Interview with Catherine Finley

Dublin Core


Interview with Catherine Finley


Hanford (Wash.)
Hanford Site (Wash.)
Hanford (Wash.)--History--20th century.


An interview with Catherine Finley conducted as part of the Hanford Oral History Project. The Hanford Oral History Project was sponsored by the Mission Support Alliance and the United States Department of Energy.


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 at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.

Date Modified

2016-06-6: Metadata v1 created – [RG]

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Bauman


Finley, Catherine


Washington State University - Tri Cities


Northwest Public Television | Finley_Catherine

Robert Bauman: You ready? Ready to get started?

Catherine Finley: I guess.

Bauman: Okay. My name is Robert Bauman, and I'm conducting an oral history interview with Catherine Borden Finley. And today is July 9, 2013. And the interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. And I will be talking with Catherine Finley about her family's history and about her memories and experiences growing up in White Bluffs. And so maybe we should start. I'll ask you about your family, if you could tell me how and why or when your family came to the area, the White Bluffs area.

Finley: My father, Archie Borden, was born in White Bluffs. And his mother and his father, George Borden, come down from Priest Rapids some way. His father was a government surveyor. And he come down the river and settled in White Bluffs. And Grandma Pete came from Ellensburg. Her grandma [INAUDIBLE]. And they married, and they had the three sons. George Borden made a living by running horses between the river and Gable Mountain, and the army bought them. So let's see. And he drowned in the river when my dad was eight years old in 1906.

Bauman: And--

Finley: Pardon?

Bauman: He operated the ferry at White Bluffs?

Finley: Yes.

Bauman: In addition to running the horses.

Finley: George Borden also owned the ferry, and he had land. He was quite successful for that time. And my mother, she come from South Dakota. And I don't know why they made it up in White Bluffs. But they were married in 1927.

Bauman: And what was your mother's family's name?

Finley: Shanahan. And they had the seven children. And the oldest one just passed away last year. So there's still six of us left. And one of dad's brothers had three children. And we had lots of cousins and not too close together. It was quite sparsely settled, because of the orchards and pastures and things like that. We lived about two miles north of White Bluffs. And we just grew up. We had all sorts of things to do. We had all the animals for pets.

Bauman: What kind of animals did you have?

Finley: Oh, we had horses and cows and sheep and dogs and cats and lots of little banty chickens, which we packed every place. The sheep my dad kept on Locke’s Island and brought them over in the winter so they would lamb on the mainland. The cattle, the cows, stayed on the home place. We rode the cows. [LAUGHTER] I don't know if Dad ever knew that, but we did. [LAUGHTER] And now we also had horses that we rode. And that was not the main entertainment that we had or what kids do, but we spent many hours on the horses and playing with the other animals. And the neighbor kids migrated even though it was like a mile or more to the place, and we had the cousins to play with. And we played with the Indian children when they'd come in twice a year to fish, Johnny and his--I don't know how many. I think there was four or five men in the crew and their wives. And they were great playmates, those Indian boys were.

Bauman: What time of year would that have been?

Finley: They'd come in the spring for the spring salmon run. And they’d come back in the fall for the fall salmon run. And they dried their fish on long racks on the river, on the bar. And their horses were then turned loose on the bar with everybody else's. So we had a lot of fun with them. I think they're gone now.

Bauman: And about how long would they stay in the area during the spring?

Finley: They were there probably like a month, maybe a little longer, whenever the salmon run was that year. And they always had racks and racks of salmon. So it must have been very good fishing. And they fished at night. They had their canoes that they stored in dugout cellars and little wire pots. And they put hot coals in them or burned something, and anyway put them over the canoe, and the fish would come to the light. And they'd dip them. And then they'd bring them all in in the morning, and then the women proceeded to process them. [LAUGHTER] But it was interesting and a lot of fun. And we learned a lot from them. And Johnny was very, very interesting. He was the chief of the--they were Wanapum Indians. And then at the end of the season, then they would go either--sometimes they went on to the Yakima. Apparently they caught another type of fish there, down here at the Horn's Rapid Dam. Otherwise, they went back up to Priest Rapids and lived in their teepees until the dam was built. And they still lived in their teepees. They parked the car in the living room at the house that was built. And as I say, it was very interesting. And then when they closed it all, they went to the Yakima Reservation, or to Toppenish. But we played with--there was many different nationalities of children there, and we not only went to school with them, they were always welcome at home. And we were just as welcome in their home.

Bauman: Do you remember any of the neighbor families or children?

Finley: Oh, yeah, there was Johnson. They didn't have any children. They had a nice dairy. And Killians was a German family. Supplee was a German family. Walkers was a French family. I don't remember what the Goodners were. But they were all very successful in fruit. My dad didn't have any fruit, but he traded sheep for fruit, bartered. And we were very fortunate all during the Depression that that's what happened. So we were never hungry. We didn’t really know--I imagine the folks knew what the Depression was. Us kids didn't. We never had bought toys that I remember. My dad would carve things out of wood, out of mostly bark that come down the river, I don’t know, boats and mangers and whatever happened to be handy. But we could always go down on the bar with him--we never were allowed to go to the river by ourselves--and pick up odd driftwood. And we made animals out of them for some reason and rocks. Rocks made wonderful trucks and cars and just any old thing—corrals to keep all these stick animals in. And we went to school in a four-room schoolhouse. It was a large white building, divided in four rooms. And that was about a little over a mile from where we lived. So in the spring and in the fall when it was still warm, we walked to school. And Mr. Anderson, the school bus driver, would pick us up during the winter when it was cold. And he was a father of Harry Anderson that was quite active in the White Bluffs picnic when it was here.

Bauman: Do you remember any of your teachers from the school?

Finley: Yes, Mrs. Moody. Mrs. Moody, I remember her well. She taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, and sometimes fourth grade, depending on how many children were present. And then my second teacher I had there was a Ms. Smit. And she taught the fourth, depending on who had the most room in the classroom, and fifth and sixth. And the seventh and eighth graders got to go upstairs. They were special. They were really big folks. But then when the government come in, the last year they held school we went for six days a week so we could get the time in because the letters come in early spring, like in February, and not knowing when they would close or however they were going to work it, so we were out of school the first part of May.

Bauman: So you went an extra day to make up for the--

Finley: Yeah, to make up for the school days that we wouldn't be able to go to school.

Bauman: So how old were you at the time, then?

Finley: I was in the--hm, gotta think. Fifth grade when they closed the school. I was a year older because I liked one grade real well. And the sixth grade I spent in Hanford. And then the folks moved and we went to Benton City. But it was fun. It was interesting, like I said. Sometimes I kind of feel sorry for kids that have so much that they didn't have to work for. They weren’t, you know, not denied--but we didn't know we were being denied anything. We didn't know we were supposed to be poor. [LAUGHTER] Or that he didn't have a car. Dad had a car, but he never used it. He rode one of the horses into work. It was just easier, and he could sleep coming home because the horse would come home.

Bauman: Did you place have electricity at all?

Finley: Oh, yes, we had electricity. We had indoor plumbing, until the government moved in and they cut it all off. I mean the plumbing and the water, stopped all the wells and brought our water out to us in 250-gallon wooden barrels every day. In the summer they'd put ice in them so it would be cold. Winter, they'd chip the ice off. Oh, and put us up a nice, new toilet. We really thought that was--an outside toilet with a moon and a star. Now, why that impressed kids, I don't know. But it did.

Bauman: What about a telephone? Did you have a telephone?

Finley: Oh, yeah, we had phones. My grandfather, Grandpa Shanahan, Mama's father, worked for the telephone company, Wilkerson and Brown out of Kennewick, had the telephone company. And then of course, when the government come in, the government had it. My dad was a refrigeration engineer. He made ice for the railroad. And in the summer, they would bring their fruit cars down, and he would pack each end of the car with ice. And they put all their produce and food in the center. And as long as it was moving, there were fans moving in it, and it kept it cold. And that railroad went back to Othello, and the Milwaukee line picked them up.

Bauman: Okay.

Finley: But we got to go on the train. We got to ride in the caboose. If we wanted to go to Seattle, we rode in the caboose. And the brakie took care of us, no trouble at all. Mom would just put us on the train, and by that time, my grandparents had moved to Seattle. And he'd go down to King's Station and take us off, and then put us back on when our visit was over, and we'd come back.

Bauman: Did you get to do that very often?

Finley: We done it probably twice a year. Sometimes we stayed longer. Sometimes it was just a short time.

Bauman: Now, how big was your property?

Finley: I really don't know. We didn't have a large place. The most I think, other than orchard, I think most of the land was kind of leased, because the island, he owned. And the government bought that. But I don't know how much land they had on the mainland. It seemed like an awful lot once in a while.

Bauman: And so in addition to the house that was on your property, were there other buildings on the property as well?

Finley: On the last house we lived in, yes, there was a barn, and there was this two-story house. And there was a large barn and the chicken coop and whatever buildings that would be on a farm. On the other one, there was a barn and a chicken coop. And they called them soldier tracks at that time because they were built for the men coming back from World War I. And there was a house and a barn a chicken coop and a nice, new toilet. That always seemed to be very important. And, well, it wasn't occupied then. Some other person could lease it for the land. I don't know how many acres were in even those places. But in one of Dad's places, it was up, and then there was a flat, and then it dropped on down to the river, to the river bar. And there was a lot of land in that place, as I remember. It looked like a lot of land to a kid.

Bauman: Now again, how many siblings did you have, how many brothers and sisters?

Finley: Seven. I have one brother, and I had five sisters.

Bauman: And were you all born in White Bluffs?

Finley: Mm-hm. Teresa was the last one. She was born in '43, I think.

Bauman: Okay. So we talked about the school. I was wondering about other community events or celebrations.

Finley: Oh, they had the grange hall down in Old Town, which is where the ferry landed. That was where any big gathering was held. It was a bigger building. And we had a theater that run movies. Mr. Anderson, the school bus driver, he also run the theater. And I think he brought a show in probably like once a month for kids and adults. And there was a lot of little school plays. And the high school, there was always the high school. And there was always the ball games. So there was there was a lot to do, as I remember.

Bauman: You mentioned that your father wouldn't let you go down to the river without him there, is that--?

Finley: An adult had to be with us.

Bauman: Did you ever go swimming in the river?

Finley: Oh, yeah. We swam in the river. And he went back and forth across river all the time. He had a boat, and the river was part of living. But Mom always made sure that we didn't go down by ourselves.

In the summertime when the water come up, it come up clear up almost over the whole bar. And it was very swift, because it went through, cut off like an island. There Barrett's Island. And the water flowed through that in the main island, and it was swift. And the river was quite narrow then, because there was no dams on it. And I think Dad always said it went at 12 miles an hour. And there were whirlpools that his dad drowned in, was a whirlpool. And so we were well watched. [LAUGHTER]

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Sure.

Finley: And we played with the cows. Like I said, we had the cows we rode.

Bauman: You mentioned taking the train to Seattle.

Finley: Mm-hm.

Bauman: Did you go to any of the other communities, Pasco or to [INAUDIBLE]?

Finley: They would go to Yakima. And that's where I was born, and then they took me to White Bluffs. And I don't know why they went to Yakima, because that was about 60. And Pasco must have had the hospital by then. But they didn't have a bridge across it. So they had to ferry there. And I don't know why they didn't. Probably because Benton County wasn't a county at that time. There was a Yakima County, but no Benton County. And that's where they went, and Pasco. And we went to Walla Walla and Prosser, of course. Then by the time I was born, that was a county, so then all the business had to be tended there.

Bauman: We talked a little bit about when the government came in 1943 and the impact it had on the school and the school days, an extra day. I was wondering what memories you have of that. What response did your parents have to being told that they had to leave?

Finley: It was very hard for my dad. Because he had lived there his life. And I think one thing that was bad, they just come in and took the property and said, the next letter, you have 10 days to leave. And nobody knew when that 10 days was there. Some of them got their letters very early. My mom and dad didn't get theirs until they closed the plant. Nobody could go into it. But the fruit farmers had to leave their crops on their trees. And that was very hard on them, and no future, no money, cash in hand, like that they could go out and buy another place. And most of them had just been farmers, so they were spread all over. I mean, they moved wherever they could get a place to live. And it was hard on them. My dad sold sheep and sold most of the cattle, kept a couple of the horses. And he moved to Benton City in '44, I think, we moved there finally. But he worked there. He kept his job there as making ice.

Bauman: Okay.

Finley:  Though the train didn't use it for that purpose or transporting food. DuPont used it for the summer months. They had huge, large holes in the ground. They just dug down in rock and covered it with sawdust, put sawdust in it. And you covered it with plastic and put ice in it, and then covered it again. And then in the summer when the plant couldn't produce enough ice for their needs, they dug that up or uncovered it and took it out, it was just like when they put it in there. We watched him do that, going back and forth to Hanford on the bus. Because the bus ran parallel of where they were building this vast hole in the ground. And that was very interesting. Because no kid could understand what they were doing. And at the same part, they were building F area. So we watched that, what you could see of it. You never knew if you were going to get home at night on the school bus for fear they’d dug a trench across the road.

Bauman: You actually stayed there. You were there for several months after they started constructing--

Finley: Yes, oh, yeah, we were there probably a year and a half after--no, we were there longer than that after we got the letter. Like I said, we were the very last ones out there. We left and the gate was--the civilians couldn't go back in then, just the workmen. They had taken out all of Camp Hanford. And all of the construction work was done, or finishing work on the plants that they had started to build. After we left, they built some more. They put H in right down where we lived, tore down everything. They tore down—they put bulldozers through most of the buildings out there, probably to prevent coyotes and rats and whatever else from occupying them.

Bauman: Do you remember what you were told about what was being done out there?

Finley: As I remember the letter, it just said that on such-and-such a day, your land was taken by the government. And no, nobody knew what was going on. And that caused a lot of hard feelings, because they had their share of boys that went to the service. And they weren't allowed back in to see their parents who were working there. Like the Gilhulys, they had the garage. They run the garage. And all of the town people that had businesses, if they had a boy, the boy couldn't come back, which made a lot of hard feelings. And there again, as I said, they took everything, or changed all the housing. They put many families in--they would put two families to a home if there was enough room for two bedrooms, because there was no housing for all of these thousands of people coming in. And we didn't have to share our house, but any house that had been vacated, that's how they utilized them and took down the outbuildings of any barns or sheds or things like that. They were very nice people, the ones that come in. We got to know a lot of them, being kids. It was DuPont that come and took our house. We weren't happy about that.

Bauman: The families that you got to know who came, were they from all over the place?

Finley: Oh, yeah, one family was from Alabama. One was from Louisiana. One was from Boston. And I can remember us kids talking and laughing. We'd laugh at them, because they talked different from us. And we talked different from them to them, too. [LAUGHTER] But they were all nice people.

Bauman: And you mentioned that your father owned the island?

Finley: Yes, mm-hm.

Bauman: And he sold that?

Finley: The government bought that.

Bauman: The government bought it from him. Do you know how much money he received for that?

Finley: No, it wasn’t--I don't know how much they got. First they leased it, and when they knew that it was going to be--I guess; I don't have any other reason--a longer span of time, they bought the island and turned it over to, I think, Fish and Wildlife habitat. It's still there. He was very proud of that island because there was a large Indian cemetery on it. And he guarded that with his life to keep it from being dug. And several times during the night, he'd go. If he saw a bonfire over there, he'd go down to the river and row across it and get them off the island. And also, so they wouldn't set it afire. But he guarded that cemetery with his eye teeth.

Bauman: I just want to go back to the community itself a little bit again. You talked a little bit about the grange, was it?

Finley: The grange, mm-hm.

Bauman: And school. Were there churches that were nearby?

Finley: Oh, yes. There was a Methodist church and a Presbyterian church, a Catholic church. But there was many different religions. There was Seventh Day Adventists. In 1937 I believe it was--I'm not sure about the dates, they brought--and I don't even know how many. I think there was something like 13 families of Mormons in, which was kind of sad. Because they brought them in in August, and they had no time to put wood in or gather wood or canned--only what they could bring. And it was a very long, cold winter. And they did suffer. I mean, us kids thought, oh, they must have been poor. [LAUGHTER] Because they didn't have wood. I can remember my dad going and getting a couple of the men, and we had a flume in the river, which in high water caught all the logs and everything coming down the river. And he took them down there and told him to get what wood they needed to keep from freezing. And that winter, as I said, was very, very cold. And it was a very long winter. It was just kind of unfortunate.

Bauman: Were those families able to stay on?

Finley: Oh, yeah. They, come the next spring, they planted their gardens like everybody else did and went to work for one of the fruit farmers. And most of them didn't leave until the government come in. They were very nice people.

Bauman: The town itself, I was going to ask you, are there any--you mentioned there was a theater. Were there any businesses that you remember at the time?

Finley: Oh, yeah, on one side of the street there was a barber shop and drugstore and a grocery store. And the hotel burned down. I don't know when, but in the '30s, it burned. And then there was a bank and a tavern and a little park where they had the bands and things and a post office and a tavern. They had all the good things in life. A couple of gas stations, the train depot and a creamery, or where everybody took their cream in for the Twin City Creamery to come out and get. They picked it up. And I'm trying to think what else they had--and the coal storage. The coal storage I think was the largest building there. Well, the concrete part’s still standing. They didn't take down, but all around this--or on two sides if it, because one side was next to the railroad, there was packing sheds for fruit. And Dad just filled up huge canyons with ice to ship the fruit. There was a lumber yard there. Really, it was quite complete. And Hanford was also quite complete. They each had a ferry to get back and forth across the ferry. And then there was another ferry up the river, the Wahluke Ferry, which- I'm trying to think of where their end was. I think the Wahluke ended at Burke's Corners, up above the road. And it went to Ephrata. The White Bluffs Ferry went to Othello, the road. And the Hanford Ferry went out what is now the blocks. You could get to Ringgold and all in that area. And there was a road up down the other side of the river. It went from Uncle Matt's place, you could go up to Ringgold.

Bauman: I think you mentioned earlier something about a baseball team, sports, I’m wondering about, for the schools.

Finley: We had baseball teams. They had I think mainly basketball. I don't remember football. But there again, I wouldn't have been interested in that. But they always had music. They had bands. All three of the towns had bands. And yeah, because somebody told me they went to White Bluffs to play baseball one time. So they must have had a team. [LAUGHTER]

Bauman: When you mentioned that when your family did leave, you moved to Benton City?

Finley: Yes.

Bauman: And did your father have sheep and cattle there again?

Finley: No, we had a milk cow for a long time, and then we finally give that up. But we kept the horses. We always had horses. All us kids rode. He did, too. He was a really good horseman. But these weren't-- mostly just us kids' horses. And he just rented pasture for those. We didn't have any land for a long time. We had a building in town and a house, but we didn't have any land. Eventually, he did buy land. And part of the kids still live there. Three of my sisters still live there.

Bauman: So you all grew up, spent the rest of your years [INAUDIBLE].

Finley: Yes, we all stayed together. I'm trying think. I think Veronica is the furthest one away, and she is in Goldendale, so she didn't get too far. One lives in Pendleton. My brother went to--was it Korea or Vietnam? Must have been Korea. That was in the '50s, yeah. And when he come back, he spent his time on different islands. Thank God he didn't--he joined the Navy, and he became a mechanic, an air mechanic. And they put him on the islands. He come back, went to school, went to college, got his degree in education and went back to the South Seas and taught there until he retired. And he's just younger than I am. He bought land and built himself a house up at Chesaw when he come back, which is up by Oroville, I think, and happy as a lark.

Bauman: I was wondering what you think would be important for people to know about what it was like growing up in White Bluffs? What sort of a place it was.

Finley: It was warm. It was a very warm community. The people were your friends. And they helped each other. If somebody needed something, somebody would either share or give or provide for them. And they didn't do it for--just because family needed it at that time. Or if one was sick, somebody was always available to take them to the hospital, which was either Pasco or Yakima. And I think it was just-- and to be happy. The people were happy. There weren't--not too many grouchy ones that I can remember. And to do with what you have. Don't want something more if you can't afford it, I guess, in this day and age. Just be happy with what you have, and work for something better.

Bauman: There's one question I meant to ask you earlier that I'll ask you now, and that is the weather in the area. I know we get high winds and dust storms.

Finley: Yes, there was high—

Bauman: What about growing up? Did that impact your community at all?

Finley: No. The ground wasn't tore up like it is now. So we didn't have the massive--I don't remember the dust storms, let me put it that way. We did have wind. And it was very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. I mean, it was 120 and nobody thought anything about it. Very few shade trees. So it was hot, but you could always got get a pan of water. Mom used to--the wash tubs that they had then, she'd fill one every day and put it outside and us kids played in it. And I guess we were just used to it, because it didn't seem to bother us. And cold, as I said, the school bus took us to school in the winter because it was cold, and it was a mile or a little more to school. And there was no shelter, no nothing. You just were walking on sand. That's mostly what's out there.

Bauman: Yeah. Do you remember the river ever freezing over at all?

Finley: I don't. I don't remember it freezing. My dad would tell about the river freezing, and that's how they brought their sheep down. They kept them on--I don't know why they took them to the mountains, either, but they took them to pasture in the summer and then wait for the water to freeze to bring them over. And they lambed and sheared before the thaw so they could get them back across the river. Otherwise they had to ferry them or drag them clear down and put them across the bridge that they had then built between Pasco and Kennewick. And that was quite dangerous, he said, because they could only run so many sheep at a time. And it took a long time to put a band of sheep across. I can remember being--we had a cow that got down the outside one time, and she froze, instead of getting in the barn where she belonged. She was a young heifer, and she just didn't know, I guess. But people prepared for it. They knew it was going to be cold. It got cold early in the year. And it stayed that way until March or April. Now, the river didn't stay froze that long. It was just cold. But it wasn't cold enough to keep that river frozen. But they took the horse and everything else across it. I mean, he remembers it. But I remember the freezing out quite far from the bank, but not freezing across where they could put animals on it.

Bauman: Right. Is there anything I haven't asked you about or any family stories or special memories that stand out that--

Finley: [LAUGHTER] What kids do for entertainment?

Bauman: Sure. [LAUGHTER]

Finley: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] We had this real nice family down the road a ways, and they had a mule. That was one of those poor Mormons that didn't know what they were getting into. And they had two boys. And Delores and I decided one day that we would put the mule harness on a horse. We did not know that there was the difference in them. There is. So we took Dolly, the horse, and took her up on the little knoll and hooked her to this wagon. I don't know where us kids got the wagon. Somebody gave it to us. And hooked the horse. We didn't know you were supposed to have shafts or something on this to stop this wagon. Well, she went to barn with this wagon bumping her all the time in the back end. And Dad came out and was quite upset because we had knocked the door off the barn. So we went in. We took Dolly, took her back out to the pasture. And we thought, well, now we've done that, and that was because it was too steep. That hill was too steep. So Mom and Dad had to go to Yakima. And us kids stayed at home, because there was nothing, nobody there to harm us. You know? [LAUGHTER] And we left Randall, my brother. We took this cow, Dolly, and put this mule harness on her. I don't know how. [LAUGHTER] And took her up about a quarter of a mile from the place through an old cut down apple orchard. And when we waved our hands and dropped them down, Randall was supposed to sic the dog on the calf in the barn. Well, Delores didn't make it to the wagon. She put me in first, and that cow went home. When we got home, the wagon did not survive it. And Dad couldn't figure out what was wrong with old Dolly that night. She was so touchy when he went to milk her. [LAUGHTER] We didn't try that again. But there was always two of us, so if one got in trouble, we could share it. One time we took the sheep who were over still on the mainland. And he had a nasty, nasty buck, but he produced good lambs. And there again, we were warned, you don't get in that corral with that buck. Because he actually could have killed a kid, I imagine, if he’d, you know. And Delores and I figured and figured if we got two ropes on him, we could tie him to two different posts in the corral. And then we could ride him. This is a big sucker, nice long wool and everything he had. And we did. Well, finally we wore—anyway, we rode that poor, old buck ‘til he just laid down. And Dad couldn't figure out what was--his name was George-- couldn't figure out what was wrong with George that night, because he just didn't want to eat anything. We never told him until we were grown--and I guess we were both married by that time—what happened to George.

Bauman: Figured it was safe to tell him then.

Finley: He just looked at us and he said, well, that's probably only one of the things you done that I didn't know about, sweetheart. [LAUGHTER] But we created our own fun. And to us, it was not mean or cruel or mischievous, because we knew the cow wouldn't die. She was too ornery. And we finally broke Dolly to ride with a saddle, so that was a little safer, too. We just had fun and grew up. And I don't know what else we done. Spent 13, 14 years there. I must have done something more. We worked hard in the summer. I remember that. Because Mom had to can. She canned the fruit. If somebody butchered--it always surprised me that if somebody in the community butchered, and they had too much meat, then it was spread out. Because there was no way of keeping it. And neighbors got along well that way.

Bauman: So what sorts of work or chores did you do as a young child growing up? What sorts of things did you help out with?

Finley: Oh heck, I could cook a meal by the time I was in the third grade. I learned to make bread, canned. We all canned. That was a whole family project. It wasn't just one person there, because it all had to be done on a cook stove. And somebody had to bring in wood and peel fruit. It had to be continuous. And what else? I remember Mama canning meat one time--twice. And that had to be cooked for six hours. Because it was just a water bath. They didn't have pressure. Later on, I guess, there was pressure cookers. But that's how they cooked it, put it in a wash boiler. And I think it held 12 quarts, the wash boiler did. And they cooked it all day, all day long. And that stove had to be kept burning. So on that day also, if you were canning, you also made bread. Because the oven was hot. And it was busy. It was a busy time. And then in spring, they had to take care of the stock. And the fruit was a little bit earlier than what it is here. It was just like a week earlier. Of course, it ended a week earlier, too. But there was always tomatoes and Mom put up an awful lot of tomatoes and peaches. I can remember that.

Bauman: So you grew a lot of your own--

Finley: Grandma Pete, my dad's mother, was a peach farmer. So they always had peaches. And she also grew a very large garden. Or they would go down to Ringgold and there was the Japanese family there that had a truck farm. You could always get your tomatoes there in quantity.

Bauman: Do you remember what their name was?

Finley: The name of the--

Bauman: Japanese family?

Finley: No, I have no idea. We just went down there and they were wonderful gardeners. They had everything up off the ground. They planted the plants and then they put chicken wire mesh panels over it so that the tomato plant grew up through the mesh and all the tomatoes then were on the wire. They were never on the ground. I always thought that was amazing. And they had corn. They had all vegetables. I just remember the folks buying the cantaloupe and the tomatoes. But they had-- I imagine it was a good sized truck farm. It was to me then. But I don't actually how big it was. And there was always apples. And apricot trees grow wild almost, so there was always plenty of apricots and apples. There was somebody had apple trees that they couldn't use them up. And they just simply shared. They had too much, they shared. It really kind of spoiled people for today. There's a lot I can't understand about today, why people don't get along better. [LAUGHTER] But I'm trying to think what else us kids would do. We played on a pile of gravel. That was our mountain. White Bluffs was very flat. Because the bluffs surrounded the whole river. The river is on our side, but you know. And unless you went to Yakima, there's a very small opening between Rattlesnake and the Bluffs in reality, just enough for the river to flow through. It was quite flat and hot. So you could do most anything. You could swim in the irrigation ditch.

Bauman: Where was the pile of gravel that you--

Finley: What?

Bauman: Where was the pile of gravel that you played on?

Finley: Oh, the pile of gravel? Well, I guess they were going to gravel the road. They never got it done because they just piled this big pile of gravel there across the road from us. Well, for a long time, there was a sign on it. I don't know what the sign said. But there was one on it. [LAUGHTER] But it was sloped on one side, and then you could jump off the steep side, see. Boy, oh boy, we'd run up and jump off and run up and jump off. Daddy come out and says, now you know, Joe's going to get after you for that. Well, Joe didn't see us, so I guess we thought we were safe. It's still out there today, but it isn't near as large as I thought it was. I've been out a couple of times while I worked there in the '50s. I worked out there and drove that same circuit.

Bauman: What part of the site did you work at, what did you--?

Finley: I worked out of 300. I delivered instruments to the areas. So I had to go to each area every day. And I've been there since then also, and the roads are still there if you know where you're going. You can get around pretty good. Now, they're not in top--some of them are still paved.

Bauman: So how long did you work there, then?

Finley: I worked out there two years. And then we had a family, and I didn't go back to work.

Bauman: When is the last time you were out there?

Finley: Oh, let's see. The White Bluffs picnic--I don't quite remember when it stopped. But every year, you could go out there if you went to the picnic. You could drive out there on one afternoon. I think it was Saturday afternoon. And you could go through town. You went through town, and down to the old ferry landing, down to Old Town. And then in later years, if you could, you could go to where your home was. If the roads were there. And I drove out a couple of times to where we lived, because we lived on the river. And the last time I went out, there was this fence and big concrete building there. I knew that's probably the last time I'd see the homestead. They had to build H. But that's all right. It was a good place to live, good place to grow up in. And you learned a lot of things that you didn't know you learned.

Bauman: Well, I want to thank you very much for being willing to come here and share your stories and your memories.

Finley: They've really been terrific. I will try and get some pictures. Can I just call the number on the letter and just bring them in?

Bauman: Absolutely, yeah, sure.

Finley: Because we have them. I just don't know where in the world I've put them. We even have one of Johnny and Daddy, Johnny Buck, the Indian, the chief. He was quite old then. But he would take his kids and tell us in Indian--my dad could speak Indian, or that dialect of Indian. And he'd talk to us in Indian. We never bothered to learn. Isn't that sad?

Bauman: Did your dad know that dialect from having spent a lot of time with them?

Finley: Yes, he grew up there. Johnny, as a young man, worked for his father, George, and the horses. And I don't know, but then after George died, he still come and fished, his tribe. And Dad just grew up with him. They were always part of the neighborhood. You knew they were coming when the fish started to run. And then you watched for them. They had beautiful horses, or I thought, Delores and I thought. The other thing, he had a friend. He was in Yakima. He lived in Yakima. And he would come down. And him and Daddy would visit. And us kids would listen to the stories. And one day, he turned his hands over, and they were white. And I never realized that the man was black. We had no--there was no difference in people. This man was the tallest, blackest Negro. I've seen some from Africa lately that are more recent, but he was a delightful--he was an apple grower, had a large apple orchard in Yakima. And had he not turned those hands over, I, to this day, would have swore he was just like us. And I think that is one that is very important for kids, that there is no difference in people. They're all--the Indians looked the same to me. I don't remember what this man's name was, because he did. Or my mother's parents that were strict Irish. They looked the same. There was no--we even had a Filipino family in there. He was good. He raised raspberries. [LAUGHTER]

Bauman: In White Bluffs?

Finley: Yeah, in White Bluffs, yeah. He raised berries.

Bauman: Do you happen to remember his name at all?

Finley: His name was George--I can't remember his last name. He moved to Benton City. And they still bought berries from him.

Bauman: He moved to Benton City after 1943, after the government--

Finley: Yeah, mm-hm. I remember a lot of people. I mean, Mrs. Barrett, her husband was one of the first railroad men out. He worked for the Union Pacific. And they lived at Wahluke at the time of the Walla Walla massacre. And she'd tell a story. I had a lot of opportunity to learn. And she was a sweet lady. She raised three boys and a daughter. I never remember her husband, but I remember her very, very well. And Russos was another--I don't know what nationality they were, but they all seemed to have something to do with fruit. And there was just a great, big mixture of all types of people and all getting along very, very well.

Bauman: Well, thank you again. I really appreciate you coming in today to share your stories and memories. Thanks very much.

Finley: Well, I thank you. And I hope it turns out halfway decent.



Bit Rate/Frequency

250 kbps

Hanford Sites

300 Area
F Area
H Area

Years on Hanford Site


Names Mentioned

Bordern, Archie
Borden, George
Anderson, Harry
Buck, Johnny




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