Interview with Lorraine Ferqueron
Grand Coulee Dam (Wash.)
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
Robert Franklin: Victor, are we ready?
Victor Vargas: We’re ready.
Franklin: Okay. My name is Robert Franklin. I’m conducting an oral history interview with Ruth Lorraine Fer—
Lorraine Ferqueron: Ferqueron.
Franklin: Ferqueron. Thank you, Lorraine. On October 18th, 2016. The interview is being conducting on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Lorraine about her experiences growing up in the Richland area and the forced evacuation in 1943. For the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?
Ferqueron: My name is Ruth Lorraine Ferqueron. It’s R-U-T-H L-O-R-R-A-I-N-E F-E-R-Q-U-E-R-O-N.
Franklin: Great. Thank you. So, let’s start at the beginning. When and where were you born?
Ferqueron: Pasco, Washington at Lady of Lourdes, May 7th, 1931. Those days, they kept the mother and the baby for ten days. So I came to Richland when I was ten days old.
Franklin: And where in Richland did your family live?
Ferqueron: Well we had—during the time, we had three different farms. One was out by basically where Battelle is now. I can’t really tell you exactly because I don’t have any points to base it from except the river.
Franklin: Sure, but somewhere where the Battelle campus is now, okay.
Ferqueron: Mm-hmm. Actually, that area was called Fruitdale when I was little.
Franklin: Mm-hmm. I’ve seen that on some—
Ferqueron: You’ve seen the Fruitdale?
Franklin: --On some maps.
Franklin: Some early maps—like ‘30s and ’40s maps. So you said your family had three farms—three acres?
Franklin: Three areas that they farmed.
Ferqueron: Three areas of farms.
Franklin: Three areas of farms. So one’s in Fruitdale, or PNNL campus.
Ferqueron: Yeah, but I was very young when that was going on. And then we moved in to—closer to Richland and had a farm up below where Tagaris is now.
Ferqueron: And then the last one was out on—is it Wellsian Way that goes—not Wellsian, the road that goes to West Richland.
Franklin: Van Giesen?
Ferqueron: Below the Tri-City Court Club was—we had 118 acres there.
Franklin: Is that Van Giesen?
Franklin: That goes to—is it Van Giesen that goes to—
Ferqueron: Yeah, Van Giesen.
Ferqueron: Right below the Tri-City Court Club.
Ferqueron: We had that until 1943, when we were forced out.
Franklin: Can you describe your memory of that event?
Ferqueron: That day? Yeah. I remember it. I was 12. These two men came to the door and told my father that they had declared eminent domain and they were taking the land. We had I think it was about three weeks to get out. There was seven of us children.
Ferqueron: We had a dairy farm there—well, my parents did, of course. I think we had 27 cows that Dad had to sell for five dollars apiece.
Franklin: And I imagine that was pennies on the dollar.
Ferqueron: Yeah. Well, yes. And then we were given—Dad was given—everyone was given, I think, $5,000 for their property, no matter what size or anything. That was actually owed to the bank, so we never—my father and mother didn’t have any money. And we moved to Finley.
Franklin: And then what did your parents—what did your family do in Finley?
Ferqueron: Well, Dad did a lot of trucking and we had a small farm there.
Franklin: But more like a truck farm?
Ferqueron: Yeah, well, we had peppermint.
Ferqueron: And asparagus. We had, I think, three cows that Dad kept. Two or three cows. My brother could tell you that more than I could. And we raised asparagus.
Franklin: And how long did that go on, did your parents do that?
Ferqueron: Until I was 15. We moved to the Richland Wye.
Franklin: And why did your parents moved to the Richland Wye?
Ferqueron: Dad went into working in construction. We left the farm and farming. We took one cow and moved to the Richland Wye—what’s now the Richland Wye.
Franklin: Your favorite cow?
Ferqueron: Yeah, probably. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Did he work for Hanford, or in—
Ferqueron: No, no.
Ferqueron: The only one in our family that worked for Hanford that I’m aware of is my grandfather. My grandfather had a farm here. His name was Augustus Long. He was the ditch back rider. A ditch back rider is someone who rides the irrigation ditches and checks it out and makes sure everything’s going fine. Started doing that on horseback. And then, I guess, the irrigation district or somebody bought him this truck to ride it in. After they took him off—took his land, he went to court, actually, and they paid him off.
Ferqueron: Because they had to, to keep—it was all secret, you know. Everything at Hanford—nobody knew what was going on, even the people that worked there. He went to work for them for a short time, just to show them where everything was. He knew all the county—all the boundaries, and all the lines and where everything was. So he worked for them for a while—short time. Then he moved to Grandview.
Franklin: Did he receive more money in the settlement because he took them to court?
Ferqueron: No, no.
Franklin: He just had to go through the extra step.
Ferqueron: Yeah, he got extra because he worked for them for that short time. And then because he got as far as the court in Spokane, and they paid him off. In other words, they bribed him out of it.
Franklin: Oh, so, but did he receive more money in the end for going to court?
Ferqueron: Yeah, he probably did. I have no idea how much, but he probably did, yeah.
Franklin: Sure. And how long—do you know approximately how long he worked for the government—for Hanford?
Ferqueron: Oh, it was a matter of two or three months, probably.
Franklin: Oh, okay, so not too significant.
Ferqueron: Yeah, I don’t really remember, but it wasn’t long.
Franklin: But he was part of that transition, though, right? Kind of showing them the lay of the land.
Ferqueron: Yeah, he said the hardest thing he ever had to do was cut off the water to all those farms, and they just—
Franklin: Watch them die.
Ferqueron: Watch them die. And bulldozed under—they were actually bulldozed.
Franklin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yes, many of them were.
Ferqueron: That’s why—I hear people today say, well, it was a sand pile when we got here. Well, of course it was.
Franklin: Yeah. That helps erase that evidence of human habitation.
Ferqueron: Oh, yeah.
Franklin: And make sure people don’t want to come back.
Franklin: Wow, that’s really—so your father—or your grandfather was the only person that worked for—
Ferqueron: Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s true, because—it was a very traumatic thing, because one day I had my complete family here. And three weeks later, they were scattered all over the state.
Ferqueron: And I lost—I could walk from our house to grandpa’s house. And then they went up to Grandview, I mean, and we just didn’t get to see them as often.
Franklin: Right, right, because of the—not as much—farther distance, not as good of roads.
Ferqueron: Well, eventually, he moved back to Benton City and had a farm up there. But in those days, going from where we lived in Finley to Benton City was quite a trip.
Franklin: I bet. I bet that would have been an all-day affair.
Ferqueron: Yeah. My mother told me when they were children to go to Kennewick to shop, it was all day, because they had a horse and a wagon.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Ferqueron: They went to Kennewick and back and it was an all-day trip.
Franklin: So when do your parents and grandparents—when did your family come to the Richland area?
Ferqueron: Yeah. My great-grandparents came here just about the turn of the century. But as far as I can figure, about 1900. Maybe a little earlier. And my great-grandfather farmed the area somewhere between where WinCo is now and the Yakima River.
Franklin: Okay. And then did they—when they came, were there already—was there already irrigation piping here? Was there an irrigation district?
Ferqueron: I don’t remember—I mean, I don’t really know. I never was told. My grandparents and my mother and her siblings came—let’s see, she was born in 1905 in Nebraska, and she was three when they came here.
Franklin: So in 1908.
Ferqueron: 1908, yeah.
Franklin: Okay. I know there were irrigation lines—
Ferqueron: And there was irrigation then.
Franklin: --at that time.
Franklin: 1900 is a little—
Ferqueron: A little early.
Franklin: A little early. Did your—
Franklin: Oh, sorry.
Ferqueron: They had the Yakima River. So they had a water supply and they--
Ferqueron: I know you’ve probably heard about the Rosencrans and the water wheel they had here on the river?
Franklin: No, no, tell me about that.
Ferqueron: Well, I don’t really know much about it, but there are pictures of it available somewhere.
Franklin: Okay. I’ll have to look at—
Ferqueron: The Rosencrans family had that.
Franklin: Okay. Great. Thank you.
Ferqueron: And that was—that was probably the start of the irrigation right there. Around that time.
Franklin: Right. From the research I’ve done, it shows that kind of later in 1906, 1908, the White Bluffs Irrigation Company and the Hanford Irrigation Company, which were formed by kind of collected capital on the west side of the state laid down the irrigation piping, bought the land—
Ferqueron: Miles and miles of it, yeah.
Franklin: Right. And then sold the land to people, and then people would have to pay monthly irrigation bills.
Franklin: Whether they used the water or not. It was kind of a scheme to make a bunch of money.
Ferqueron: Well, it’s still that way.
Franklin: Right, it is. But I’ve always been kind of interested about the pre—because it sounds like there were smaller attempts by families at creating some irrigation tunnels and ditches.
Ferqueron: I don’t know if there’s anybody still living that would know.
Franklin: Yeah, it’s—the nature of the history is—physically the evidence has been wiped off the map.
Ferqueron: Yeah. Oh, yeah. That was wiped out with the bulldozers and everything—that was all—
Franklin: So your great-grandparents that came, that would have been your father’s side?
Ferqueron: My mother’s.
Franklin: Your mother, oh, so then your mother was born in Nebraska?
Ferqueron: My father, on my Sloppy side of the family, I don’t really know when they came. But my father was born in Prosser—well, AmaRosa district outside of Prosser—in 1905.
Ferqueron: He was the third baby born in Benton County.
Ferqueron: Well, you know, years ago—before 1905, there was no Benton County. It was Yakima County.
Ferqueron: Then they divided it, and Dad was born after it was made a county.
Ferqueron: I don’t know exactly where they came from. They did live here in Richland for a number of years because my mother and father went to school from first grade to, I believe, fifth. And then his family moved away. And then he came back in his 20s and went to work for John Weidle and Thad Grosscup. There’s streets named after them in West Richland.
Franklin: John Weidle and who?
Ferqueron: Thad Grosscup.
Franklin: Oh, yeah, Grosscup.
Ferqueron: Yeah. Yeah, I knew both of those men.
Ferqueron: He was working in wheat fields all over here and Idaho and everything. And anyway, my parents married here in 1930.
Franklin: In Richland?
Ferqueron: Oh, actually, married in Kennewick because the old Methodist church in Kennewick on Kennewick Avenue.
Franklin: Oh, right. And then how did your parents meet?
Ferqueron: In school.
Franklin: Oh, in school. Well, right, first through fifth. But how did they reconnect later—I mean, were they both in Richland at the same time, or—
Ferqueron: Yeah, he came back to work for Thad--
Franklin: Well, right.
Ferqueron: --in what is now West Richland. And mom worked for John Dam. You know, John Dam Plaza?
Ferqueron: Named after him. Well, she worked for John for—right out of high school. She graduated in the old high school here in 1922, and went to work for John Dam.
Franklin: And what did she do?
Ferqueron: And Dad was in and out of the—she was a clerk.
Franklin: Oh, in—
Ferqueron: In his store, mm-hm.
Franklin: Oh, at his store.
Ferqueron: Yeah. Well, John Dam had a—well, it was like a department store. He sold everything. He was also our unofficial banker.
Franklin: As many storekeepers often were in those days.
Ferqueron: Well, he gave credits through the winter to the farmers and then they would pay it off in the fall with the crops.
Franklin: Right, yeah, no, that’s a—
Ferqueron: An old—
Franklin: A long-standing tradition in agriculture.
Ferqueron: Yeah. A lost tradition now.
Franklin: Yes. Although, sadly, sometimes, abused and—like the sharecropping system of the South. But usually not quite so much here, luckily. So graduated from Richland. Okay, wow. So you said you grew up—you lived in three different farms here.
Ferqueron: Yeah. And went to school here in Richland at what is now Lewis and Clark.
Franklin: Went to school at Lewis and Clark. Okay. And how come your parents moved so much in the 12 years between the three different farms? Do you know why they--?
Ferqueron: You know, I really don’t remember. Some of the farms—two of the farms were rented. So that might have been why. He found a better place. There was a time when we moved away from Richland. We lived in Corfu, which does not exist now.
Franklin: In where, sorry?
Ferqueron: Corfu. It’s right across the mountain from White Bluffs.
Franklin: Could you—
Ferqueron: Right out of Othello.
Franklin: Could you spell that for me?
Ferqueron: Corfu, C-O-R-F-U.
Franklin: Oh, okay. I would not have spelled it that way. Thank you.
Ferqueron: And as far as we know, my sister was the only person ever born there. My mother was a postmaster there. All the outlying farmers would come in and get their mail there.
Franklin: Mm. Do you know if there was a store there, or was it just a—
Ferqueron: Yes, there was a store, but it was gone. It was abandoned. Actually, Corfu was founded, I think, for the railroad workers.
Ferqueron: To have a place to stay. And we lived in—it was a hotel, and we lived on the second floor, and, well, part of the time on the first floor. And my mother was postmaster.
Franklin: Interesting. Was it a functioning hotel at that point?
Ferqueron: No. No, we were the only residents in there.
Franklin: Only residents there. Oh, wow.
Ferqueron: We had lots of room.
Franklin: So it was really just the postal designation to deliver mail at that point. And was that—
Ferqueron: We had a lot of sheep herders go through.
Franklin: Oh, I would imagine. Interesting.
Ferqueron: I don’t know if you know about the sheep herds that went through. They were—oh, about four of five thousand sheep per herd, you know.
Franklin: Right, and it was often—
Ferqueron: They would go up, and go across Grand Coulee Dam before it was closed to them.
Franklin: And it was often—I don’t know if it was this far north, but often sheep herders were Basque men? People from the Basque region? Do you know of—
Ferqueron: I just remembered, when my father was in his early teens, he was a sheep herder for a summer or two.
Franklin: Oh, really?
Franklin: Wow, that’s really—in the same area?
Ferqueron: Yeah, mm-hmm.
Franklin: Is Corfu—was that where part of the Hanford reservation extends over?
Ferqueron: You know, I don’t know if it goes that far or not. I doubt it, but I don’t know.
Ferqueron: I know people are surprised when I tell them that there’s ice caves up there.
Ferqueron: Yeah, the White Bluffs range there. Yeah. We used to go into those ice caves, and the people in Corfu and another little town up there used to keep their meat and stuff in there.
Ferqueron: Refrigeration, yeah.
Franklin: Yeah, that was a very prized thing before electric refrigeration.
Ferqueron: Well, it’s been there since the Ice Age.
Franklin: Wow, that’s really interesting.
Franklin: What was the other little town?
Ferqueron: You know, I just don’t remember now.
Franklin: That’s okay. So your parents—your mother worked for John Dam for a time, your father was kind of a wheat farmer—
Ferqueron: Yeah, and—
Franklin: Then they settled down and lived in these three different farms. Now, the last one you lived in in Richland, that was one that your parents had bought?
Ferqueron: They were buying it.
Franklin: Yeah--or they were buying it, they had a mortgage on it.
Ferqueron: Yeah, they did pay quite a bit on it when we lost it. But we lost—they just lost all of that.
Franklin: And it was a cattle ranch?
Ferqueron: It was a dairy farm, yeah.
Franklin: Dairy farm, sorry.
Ferqueron: Yeah. As far as I remember, we had about 27 cows. We had a huge pasture. Dad rented out pasture land to horses, too.
Franklin: Mm. Was that irrigated pasture, or--?
Franklin: Oh, just for—
Ferqueron: It had a pond, but—
Franklin: Oh, it had a pond, okay.
Ferqueron: I only remember that, because I was sliding around on it one time on the ice and went through the ice and cut my ankle open.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Ferqueron: That’s why I remember it.
Franklin: So tell me about growing up in kind of this small agricultural town—
Ferqueron: Well, it’s—
Franklin: And your childhood and school and friends.
Ferqueron: Well, everybody knew you, and I was related to half the town, because I had--two uncles had places here, and at least one aunt and her husband. Well, I always say, it was so small in town that if I did anything wrong, my father knew about it in about 30 seconds, because—[LAUGHTER]—the whole town would call him and tell him, you know? But it was just a really easy-going good time.
Franklin: How did the Depression affect your family? Did it affect the town?
Ferqueron: Well, about like anybody else, except we had meat, because we had cows, we had pigs, we had chickens. Mom would buy a bunch of little chicks every year. We grew—my mother canned everything. We had lots of food. Clothes and everything, that was a little bit of a problem because of the money. But we did pretty good because—and I don’t remember ever being hungry. Well, I had the kind of parents that if there was food, we got it first anyway.
Franklin: Right. So you might not have known at the time—
Ferqueron: I don’t remember it being an unhappy time at all.
Ferqueron: But now I realize how much I learned from my mother of how to get by cheaply. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Yeah! Did you ever go to Hanford or White Bluffs at all? Did you know anybody at Hanford?
Ferqueron: Oh, yeah. We went through there. I did know them, but now—except for one teacher and I can’t remember his name—and he also taught at Kennewick later. I had him for a teacher there. That was 65 years ago that I graduated. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Of course, of course. A lot of focus is on—especially recently with the creation of the National Park and some of these stories of White Bluffs and Hanford are becoming more well-known, but Richland is also a community that was—
Franklin: --displaced by the—
Ferqueron: We were very affected by it. I mean, a very emotional thing. There was one man that when they told him he had to get out, he died later that day of a heart attack. Now, whether or not he had a heart attack coming on, who knows? But he did die of a heart attack. Well, that hit us all pretty hard. And then having to say goodbye to my grandparents, and my cousins, and aunts and uncles—
Franklin: Have you ever been to any of the—I know they had the Hanford-White Bluffs reunions—were Richland people ever included in those?
Ferqueron: I don’t know about—we never were included as far as I know with Hanford and White Bluffs, but we had our own. It was called the Old Timers’ Picnic.
Franklin: Old Timers’ Picnic, okay.
Ferqueron: And you could not come to that unless you were here prior to 1943. I remember one occasion there, I was living in the south at the time, in South Carolina—came out for vacation. I was 36 years old, and I’m sitting at this table, and Mrs. John Dam, who had not seen me since I was a child, came up to me and said, you must be Edith Long’s little girl. And she patted me on the head like I was a little child. I’ll never forget it. I could not believe she remembered me all that time.
Ferqueron: That was shortly before she died.
Franklin: Wow, that’s something.
Ferqueron: She was in her 90s then.
Franklin: Wow. Yeah, memories are funny that way, huh?
Franklin: I mean, some things we remember crystal clear, and others kind of seem to get fuzzy.
Ferqueron: Just the other day, someone asked me, well, who was John Dam? And its kind of surprised me, because I just assumed everybody knew who he was.
Ferqueron: And he was county commissioner, too.
Franklin: Yeah. How much of—do you live in Richland now?
Ferqueron: I live at the Richland Wye, yes.
Franklin: Okay. How did you feel coming back to the Richland Wye and seeing this different town that had been—
Franklin: --created, and this kind of suburban landscape that had been placed over what had once been farmland. How did that make you feel when you came back?
Ferqueron: Well, it made me—it was not a good thing. Bad memories. Losing—my dad’s losing his farm that he’d worked so many years and everything for—it basically shortened his life some.
Franklin: Oh, it’s okay.
Ferqueron: Well, it means I got to take a pill.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Ferqueron: So I need my bag over there.
Franklin: Oh, sure. Emma, can you grab that? And then we have water right here for you.
Ferqueron: Yeah. I forgot about it. I would have turned it off.
Emma Rice: This bag?
Franklin: Believe me, it’s all right.
Ferqueron: Well, if I don’t, I might forget it.
Franklin: Right, no, believe me, it’s—
Ferqueron: You know, when you’re 85, you’ve got to be careful.
Rice: No, you—[LAUGHTER] You’re good.
Ferqueron: I’ve got water here. I’ll be fine.
Rice: Oh, okay.
Ferqueron: But it was also a little complicated, because living at the Richland Wye, we had one time and Richland had another time. It was an hour’s difference between us.
Franklin: Huh? Really?
Ferqueron: Yes. Yes, Richland city proper—property was on—an hour ahead of us.
Franklin: Huh! Oh, is that—that must be before they—
Ferqueron: That’s before the government gave out—
Franklin: --firmed up the time zones, right?
Franklin: Interesting. That’s very—that I had not heard at all.
Ferqueron: We wanted to go to Richland to a movie, we had to go at a different time.
Franklin: [LAUGHTER] Is there any—I’ve heard there’s still a few buildings in Richland left from the pre-’43 days.
Ferqueron: Yeah, there’s a few houses. The Carlson house as far as I know is still here. And John Dam’s store, I think, is still here. Down there, off of Lee, where they have that roundabout with the metal tree?
Ferqueron: His store stood in right there somewhere. I’m pretty sure that building is still there.
Franklin: Oh, really?
Ferqueron: But I’m not positive to that at all.
Franklin: Of course.
Ferqueron: It would be on the corner of Lee and Jadwin.
Ferqueron: But everything has changed so much. And then there’s—across the street, on Lee going into the park, on the left-hand side, I’m pretty sure that’s an original building. Well, maybe not original to Richland, but it was in Richland before Hanford. It was, I think, a bar. And something else, because I remember going in there and asking Dad for a dime so that the six of us—at the time there was just six of us—could buy some candy. And for a dime, we got a whole bagful.
Ferqueron: And I remember the butcher—George Gress was his name. Had a butcher shop. He was German, and he made these wonderful sausages that were ready to eat. Us kids would go down and stand in front of his store and look in the window at it. Ha! He had such a good heart. And we’d send our youngest brother in because he was so cute—in to see George. And he—Dean, my brother—would come out with sausage hung around his neck. [LAUGHTER] And we’d all have some sausage. I don’t know if my parents ever found out about that or not. If they had, they’d have put a stop to it.
Franklin: Right, right. What was—I gather that a lot of the street names were changed when the government came in.
Ferqueron: Oh, yes.
Franklin: And what was—you mentioned the John Dam store was on Lee and Jadwin, so I imagine there were streets there.
Ferqueron: It is now. I don’t know that there was a—if there was, I don’t remember it.
Ferqueron: Yeah. I would go down there to cash—I was old enough to go and cash the dairy checks that Dad got for his milk and stuff.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Ferqueron: And instead of him coming in to do it, or my mother—when I was at school I’d go and cash them there. But I don’t remember there being any streets.
Franklin: Okay. Do you—I know Howard Amon Park was there before the—
Ferqueron: Oh, yeah.
Franklin: So do you have any memories of Howard Amon Park?
Ferqueron: Oh [LAUGHTER] yes. Well, first of all it wasn’t quite as large now. But Howard, as far as I know, gave that—he died before I was born, but I knew all the other Amons.
Ferqueron: But I think he gave them the lease on that land for eternity as a park. And that concrete gate they have down there, I remember that as being larger, but of course I was a child, you know, so maybe it wasn’t larger. But no, the one story I remember about that was our class had an Easter egg hunt down there one year. I was one of the tallest in the class, so I could find all the Easter eggs. They were real eggs. [LAUGHTER] I had a small washpan full. [LAUGHTER] And the teacher asked me if I’d share them with the children. And I said, oh, yeah, glad to! Because we had a farm and we had 500 chickens laying eggs, you know? And I did not want to take home a bunch of boiled eggs to my mother. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Right, you were probably eating enough eggs.
Ferqueron: But what I really remember is the winter of the egg hunt, got a chocolate bunny about this high. And I got that bunny. So I didn’t care about the eggs, I won that chocolate bunny. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Right! Can you talk a little bit about going to school in Richland and kind of just—
Franklin: You know, the teachers and the kinds of subjects you learned and the classes taught and just kind of how that experience was for you?
Ferqueron: Well, it was just really average, except there wasn’t anywhere near as many of us, of course. One of my teachers was Miss Carlson, who was a friend of my mother’s. Now, when I came into the Kennewick School District, I had gone to school the first year in Corfu. We had a two-room schoolhouse, and I was the entire elementary school. I was the only student in the elementary school.
Ferqueron: And there was three high school students. And our teacher was a high school teacher, and he didn’t know what to do with me.
Ferqueron: So he read me stories all day long. Whenever he got a chance, he’d read me stories and teach me a little bit. So when I came to Richland, I was very far behind.
Ferqueron: And Miss Carlson got one of the other students to spend a couple hours with me in the library to catch me up. So I caught up to the third grade, and then from then on, it was pretty easy. Pretty good.
Franklin: Who was the—so you went to a four-person school in Corfu—
Ferqueron: Yeah. Well, actually, the second year in Corfu, it was five, because my brother joined me in the elementary school. We doubled our elementary school.
Franklin: Doubled the elementary school. Were your family religious at all? Did they attend church in Richland or Corfu?
Ferqueron: No, no, we didn’t. But my mother was a religious person, and we got some there. Now, I don’t remember going to church there.
Ferqueron: Of course, later on, I did. We all—and my parents decided that the seven of us could choose our own religions. So they didn’t push us in any particular direction. But my father ended up a Catholic.
Ferqueron: And my mother was baptized in the Baptist church. And I go to a Baptist church.
Franklin: That’s very—I don’t know—very progressive kind of stance on education—or on Christianity—on religion for that time period. Because so many preexisting—
Ferqueron: Well, they were always very strong. I never heard my parents say “if” you get out of high school; it was always “when” you get out—“when” you graduate. I had one brother who didn’t, but he had some vision problems, and he went into the Air Force and finished in the Air Force. So we’re all graduates. And I have a couple—a brother that’s a graduate of—I guess Washington. I’m not sure. He did it—he was in the Army, so he had some education in Berlin, El Paso, Texas, wherever he could get it.
Franklin: Right, sure.
Ferqueron: But education was always pushed in our family.
Franklin: Oh, that’s great.
Franklin: I mean, it’s so fundamental for success later in life.
Ferqueron: Right. Well, it’s really the reason we left Corfu and went back to Richland, is because, obviously, my brother and I were not learning anything in Corfu. We were just not. And the teacher was not a good teacher. So they pulled us out and we came down here to—because of us getting education.
Franklin: Right. Are you—where are you—you said you had seven brothers and—or you’re of seven--?
Ferqueron: I’m the oldest of seven.
Franklin: You’re the oldest of seven, okay.
Ferqueron: I have five brothers and one sister.
Franklin: So I can imagine, then, that they—staying in Corfu, they would be looking at kind of a legacy of not so good edu—you know.
Ferqueron: Right. Yeah.
Franklin: Yeah, that makes a lot of—and how close are you all in age? Are you fairly close in age?
Ferqueron: Well, let’s see. Yeah, we are, except for two of them. There’s me, and 18-19 months later is my brother, Verne, whom you’ve already interviewed. Then there’s Roy, who’s another year, year-and-a-half. And Lorne is a year, and then my sister comes a year after Lorne. And then there’s Dean and then five years after Dean—surprise, there’s Dale. [LAUGHTER] So that’s how we run. All pretty close.
Franklin: Right. Most families have at least one surprise.
Franklin: What did your mother do in this time, you know—did she work on the farm with your father?
Ferqueron: Oh, yeah. She did until she became allergic to the sun.
Franklin: Oh! There’s a lot of sun here.
Ferqueron: But most of her time was spent either with us children, or she was canning. She had a garden. Of course our garden was quite large. And then the farm was alfalfa and dairy. But we had a big garden.
Franklin: Did she or your father ever take any cash work before the government came? You know, any kind of off-the-farm jobs or anything?
Ferqueron: No. Well, yeah, wait. When the war came, we were still on the farm, and Dad went to work at Big Pasco. You heard of Big Pasco?
Franklin: Yeah, the holding—the supply depot.
Ferqueron: Right, supplies for the Army. He worked there for a short while—maybe a year. I don’t remember how long. I do remember why he quit. He had a major that was a 90-day wonder, they used to call them. He’d been an officer for 90 days. And anyway, he and Dad got into it over something, and Dad says, well, I quit. And he said, well, you can’t quit, because you’re working for the Army. You’re frozen in the job. And Dad said, well, that’s just tough, and walked off. Two days later, this officer and a sergeant showed up at our house and was going to take Dad off to the Army. Well, he was 35. Dad just lined us kids up in the yard and said, these are my six kids, and there’s a seventh one on the way. I am a farmer, so therefore I’m deferred. And I remember the major getting terribly angry, and the sergeant actually drug him back to the Jeep. He was so angry! And as they were driving away,Dad said, oh and by the way, I have an ulcer. Which the Army wouldn’t touch him with an ulcer. I remember that so clearly because it was absolutely hilarious. Well, that was my father, the way he did things.
Franklin: Is there anything else you would like to say about Richland before the war that I haven’t asked you about?
Ferqueron: Well, I remember the day that Pearl Harbor happened.
Franklin: Oh, okay, yeah.
Ferqueron: I was listening to the radio in the house, and my mother was outside talking to somebody, some lady. And I heard the announcement that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and so I went outside and I asked my mother, where’s Pearl Harbor? And she said, in Hawai’i. And I told her what happened, and I’ll never forget her remark. She said, thank God my boys are little. And that’s about all I remember about that.
Ferqueron: That particular day.
Franklin: Yeah, that’s very searing.
Ferqueron: But I had uncles who ended up in the war and all that kind of stuff. No, I don’t remember an awful lot about it.
Franklin: Sure, sure.
Ferqueron: Well, I do remember, they had a rubber drive. And we had a rubber—we had a tire swing in our yard that Dad had put up for us. And us kids, we scoured that farm for rubber and metal for the defense, you know? We were getting ready to cut the tire down, and Dad made us stop. He said, no, you’ve given enough. He said, you’re not giving up your swing.
Ferqueron: I do remember that.
Franklin: That’s really sweet.
Franklin: Did things economically start to improve for your family during the war?
Ferqueron: They did, when the war come, yeah, yeah.
Franklin: Until, of course, the evacuation.
Franklin: I kind of already asked you about how coming back made you feel. When you look at Hanford and its kind of legacy, you must have an interesting—you have a different perspective from most people that came here during the war.
Franklin: I wonder if you could talk about—
Ferqueron: Sometimes I’m resentful because of what happened with my parents and what they lost—what we all lost, everybody who ever lived here. But then again, you just kind of live with it. But I do get upset when people don’t want to talk about anything but Hanford. I want them to remember there was something here 200 years before. Because we had Indians here. We had woolly mammoths walking up and down the Columbia River, for heaven’s sake. And what about the Indian history? I don’t hear much about Indian history.
Franklin: No, that’s a good question.
Ferqueron: There was Indians living up there!
Franklin: Right. Did you ever have—did you ever meet any Wanapum or Yakama people?
Ferqueron: I never met a Wanapum until years later—in fact, about five or six years ago. But I did know some Yakamas, but not while I was living in Richland.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Franklin: Yeah, that’s—several groups of people have been alienated from the land here.
Ferqueron: Right, yeah. Oh, the Indians—they were done really rotten.
Franklin: Yeah, yes they were.
Ferqueron: Long before we were. I never could figure out—
Franklin: I teach—
Ferqueron: Why do we call Indians savages when our people were really the savages? Stealing their land and everything.
Franklin: Yes, and indiscriminately killing them.
Ferqueron: Yes, that’s how I—well, our admiration of President Roosevelt went into the dumper when Hanford happened.
Ferqueron: Yeah, there were a lot of people mad at him, because—I never did see it—but I’ve been told many times that there was a letter written by Roosevelt, saying that we could have the land back at the price they paid for it when they were through with it. Well, when the time came, and the government left here, he said, no, he’d never written it.
Ferqueron: And nobody could ever prove it. But I just heard about it; I never did see it.
Franklin: When you—can you describe about when you and your family found out about the atomic bombs dropped, that one of them was—part of that was produced at Hanford, and Hanford’s connection to that. How did that—
Ferqueron: Well, it was kind of a shock to even realize it was something as powerful as that. But the day that we found out was when Dad came home with a newspaper, and it was in there. And he said, well, now we finally know what they were doing out there and why they were doing it.
Franklin: Did that change anyone’s feelings about what had happened, or—
Ferqueron: I don’t—
Franklin: Or not?
Ferqueron: Some people it did. I went to a funeral a few years ago for one of the Richland—for Eddie Supplee’s wedding. It was quite a family of Supplees here. They were still bitter. He was very bitter before he died. I talked to him not long before he died and he was very bitter about Hanford, and it had been so many years. So it was a lot of people with a lot of resentment.
Franklin: Did you ever connect—do you know if there’s much connection between the displaced peoples of Hanford who later resettled and then the so-called down-winders, people that were affected later by releases from Hanford? Do you know if there was ever any talk between those two groups?
Ferqueron: No, not that I know of. Not that I’m aware of. I know one thing—when the construction workers came in—of course, they spilled out all over, because there was over 30,000 of them—
Franklin: Yeah huge influx.
Ferqueron: And they were settling all over in Kennewick and everywhere. Some of them were not a good class of people. You know, they were—I met a few of them, and they were pretty bad. But when everybody left Richland, they left the cream of the crop. We got some really great people in. We got a lot of good scientists. We are really quite an area for science and everything.
Franklin: How does that make you—you sound a little—both happy that they’re there, but obviously then there’s this other side of it where—
Ferqueron: Well, I—
Franklin: --had this not happened, that would still be—that your family would still have a place here.
Ferqueron: I’m just the sort of a person—I adjust just very easily. I’ll say, well, this is life; this is the way it’s going. Why—there’s nothing I can do about it so, just enjoy what you have.
Franklin: So you came back to the Wye when you—how old were you when your parents—
Ferqueron: I was 15 when we first came to the Wye, and I’m still living in the same house.
Franklin: Oh, in the house that had been—
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Ferqueron: Well, it was down on Columbia Park Trail. At the time it was Columbia Drive, but it set right almost on the road. In the Flood of ’48 or whatever that year was—it was about that far from our front door.
Ferqueron: But my dad moved it up on a little hill. And, yeah, I’m still living in that house.
Franklin: You are still living in that house.
Ferqueron: Uh-huh, yeah. I still own it.
Franklin: So the house from—
Ferqueron: The house that we moved from Finley to Richland Wye in was a two—three-room house. There wasn’t enough bedrooms—it was all that we could get at the time. But behind it was a Quonset hut left over from the war.
Ferqueron: So Dad moved—and Mom moved—my brothers and me out there, because I was 15, and I could be out there at night to—whatever the kids—boys needed, and to keep them from killing one another. You know how that is with—[LAUGHTER]—boys.
Franklin: Oh, I know.
Ferqueron: So we slept in the Quonset hut until Dad moved the house up on the hill where it is now, and added to it. And they raised seven kids, and the two of them, and an uncle who stayed with us for a while, in a two-bedroom house, very small house. Bunk beds all over the place, but we made out. And then years later, my brother put a basement in there. He lives in the basement now and I live upstairs.
Franklin: Oh, wow, that’s—
Ferqueron: We both own the house.
Ferqueron: It’s only about 75 years old. [LAUGHTER] It’s falling down around us, but we’re both in our 80s, so—
Franklin: Was that house brought here during World War II, or does that predate it?
Ferqueron: It was sitting there—I don’t know what the history on it. I know my parents bought it for $1,000—that and the land under it.
Ferqueron: That’s under it now. Yeah.
Franklin: Wow, that’s really—and so what were your—so you moved back at 15, and then what—you graduated from the—
Ferqueron: Kennewick High.
Franklin: Kennewick High.
Franklin: ’49. And then what did you do?
Ferqueron: It was just a few months later I went in the Navy.
Ferqueron: So I was in the Navy, and went to Bay Bridge, right out of Baltimore—not Baltimore—yeah, Baltimore for boot camp. And then I went to San Diego for school, and—
Franklin: And what did you do in—
Ferqueron: I was a commissaryman. What I did was—to put it as simple as I can—is I ran a large, very large restaurant. I was a crew boss. There was actually two of us, because it was—our shifts were 18-hour shifts.
Ferqueron: So, I’d work five days one week and two days the next, and the other girl would take over for the opposite watch. Anyway, it was like running a huge restaurant, except I didn’t have to worry about the menu; that came out of Washington, DC. I did that for two years. Then I got married, and married an engineman from South Carolina. That’s where the Ferqueron name comes from. We traveled around quite a bit for a couple years—well, about four or five years. Had one daughter. And he became an officer—a submarine officer.
Ferqueron: In Hawai’i.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Ferqueron: So I’ve lived in Hawai’i, I’ve lived in California—my daughter was born in California—Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and Washington. [LAUGHTER] I think I’ve got them all, anyway. That was over a 30-year period.
Franklin: Wow. So when did you come back to the Richland area?
Ferqueron: In 1988—’84. ’84.
Ferqueron: ’84. My mother had a very mild heart attack, and I sold my house in South Carolina and came out here to take care of her. And just stayed, because she left me the house—me and my brother—the house. And I went to work for churches here in childcare. I worked for five different churches.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Ferqueron: And I retired from doing that, and now I do a lot of volunteer work.
Franklin: So when you left Richland, or the area of Richland, it was kind of this closed town.
Ferqueron: It was very—yeah. And small, compared to today.
Franklin: Right, smaller and also wholly government owned.
Ferqueron: Oh, yes.
Franklin: And when you came back, Richland was, you know—
Ferqueron: Wide open, yeah.
Franklin: Wide open. And then shortly after, production at Hanford ceased.
Franklin: I’m wondering if you can talk about that a bit, how you felt about that, and kind of watching that legacy of Hanford stop.
Ferqueron: Yeah. Well, I just—I really don’t know how I really felt about it. I just went about my way, and not too concerned. Although I wondered—all of that money and stuff in there and they’re closing it down. You know? And they might have to open it up again at some time. You never know.
Franklin: That’s true.
Ferqueron: I didn’t spend too much worrying about the past.
Franklin: Did you keep in touch with a lot of people from old Richland when you lived around, and--?
Ferqueron: No. They were so scattered that I didn’t—I lost contact with a lot of them, including some relatives.
Franklin: What about when you came back to Richland, did you start to rebuild those relationships again?
Ferqueron: No, uh-unh. No, most of my relationships, even today, are from Kennewick High.
Franklin: Oh, okay, right.
Ferqueron: Yeah, because I have lunch with the people that are still living here. I have lunch with them once a month.
Franklin: Sure. I mean, that makes sense because they weren’t scattered forcibly.
Ferqueron: Right, and the people who went to high school in Richland, we really had nothing to do with, you know.
Franklin: Right, because they were—
Ferqueron: Right, entirely different—
Franklin: Entirely different. And you weren’t welcome in Richland anymore, right? I mean—
Ferqueron: Well, they didn’t understand how we felt about it. How could they understand?
Franklin: Right, right. To them it had been an opportunity.
Ferqueron: Yeah, and they came here, and they thought they built the town up from a sand pile to what it is today. You know?
Franklin: Interesting. Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you about today that you’d like to mention?
Ferqueron: I do have something I have arguments with people about and that’s why the Richland Wye is called the Richland Wye. They all assume it’s the highway. It’s not. It’s an old Indian trail.
Ferqueron: And the reasons why is because the Yakama tribes would come down from Yakima and camp at the Richland Wye. The Wanapums and the tribes up that way would come down, cross the river, approximately where we cross it now—the Yakima. They would meet the Yakama tribe there; they would go on to Walla Walla for the pow-wows, and that forms the Richland Wye.
Franklin: Oh, interesting. And where did you—
Ferqueron: I used to go to the meetings for the Daughters of Washington State. I didn’t quite qualify—my family didn’t come quite—or I couldn’t prove that they came quite soon enough for me to be a complete Daughter of Washington, but—
Ferqueron: And then our particular section broke up. People started dying off, and—I was quite a bit younger than some of them. This is where I learned more about it.
Ferqueron: Yeah. Well, they do have a marker out there now that says heritage trail, but there’s no explanation as to what it is.
Ferqueron: And I think the Indians should have credit for that! [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: I mean, they certainly had extensive trading and travel networks and that things we—
Ferqueron: Oh, yeah. They did that once every year, I think.
Franklin: Yeah, I believe so.
Ferqueron: So it formed a trail.
Franklin: Yeah, there’s a lot there that we first ignored, and then the interest was in some cases too late for--
Ferqueron: Well, everything is focused on Hanford now. And Battelle and the companies that are here now, and the labs out there, and Battelle. I think all that stuff is great, but to me, I still see a farm out there.
Franklin: Right, right. I mean, how could you not? I mean, you had—you grew up there.
Ferqueron: Right. Well, from ten days old.
Ferqueron: I can still picture my grandfather’s farm just as if it was still there.
Franklin: Well, Lorraine, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. It’s been really insightful, and—yeah, I think it’s really important to have a voice of those pre-war communities and that transition period, and how there’s this other narrative of Hanford that sometimes gets lost in the telling of the story.
Ferqueron: Yeah. I don’t want it to get lost. I want those people to be remembered. Because they gave a big sacrifice. That was a huge sacrifice.
Franklin: Yeah, it is.
Ferqueron: Even though it was forced, it was still—there is one other story I heard, and one of the farms here was owned by a woman and her cherries were ready to pick, and they told her she couldn’t pick them. She had to get out first. And this is a story I heard from the time I was 12. She had a shotgun loaded with rock salt. You know what rock salt is?
Franklin: Yeah, yeah.
Ferqueron: Of course. Well, she shot the FBI man. Hurt him pretty bad. And I remember everybody in town was, well, she’s going to go to jail. You shoot an FBI man, you’re going to go to jail. Nothing was ever done, she picked her cherries and moved out.
Ferqueron: Well, it was too secret; they couldn’t.
Franklin: Right, because if they had taken her to court, that arrest record would be—
Ferqueron: There would be reporters in no time. It would’ve been all over the country in no time at all.
Franklin: To kind of make that go away, right? Wow, that’s really something. That’s a great story.
Franklin: Well, Lorraine, again, thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today.
Ferqueron: Well, I want to do anything I can to make sure people remember there was a Richland before Hanford started.
Franklin: Yeah, and we’re going to add this oral history right by your brother’s, and so have that as a great—again, thank you for helping expand that—
Ferqueron: The other children in our family are too young, and my brother Roy is so deaf he couldn’t hear you if he tried, and he doesn’t like to think about those times at all. And he was born in Richland.
Ferqueron: But a midwife who later became our grandmother—she married my—she had a farm here in Richland, and she lost her husband in ’35, and my grandmother lost his wife—my grandmother—in ’36. And they farmed alongside one another for many, many years.
Ferqueron: And then they got married. After we were all grown. So one day at school, there was a whole bunch of kids there that were just other kids; the next day they were my cousins. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: That’s really something.
Ferqueron: Yeah, it was interesting.
Franklin: Well, again, I can’t thank you enough, Lorraine.
Ferqueron: Oh, well, I’ve enjoyed it, really.
Franklin: Oh, good! Me too. Me too. Okay, so we’ll--
Ferqueron: I wish I remembered more. I was only 12, 13.
Franklin: Well, that gives you enough, though, you know, concrete experiences that you do remember.
Ferqueron: Yeah, there’s a lot of family names that I remember. And, well, like I said, I’ve gone to a couple funerals from there. But those are pretty much gone now. I think it’ll be my family next.
Franklin: Well, hopefully not too soon.
Ferqueron: Oh, no. Well, I just had a heart valve put in, and the doctor told me to—and I’m 85—and the doctor told me to come back--