Interview with Bob Bush
An interview 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.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Northwest Public Television | Bush_Bob
Robert Bauman: I’m going to have you start just by saying your name, first.
Robert Bush: Okay, my name is Bob Bush.
Bauman: My name is Robert Bauman, and we're conducting this interview with Robert, or Bob, Bush on July 17 of 2013. And we're having this interview on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. And we'll be talking with Bob about his experiences working at the Hanford site. And so I'd like to start just by having you talk about how and when you arrived at Hanford. What brought you here?
Bush: Okay. During World War II, I was overseas. My parents were in the area, both of them working. My brother was also here in Pasco High School. When I came home from the service to Southern Idaho, Korean War broke out. Wages were frozen, and so I was looking to better myself. And I applied by mail. I was interviewed by telephone. And I came up here in 1951 to the accounting department, General Electric Company. They were the sole contractor. And for 15 years, in construction and engineering accounting, which was separate from plant operations at that time. And from there, my accounting career followed its path through several successive contractors. From GE to ITT, Atlantic Richfield, to Rockwell, and finally with Westinghouse. When I retired, I was with Westinghouse for one month.
Bauman: You said your parents were here during the war. When did they come out?
Bush: It was '43. 1943 and '44, my mother worked for the original postmaster of Richland, Ed Peddicord. And my dad was a carpenter. Built some of the first government houses called the Letter Homes. They were here about two years, I think. And then they went back to Idaho, I believe.
Bauman: Okay. And what part of Idaho?
Bush: Twin Falls, Idaho. Where I graduated from high school.
Bauman: Okay. What were your first impressions upon arriving in the Tri-Cities?
Bush: That's kind of interesting, Bob. Because I came up ahead of my wife and two--year-and-a-half old, and three-and-a-half-year-old sons. About two weeks ahead of them. And so I found a Liberty trailers to rent—the housing was nonexistent. And I found a Liberty trailer, which means it had no running water, no bathroom. It was like a camping trailer, basically. I sent for them. A brother-in-law who had graduated from high school went directly into the Korean War. He drove them up as far as Huntington. I went on a bus to Huntington and met them, came back. And as we came onto the Umatilla side, and I said, that's Washington. Well, there was no green and everybody was disappointed. But that's the first impression. I mean, there wasn't a bridge over the river in Umatilla. It was a ferry. So you drove around the horn at Wallula. Things were just really different.
Bauman: So you said you had a trailer. Where was--
Bush: In Pasco on a front yard of an old pioneer home, where Lewis Street crosses 10th. That was the end on Lewis Street at 10th. And from there west was called Indiana. And there was about three homes on there. And it just quit. And roughly across from the present day Pasco School Administration Building, which was a Sears building. Across the street there was where this home was. I mean, things have just—in the whole area—have changed so much.
Bauman: And how long did you live there then?
Bush: Until I was called for housing in Richland, which was six months. That was in June, no air conditioning. And finally got into an apartment building, a one-bedroom before with two little boys that slept in the same crib. It was still, basically, wartime conditions. Weren't any appliances for sale and you had to stand in line to get a refrigerator. It was a different world. But we were young, so we could take it.
Bauman: [LAUGHTER] And was this in Richland then, the apartment?
Bush: No, that was in Pasco. After that trailer, that was only about two weeks. And then we want into this apartment, the one-bedroom. Then we moved next door to a two-bedroom in a five-plex. And then in December, six months later, I got the first--I got a housing call from the housing office in Richland, which sat where the present day police station sits. And the lady offered me—she said, you could have it Saturday. It was a prefab. It had already been worn and pulled out. And I kind of hesitated. I said, I've already got something in Pasco. Well, she said, I could let you have a brand new apartment. That apartment was brand new. It was so clean. My wife, who was very fastidious, she didn't even have to clean cupboards. And the apartments have now been torn down by Kadlec for that newest building. And in fact, this morning I just went by and took a picture of Goethals Street, which is vacated. And it was quite a pleasant move to come out of a trailer into—a non-air-conditioned cinder block building apartment into a nice, brand new apartment with air conditioning, full basement, and close to work. And at that time, my office was downtown in the so-called 700 Area, which is basically where the Federal Building is--where the Bank of America is was the police station. And that's Knight Street, I believe. From there north to Swift, and from Jadwin west to Stevens where the Tastee Freeze was, that was the 700 Area confines. Probably about 22 buildings in there. The original thing prior to computers, everything was manual bookkeeping or accounting with ledgers. And they came out with a McBee Keysort cards, and it was called electronic data processing. It was spaghetti wire with holes in the boards, that type of thing. That building had to be a special airlock building. And that's the Spencer Kenney Building beside the Gesa Building. That building is built especially to house equipment. And they just went from there. And I moved around my office. And after 15 years, I went into what they call operations. I was onsite services, which—did that for 17 years. And that was probably the better part of--second better job that I had, I guess. The transportation and everything, onsite support services. The whole point there. That job took me all over the plant. I established inventories. I took some of the first inventories of construction workers' supplies and tools and shop equipment, rolling stock. My name was Mud. They thought so much of me they gave me a desk in the corner of a big lunchroom. [LAUGHTER]
Bauman: So you did work at various places then?
Bush: Yes. Well, yes. My very first location was in North Richland, then called North Richland Camp, where the bus lot was--the maintenance shops. I'm trying to establish a point up there—what's over there today? There's a big sand dune on your left going by the automotive shops, past the bus lot, where the bus lot was. Opposite that sand dune on the other side of Stevens was a bunch of one-story temporary buildings. That was North Richland Camp. And that's where my first accounting job was there for two or three years. I had been there—I came there in June. And in January of '52, had 22 people along in my department that I worked in. I was a junior clerk at that time. Took me four years to get onto the management roles, but I did. But anyhow, in that room they came in there six months later. After I'd only been here six months, AEC, predecessor to the OA. The AEC has taken over more management, more responsibility. So we're going to be laying off a lot of people. I had only been here six months. And so others grabbed straws and went different places. I always said either I was too ignorant or lucky, I don't know what. But I just sat still and it panned out for the better. I didn't get laid off. I moved from there. But I went downtown to the 703 Building, which stood where the Federal Building is now. There's a building to the rear that the city owns called 703. That was the fourth wing. 703 was the frame construction, the three floors. And the later years, they added a fourth wing out of block building. Made it more permanent. That's why it's still standing today. Now, that was my second location. And then I got on the management role in '55, which meant I went exempt and no more pay for overtime. And went out to White Bluffs site—town site, and that's where the minor construction was located. Minor construction, it's the construction people that are specially trained in SWP, radiological construction work, as opposed to run-of-the-mill construction. And they're the ones that had never had any accounting at all for any equipment, supplies, materials or otherwise. And that's where I had the lunchroom office experience. It so happened that they established--I brought an inventory procedure and established that first inventory during a strike. We had to cut government-owned tool boxes. But still, the workers thought they were private. And we had to cut locks in order to take inventory. And then we feared for our lives when they came back. Pretty rough day sometimes.
Bauman: What timeframe would that have been you were out?
Bush: That was 1955 to '56. A couple of years there, and then another person took over from there and I went into budgeting at that point, from accounting to budgeting. And I did that for--until 1963. And then I moved out to the so-called bus lot, which it was. 105 buses and all that. And I was out there for 17 pleasant years, budgeting, billing rate—Because we were the supplier of all plant services. So we had billing rates to the reactors, and the separations, and the fuel prep, and--whoever. The AEC, everything. We billed them, just as if we were like plumbing jobs. And that I enjoyed. That was probably my most productive period. And from similar work to that, I moved over—Let’s see, I was around when the Federal Building was built, but I didn't get into it. That was built in '69. I didn't get down there until 1980. Went down there a couple of years. And then they moved us out to Hanford Square where Battelle Boulevard intersection is. And I was there--I retired from that location in 1977. My wife and I retired the same week. I've been retired 26 years now at the end of this month.
Bauman: Was your wife working at the Hanford Site as well?
Bush: She worked after the kids were grown, like most stay-at-home moms do. She stayed until the daughter was of age, and then she went to work for a credit union, which was the government credit union, which was merged later on with Gesa. But that was an interesting job. They worked two hours a day, three days a week. Because it was all hand done, no mechanization. And then she got a job offer from the department in the central stores and purchasing department. She worked there eight years. In 1986, the income tax law changed a lot of things for all of us, effective in 1987. It meant that partial vesting was--IRS has to rule on all things like that. And that meant that if you had 10 years to vest pensions, once you pass the 50% point, whatever the vesting period is, then you were partially vested. And so she had 8 years out of 10. So she got 80%. But she had only worked eight years, so it wasn't a very large accumulation. Because I got my full. Of course, I'd been here 37 years I think it was, however that works out. 36.
Bauman: I want to go back and ask you—when you were talking earlier about that period in '55, '56 when you were working out at White Bluffs town site. You mentioned radiological construction?
Bush: Oh, that—those construction workers worked under what they called SWP, Special Work Permit, which meant radiological. They had to wear--the clothing was called SWP clothing then. Today, they call it something else. But they worked under those conditions, so therefore they were subject to different rules. Whereas, construction workers on brand new construction weren’t then—they didn't have any of that to contend with. But once a plant went operational, it became radiologically SWP. This is not an anti-union thing. It's just a demonstration of how things were in those days. They had some old buses that--the original buses in town were called Green Hornets. And they were small. They had chrome bars that went right across the middle of your back. And for 35 miles, that was not very comfortable. When they got the newer buses that you see today, like Greyhound has for instance, they relegated those to the construction workers at White Bluffs. Well, since GE guys worked up at White Bluffs, we had to ride those, too. So all the office workers in the warehouse--GE employees rode one bus. The electricians rode another bus. Pipe fitters rode another bus, even though there were only two or three of them. It was really a segmented-type thing. As close to anything radiological that I came to when I conducting one of those physical inventories—we would be out--all of the construction materials were stored outdoors on the ground. I mean, like stainless steel. 308 stainless steel was pretty high-priced stuff. But the sheets were stored outside on pallets. Well, one sheet is worth thousands and thousands of dollars. So we had to lay down on the ground and count the sheets to do the inventory. This one day—the only time I came close to any contamination, we went back and boarded the buses that evening from White Bluffs. And we saw the guys on the dock there chipping with a chisel and hammer. That meant they were chipping out flakes of contamination. So we asked what was going on. They said, well, we're next door to F and H Areas. And F Area had coughed out something they said. And so I said, well, my crew was outside today on the ground. And if they coughed out because all the--some construction workers could drive their cars. That's the only people. Plant operations people all had to ride buses. No parking lots. So anyhow, those cars were all impounded. Had tape around them. They couldn't go home. And some of the guys, they had to take off their shoes, leave them, and be issued safety shoes in lieu of it. And I said, well, we were on the ground, too. So they proceeded to take us all off the bus and surveyed us with a wand. And they only found a few flakes on our back. And so we were allowed to go home. But that's as close as I ever came to getting contaminated. It's still scary.
Bauman: Yeah. Obviously, Hanford, a site where security was prominent--
Bush: Very tight security, yeah. I was telling the young lady here that across the roadway on Stevens, as you near the 300 Area, there was a real wide barricade, probably eight lanes that you had to go through. And everybody had to stop, including buses. And the guard would get on the bus, walk down the aisle, and check every badge. And at that time, AEC had their own security airplanes. That was the purpose of the Richland Airport was for AEC security in the beginning. They had a couple Piper Cub-type airplanes. And one day we're on a bus going out to work in the morning. And all of a sudden, a plane just zoomed on by. Somebody had run the barricade. The plane goes out, lands in front of them, stops them, and that's how they got apprehended. Another incident of security, yeah, that's the subject? Many years later now, after 1963, and I'm in the transportation assignment. Airspace was off limits to all airplanes over Hanford because they had army artillery guarding it in the Cold War and all that. And a private plane had violated the space. And the AEC planes had forced it down. And once they're down, they can't ever take off. So after a week or so, they sent a lowboy trailer out there, loaded the small airplane on it, proceeded to come down what's the highway and now Stevens. And down where Stevens today, 240 and all that intersection is, there was only two lanes on the road then, not six. But at that juncture there, there was a blinking light. And they had to turn right to go to the Richland Airport. And this guy, the truck driver pulling this low-boy, he had never pulled an airplane before. And he didn't allow for that pull. Well, that blinking light clipped off a wing. And then he got time off. It was not really his fault, that pilot in the beginning. But there's a lot of—I guess full of interesting stories like that on security.
Bauman: Great. Did you have special security clearance to work at Hanford at the time?
Bauman: Any special security clearance?
Bush: Oh, yeah. I had Q clearance, which there's one higher than that, that's top secret. But Q clearance meant you could go into any and all areas. And because the nature of my job, I had that my whole time I was out there. Once you have it, they would tend not to take it away from you because it's quite expensive investigation to get it in the first place. I might mention something interesting in that regard. When I first came to work in 1951, why, the PSQ is Personnel Security Questionnaire. And it's about 25 pages long. And you had to memorize it, because every five years, you had to update it. Well anyhow, I filled that out, and you give references. And I have, in the Twin Falls area, a farmer that had been a neighbor farmer in Nebraska, where I was born, to my parents. I gave him as a reference because he had known me all my life. And that would be higher points. About a year or two later--I guess probably a year later I had gone back down to Twin Falls to visit the in-laws and I went and saw this farmer, family friend. The first thing he said to me, Bobby, what in the world did you do? [LAUGHTER] The FBI had come out to his farm and piled on the questions. And I hadn't told him ahead of time I'd given a reference. So they really did very, very tight security. It's probably tighter than it was when I was in the Air Corps.
Bauman: You mentioned riding a bus out to work.
Bush: Yeah, everybody rode it, except those few construction workers in that minor construction area. They were permitted their cars. I don't know why, but no one else drove cars on the plant. Everybody rode on the bus. The bus fare was--of course, it was subsidized. It was a plant operation, like anything else is. To make the liability insurance legal, they charged a nickel each way on the bus, which later on got changed to a dollar or something. But many of the years, we'd ride the bus 30, 35, or 40 miles to work for a nickel. The nickel was just to make it legal. From those old green buses, they came up with some--I forget what they're called. More like Greyhound buses. And then in 1963, the year I went out to the transportation, they bought a fleet of Flxibles. And that's F-L-X. There's no E in it. That's the same kind of flat-nosed bus that the bus lines used today. And they were coaches, not buses. They had storage underneath. And so we had quite a suggestion system on the plant. And you would get monetary award or mention. And somebody said, well, instead of running mail carrier cars delivering mail to all the stops on the whole plant, load the mail onto the now available storage bins on these buses. And that was a pretty good suggestion award, monetarily, to somebody. And they did that. Took it out to a central mail station out there, and then dispatched it.
Bauman: You mentioned different contractors you worked for over the years--
Bush: Uh-huh. The story behind that for the record is that General Elec--well, DuPont built the plant. That's who my dad worked for. And GE came in '46, I believe. And they were here until the group I was in--they phased out in groups. I was the last group to go out. [COUGH] Excuse me, in 196--'66. When the GE phased out, they had a dollar a year contract. Like Henry Kaiser and rest of them did during the war, for the good of the country. But they trained an awful lot of people in the infancy field of nuclear engineering. General Electric trained all those people here and then they opened up the turnkey operations in San Jose and Japan. But anyhow, AEC was still AEC at that point. And then, their wise decision--instead of one contractor, they would have nine. And so there were--the reactors was one. Separation plant was another. Fuel preparation at 300 Area was another. The laboratories, which is today basically Battelle. Site services. The company doctors formed a foundation called Hanford Environmental Health Foundation, which is the MDs that gave the annual exams. And the computer end, it was now getting into the infancy of that, computer sciences corps, we had the first contracts on that. So all together, there were nine contractors. And the portion that I was with went to ITT. They bid, came in and bid. I helped conduct tours of the facility for the bidders. Because I knew all about it and knew the ins and outs on some of the monetary parts that their accounting people would have questions on. We'd walk through shops and all that. Well, anyhow, ITT got the site support--site services. And we had that for five years. And austerity set in in the '70s. Well, '70. They said, we got to get site services' budget down to less than $10 million. And it probably was 13 or 14, I don't remember now. So my boss and another analyst, like myself, sequestered--talk about sequester. We sequestered ourselves in the then new Federal Building for about a week. Almost 20 hours a day, whittling and whittling and working on a budget. And there was only one conclusion. We had to cut everything in half. Went through all that sweat. Went up with our president, Tom Leddy, went upstairs to an AEC finance office, presented our whole case. And the man turns around and says, well, it doesn't make any difference, Tom. Your contract's not renewed anyhow. And so now, Atlantic Richfield, an existing contractor for 200 Areas, somehow the separations plant contractor that is an oil company owned, can all of a sudden manage a site service. And so they did absorb us. But politics were still around in those days. And there were three of us analysts. One had got transferred by ITT up to the new line--newly established Distant Early Warning Line from Russia up to Alaska. So that left two of us. And we waited around. We waited around and never got an offer. And they said, no, we can do it all without you. We don't need you. How come it took so many people anyhow? On a Friday afternoon, the man that I did budgets for saw me in a restroom. He said, you got an offer yet? I said, no, no. I'm working under the table with somebody else. Well, he says, if they don't hire you, I'm going to hire you. And so he went downtown, and about 4 o'clock, I got a call from the man that told me they didn't need us. Said they'd been kind of thinking. So I went over Atlantic Richfield under those. [AUDIO CUTS OUT] And so I'm not mad, not knocking—knocking them, that's just the way things were. And then Rockwell came to town. When they laid off everybody on B-2, I'm trying to think of other--in the community, something might be of interest for the history project. Back into the '50s. Those same green buses, they had, oh, four or five of them that ran in town like a modified transit system. I don't think they had that many riders, but it did. And also, the plant buses ran what they called shuttle routes. And those buses went into Richland on probably six routes and drove around the neighborhoods and picked up workers on the three shifts. And that's why up in the ranch house district, there was the bypass you'll see between homes. The pathways that go clear through lots. Blocks were so long that they had to provide a quicker route to the bus stops. Now, those rides were free because they were shuttle buses. When you got out to the bus lot, you paid your nickel, or a pass, whatever it was.
Bauman: I wanted to ask you about accounting in terms of equipment practices. Were there a lot of changes during the time you worked at the Hanford site? Computer technology come in and change things?
Bush: Oh, yeah. For sure. In the beginning, as I mentioned earlier, all accounting was open ledgers and hand posted. Adding machine tapes at the end of the day trying to balance them all out. And we had that until--let's see. 1970s—I think it was 1977, we got our very first taste of it. Every other desk in a group of about 20 people in cost accounting that I was in. There was cost accounting, general accounting, and so on, property management. But anyhow, we had about 20 people. Every other desk had a monitor. Well, they referred to them as a computer. But they were just the monitor. And down at the end of our building was one printer. And everything was on floppy disk. Every program was on a floppy disk. Nothing was built-in because it was just the infancy. The big computers were down in the Federal Building. And a sub-basement below the basement was specially built for that. But back to our office. Across the hall from us, we had two small computers that are--to me, they're about the size of portable sewing machines. And I can't even remember the names of them because they don't exist today but they were the computer locally. So we wanted to run our work order system, we would phone down to the guy down at the other end of the building, insert the floppy disk from work system and wait. Well, I've got somebody's inventory. You have to wait. Because there's only one place to load up down there. So finally, you would put the floppy disk in. And then, you'd run it, which meant it'd run through it and print. But then you'd have to say, now print it. And they got one printer for the whole building. And so it's pretty interesting. Whereas today, I've got a laptop that I can virtually do everything with. But we graduated from hand posted ledgers right into computers. We didn't have anything in between. All of the reports that came out, came out on--referred to as IBM runs because everything was IBM. It was on paper that's about 18 inches wide with all these little perf marks on it to feed it. And you'd get one report and it would be about that thick. It was not that much information, but it's just so much printing. It's even hard to remember after 26 years how antiquated that is compared to today. But prior to that, it wasn't even the PCs. They called everything a PC. Or, was PC compatible. Because prior to that, the only electronic data processing nickname was spaghetti wire. I'm not very conversant in it, but it was some kind of a board that had a bunch of holes in it. They put wires in it and that went to certain things. But all it did was sort things. It didn't actually calculate them.
Bauman: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about the community of Richland. What was that like in the 1950s? I know it was a government--
Bush: In the town? I guess I didn't cover that area. Everything—all houses were owned by government. We rented them. My wife and I and family, we came after the days of free everything. When the coal was free--all the furnaces were coal fed. Some people would convert them later on to oil. But anyhow, they were coal burning. However you got the coal, whether it was government days or you bought the coal from the courtyard, which is down at the end of what's now Wellsian Way. There was a coal yard where that lumber yard is. And that's why those railroad tracks that are abandoned and rundown, that's where the coal cars came in. And I can add something a little bit later about coal cars and the plant. But anyhow, we rented from the government. For example, that brand new apartment that I mentioned moving onto first was a two-bedroom, full basement. Steam heated because--I'll digress a little bit. All the downtown 700 Area, including the Catholic church, central church, the hospital, all 700 Area, including those new apartments, and all downtown shopping area were steam heated by a steam plant, which was located where the back door of the post office is today in that small parking lot. And that one plant furnished steam for everything. Well, back to this new apartment. The steam pipes ran through this full basement. And our kids played—there wasn't any yards. There was just apartments. And they would play in the basement because they were quite small. But they can remember today the pop, pop, pop in those steam pipes. And the rent for that two-bedroom apartment was higher than any other house in town. It was $77 a month. And the reason it was $77 instead of $70 was because it included $7 for electricity. Nobody had electricity meters yet. Even in that new place. So when they did put in electricity meters in all homes later, which had to be—during that time, the year we were there, which is December '51 to December of '52, sometime in that period of time they put the meters in. They took off $7 off the rent because now we're going to pay—and their theory is it was $5 for a one-bedroom place, whatever it was. $7 for a two-bedroom and $10 for a three-bedroom for electricity in those days. And nobody had electric heat, of course. And then, later on they put in water meters. And again, they had to come into your home, invade your home, and put in something. So it was strictly government prior to—well, another—and when I lived in the rental, if something went wrong with the plumbing, they would send out a plumber, but you paid for it, though. But later on when I went to the tall two-story, three-bedroom duplex houses, or called A houses, that was our first house after that apartment. And as I remember, I think the rent was--they had rent districts with low, medium, and high in the more desirable parts of town. And we were on Hop Street across from uptown district where Hunt Street is and Jefferson Park. And I think our rent for that was like $47 because it was not a brand new apartment. And later on, we—I was on the housing list. And you applied and months or years later, you'd rotate up to move into a nicer place or a different location. But in the meantime, up came an F house, which is a two-story single family, kind of a Cape Cod-looking type of house. And that came up on the housing list. However, the caveat was that you had to cash out the present owner who had made some improvements. He had converted the coal to oil, they put in a clothesline, which nobody had clotheslines, and something else. So cashed him out for—I believe it was $750. And if I do that, I could have it, so I did. We lived in that place for 19 years. Our daughter grew up there and got married out of that home. And that's the only home she ever knew. [LAUGHTER] And we were there until 1977 when the real estate market in Richland was—this is community wide. The housing prices were moving 18% a year, about 1.5% a month. And I thought well, I don't need to be setting still. I mean, if I cash out here, and went on. So we sold that home. I listed it. Calder, my father, was very ill. We were going to Spokane. I listed it. A man came by, looked it out. What were you asking? I said, oh, about 17. He shook his head. And I said, too high? He says, no, 27,000. [LAUGHTER] Just to show you how bad things were. And so it sold right away. What are you going to do now? And I said, well. Would you want to try a mobile home? I know a jewel. And in those days, real estate men did not sell mobile homes. But this couple had bought their first house from him, or something. And it was somebody retiring out of postal, wanted to go back to Montana. Never smoked in it, never had any pets in it, no kids. It was the Cadillac of mobile homes. We were there two years, but that was long enough. Then we moved into the house that I'm still in. I'm widowed now for five years. The house we're in now, we've lived in that longer than in any other place. [LAUGHTER] But the community just has changed so drastically. South Richland. People say today they live in South Richland. We lived in South Richland, which was south of the downtown shopping district to the Yakima Bridge. That was South Richland. What is now South Richland out there was Kennewick Highlands. So it depends on who you're talking to today.
Bauman: Yeah. Do you remember any special community events, parades, any of those sorts of things during the '50s and '60s?
Bush: Community events?
Bush: Yep. Back in GE days, they had Atomic Frontier Days. And they were a big thing. Had beauty queens in it, rode in the float, and all that. Down at the—[COUGH] excuse me. For Atomic Frontier Days down at the lower end of Lee Boulevard, which is still the same shape today. They set up booths all on there. And it was a really big event. Before we had the hydro races even. People look back fondly on that. Talking about community, again, my mother, I said, worked for the post office, which—it stood on the corner of Knight Street, where it touches George Washington Way. There's some kind of a lawyer office building there today. And the old post office is the Knights of Columbus building on the bypass highway. But she would have to take the mail and go over to where the Red Lion Motel is today, at the Desert Inn, a frame building, winged out basically the same. And that was referred to as the transient quarters. And that was for upper management that were going through and it wasn't really a public motel, per se. But she would have mail for these big wigs over there. So she would have to go over there and have a badge to even go in the front door of that Desert Inn. Talking about badges, something humorous on that. We didn't wear things around our neck in the beginning because it was like a little pocket-sized bill fold. It was a little black bill that had your pass, your badge in it. And at every building you went into, you just pulled it out, flashed it to the guard. It usually was a lady security employee. There were guards in the building, but the person on the desk was a security clerk. But you'd just automatically—you’d open it like that and flag and put it back in your pocket. Every building you went into. Downtown, 700 Area, that first building I've referred to. One day I went into a restaurant and I just did that automatically [LAUGHTER] because it's just so automatic. Then they graduated to having the thing around your neck. And then also, if you worked in the outer areas, you had to wear a radiation badge in addition to your security badge. There was two types and one of them was a flat. And I don't know the difference. One's for beta and one's for alpha. I don't know. And one of them was a pencil shaped. And that's what they called it. And the other one was a flat badge, which was carried in something around your neck. And in all the areas I worked, and the places I described laying on the ground that happened and all that, my RAMs, they call it, never accumulated in my working life to be a danger. I had some, of course. Everybody does in the background. But I never accumulated to a danger point. There were people, some smart aleck people that would take their badge and hold it over a source at work so they could get some time off. Because if you got--what was the phrase? Anyhow, if they got contaminated, they put them on a beefsteak diet. And they stayed home. And they come every day and took a urine sample and all that stuff. But they had a life of riley. So that was nice. But the guys got canned that did that. But they would purposely expose their pencil so they could stay home.
Bauman: So did all employees have those, either the pencil or--
Bush: Only those that worked in reactor and separations areas, yeah. I mentioned these departments. Actually, the first department is Fuel Preparations Department, FPD. The present—the 300 Area--most of the buildings have now been torn down that you don't even see them there. But the north half roughly was fuels preparation department headed for the reactors. They took uranium and encapsulated it in cans, like can of peas in just so many words. And the south half of that 300 Area was a laboratory area, the predecessor of Battelle. So the fuel was prepared there. And it was machined and canned and sent as nickname slugs to the reactors. Then, the reactors loaded into all those little tubes. And then from the reactors, they come out the backside into those cooling pods and all that. And transported in casks to the 200 Areas, which are the separated area, separations. And the reactor area on the face side was not that dangerous. The 200 Areas only work on what they called the canyons, PUREX and REDOX, and those kind of buildings. But those cells were very, very hot. But you had to be measured no matter where you were. One of our site services was a decontamination laundry, called the laundry. And all clothing--I mentioned to you before SWP. Well, SWP, radiologic exposure employees wore whites. Carpenters and truck drivers and all that that didn't work around reactors wore blues. And so they were sorted. And we had different billing rates for that laundry because the blues only had to be laundered and dried. Whereas the others had to be laundered, dried, and decontaminated, checked in separate washing machines. And then workers wore—in the beginning, wore World War II-style gas masks for our air supply before they invented a moon-type suit. [LAUGHTER] But they wore gas masks. And the mask would come back to this mask station, which was part of the laundry. And they took the masks, and they'd take away the cartridge. They'd put the mask in dishwasher machines, in racks. That's how they would wash them. And then they would get them a new filter and package them up. Sanitize them and package them up like medical supplies would be in. I can't think of any other unusual operation out there like that.
Bauman: I want to change gears just a little bit. President Kennedy visited the site in 1963.
Bush: Yep, 1963.
Bauman: I was wondering--
Bush: When they did that, they let all the schools out. And for the first time, non-workers were allowed to go in cars out there. It was a grand traffic jam, but it was quite a deal. And he landed his Air Force plane up at Moses Lake—at Larson airbase at Ephrata, whichever you want to call it. And then helicoptered. And of course, like it is today, there were three or four helicopters. And you don't know which one he's on and all that bit. And here, everyone is gathered out the N Reactor area, which is a dual-purpose reactor. They captured the heat from the reactor, put it through a pipe through a fence to the predecessor to Energy Northwest, which was called Whoops. This was a big deal, a dual-purpose reactor. And N stood for new reactor, really. Anyhow, he comes in and they got a low-boy trailer. They fixed up down in the shops where I worked—my office was. And then built a podium just precisely for the President with him emblem and the whole bit. So I was privy to get to see some things like that. But anyhow, that was the stage. And it was a long low-boy, so it accommodated all the senators and all the local—Sam Volpentest, the guy credited with HAMMER, those type of people. Glen Lee from the Tri-City Herald, you name it. So the helicopter comes in, blows dust over everybody. But anyhow, my wife and kids and all schools were brought out there. And I don't know how many thousand people were out there in the desert. And you could see President Kennedy. He got up on the stage. You get close enough, you could get pictures. Then, that same year in November, he got assassinated. So that was a busy year.
Bauman: Do you remember any other special events with dignitaries like that? Or other--
Bush: Well, I could go way back to World War II. I wasn't here, but I have a family connection on it. All over United States, they had war bond drives for various reasons to help. Build a ship, build an airplane. The one that happened here is not the only one. But they took so much money out of all the paycheck of Hanford workers, which included my dad as a carpenter. And the money they collected bought the B-17 Bomber, which was named Day's Pay. And that bomber—they had a bomber out here, a B-17, so that people could see it, but it wasn't the same one. On the Richland High School wall there's a mural. And that's a rendition by a famous artist of Day's Pay in formation. And so I can say that my parents contributed to that. And that's the story behind that one bomber. Every worker out there, construction or operations, they donated a day's pay.
Bauman: I wonder, what was the most challenging part of your job working at the Hanford site?
Bush: As an accounting person, my most challenging part was learning government-ese. [LAUGHTER] How to deal. And in that vein, that took a long time. But once you learn it, there is a way in the US government, period. As I'm sure there is in certain corporations. Later on, when I mentioned that I went down to the federal building for my--finally got located in that building, there was another fellow and I were old timers in accounting. And that year, they had five college grads, accounting grads come in. They hired five at one time. And they ran them by Marv and I for exposure. This is how things are done. This is how the contacts are. And our basic job was to squire these young fellows around and introduce them to certain counterparts and now DOE. Now, this is how you make appointments with them. This is what you do. This is what you never do. And likewise, with senior management. And it paid off because of those five, all four of them became managers or supervisors, and one of them became my manager within two years. Today, that same man is the comptroller at Savannah River Plant. [LAUGHTER] And so I like to feel that I contributed to them being—partially to them being successful. And so that's a reward. But probably the most difficult thing coming from a private—I worked for Colorado Mill and Elevator, which means I worked at a flour mill district office as a bookkeeper. And that's a small town deal in Twin Falls. To come to work for the government where some of your family despises you because you work for the government, but you had to fight that as well as learn how the government operates.
Bauman: You mentioned earlier, you were talking about coal being used for heat in Richland. You also said you wanted to talk about coal fires going up at the site.
Bush: Oh, what?
Bauman: Coal fires?
Bush: Oh, yeah. Interestingly, the midway power station, substation at midway, is one of the reasons they built Hanford where they did because the Grand Coulee Dam had just been completed and an electricity producer—a major producer. And they put the midway substation down there. That basically was built to furnish huge amounts of power to Hanford, for the reactors, everything. Which in total—because I processed vouchers, I know it was 32 megs. Which today doesn't sound like much, but the whole plant bill was 32 megs when everything was operating. But if the power were interrupted, they had to have a backup. So every area had a huge diesel-powered--like water pumps, where they could pump the water from the river instead of by electrically. They had to be able to pump it because it was critical. Because all the water for the whole plant was taken in at intake water plants near the reactors along the river. The 200 Area water is piped to them in a huge line as raw water until it gets to their place. The backup is these coal-fired steam plants, is what I was trying to say. It got about 30-some cars of coal a day rolled through Richland past the cemetery. In the beginning, the railroad came down from the north, from Vantage area down along the Columbia River. There's a railroad bridge across the river, Beverly I think it is. And it came down to below the 100-B Reactor area. That's where the line ended. And then a plant had its own railway incidentally. It had a 285 mile-long rail line, high line and low line. Then, they built--in 1950, the year before I came, they built the line that we see today that comes from Columbia Center into Richland, by the cemetery. And it ends at the old bus lot area, where that railroad car Columbia Center into Richland, by the cemetery. And it ends at the old bus lot area, where that railroad car rebuilding outfit is now, there is a roundhouse that it's rectangular in shape. But some 30 cars of coal a day came in here to supply because those plants were—they actually operated the steam plants. They didn't start them up from cold. They just ran constantly.
Bauman: I wonder if you could provide sort of an overall assessment of how Hanford was as a place to work. What was it like as a place to work?
Bush: It was a great place for me. I came out of an area that was the agriculturally-oriented. And the Korean War started. Wages were frozen, you weren't going to go anywhere. I came up here and I got a new start, like pioneers did. I visualized that's what farming pioneers did the same thing. And it opened up a whole field for me, a big corporate field. And it's just been a great place to work. And it was not dangerous to me. I'm not afraid to drink the water here. I'm asked by a nephew in Hermiston constantly, how do you drink the water? And I said, well, it comes out of the river. How can it come out of the river and that plume’s out there? There's so many false stories around here. But working at Hanford, I think, by and large, almost all employees would tell you the same thing. It was a great place to work. The pay was decent. Maybe you didn't get rich, but it was decent. It's in a nice area to live in. When we came back in the '50s, or in the '40s, and before that even of course, shopping was pretty much nonexistent. They went to Yakima, or Spokane, or Walla Walla. That I didn’t—we didn't experience that too much by 1951 because by that time, the Uptown shopping district was built. And there was a men's store. And there was four women's stores. Because GE was the prime contractor, there was an appliance dealer that handled GE-Hotpoint appliances. We got employee discounts when we worked for GE. We also got 10% gasoline discount when we worked for Atlantic Richfield Hanford. But we just grew with the times. And it's just such an entirely different area now than it was. Just the world is different, too.
Bauman: Is there anything that I haven't asked you about? Is there anything you would like to talk about that we haven't talked about yet?
Bush: Now really, work-wise at Hanford, I think I’ve pretty well-covered it. I'll repeat myself. My first 15 years was construction engineering accounting, which is an entirely different field than operations accounting. Operations accounting concerns itself with the reactors and separations and the site services that support them. But I learned a lot by working at Hanford. My family, three adult children live here, are retired here. My oldest son went on Medicare this year. [LAUGHTER] And that kind of puts you in your place quickly. But it's been a good enough place that they stayed in the area. And of the six granddaughters, grandchildren, four of them are in the area. And that's kind of characteristic with a lot of the Tri-City families. They stay or come back.
Bauman: Well, Bob, I'd like to thank you very much for coming and talking to us today. I really appreciate it.
Bush: It's been my pleasure.
Years in Tri-Cities Area
Years on Hanford Site