—five years or something. Then they lived up in Chelan for a while, on Lake Chelan, in Manson. But then he came back and lived here until he died.

Franklin: What would you like future generations to know about working at Hanford and living in Richland during the Cold War?

DeVine: Well, it was a unique situation, certainly. Many of us have stayed in touch with people. Part of that is the result of a thing we call—it’s like a daily newsletter, we call it The Sandstorm. So that we know what’s going on among our friends. They talk a lot about no other town ever being like this. I don’t buy that, myself. I think there were a lot of safe towns, unique towns. But it was interesting. We didn’t really know the difference, I don’t think, at that time. I mean, things were safe. You could walk home any time of the day or night. Neighbors played in the streets, you know? Things like that. But I think that happened in a lot of towns. But we, because we were here, and maybe because we came from so many different places in the United States, we saw it as being very unique. And I don’t know.

Franklin: Certainly, until ’58, you had to have a job at Hanford or be working—

DeVine: Correct.

Franklin: --to live in Richland.

DeVine: Right.

Franklin: So everyone had a job.

DeVine: And many of them were, like, the stores. You could be an employee in the stores and things like that. You didn’t have to have a job on the reservation.

Franklin: Right. But even those stores all had to have contracts with the Atomic Energy Commission—

DeVine: Right, right.

Franklin: --to operate the store. I think, maybe, that’s where a lot of people feel the community is unique, certainly because most towns didn’t have 100% employment and were owned by the government.

DeVine: That’s true. That’s true.

Franklin: I mean, there was no private—there was private property, but there was no—all the land and everything was—

DeVine: Right, right.

Franklin: It certainly is very interesting.

DeVine: Yes, it is.

Franklin: In how we think about small town America.

DeVine: Right. And I don’t even know what small-town America is like, anymore. I think it’s changed so much since I was a youngster.

Franklin: I wanted to ask you, when you moved back to Richland in 2000—how had the Tri-Cities changed from when you had left to when you came back?

DeVine: The most staggering thing was the growth. The busy streets, the highways going in. Just the stores, traffic, all the time. It was—that was the thing that struck me the most.

Franklin: Well, Em, thank you so much for—I guess I’ll, last point, is there anything else you wanted to say in regards to—

DeVine: I can’t—

Franklin: Your life in Richland?

DeVine: Nothing significant comes to mind. I’m sorry. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: No, it’s fine. I just didn’t want to end without giving you the chance to—if there was something that you had thought of.

DeVine: Right. Well, there’s lots of things, but not important enough to—

Franklin: Well, I don’t know about that. What comes to mind?

DeVine: I guess all high schools have this rah-rah-rah mentality. And we did, perhaps in the extreme. Because we had come from all over, there was just a different kind of closeness, maybe. And inclusion, they would call it now. [LAUGHTER] I don’t think we even had that word back then, as far as people are concerned. Yeah.

Franklin: Because everyone—that’s another thing, actually, I wanted to ask. So you had family that was close by.

DeVine: Yes.

Franklin: Extended family. But many others didn’t.

DeVine: Oh!

Franklin: Do you think that led—how do you think that impacted people? Is that maybe what led to some of that inclusion?

DeVine: Oh, I think it was so hard on so many of those families to be far away form any relatives at all. And yes, I think you’re right, that that did have something to being neighborly and being inclusive in our schools, and really gelling as a community. It must’ve been absolutely horrible. Now, my mother was raised, born and raised in the Ellensburg, Kittitas Valley, as was my dad. And she called these hills, those bald-headed hills. I mean, she really, really did not like the topography. [LAUGHTER] The fauna.

Franklin: Right, she must’ve missed the trees and—

DeVine: Oh, my gosh, it was terrible. But our neighbor from Kansas called them mountains. [LAUGHTER] You know? So there was just a different perspective for everybody that came here, and what was great and what was terrible. But I do think that having people come, and some of them maybe never seeing their relatives again. I don’t know about that. But it must’ve been just—

When I drive through the countryside now and I see these farm houses, I think back to the days when women were out on their own—families, with their husband and whatever children—all by themselves. And I think about that every time I go by these buildings that are somewhat isolated, still. But they have cars, they have phones, they have TV, you know, so they can get around and they can see what’s going on in the world. We had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world, except the war. Yeah.

Oh! President Harry Truman came and visited and talked.

Franklin: Oh.

DeVine: And the Richland High School band marched in a parade for him. That’s the closest I ever got to a president.

Franklin: Do you remember what year that was?

DeVine: Gosh. Well, I was in high school, so it had to have been ’49 or ’50 would be my guess.

Franklin: So during the second term.

DeVine: Yeah, ’49 or ’50.

Franklin: That brings me to another question. So after the war ended, it looked like Hanford might shut down for a while.

DeVine: Yes!

Franklin: And I’m sure some people were probably making plans to move or leave or figure out—do you remember—did your family have any such plans or—

DeVine: I think there was quite a bit of turmoil for a lot of people in that regard. But then they just kept finding things to do and finding things to do. There was a lot of—I think there were a lot of families that left, fearing that it would shut down, and went and found jobs other places. But a lot of us stuck around, just hung in there.

Franklin: And there was a new boom in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s when they built K East and K West and some of the other reactors. How did that impact Richland, and do you remember much about that?

DeVine: I have no idea, except that people came in. I’m still astonished by how many houses are being built here. Where are the people coming from? Who are these people? Why are they coming here? [LAUGHTER] You know?

Franklin: Back then or right now?

DeVine: Now. And I probably thought the same thing then. Why are all these people here?

Franklin: Well, I’ll tell you, as someone who’s trying to buy a house right now, it’s a tight market and everything’s getting snapped up. Yeah, I wonder that, too. But our economy must be good. Housing’s tight.

DeVine: Yeah, it’s very interesting to watch it. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m trying to buy a house, too. I need a bigger house. I bought a small house just for me. Turn that off.



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Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Marilyn DeVine,” Hanford History Project, accessed September 23, 2021,