Interview with Ray Deranleau

Dublin Core


Interview with Ray Deranleau


Richland (Wash.)
Kennewick (Wash.)
Pasco (Wash.)


Ray Deranleau moved to Richland, Washington in 1930 as a child. His family was displaced in 1943 when the Manhattan Project took over the land for the Hanford Site.

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.


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.




The Hanford Oral History Project operates under a sub-contract from Mission Support Alliance (MSA), who are 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 this US Department of Energy collection.

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Robert Bauman


Ray Deranleau


Washington State University, Tri-Cities


Northwest Public Television | D_Henry_Raymond

Robert Bauman: Okay. Well, we'll go ahead and get started. And I'm going to start by having you say your name, and spell it for us, please.

Ray Deranleau: Ray De-- are you ready?

Bauman: Yep.

Deranleau: Ray Deranleau, D-E-R-A-N-L-E-A-U, R-A-Y on the first name.

Bauman: Great, thank you. And today's date is September 3rd of 2013. And we're conducting this interview on the campus of Washington State University, Tri-Cities. So let's start, if we could, by having you talk about your family--how they came, how, when, why they came to the area here.

Deranleau: Well, my folks come here in 1930. And at that time, there was just six kids left in the house. The three older ones had grown up. And they more or less, I think, starved out--they were up at Genesee, Idaho. And the price of wheat wasn't anything, and they just kind of went broke up there. They moved down here, and, of course, we farmed down here, but that was altogether different. Dad had been a dry land farmer, but he had to learn the irrigation thing.

Bauman: Do you know how he heard about Richland, or any of that?

Deranleau: I think he just put the place up for sale and the real estate person, Carl Williams, who was in Kennewick for a long time, handled it. I know that. And I suppose that's how it happened. I was about--I was six--or, five when we moved here. So, a lot of that up there, I don't recall even.

Bauman: And what were your parents' names?

Deranleau: Henry and Elizabeth.

Bauman: And so where was your farm?

Deranleau: Well, it was right across the ditch from where Battelle is, headed west. It was across that ditch. And if you are familiar with that, there was an old school—Vale School, up there at one time. And Dad had 33 acres, and that seven acres was out of that original 40. So we were right adjacent to that.

Bauman: Okay. Who were some of your neighbors, or people who lived closest to you, then?

Deranleau: Well, Pete Hansen lived right next to us. And then, across the ditch, was Hultgrenn. Were the two closest.

Bauman: And so what sort of crops did you grow on the far?

Deranleau: Well, we had--towards the last, we had a little mint--peppermint. And we had quite a few grapes, but most folks didn't raise grapes like Dad did. And, of course, we had hay and asparagus, and strawberries.

Bauman: And growing up on the farm, did you have particular chores or responsibilities that were yours?

Deranleau: Hell yeah. We milked cows, and just all the stuff that went with it. Cut asparagus. We'd get up as soon as you could see to cut asparagus in the spring. That was always a cash crop that made a little money for everybody that--and of course, it was early. It'd give them a chance to have some money to pay the water bill, and stuff like that. So that was a good crop then.

Bauman: Do you know where the crops were sold?

Deranleau: Well, they were sold mostly at Kennewick. And some things at Pasco, but mostly at Kennewick. Ours was, anyway.

Bauman: I want to ask you also, about your farm, were there other buildings besides the house itself on the property? What other buildings were there?

Deranleau: Well, yeah, we had a barn, and a little shed that, I suppose at one time, had been kind of an open end garage type thing. But most of that stuff was so worn out that you could throw a cat through it somewhere.

Bauman: So when you bought the place, it was something that someone else had already owned?

Deranleau: There was what?

Bauman: Someone else had already owned the place?

Deranleau: No, Dad got that place from the ditch company. And he just moved on there for no payment at all. And of course, the reasoning behind that was if they had people farming, they were buying their water. So they were better off just to let you set on there. And of course, eventually, he paid for it. But that's when they moved on that thing.

Bauman: Oh, okay.

Deranleau: And it was awful run down, to begin with. Whoever was on there ahead of us didn't do much farming. They just--

Bauman: Do you know how old the place was?

Deranleau: No.

Bauman: It had been there for a while?

Deranleau: Yeah, it was older than I was.

Bauman: And what about electricity? Did you have electricity there?

Deranleau: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] We got electricity there. And at that time that, PP&L was in here, which was Pacific Power and Light. And they wouldn't give you electricity until the ERA came in, and then they were right there to give you some, if they could. But they had to run a line in from Stevens, you know, where I live, there. And that was probably, what, a block and a half maybe. But anyway--and then they went to our neighbors. And we had to buy electric stoves. And I suppose--I know we bought them from them, and I don't know if we had to or not. And just a deal where you pay a nickel down, pay the rest your life, type thing. And I suppose they got a dang good shafting on the price of that stove. I don't know that, but common sense tells me that. But that's the way electricity was then. And like I said, boy, they weren't very helpful until the ERA came in, and made all the difference in the world. REA, I guess it is.

Bauman: REA, right. And did that happen sometime after you arrived, the REA? Probably, yeah--

Deranleau: Yeah. Roosevelt, I think, went in in, what, in '32? And so we went there in '30. And we moved on to that place, I would say, in '35. And I could be off a year or two. It was the second place where we first lived.

Bauman: Okay, so where did you live before that, then?

Deranleau: We lived just off of Van Giesen, and right in there close to where that little shoplifting center is, there on Van Giesen. If you know much about the history of this place, there was a house there, and they called it Officer's--Officer's something. And I can't say the word I want to. But anyway, it was a big, nice house, and they had left that for quite a while before they ever tore it down. I think they moved it to West Richland eventually.

Bauman: So that's where you lived initially, and then you moved to the place--

Deranleau: Pardon?

Bauman: So that's where you lived for about five years? '30, '35, and then you moved to the second place? Okay. And what about telephone? Did you have a telephone?

Deranleau: Yeah. We had a telephone. My dad was on the ditch board--the water board. There were three other people around there. And then they had a guy running it. In fact, Fletcher--his dad run that. And he had to have a telephone because of that.

Bauman: Oh, okay.

Deranleau: I suppose we wouldn't have had a telephone as quick as we did.

Bauman: Was that a party line, sort of?

Deranleau: Oh, yeah. Yeah, then about that time, too, we switched over from horses to a tractor. So that was kind of a change in farming for us a lot.

Bauman: So initially you had horses for all the work on the farm? Do you remember what kind of tractor you got?

Deranleau: Yeah, we had an F-12, Farmall tractor.

Bauman: So what about the town of Richland itself? What do you remember about the town during the 1930s? Any businesses, or things that you--

Deranleau: Well, there was a couple of grocery stores, and a couple of gas stations. You could buy little candy bars, and stuff like that at those gas stations. And there was a hardware--good hardware store. And I probably missed some of them, but there wasn't much here.

Bauman: [LAUGHTER] Did you have a radio, or--how did you get news?

Deranleau: Well, we had a radio. It worked part of the time. [LAUGHTER] One of those deals where everybody had his damn ear down into the--trying to hear it.

Bauman: Do you remember listening to any shows, or anything in particular on the radio when you were growing up?

Deranleau: Oh yeah, we used to listen to Jimmy Allen. And of course, Dad listened to the news. So we'd listen to that, too. But Jimmy Allen, and, oh, Amos and Andy. We'd listen to that. And I don't remember what else. Not much, we didn't listen to it a lot. It wasn't very good.

Bauman: What about newspaper? Was there a newspaper?

Deranleau: Yeah, we always had the Spokesman Review. There wasn't any local papers at that time.

Bauman: I want to ask you about school. What school did you go to? And do you have any specific memories about school, teachers or anything like that?

Deranleau: Well, we had a pretty good little school, if we'd have tried to learn something. And some of us wasn't too interested in that, to be real frank with you. And I was one of them--hell, I thought I knew everything there was to know at 15. But really, we didn't have a bad school.

Bauman: How did you get to school? Was there a bus?

Deranleau: Yeah, went on a school bus.

Bauman: Was that a sort of regular school bus?

Deranleau: Yeah.

Bauman: It was? Okay.

Deranleau: Yeah, they had certain routes. There were about--I would say maybe five of them.

Bauman: Were there any teachers that you particularly remember from your years of school in Richland?

Deranleau: Well, no, not really. We had some good ones and some bad ones. But I don't like to badmouth some of them. And especially the kind of student I was. If I'd have had me, I'd have killed me. Just to be real frank with you.

Bauman: What's a recreational activities? What did you do for fun growing up?

Deranleau: Well, we played ball, and we fished, and just kind of entertained ourselves. We worked a lot, really. When kids were old enough to work--and if you had any spare time, Dad would go out and buy another 20 acres, just about what it boiled to with those old guys. You know, if they had boys especially, they were out looking for more land. [LAUGHTER] Which was a way of life at that time.

Bauman: Mm-hm. Do you remember any community events? Any--

Deranleau: Well, we used to go to grange meetings. And they'd have two a month. And one of them would be a social thing, and at that one, they'd serve a little sandwich and coffee, and they'd have dances. You'd just volunteer a band, so that was pretty neat.

Bauman: Where were the grange meetings held?

Deranleau: The Grange Hall was right up where the Lutheran church is, here in Richland, on Van Giesen--or, yeah, Van Giesen and Stevens.

Bauman: So I assume your father was a member of the grange.

Deranleau: Yeah.

Bauman: Was he part of any other organizations? You mentioned the irrigation, right?

Deranleau: No, not really. We went to church when we had gas.

Bauman: What church did you go to?

Deranleau: Catholic. And we'd have to go to Kennewick for that. There wasn't any Catholic church here. In fact, there was one church, and I think they called it Community Methodist. And pretty near all the protestants would go there. And maybe they'd have a Methodist preacher for a while, and if he starved out, the next one could be Lutheran, or whatever, you know. You just kind of, in those days, did with what you had. And they pretty much had a Seventh Day Adventist little church there, too. There wasn't many members, but they would have meetings there, on Saturday.

Bauman: Were there a number of families that went to the Catholic church in Kennewick from Richland, who lived there?

Deranleau: Oh, I don't think there was a half a dozen. Maybe something like that. Of course, them Catholics, in those days, had lots of kids, and more kids than the rest of them. So we could kind of outnumber them. We didn't need--if we had families, we had groups. [LAUGHTER] We had one Catholic bunch, lived out there on the river. And I think they had 17 or 19 kids, somebody said. And in those days, it wasn't unusual for children to die at childbirth. And they had some where they'd lose one--they'd just name another one the same name. And I always thought that was kind of weird, but I know they did that.

Bauman: You mentioned playing ball growing up. Did you play sports in school at all?

Deranleau: Well, we played softball. We didn't have any football--we didn't have a football team. We didn't have any material for it. And we didn't play baseball, either. They had a local baseball team--we'd call it a town team. And everybody, whoever wanted to--and then they had some pretty decent players on that darn thing, for those days.

Bauman: How about basketball?

Deranleau: Well, we had a high school basketball team. And that was the size of that. I don't remember anybody other than just--well, maybe in grade school or middle school, you could play around then.

Bauman: So you arrived here in about 1930—

Deranleau: Yeah.

Bauman: --the years of the Great Depression. Wondering ways in which the Depression sort of impacted people here.

Deranleau: [LAUGHTER] Well, we were poor as church mice, you know. But everybody else was the same way. Hell, when I went in the service in '43, I had better conditions in the service than I had at home. And like I said, everybody was poor, so I thought that's the way everybody was. And they were, around here--most of them, some of them were better off than others, naturally. But it was pretty hard times for everybody. We didn't ever--went hungry, or anything like that. I don't mean to imply that. But, boy, we worked from the time were about 11 and 12 in the fields. And after we got a little older, we could hire out, if we got a chance. We'd get enough money for our school clothes that way. And it didn't take much--of course, we didn't get much either. You'd get maybe two bits an hour, you know. And boy, I'll tell you--that was work in those days, too. Picking up potatoes, and things like that.

Bauman: I want to go back to school. So what year did you graduate high school, then?

Deranleau: '42.

Bauman: And how many people were in your class?

Deranleau: I think there was just eight of us, or maybe a dozen. I don't know, they got to--I think Edith maybe brought you that picture of that group.

Bauman: Yeah, small group.

Deranleau: And some of us--I remember, one old teacher that--he was always talking about our sheepskins, when we graduated. And I said something about my sheepskin one day. And he said, yours won't have any fleece on it. [LAUGHTER] Oh, gosh. I think about that school--what a waste of my time and theirs. It was all my fault, I'm not blaming anybody but myself. But it was a fact. It was just stupid that I didn't want to learn more.

Bauman: And you mentioned you joined the service in '43?

Deranleau: Yeah, right after they--as soon as they got the notice here, I started. I had two brothers in the service at the time. And there were four of us in there, before it was over with. And everybody was in the service. And I just felt like I should be in, and I didn't have the guts to leave. And dad wasn't any spring chicken. So I hated to leave before—But once they got rid of that farm--

Bauman: So tell me about when you notice from the government about needing to leave.

Deranleau: Well, we got we got notice from the government on March 3, and they just told us that our place-- condemned our places, and was taking them. And we got our notice a little bit before noon, in the mail. And I was plowing a field out there. And I came in for lunch, and they were, of course, telling me about it. And after I ate, I went back out and cranked up that tractor. And I bet I hadn't been plowing an hour and a half, and somebody called up there, and told them to get that tractor out of that field. I don't know who called, or any more about it than--the deal was you couldn't find out anything. And looking back, you understand why. But you sure didn't in those days. And then, the bad thing about that--it put all those farmers on the market for a new place, and immediately the land went up. And they weren't offering a lot. And a lot of the people didn't accept--they sued for it. And they did better. And Mr. Fletcher--Robert's dad--was involved in that. And, of course, there was an attorney that they had naturally--or, normally up there. And he handled the case--Lionel Powell, from Kennewick, who was an attorney.

Bauman: How did your parents respond to the letter?

Deranleau: Well, confused--everybody was. I guess they just finally told us that it was a government thing, and it was a secret. And they wouldn't--couldn't tell us, and they kind of accepted that. But first, they just were going to run you out of there, without any kind of explanation at all. And we never did get--it was world news when we found out that Richland was part of the atomic bomb thing.

Bauman: So what happened with your parents, then? They sold the land--

Deranleau: Well, they settled in Kennewick, and Dad bought a couple little places there.

Bauman: How long were they given to leave?

Deranleau: Oh, boy. They extended the time to get off of there. I think probably it was fall before the folks left. And then, a lot of those crops, they had the prisoner of war camp, out on the Yakima there. And they had those prisoners in there, taking care of some of those crops. Because I remember a couple of them working up there in the grapes at our place. And one of them asked the other one why he was in the slammer. And he said he was a letter writer. Anyway, he forged checks. [LAUGHTER] He said he was a letter writer.

Bauman: Was that camp--that camp was in existence for a while, before '43, there? The prisoner of war camp?

Deranleau: It was what?

Bauman: It was there before '43?

Deranleau: I don't know. I don't think so. I think they put it up, but boy, they had people. They just put something like that up overnight. I'll bet it didn't take them two weeks to put the dang thing up.

Bauman: And you said your parents then bought a place in Kennewick?

Deranleau: Yeah.

Bauman: A farm, or--

Deranleau: Well, they bought a little place down on the corner of 19th and Washington. There was a credit union there for a while, and they're gone from there. I don't know what's in there now. But industry's moved that far down in there. And of course, that was all farming. That was one thing about the farms, too, in Richland. So many of them--now, we were up on just sagebrush bordered us. There was always land there, available, if you had the time to get it. In fact, Dad would--he'd water some of that--was watering some of those. He'd put in rye grass, because it'd stand the wind. It was hearty, you know? And he'd water. And he was figuring on getting two or three years of rye grass in that, to hold that sand a little bit, and then buying that. And it was things like that that they'd do. And they were pretty loose with--the ditch company, as long as they had water, they'd let them do things like that. But the ditch company owned a lot of Richland. I thought back a lot of times, and wondered, between the Federal Land Bank and the ditch company, what percentage of these little areas--and we weren't unique on that. All you had to do was go down the road to the next one--it was the same thing.

Bauman: You talk about irrigation. How did the irrigation system work? I mean, what sort of irrigation pipes--

Deranleau: It was all real irrigation--ditches. Little ditches. We never heard of a sprinkler system, at that time.

Bauman: Was there cement pipes, at all?

Deranleau: Oh, well, yeah. Some of it was open ditch, and some of it was pipes. And some of it was even what they call continuous pipe. And I had never seen them make that. But the inside out of it--there wasn't any joints, and they had something they'd drag through the middle of it, put the cement around it, and then pull that. That's how they had to do. I never seen them do it. It wasn't very good. It wasn't as good as a good concrete pipe. And, of course, people, as they could, they were improving on that kind of stuff. Getting rid of that kind of junk, and putting in better.

Bauman: So do you remember what your, or your parents', feelings were about--were you upset about having to move off the land? Angry?

Deranleau: Well, they were all probably angry, and confused, more than angry, I think. Because just imagine--getting a letter that you--and on those farms, it was--every month of the year, there was something to do. In winter, you had more cows to milk, and stuff like that. So it wasn't where you had a lot of time off, or anything.

Bauman: So do you remember where you were when you heard about what was happening at the Hanford site? About what was being built, and used for?

Deranleau: No, I really don't. I was in Europe, and I come home--and they gave us a 30 day furlough. And we'd seen just enough combat that we'd been good candidates for over in Japan. And I think that was what they were figuring on. But anyway, I was on a train going back to South Carolina, where I had to report back to. And we were up in Montana, and the conductor come through there, and told us that they had dropped those bombs, and that the war was over. And I think that's the first time I ever knew what Hanford really did--as near as I remember, at least.

Bauman: Do you remember your response when he came through and told you this?

Deranleau: [LAUGHTER] Well, I hate to sound like an idiot, but we were playing poker--a bunch of us--and we were more interested in the poker game. And--it was almost disbelief, I think.

Bauman: And so how much longer were you in the service, then? When did you come back to the area?

Deranleau: Oh, after that, I would say I was in the service five, six months. And we moved around a lot. I was in a chemical warfare outfit. It was a mortar outfit. We had big mortars, and were designed to shoot gas, if we had to. That's why we were in the chemical end of it. But we also had high explosives that we shot. And we would be attached to the infantry. But I don't know really how long we was. Here again, I went back to--I was in 89th Chemical. And when I got back to Colorado, I went over to where it was supposed to be, and--nothing there. So I saw another chemical outfit, right next door--90th. So I went over there. And I happened to walk right into the same company that I'd been assigned to. We'd all been assigned to that, and we didn't even know it. And I'll never forget the First Sergeant in there. He told me where to go, what barracks I could bunk in. So I went up to that barracks, and it was full. And I came back, and I said, that barracks is full, up there, I said. He said, go up and throw one of those guys out of there, and get a bunk. And I said, you go up and throw him out. [LAUGHTER] And that guy took a liking to me. And he was the biggest horse's neck ever to come down the pike. He was a hobo that had found it in the Army, and he was re-enlisted. But he was kind of a weird booger. But anyway, he took a liking to me. And hell, I could just get away with anything after that. It was kind of weird. Some of the guys used to razz me about being his buddy. [LAUGHTER] But anyway, we were doing a lot of moving around. They were just shifting everybody. We went down through Texas, and they brought us up to San Francisco for Army Day Parade. We looped around on those damn hills down there a lot. My wife told me I wasn't supposed to cuss, too, didn't she? But anyway, we were moving around a lot, and then finally ended up at Fort Lewis, where they booted us out.

Bauman: Do you know, after your parents left the farm, do you know if it was torn down right away? Or did the government use it for anything?

Deranleau: Well, ours was, I'm sure, because it was just a shack. And most of them were like that. And it was just the better houses that they kept for folks--like that one I was telling you, Officer's Club is what they called that house over there, where we first lived. And houses like that, they kept them around to put people in. But boy, I'll tell you, some of those houses around here, you could throw a cat through the wall of them--they didn't amount to much.

Bauman: Do you have--are there any memories of growing up in Richland that really stand out to you? Any sort of humorous events, or things that you remember from growing up here, that really stand out to you?

Deranleau: Oh, boy. Well, [LAUGHTER] I remember one time, a bunch of us went up to Brown's island. And that's about maybe eight, nine miles up the Colombia from here. And, of course, in those days, all those dams weren't in there and that was free water. And if you knew where to go, you could wade over to that in the summer. And if you didn't, you'd have to swim a little. But a bunch of us went up there. Anyway, we camped up there for pretty near a week. And we just hunted and fished, and loafed around there. But anyway, there was a little shack on this side of the river. And we'd come back, and I don't know whether we were getting ready to leave, or just that morning, we were maybe going to hunt rabbits or something. But we all had .22s. And one of those kids shot up into the corner of that damn thing, towards the ceiling. And that bullet--we tracked it afterwards, and it went down the ridgepole of that little shack, just probably that far. And hit a nail, and it dropped down on one of the kids' neck. Now, it just dropped, I think. But anyway, it burned his neck, and it just rolled off, you know. And I remember, he said, I'm shot! [LAUGHTER] We didn't pay any attention to him. And he said, I'm shot, you damn fools! [LAUGHTER] It just boiled down that that had just rolled there, but just a strange thing. It hit a knot, to begin with, and turned and went right up that ridgepole about two inches. And then, by that time, that little .22 was spent. But anyway [LAUGHTER] he was pretty excited, because he thought he was killed, and we didn't pay any attention to him. [LAUGHTER]

Bauman: I'm wondering, anything you--or, what do you think would be important for people to know about what it was like growing up in a small community of Richland in the 1930s, 1940s?

Deranleau: Well, really, it was pretty good, because everybody knew everybody. And everybody associated with one another. There wasn't anybody that was left out, really. And like I said, we were all poor as church mice, but we thought that was the way the whole world was. And like I said, I don't think there were any of us around that went hungry. I really don't. Folks would can, and they canned everything. I remember one year, I had three sisters that were going to get married in the fall. And those girls and mom canned for their families to be, and our family. And they would can in those old wash boilers. And I don't know if you've ever seen that done, but what they'd do is put a little rack in the bottom that was made out of cedar. And it had holes bored about like that, so that the water could circulate through it. But those jars wouldn't sit right on where it was so ungodly hot. And they put those in there, and then boil them for a couple hours to seal those—but they’d put up even meat, my folks did. And mom, even, would can butter a time or two. Now, she didn't heat it, you know--she'd put it in salt water, and put it in those jars. And then, we'd open that when, I guess, when we didn't have butter otherwise. I don't really know. I think she just did that one year. But they'd put up all kinds of vegetables and fruit. And everybody had some of that, and you'd trade around. Or if people had surplus, they'd just give it to you. There was a lot of that, because--

Bauman: It was a way to preserve things for--

Deranleau: Pardon?

Bauman: It was a ways to preserve things--

Deranleau: Yeah. And folks would also put up pork. And put so much salt you couldn't eat it hardly, and you'd have to soak it for a week before you could get close enough to it to eat it. [LAUGHTER] But we always--Dad would kill a steer in the fall. And we'd give some of that, probably, to the kids. Maybe they'd kill one later, and we'd get part of that, and stuff like that. Or neighbors--

Bauman: So it was very much a community, everyone--

Deranleau: Yeah.

Bauman: --sort of shared, and worked together. Well, any other things that we haven't talked about yet, that you remember, or that--

Deranleau: No.

Bauman: Well, I want to thank you for coming in today, and for sharing your memories and experiences.

Deranleau: Okay.

Bauman: Thank you very much.

Deranleau: You betcha.



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Years in Tri-Cities Area





“Interview with Ray Deranleau,” Hanford History Project, accessed July 16, 2024,