Interview with Shirley Stewart

Dublin Core


Interview with Shirley Stewart


Hanford (Wash.)
White Bluffs (Wash.)


Shirley Stewart's father, Chester McGee, settled in the Cold Creek area and drilled the last, and one of the largest, artesian wells on the central plateau. Shirley grew up on the McGee homestead and attended school in White Bluffs.


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


Shirley Stewart


Royal City (Wash.)


0:00:00 Tom Hungate: And we’re rolling.

Robert Franklin: We’re rolling. Okay. My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Shirley Stewart on January 17, 2020. The interview is being conducted at Shirley Stewart’s home outside Royal City. I will be talking with Shirley about her experiences growing up in what became the Hanford Site. For the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?

Shirley Stewart: Shirley A. Stewart. S-H-I-R-L-E-Y. Adele, A-D-E-L-E. Stewart, S-T-E-W-A-R-T.

Franklin: Great, thank you. And Shirley, what was your family name that--

Stewart: Oh, McGee.

Franklin: McGee, right? And tell me where--tell me a bit about the ranch that you grew up in.

0:00:49 Stewart: Okay. My grandparents came into Cold Crick in 1908. And it was my dad’s stepdad and two brothers and Daddy and his sister. He was a blacksmith, and he used to ride his horse from Cold Crick clear to Hanford to shoe horses. This was in the early days. I believe that they did dryland wheat, some. But in 1916, maybe, they were looking for natural gas. And this guy came by and asked around if he’d be interested in drilling a well on his place. Grandpa thought about it a minute and he said, well, you know, I’m interested. But he said, I want to tell you this: if it’s water, it’s my well. If it’s natural gas, it’s yours. Well, the guy set up his thing to drill and he probably lasted a year or a little after and he finally ran out of funds. So then of course Grandpa went on with his life. Then in another year the guy came by and asked him the same thing. And he said, well, if it’s my well, it’s water, and if it’s gas, it’s yours. And I don’t know how deep that well was, but it had to be fairly deep. Well, they hit just a gusher of artesian well. That was the first--that was Brown’s well at Cold Crick.

Franklin: And why was it called Brown’s well?

Stewart: Well, because that was my grandpa’s—it was my dad’s stepdad, see?

Franklin: I see. Okay, okay.

0:02:36 Stewart: And then they raised—they had a little orchard, as I remember them telling me, because I was too little then at first. But anyway, and then they had grain, hay. And but anyway, then my dad, at 18, he filled out to get a homestead—on the Homestead Act.

Franklin: And your father’s name was Chester.

0:03:05 Stewart: Chester McGee, mm-hmm. And he had worked on that like maybe a year or two and then the war came along, and he went into the Navy then. Then when he came back out of the Navy, it was 125, I think, acres that he’d already approved on then. Well then Mom—my mother, meanwhile, my mother was a school teacher at Cold Crick, and that’s how Dad met her. So in 1919, they got married in December and they moved to White Bluffs for two years. He managed an orchard. And then he became a deputy sheriff of Benton County for eight years. Well, while he was there, he kept improving on this ground and getting it ready for when he was going to be through his thing. In 1928, a well driller got ahold of Dad and said would you be interested in drilling a well? And Dad said, well, yes, but I don’t have the funds to pay you. Oh, he said, that’s no big deal. Well, anyway, so Dad said, okay, I’ll give you 100 acres if you can get water for me. And we did. We had the biggest well. It was 1,150 feet deep. 90 pounds pressure and 100—let’s see if I’ve got—I figured I’d write this all down and then I’d tell ya.

Franklin: We’ve heard of people drilling down several hundred feet, but I have not heard of anybody drilling down—like over 1,000 feet, I mean, that’s a really deep well.

Stewart: Yeah, okay. They had 1,800 pounds pressure.

Franklin: 1,800 pounds?

Stewart: Mm-hmm, because that’s to irrigate over 300 acres with it.

Franklin: Wow.

0:04:52 Stewart: Well, anyway, meanwhile, between the time Grandma’s well come in and ours, there was three other wells drilled at Cold Crick, but theirs were more shallow—they were shallower wells. And they had little farms there, too. I could name some of the people, but--

Franklin: Sure! Could you?

Stewart: Rothrocks was one name. Meekers. M-E-E-K-E-R.

Franklin: Okay, that name’s familiar.

Stewart: And the other one was Schlosser.

Raymond Martinez: Schlosser.

Franklin: Is that like--

Stewart: S-C-H, wasn’t it?

Martinez: Schlosser, Bob Schlosser.

Stewart: Schlosser, uh-huh.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: Didn’t he move to Sunnyside?

Martinez: Huh?

Stewart: He moved to Sunnyside, didn’t he?

Martinez: Yeah, he moved to Sunnyside.

Franklin: Oh, and just for the record, that’s Raymond Martinez sitting off to the side who also grew up in Hanford-White Bluffs. That’s for our transcriptionist, who’s going to have to type all this out, just so she knows who you are, to put your name next to what you said.


0:05:55 Stewart: So then, after Dad’s time, it was eight years he was deputy sheriff. So they meanwhile were building—I think what they did is bought two old shacks and rebuilt them for our home. And then we moved there—I was about 18 months old, so it’d be 1931, we moved to the ranch then.

Franklin: Okay. And you were how old in 19—so, sorry. When were you--when and where were you born?

Stewart: I was 18 months old when they moved.

Franklin: 18 months old. So you were born in White Bluffs, then?

Stewart: I was born—actually, well, no, I was born in Kennewick.

Franklin: And did your family live in Kennewick?

Stewart: They lived in Kennewick when Dad was deputy sheriff. And I had a brother. My brother was seven years older then. Yeah.

Franklin: So you were born in 1929?

Stewart: 1929, I was born, mm-hmm.

Franklin: Wow. Okay. And so where did you live in Kennewick?

Stewart: I don’t know.

Franklin: Do you remember? Or do you know where the family lived in Kennewick?

0:06:57 Stewart: They lived in a—I think, first they lived in Prosser for a while and then they moved to Kennewick. But I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know the streets. I think we went by there one time, and it was kind of just a little house that was there. I just don’t remember.

Franklin: That’s fine, that’s fine. I was just curious. Because I live in downtown Kennewick, so I was just wondering--

Stewart: Well, it was kind of just at the edge of town. You know where the road goes on back up to Tri-Cities, I mean up to Hermiston. What is that?

Martinez: Umatilla?

Stewart: It was just off of that.

Franklin: Yeah. Okay, interesting.

Stewart: Two or three blocks.

Franklin: Okay. So 1931, you moved up to Cold Creek.

Stewart: To Cold Crick.

Franklin: In kind of the house that your father had put together.

0:07:34 Stewart: Yeah, oh, yeah. But we did not have electricity. The power lines went right by, but they didn’t have transformers, see. But we never had electricity.

Franklin: Not in the whole time?

Stewart: Uh-uh. Never. Well, we had lots of water. [LAUGHTER] Power to the--yeah, no, brought it into the house and we had a bathroom. We had an outside poo-hoo for quite a long time and then we remodeled and Dad had an inside bathroom. But then we had a propane stove, like, I mean—with a firebox on one end to heat the water, because it was without electricity, you know? I can remember that. And then we had, Dad figured out some way of putting propane lights in through tubes on the ceiling. But it wasn’t very bright. You couldn’t read by it, because it was kind of just dim, you know. But it was fine.

Franklin: And that’s to kind of see your way at night. Yeah, okay. Interesting.

0:08:40 Stewart: And let’s see, what do I need to tell you? My dad raised hay, mostly hay, and potatoes. And they did really good with those potatoes like in 1935 or ‘36, they bought a new John Deere tractor and a car, with my uncle’s dad and him, they farmed some together. The uncles, meanwhile, I was going to tell you, when we drilled our well, it was on the same strata as my grandmother’s, and it dried up.

Franklin: Right, I had heard that.

Stewart: Okay. And where the grape vineyards are now, at Cold Crick, that’s right where Grandma’s place was.

Franklin: Right, the ones you can see kind of off to the—so that’s where the Browns--

Stewart: That’s where the Browns lived.

Franklin: And you were closer to the road.

Stewart: Yes, right. Well, we were right on--

Franklin: On what’s the road now.


Stewart: Hang on.

Franklin: Here, we’ll just take a little pause.


Franklin: Okay. So that’s pretty interesting, in the middle, then, of the Depression, your parents were doing okay.

0:09:39 Stewart: Yes. And I can remember this, my brother was a teenager, you know, going with my uncles, they used to haul the potatoes up on the pass in the park and sell the spuds on the pass up there. Snoqualmie Pass.

Franklin: Oh, wow, really?

Stewart: And then they took them clear to Seattle. And I remember my brother going a time or two with Uncle Russ down to the shipping place on the bay.

Franklin: Wow.

Stewart: Yeah. But they must’ve done pretty good, because they—you know, affording a new rig or two. We didn’t--I think Dad had one hired man part of the time. But with that artesian well, it was then the system that he had set up was really good. But we farmed with horses. We had a set of mules, Buster and Wally were their names. And then we had a set of heavy horses. Then they had one horse that we used to pull up, the derrick horse, we called him. And his name was Cato. That was my job when I was about six or seven, I got to go out and put up hay.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Stewart: Yeah.

Franklin: And what happened when your grandparents’ well ran dry? I could imagine that--

Stewart: So they moved to Priest Rapids.

Franklin: Okay.

0:11:12 Stewart: And they started a sheep ranch down there, the Browns did. I don’t remember too much, other than I knew they had a beautiful, great big barn, the people that had it before. And I think they had a few dairy cows, too, at one time. But they ended up in the sheep business. They put up hay at Priest Rapids, too.

Franklin: Okay. And is that farm still there?

Stewart: Oh, no, oh, no. Oh, no, no. They had to move also.

Franklin: When—the dam?

Stewart: Mm-hmm. When--no. They had to move--in fact, they let them finish—let me say this again. They let them lamb out their sheep that winter that everybody had to move out in ‘43. So Browns got to stay until January after the lambing. And then, meanwhile, they bought a place up at Vantage.

Franklin: Wow, I see.

0:12:14 Stewart: That’s where they moved to. So, yeah. And we had about 100 head of ewes and I can remember Dad, they gave them to Browns. They herded them up there. And I don’t know how they did. They used to use that one tractor. They must’ve had to drive it. It was about 12 miles. Was it about that? Wasn’t it? About 12 miles to Priest Rapids from Cold Crick. They’d drive that tractor back and forth and use it. Isn’t that something? And then in 1937, I think, Dad bought another one. So they had two John Deeres. So they didn’t--by then have to--yeah.


Franklin: What are some of your fondest memories growing up out there?

0:13:01 Stewart: [LAUGHTER] Oh, gosh. Well, you know what we did in the summertime a lot was pack a big lunch on Sunday and go down to the river and go swimming. And this was with the hired help and all of us kids and friends, and go swimming. And we’d always pack up wood and bring it home, because there was lots of wood, and that’s what we’d burn in the wintertime in the stove in the living rooms.

Franklin: Right. Oh, yeah.

Stewart: We always had wood stoves.

Franklin: Kind of like driftwood that would come down?

Stewart: Oh, and there was so much. Yeah. Yeah.

Franklin: Wow.

Stewart: Those were wonderful memories when we used to go swimming. In the wintertime, a few times, where we used to go--we’d go ice skating. But we did that right at home, because Dad had this—they could never turn the water completely off from the well in the wintertime. It always leaked around there. And then we’d skate down on kind of a canal-like thing. Those were precious. The other thing. Dad always loved to listen to the news, and all we had was a battery radio. Well, when he saw this—this is a funny—he saw where he could get a wind charger. So he got this first one that came out that charged the battery. He got up and put it on the point of the house and got it all ready. And, boy, it worked really good. It charged the batteries so fast. Well, one day, one time, we had a really bad windstorm and it blew so hard it shook the dishes out of the cupboard.

Franklin: Wow.

Stewart: So we had to disconnect the--

Franklin: The charger, yeah.

Stewart: Yeah. And he had to put it on a pole. But, yeah, of course when the war started and everything, they listened to a lot of news, you know. But you only got to listen to that and Fibber McGee and Molly, and I think one other, and that was about all you got to listen to. But that was probably the length of the battery, I don’t know. Anyway. Yeah.

Franklin: That’s really--

0:15:11 Stewart: My family were really musical. My brother played the trumpet, and from the time he was, I don’t know, in grade school, I guess. I need to back up. We went to school at Vernita. Do you know where that was?

Franklin: Yeah, down, right kind of where the bridge is today.

Stewart: Down the hill. And actually I have a picture of the school. But anyway, that’s where I went. And then they went on down to White Bluffs to high school. And I went, let’s see, three--

Franklin: How far was that?

Stewart: Six miles.

Franklin: And how did you get there each day?

Stewart: Well, they had a school bus.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: At one time, there was several kids. I don’t remember just how many, probably four or five of us went from there down to Vernita to this school. Well, on the first three grades, the first year, there was about eight or ten of us, one teacher. The next year, some of the kids had left and they’d gone to high school or moved. So there was like five, I think. The next year, there was two boys and I in the whole school the whole year, in the third grade. [LAUGHTER] That was a disaster! Anyway, then for two years, we went with the high school kids to White Bluffs on the bus. And the old—it was like wooden sides, and the dust would just boil in. Do you remember that, Raymond? Oh! It was awful.

Franklin: It would shake—was it--

Stewart: Oh, yeah, it would shake, you know?

Franklin: Was it basically just kind of like a converted truck?

Stewart: No. It was solid sides with windows.

Franklin: Oh, okay.

Stewart: But there was—the dust just would—anyway, I went two years to White Bluffs. And then two more years, more kids started moving in because of the Midway substation that Bonneville was building.

Franklin: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Stewart: And so there was more kids. Well then the eighth grade, they took the seventh and eighth grade with the high school kids clear to Hanford that last year. And that was 1943 when I graduated eighth. They closed it the fifth of May. I can remember that.

Franklin: Wow. Yeah. Oh, speaking of that, I wanted to ask, what were your memories of the eviction or the evacuation, getting, maybe getting the notice, what do you remember about that time?

0:17:54 Stewart: Oh, it was a real shock. A real shock. But I want to tell you one thing. We didn’t do very good, but Dad was very patriotic. Because he’d been in World War I, and he knew we had to do something. They had to do something. I can remember that. But, yeah, it was really hard. We had a really beautiful place, and they did really well with what we had. Yeah, Dad didn’t have—he wasn’t—it bothered him—he knew it had to be done. Some people just kept that hatred in them all their years. They never got over it.

Franklin: No, they didn’t. No, we’ve interviewed some people who were still--

Stewart: Bitter.

Franklin: --angry at DuPont all these years later

Stewart: Well, Dad went to work—when he couldn’t irrigate, he still grazed the sheep on it, didn’t they? Do you remember that, Raymond?

Martinez: What’s that?

Stewart: Oh, Dad grazing the sheep on our hayfields. Do you remember that?

Martinez: No.

Stewart: Anyway, but he was a Pinkerton guard for the Bonneville power.

Franklin: Oh, really?

0:19:04 Stewart: And we got to stay at Cold Crick till October. However, they took the high school kids to Sunnyside that year, and I started high school in Sunnyside for—I was only there a couple months, I think. But that was always—and dirt, talk about dust.

Franklin: Wow, yeah, that is a ways.

Stewart: And it was just in on all—no grass, it was all gravel.

Franklin: Right, jeez. So you said you got to stay until October. That was October 1943?

Stewart: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: You got--oh, wow. Yeah, that’s pretty--

Stewart: And he was sent to Spokane to two different substations up there he was over. And then we moved to Spokane then and bought a little place up there. And I graduated from high school, Rodgers. And I went two-and-a-half years to WSU then.

Franklin: Okay, okay.

Stewart: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: Tell me a little more about Cold Creek--

Stewart: Cold Crick.

Franklin: Cold Crick, sorry. What kind of community was it? Did it have services, or was it just--

Stewart: No.

Franklin: --kind of a gathering of--

Stewart: No, no.

Franklin: --people?

0:020:08 Stewart: There was a little gas station at the bottom of the hill before you would cross the crick there.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: But, no there wasn’t any services, no grocery store. I might mention this: we used to be--maybe you have it down in your thing--used to be a stage come clear from Kennewick. They would bring the mail up. I think to Hanford, White Bluffs and all up to us. And then if we needed something, he’d always stop at the Reiersons’ grocery store at White Bluffs. If we needed something, we could call down there, and they’d bring it up with the mail and everything.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Stewart: Yeah. and the people they’d tell you if they had to go from Kennewick to White Bluffs, they would come on the stage.

Franklin: Wow, okay.

Stewart: I just wondered if you’d ever heard about that.

Franklin: No, I haven’t. That’s really interesting. You mentioned you did not have electricity, but did you have phone?

Stewart: Yes, we had phones. It was--yeah.

Franklin: Okay, interesting.

Stewart: You rang two shorts or two longs.

Franklin: Wow.

Stewart: Yeah, if your phone rang, everybody who lifted up could hear what you were saying. [LAUGHTER] Yes.

Franklin: So you had traveled to White Bluffs for school. Did you also travel there to go to do all your shopping as well?

0:21:27 Stewart: Well, what shopping we did. We had always--my folks always raised a big garden. We had a lot of garden. We had a small orchard of our own. We raised fruit trees. And the one I hated the worst was the pie cherries. My brother and I always had to pick those pie cherries. We just picked the cherries right off the tree, leave the seeds on the tree. [LAUGHTER] Oh, yeah. And Mom did a lot of canning. My folks canned. And Dad butchered; he was a good butcher. And so your basic things that you needed were like sugar and flour and those type of things. So you didn’t go to the grocery store very often.

Franklin: Right, right. But to get like clothes and other--

Stewart: Well, yeah. We would go to Yakima about twice a year.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: And probably--you know, I’m trying to remember whether you went to--maybe he went to Sunnyside for parts. I think Dad did; we did go there some too. But, yeah, we would get--and then we used to use Sears and Roebuck. We ordered--

Franklin: Oh, right. What was social life like--

Stewart: Oh, my gosh.

Franklin: --for you for your parents? Did you go to White Bluffs or Hanford often to go to movies?

0:22:45 Stewart: Well, we didn’t need to; we had such a community. Wonderful community. I have pictures of--we had a woman’s group. My God, I got whole lots of pictures of them. And it was called a Priest Rapids Ladies’—I can’t think of the ladies’ club. But it went clear from up Priest Rapids clear almost down to Riverland. Down to Allard. Allard’s.

Franklin: To the Bruggemanns’ and then the Allards’.

Stewart: Uh-huh. Yeah. Mr. Bruggemann’s picture’s in here.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Stewart: Yeah, they had--we had a real good--and my dad was on the school board. He always helped with that. We had a small school. And something that I always have remembered, you know, in those days, you didn’t have oranges or things like that. And the big thing every year, we always had a play at Christmastime for the little school, and we always had Christmas baskets. And they always got oranges, those kids could hardly wait to get that orange. And now the kids don’t think a thing about--you know?

Franklin: No, no.

Stewart: And a little bit of candy, a candy cane, and I don’t remember. An apple, I suppose we had apples in them. I don’t remember that part. But I do remember they used to go down along the river and get a juniper for Christmas trees for the school.

Franklin: [LAUGHTER]

0:24:06 Stewart: The other thing I remember, and it was always in my mind--I was just a little girl. They had candles on those trees. Burning candles. At the school!

Franklin: Wow. That sounds like a serious fire hazard.

Stewart: Yeah, but now, my God, it would--[LAUGHTER] This was the school.

Franklin: That’s really cool. And this was where?

Stewart: That was Vernita.

Franklin: Oh, Vernita School.

Stewart: I have the only picture of it.

Franklin: Would we be able to--

Stewart: Yes!

Franklin: --take some of these and scan them and send them back to you?

Stewart: Yes. Yes, you can.

Franklin: Oh, that’d be wonderful.

Stewart: Go through these things, because I’ve got some really good ones.

Franklin: No, it sounds like you have some great photos there.

0:24:40 Stewart: But anyway, I can remember—but we always had school plays. Even if there was like only four of us kids in the school. That was always the big thing, in the fall we’d have--I don’t remember anything at Thanksgiving. I think we used to have—we had a potluck. We had a lot of potlucks. The ladies’ club would have potlucks. And they used to have social dancing. My aunt played the piano. My two uncles, one played the saxophone and the other clarinet. And my brother played the trumpet. And my dad played the fiddle, and my mother and I both played the piano. So, that would be kind of our social thing, like on Sunday afternoons. We’d get to my grandparents’, up there, and play music. That was--yeah.

Franklin: So, I wanted to ask you about your family for a minute. So your dad’s name is Chester. What was your mom’s name?

Stewart: Clida. Ratcliffe was her last name.

Franklin: Okay. Clida Ratcliffe.

Stewart: Clida, mm-hmm.

Franklin: Clida Ratcliffe, but McGee, I guess--

Stewart: Yeah. And Dale McGee.

Franklin: Dale, your older brother.

Stewart: I just have the one brother.

Franklin: Just the one brother.

Stewart: Yeah, and seven years older than me.

Franklin: And so Yvonne is your sister-in-law.

Stewart: Sister-in-law, mm-hmm.

Franklin: And then your dad had brothers and sisters. You said you had an aunt and uncle?

Stewart: Well, yeah. He had a full sister, Cassie, who was two years older than Dad.

Franklin: And where did she live?

0:26:00 Stewart: She lived with her--well, for years she lived in California. Because she worked in a bank, I think. And then I don’t remember just when she came back to Cold Crick. Or maybe she went to Cold Crick first and then down there. I think that may be that. Because she used to do go down and work in the packing house with the—in fact, her picture’s in one of these, with those ladies that--

Franklin: Oh, really?!

Stewart: Yes.

Franklin: Oh! Right on.

Stewart: I’m sure that’s her.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: But she was a bookkeeper.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: Also. So she was single for a long time. In fact, I met my—this should go on later. Well, anyway, how I met my husband. I went down and helped her cook for the lambing crew at Vantage. And my husband-to-be was working for them at the time.

Franklin: Aw.

Stewart: And she had never been married, and we dated with another fellow, and she ended up marrying him. She was in her 40s--50s.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Stewart: Isn’t that interesting?

Franklin: That is interesting.

Stewart: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Franklin: Huh. And then you also mentioned an uncle, too.

0:27:15 Stewart: Two uncles. Russ and Wynn. Brown. They were just little ones when they moved to Cold Crick, just tiny boys.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: Yeah.

Franklin: And they lived with the Browns, then.

Stewart: Yes, they did. Mm-hmm.

Franklin: Okay, gotcha, gotcha.

Stewart: And then, I think there’s pictures of them. I ought to show you. Oh, man.

Martinez: They’re in the book.

Stewart: They’re in this.

Martinez: They’re dressed for winter in that book.

Stewart: This one.

Martinez: Yeah.

Stewart: I’ll [INAUDIBLE]

Franklin: Really? So most of the photos for that book we got from the Edmund Anderson family.

Stewart: Yeah.

Franklin: Harry Anderson, as part of what they collected for the Hanford-White Bluffs Association.

Stewart: Yeah, it’s the same--

Franklin: But we never--didn’t get any--

Stewart: Yeah, Wynn and Russ are in this picture.

Franklin: Oh, really? Oh, that—okay!

Stewart: Uh-huh.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Stewart: Wynn and Russ Brown.

Franklin: Oh, that’s really neat.

Stewart: And then they were in the White Bluffs Band. My uncles were in that band. My brother was in the band. They used to go--there actually was the community, not just the high school, that one band. I’ve got pictures of that, too.

Franklin: See, this is crazy, because you know, we got all this, but we never got this information as to who these people were. Because we just got these pictures and we never got the people to tell us who was in the pictures.

Stewart: Yeah, isn’t that interesting?

Franklin: Oh, yeah, that’s really neat. That’s really cool.

Stewart: Yeah, Wynn and Russ were both in this picture.

Franklin: Wow, that’s neat. That’s good to know.

Stewart: So I always saved that. I had that for a long time.

Franklin: Oh, that’s really good to know.

Stewart: Anyway, let’s see what else I was going to tell you. Oh, I need that. Whatever you want to ask me. I don’t think I’ll remember.

Franklin: Do you remember when--you mentioned Midway.

Stewart: Yes, I do.

Franklin: Do you remember around when that came into the area?

0:29:00 Stewart: Yes. About 19--well, it was--they started it in about ‘41. Because I remember my brother went one year to WSU, he graduated in 1940. So that fall he went to a--the reason I remember, the next--he worked at the next summer. It was so hot. It was 116 or 117. Oh, it was hot! Down in those—I can remember him getting so sick.

Franklin: Oh, that sounds awful.

Stewart: Oh, it was really hot.

Franklin: That sounds really--especially before--

Stewart: And no air conditioning.

Franklin: No, of course not.

Stewart: You didn’t have that. We just went swimming a lot. [LAUGHTER]

Franklin: Were there a lot of families that came with the substation, or was it--did it--

0:29:42 Stewart: Well, I can remember of only--yeah, there was a few. And then they built houses for them later, see? The one family had three girls, and they kind of helped getting our school back going.

Franklin: Oh, yeah.

Stewart: Yeah, and the one girl was in my class. I don’t remember a whole—there was some older children that went on to White Bluffs, I remember that. But mostly there were just men that started working there and then didn’t bring the family. Well, there wasn’t any place for them to live.

Franklin: Right. Was that pretty exciting to have the dams come up and the electricity come through the—did you maybe start to get the sense that things were going to change a bit?

Stewart: Well, I think I did. I think I did. But it was so many changes so fast. And I remember, when we moved to Spokane, we probably only had—we lived in that same place. We probably only had one old truck, and probably made two trips. One with this piano, of course.

Franklin: Of course.

Stewart: But what I’m saying is now, look at everything everybody has. If I moved out of here--[LAUGHTER] Oh, God. You know, people don’t think about that.

Franklin: Oh, yeah, yeah, of course.

Stewart: And I’ve lived in this house 66 years, you guys.

Franklin: Wow. Wow.

Stewart: So I’m one of the old-timers here.

Franklin: Yeah. Wow, that’s really cool. So, oh, shoot. What was I going to--what was my next question? Oh! So, there were a lot of social life in Cold Creek.

Stewart: Yes.

Franklin: But you did go to White Bluffs for--

0:31:16 Stewart: Yes, we did, and Dad was very active in the American Legion, and they used to have like dances and things. And then when my brother was in high school, of course we went to the basketball games. They’d have basketball and softball.

Franklin: Do you remember when the schools burned down?

Stewart: Yes, I do--

Franklin: The White Bluffs--

Stewart: --remember that day. I was taking piano lessons. I was in fourth grade. And we had just started—Mom had come and got me, and we were just headed back out to go home and we saw the fire. We saw it. Yeah. I remember that real plain.

Franklin: Okay. Were you talking--White Bluffs or--

Stewart: The White Bluffs High School.

Franklin: --because I know both schools burned down at one point or another and then were rebuilt. But it was White Bluffs is the one that you remember?

Stewart: White Bluffs, and they didn’t rebuild. No, that was just right before it was--

Franklin: Right, right. We have some photos of that, yeah. A big blaze. Okay. And what about for church? Where did you go--

0:32:17 Stewart: Well, we really didn’t go--we were too far. I would go with a friend or so. But we didn’t have any churches at Cold Crick or Vernita. There wasn’t anything. They didn’t have anything.

Franklin: And Vernita at that time was still the ferry.

Stewart: They had a cable ferry, and if you don’t think that wasn’t scary--that would drift across—I remember going across—my dad was so entrenched on building the Grand Coulee Dam. He was really interested in it. And Mom’s sister was running a motel in Coulee City. So about once a year, we’d make a trip up to Grand Coulee. Which was a really quite a trip in those days.

Franklin: Oh, yeah.

Stewart: And when you went across that ferry, it would drift way down and go up, and it was real sandy. We always had a shovel. We always had extra water and gas with us, and probably usually got stuck at least once. Well, we’d go up as far as Coulee City and stay all night with my aunt at the motel. And then the next day we’d make the trip clear in to see the dam and come back. I can remember where the water is now on Biggs Lake, all the farms that were between there. And I remember Dad saying, these people are going to have to move, and that’s just kind of like we were when we were little. I can remember that, just as plain. I wasn’t that old, but anyway. Yeah, I can remember that.

Franklin: Right. That’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? You know, like going up and kind of—and not thinking that would--

Stewart: It could happen to you.

Franklin: Yeah.

Stewart: Yeah. But I can remember that just as plain, yeah.

Franklin: That’s really neat. Were there any—I know you were just a kid for a lot of the time as you lived there, but were there any like bad or hard times when you were living there? Any memories that stick to you in that vein?

0:34:09 Stewart: You know, I don’t really remember because I think we were fairly well--you know, Dad didn’t have to pay for any water. And electricity. And he had cows—you had horses, so you didn’t have to buy gas. You think—we probably were pretty well sufficient. My mother was really a good cook, too. We usually had hired help. She had a gas lawnmower—I mean, a gas washer, and we washed out in the yard and then hung everything up. That was just the way you did it in those days. And she canned a lot, and we had a cellar. And Dad had it all fixed up with shelves for the fruit, you know. And like, for your potatoes—well, we ended up building a potato shed, Dad did, and sorted our own spuds in the later years there.

Franklin: Wow.

Stewart: Uh-huh.

Franklin: Do you remember—did you know the Bruggemann family at all?

Stewart: I did. I did. They weren’t very—they really weren’t very social. She was more so than him.

Franklin: Oh, Paul was pretty--

Stewart: Yeah. I can remember them. And the kids were just little.

Franklin: Right. Yes, they were, yeah. They were three and five I think when the eviction happened. And what about Allard? Did you know Sam Allard?

Stewart: I don’t remember him, but I remember the name. But I knew people that lived on there, the Austins. And I--

Franklin: Right, Levi Austin.

0:35:43 Stewart: Levi Austin and--oh, shoot, what was their name? I can kind of remember those other people. At Vernita, there was about five orchards. Five or six soft fruit orchards. They weren’t very big. Because I think part of them, just irrigated from a well, like a pump. Because they had electricity at Vernita. And then part of them pumped it out of the river, I think. I think Richmond—Richmond was one name, and they had the ferry. Richmonds was their name, Tom Richmond.

Franklin: Okay. Did you ever go all the way down to Richland at all or to the Tri-Cities?

Stewart: Yes, we did, because Dad and Mom still had friends that lived down there. We used to go down and visit them. Yes, we did. But I don’t remember much. There wasn’t much at Richland. White Bluffs was bigger than Richland.

Franklin: Right, right. I wanted to ask you about—so you were—the eviction happens and eventually you leave in October and you moved up to--

Stewart: Spokane.

Franklin: Spokane. When did you start going to the reunions?

0:37:00 Stewart: You know, they’ve never mentioned anything in these books about it, but right after the war, they had picnics at Prosser.

Franklin: In Prosser, yeah.

Stewart: Yes. And we went to several of those. So my old friends that I went to school with, I can remember that.

Franklin: And how long did you go to those for? Do you remember, how many years?

Stewart: Well, it seemed like only a couple of years, and then of course I went off to college and I didn’t—we didn’t go—I don’t remember how long they had the ones at Prosser. Not very long, I don’t think.

Franklin: No, yeah, we didn’t include much about it in the book, because we didn’t—the information we had about them really comes from 1968 on when they started meeting in Richland.

Stewart: Yeah. And then we used to go to all those. We went to them all.

Franklin: You went to all of those?

Stewart: Yeah, most of them, yeah.

Franklin: Were you able—have you been able to go back to the homestead since the Hanford Site--

0:27:54 Stewart: Yeah, there’s nothing there. [LAUGHTER] Yes, I have! [LAUGHTER] But, yeah, our old spud shed was the only thing that was left there. There was nothing, you know. You knew they took our water and piped it 18 miles to the first reactor.

Franklin: Yeah, I’ve heard that, yeah.

Stewart: That was our well.

Franklin: Yeah, that’s amazing. I mean, it was a gusher.

Stewart: Ah, I’ll just show you a picture. Well, whenever you want. Go ahead.

Franklin: Sure.

Stewart: Go ahead and ask me. Yeah, we did, we used to have lots of social things, you know, like potlucks in the summertime. At least once or twice at different people’s places. Yeah, we never did--you know, we weren’t lacking for social things.

Franklin: Oh, sure.

Stewart: Raymond, what were you going to say?

Martinez: Can I say something off the record?

Franklin: Sure. Yeah, let’s take a little pause.

Hungate: Sure.


Franklin: So you sorted--

Stewart: Apricots--

Franklin: There was a packing shed down by the--

Stewart: At Riverland, yeah.

Martinez: When you go down the hill, before you get to the bridge, there’s kind of a dip, the railroad went through there.

Stewart: It’s right there.

Martinez: You can see where the railroad track was.

Stewart: Right there, right there.

Martinez: There was a packing shed right there on the railroad track. And then the livestock corral was right next to it where they’d load the sheep to go to Montana or wherever.

Stewart: Cattle. Oh, yeah.

Franklin: So, and Riverlands was kind of the stop for Bruggemann’s, because Bruggemann’s was the Riverlands Ranch.

Martinez: Yeah.

Franklin: Right? Is that correct?

Stewart: Yeah.

Franklin: okay.

Martinez: The packing warehouse is right practically on the Bruggemann ranch.

Stewart: Yeah, practically on there. Right there.

Franklin: And you worked there when you were 13?

Stewart: 13 years old. Right when the war started.

Martinez: Everybody worked there.

Stewart: Everybody worked there!

Franklin: Everybody worked there.


Martinez: No child labor laws then!

Stewart: No, there sure wasn’t!

Franklin: You know, I grew up on a farm as well, and there’s always--

Stewart: Did you?

Franklin: Yes.

Stewart: Where was that at?

Franklin: In Alaska.

Stewart: Oh, my gosh.

Franklin: Yeah, a farm/nursery.

Martinez: Well, Salvini was a pretty noted family down there.

Stewart: Yes, they were. I remember them.

Franklin: Salvini, okay.

Stewart: Salvini. I don’t know if it was a--

Martinez: They moved to Sunnyside.

Stewart: Oh, did they?

Martinez: Yeah.

Stewart: I knew the Killian girls really well because Maria and Sylvia were in my class.

Martinez: You got that picture with the flume and the sheep and the horses in your book to show them? Two horses and all the--

Stewart: Yeah. Here’s the picture of the well in our can right there. In fact, you can have one of those, because that’s… Here’s the band. [LAUGHTER] Okay, which one are you talking about?

Franklin: Oh, yeah, this, yes, I’ve seen this.

Martinez: The one with the horses and the hay wagon and the--where the sheep are right behind him.

Stewart: Can you see that?

Martinez: It was one of your team of horses they used in the wintertime.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Martinez: I know you had it; you had it last time I was here.

Franklin: Tom, did you have any questions? Anything that came to your mind that you wanted to ask?

Martinez: They built a--

0:40:56 Hungate: When they were asked to move. Why?

Franklin: Why--?

Martinez: They built that wooden flume.

Hungate: What did they speculate--

Franklin: Oh!

Hungate: --was the reason they had to move?

Franklin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, good.

Hungate: Something for the war, but what? Because you can’t help but think, what is it?

Martinez: They built a wooden flume for the well that went about three miles over toward the bluff. 

Hungate: And the mail came from Kennewick.

Stewart: Right.

Hungate: But you didn’t go shopping there--

Stewart: Not much.

Hungate: You went to Yakima.

Stewart: Well, not very much. We didn’t hardly go there very much.


Hungate: But you said a couple times.

Stewart: Yeah.

Hungate: I mean, you didn’t go to the Tri-City area--

Stewart: Not very often; only to visit.

Hungate: And that would seem to be closer?

Stewart: Well, it probably was.

Hungate: Maybe about halfway.

Stewart: But my folks had friends in Kennewick; we’d go visit. That’s the only thing I can remember.

Franklin: Yeah.

Hungate: Yeah.

0:41:47 Stewart: Now, here’s something you might be interested in. This was in 1917, the first--my grandfather and another fellow dug a well. And it was only good probably part of the year when the water was running it. See what it was—yeah, isn’t that interesting?

Franklin: I like this picture of the well and the guy standing next to it.

Hungate: Oh, god.

Franklin: That’s pretty neat. Wow. This one with the guy standing next to it.

Stewart: Oh, yeah.

Hungate: It’s a geyser!

Franklin: Yeah, it’s a real gusher.

Stewart: Now, this is my grand--is that the same? That isn’t the same one.

Hungate: No.

Franklin: No, it’s not.

Stewart: Okay. This is my grandmother’s well. Look at that.

Franklin: The Brown well. Oh, yeah, wow.

Stewart: And when they hit that, they didn’t know how to cap it.

Martinez: Cap it, yeah.

Stewart: Oh, it ran on down; it just went way down in the crick, and they had a heck of a time trying to—yeah.

Franklin: Phew, it’s just so—I mean, seeing this well in the treeless--you know.

Stewart: Isn’t that something?

Franklin: Yeah, it really is something.

Stewart: Now here’s another picture of the White Bluffs band. My brother was in it.

Franklin: Oh, wow.

Hungate: Oh, wow.

Franklin: Oh, yeah, there’s that--your brother in Pullman. That thing is still--that’s right outside of the Murrow Building. It’s right outside--it’s right by the old women’s dorm. I know right where this is. Because I’ve been there, like, many times.

Hungate: Oh, the memorial?

Franklin: Yeah, the little--

Hungate: The veterans’ memorial ting?

Franklin: Yes, that’s where it is now. It didn’t always be that, but there it is on the campus. Smart-looking guy.

Stewart: Where did you live in Pullman?

Franklin: Oh, so I did my master’s in Pullman.

Stewart: Oh, you did?

Franklin: So I lived in Pullman, and then Tom lived in Pullman for quite a while.

Stewart: Okay.

Franklin: Yeah. And you said you went to school--

0:43:36 Stewart: I went to Pullman, yeah. The first year I went, it was--I graduated in ‘47, that fall, and they had just built these dorms for the women and then there was 400 girls, freshman girls and there was 1300 boys. That’s when everyone came home. It was Quonset huts or whatever it is they were.

Franklin: Yes.

Stewart: You remember that? Well, you probably don’t remember that.

Franklin: I did a lot of university history, and I remember the photos, because after the war, they struggled to find places to put all these new students that they had given the GI Bill.

Stewart: Well, then the next two years, I was up on the campus at Davis Hall. Up on the--

Hungate: Mm-hmm.

Franklin: Yup. Still there.

Hungate: Still there.

Franklin: Still there.

Stewart: I’m sure it is! [LAUGHTER] I didn’t graduate—I didn’t finish, but I got to go for two-and-a-half years.

Martinez: Shirley, Shirley, let me see your photos. I’ll find the picture.

Franklin: So, Shirley, I had a couple more questions.

Stewart: Here.

Martinez: Just a minute.

Franklin: Okay.

Stewart: I don’t know where I put it.

Franklin: Oh, I’m sure we have it. When you got the notice to move, I imagine that it must’ve been shocking.

Stewart: Terrible shock.

Franklin: But I also imagine people must’ve been speculating why. You know, why would they move all these--so do you remember anything about that time?

0:45:00 Stewart: Well, I remember, it was just such a shock, I remember that. And I can remember my mom said, Chester, what are we going to do? I can remember Mama saying that. That was the—what were we gonna do? But Dad never got--I said, and my brother mentions in his book that he was so—he felt that we needed to do something.

Franklin: Right, he was very patriotic.

Stewart: Very, very, very.

Franklin: Did people--did you have--

Stewart: Some of them weren’t.

Franklin: Did you ever wonder kind of what was going to happen to all this farmland?

Stewart: Oh, yeah!

Franklin: Why would the government take it?

Stewart: How can they take it with all that fruit hanging on the trees?

Franklin: Right.

0:45:45 Stewart: I don’t remember very much about Vernita, those people saying much. I don’t remember. And I don’t think Dad let us hear anybody’s really having a big fit over anything. We knew some of them did, though. I can remember a family or two.

Franklin: Do you remember when you found out what—why it was taken? Do you remember when you found out about the dropping of the bomb and that--

Stewart: Oh. We felt--

Franklin: --had happened now at Hanford.

Stewart: Then we felt like we had done the right thing. To be real honest with you. That’s the way Dad talked. And whatever he gave up, he felt that it saved all of us. That’s the way my family were.

Franklin: Sure. I imagine that must’ve been--

Stewart: And of course my brother was in the service, you know?

Franklin: Yeah, yeah. I imagine that must’ve been a big shock, too, right?

Stewart: Oh, it was!

Franklin: That that had happened in what had been your home.

0:46:41 Stewart: Yeah. And to think of leaving it. That was hard, yeah. But anyway, with Dad—and then after the war, of course, Dad didn’t—they didn’t need the guards anymore. So he decided—he knew he wanted to locate back in the Basin. But he didn’t want to start another farm, because that was--so he suited an old pickup and sold auto parts. There were jobbers in those days. So he got an idea of maybe he could find a place that he’d like to take over. And that’s what he did. He found a place in Stratford, and it was a little grocery store and service station. And he just loved that. He did. It was kind of a, everybody would come in and have coffee in the morning and that type of thing. They were putting in the Long Lake Dam and the canals just when Dad first bought that. So he had all these workers in there for a number of years, which worked really good—he did really well.

Franklin: Where was this again?

Stewart: Stratford. Out of Moses Lake, straight north from Moses Lake. There’s Stratford Road that goes just out of Soap Lake. You know where Soap Lake is?

Franklin: Kind of. I think you probably know that area a lot better, Tom.

Stewart: In Ephrata.

Hungate: Near Ephrata.

Stewart: Ephrata.

Franklin: Tom was based in Wenatchee for a long time.

Stewart: Yeah, so Ephrata, yeah.

Franklin: Okay, interesting. So is that where he and your mom settled, out there?

Stewart: Yeah. That’s where we settled, and they had it for about 20 years. My mother passed away--he was there about five or six years after Mom died. Anyway, yeah. And he really—and then later, there was a lot of hunting and fishing, so then he sold a lot of fishing and shells and stuff, you know, and lunch, mostly lunch-type things. So that worked really good for him, people hunting and they’d come in there.

Franklin: Yeah. And your brother was in the service in the war.

Stewart: Yes.

Franklin: When did leave for the war? And was he in the service when you were evicted?

Stewart: No.

Franklin: Okay.

0:49:00 Stewart: No. He was, I think--let’s see--graduated--’40. He graduated in 1940. He was in college.

Franklin: Oh, okay, so he was in Pullman.

Stewart: Let me see. He was at Pullman.

Franklin: How did he take the news--how did he--

Stewart: Well--

Franklin: When you got the notice, how did he--

Stewart: I just don’t remember. I don’t’ remember. But I do know that then he got in the B12 training his second year at WSU. And then that summer he was sent back east to finish getting his—in the Navy. And he was a lieutenant.

Franklin: And what did he do after the war? Now that he kind of couldn’t come back.

Stewart: Oh. He came back to Pullman and finished and got his degree in agronomy.

Franklin: Okay, that’s right, you mentioned that.

0:49:45 Stewart: And he worked about three or four years in Colfax. They lived in Colfax. And then he got a really good job out of Vancouver, and he was there for a number of years, eleven years I think. And then he was sent to Silverton, Oregon, and then finally ended up the head guy out of Salem, Oregon, the head guy, yeah. He did that all those years.

Franklin: And then you eventually came here to where we are. You said you’ve been here 66 years.

Stewart: Yeah, uh-huh. [LAUGHTER] Yeah! Yeah. My husband was a cowboy.

Franklin: Yeah?

Stewart: And my kids are cowboys. [LAUGHTER] I have one grandson that was in the national finals twice.

Franklin: Wow.


Stewart: Yeah, and he’s team roper. That was in ‘99. And then 2000--let’s see, ’98 and ‘99 and 2000 he went to the national finals in team roping. Well, then after that, he got hurt.




Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Shirley Stewart,” Hanford History Project, accessed June 24, 2024,