Interview with Frank Trent

Dublin Core


Interview with Frank Trent


Hanford (Wash.)
Hanford Site (Wash.)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Wash.)
Richland (Wash.)


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


Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at, who can provide specific rights information for this item.

Date Modified

2016-07-8: Metadata v1 created – [RG]

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Bauman, Robert


Trent, Frank


Washington State University - Tri Cities


Northwest Public Television | Trent_Frank

Frank Trent: Well I don't know.

Robert Bauman: I just let people tell their stories is really what the primary thing is. I have some questions to try and help it along a little, but--So we're going?

Man one: Yeah.

Bauman: Okay, great. All right. So maybe before I ask any questions, if I could have you say your name and spell it for us.

Trent: Okay. My name is Frank Trent. And I live in Richland, Washington.

Bauman: And the last name is T-R-E-N-T?

Trent: Yes.

Bauman: Okay. Great. And my Name's Robert Bauman. And we are conducting this oral history interview on February 12th of 2013 on the campus at Washington State.

Trent: '14.

Bauman: What's that? '14.


Bauman: Thank you. You would think by February I would have figured--

Trent: You want to start over?

Bauman: No, we're good. I'll just say 2014. It's still this form that has it. There we go. So I wonder if we can start by maybe just telling us what brought you to Hanford. How you came here? What brought you here? And maybe your initial impressions of the place?

Trent: Well, I first came here in 1950, in the winter of 1950. And we came over the pass. At that time, it was—there was no Snoqualmie Pass at the time. It was the one out on 410 highway going over the mountains. Closes every winter.

Bauman: Not White Pass, huh?

Trent: Nope.

Bauman: I don't know.

Trent: Maybe it'll come to me. Anyway, we came over the pass in the back of a Deuce and a Half truck. And it was a whole company of us. And pre-military set up here. And we came in and there was snow about 200 feet in the air where they plowed it often, blew it into the mountains. And all you could see is walls of snow on both sides. But anyway, we came on in down here and lived in a pup tent. You don't know what those are probably. You do?

Bauman: Mm-hmm.

Trent: And two people teamed up. And here you had something about the size of a blanket. And it was thinner than a blanket. It was called a--the material was made like a tent material. And we called them pup tents. There was two people. And each person carried a half of it. And then when you went out into the fields or combat or wherever, you set that tent up. And that's where you lived. Well, it was pretty cold here. And we wound up burning anything we can get a hold of. It's a wonder we didn't kill ourselves. And these little pup tents, they only had a little opening you could make, or you'd get too much stuff in there--air, cold air.

Bauman: Do you remember any specific things that you burned?

Trent: Show polish. Anything that would get heat. Paper, shoe polish, anything. And that was the worst I guess. And we had one guy freeze to death. I don't know. It was cold. I started driving a water truck. And I wound up in the back of the water truck. It was a Dodge, 3/4 ton Dodge pickup. And it had a cover on it. So I slept in there. And during the night, the water container froze and busted. And I got water all over there and it froze. And I was sleeping in ice. [LAUGHTER] Me and another guy. But that was the shock of it when you got here was there was nothing here but desert. There was a few trees, but people hadn't started raising too many trees at that time. If they did, they weren't very big. That was my--and when we went out, we went out on the Project and stayed out there for three weeks. They had four groups. One group was off all the time. And the other three was covering around the clock. And we set up 120 millimeter gun emplacements, set up in a diamond formation. And then off to the side in the openings of the diamond formation, there was four 50 caliber machine gun nests. And we could fire. And we did. We fired tracers, and every so often, a tracer would come out. They were timed so that every so many shells, and then a tracer would come out. That way you could follow that tracer with your—aiming your gun. But they were also hooked up to, at a later time, to the radar. And there was radar guided. Anyway, that was the emplacements. And we had a full crew there 24 hours a day. And we went up to Yakima and took our guns with us. Two of them I think is all we took though. They were beginning to set up that firing range up there. And we were doing pretty good at shooting that thing. And evidently, the radar got off a little bit with their calculations. And wound up, we shot the cable off just off the tail end of the airplane. They left. They didn't want any more. They says, we're going and we're ain't coming back. So that's part of it. Anyway, that's the beginnings of my arrival here.

Bauman: Where on the site were you?

Trent: Are you familiar enough with the old Y? You go through the first barricade, then you drive for, I don't know, about halfway to 2 West, 2 East. Maybe not quite that far, but there's a turn off there. Goes back towards, still 2 East, that 2 East area. And then you go on down and pick up 2 West. And we turned off just after that barricade out there at the Y. It may be two miles down from that Y area, there was a turn-off. And there was dirt, gravel and dirt. That's the old military highway road. And we were back in there probably five or six miles. You could see Rattlesnake very plainly from there. And a later time, when they built that road down through there going out to Yakima—Horn Rapids High Road—and at a later time, why, you could see that road and traffic on it from out there. Because I went out there with a group on our 50th military reunion and we made a new visit there. And cars were going by. Then there was no road back there. Anyway, at that time, if the cars that had been there--we were that close to where the highway's at now. There's a big knoll out there, just a rounded hill of sand. And that was between us and the Rattlesnake Mountain. So that'll give you a general location of where we were. It was A Battery, 518th.

Bauman: Okay. So where were you from originally? Had you ever been to this part of the Northwest before?

Trent: No. I come out of Harlan County, Kentucky. Lot of hills down there, rolling hills, but nothing mountainous like we know them now. Born and raised on a farm. Family of 17—18, counting me. And one mother and father. And we raised everything we could raise to eat ourselves. And the only thing we bought was stuff like staples that you had to have that you didn't grow. My dad was a coal miner, and the older boys actually raised the foods that we needed. Fed the animals, and ate the animals. And then in, let's see, October the 8th, 1949, I and two other guys from that area joined the service. I rode a bus. It was raining, about 6:15 in the morning. Got on the bus and never looked back. We went from there to Harlan and got in a military bus. And they drove us to Corbin, Kentucky. And that's right in there near Knoxville. And from there, we got on the train. We went to Louisville and then to Fort Knox. So that's how I got to that. Then we spent three or four months, I don't remember, in basic training. And then we shipped out in trucks for this side of the mountain, for Washington. Well first, we came out by train. And then we got into buses and trucks and went up to Fort Lewis, and Fort Lewis over here. We were selected as the first group to arrive in the Tri-Cities to help set up.

Bauman: Oh, okay. So how long were you at Fort Lewis then?

Trent: Just long enough to not want it. We did a lot of advanced basic training, crawling through mud and dirt and dust. And when you come out of there, you couldn’t see nothing but eyeballs. You was hot and then you put your arm down to crawl forward and then shooting over top of you with tracers. And the dust would puff up and it would stick to you, sweat on your body. So that was an experience.

Bauman: Yeah. So you said when you were out of the site, you were there for about three weeks. Then you'd have a week off, then you’d go back. So in terms of food when you were out on site, what sort of food did you have? If you were in the tents all the time?

Trent: Well at the beginning, before we really got set up, we was eating what you would call combat type rations. They'd come in containers and it was dished out after it was heated up. Our stove was a Bunsen burner under pots and pans. And we’d go through a line and dunk our mess kit in the boiling water and get any germs off of it that way. And then we ate dinner, and then we come back and had another container we dunked it in and brushed it out. And then dunked it in clean boiling water again. So that's how we kept stuff kind of sanitized. And a lot of people got dysentery from it. But mostly, it wasn't—we didn't have it too bad. Food wasn't too bad. And at a later time, after we got to set up, we had a regular mess tent and cooks. And we ate good. Sand in it, but we ate.

Bauman: So did you know anything about Hanford before you came here?

Trent: No, and I didn't know anything after I got here. But none of us did. We just knew we was guarding this installation, and we would be on around-the-clock duty. If you were asleep, the alarm sounded, everybody went to their stations. And we had a number of planes come through. And we had to get our big guns on it. And we would track it until they gave us the order to shoot. We only shot one time out there. And that was basically to settle the guns in and orient them so when they shot at something, they got fairly close. Those 120 millimeter shell casings were probably about that long. And the projectile was probably about that long. And they were timed: after you shot one of them into the air, they were timed to the target. And then they blew up. And supposedly it would supposed to knock down anything within a—I think it was 75 yards radius. So it could get anything in four directions. And we come close to getting the target plane. Yeah, it wasn't funny to the pilot, but it was funny to us.

Bauman: So then when you had a week off, where did you go? Did you go to town?

Trent: We had barracks in town. And that's the barracks here in North Richland. If you're coming up George Washington Way going north and you come to that rise in the road, and then you can level and go down toward Battelle. Just as you cleared the top of the road, there was a steam and boiler plant, steam generating plant just off to the left. And then the road that went by that—that was one of the first roads. We generally would turn on that. All of that area back down in there was barracks. And you can still see some of the pedestals that they sat on. And then over on the other side of GW Way there was—no, I guess it's still on the same side. They just add roads dividing the camp. And we were fairly close to a service station over on the highway, highway Stevens if you're going out to Hanford. We were just off of that a little bit—our outfit was. And from there, whoever was ready to go in and go back out, why, we took off in Deuce and a Half trucks. And we'd go out in a convoy and relieve the other outfit that was out there. And while you were gone, your camp was taken over by a new group. And that rotated.

Bauman: So, on sort of a typical day, what might your duties be? What sorts of things might have happened?

Trent: Scavenging. We made trips around out there. They probably figured out what we were doing, but they didn't seem to bother us because we didn't have nothing but tents at first. And so we'd scavenge enough stuff until we could put some stuff together to get in out of the wind. We couldn't get away from the sand though. But we did that and then done our duty. And we went off duty in the late afternoon and after dinner, we was off for the evening unless you got an alarm, an alert. And immediately, whatever you could get on, why you got on, and you got on those guns. Got everything turned on and adjusts your azimuth and elevation, and be ready to fire whatever come through if you were told to fire.

Bauman: So how long did you have just the pup tents? At what point did you [INAUDIBLE]?

Trent: It's probably about two months. And they come in and put up what we called a trip tent. And it's big enough to hold about ten people, five bunks down each side. And then later we put in wooden floors in them, and so we'd raise them up off of the ground a little bit so we wouldn't be sleeping right next to the ground. So, they brought it all out, and we had to put it together.

Bauman: And so how long were you doing this? How long were at Hanford in this capacity?

Trent: I was out there almost three years, And this discharge here. And by then, I was married and had one kid when I was discharged. Discharged in February of '53. And from that point, I found whatever I could to work at. But it wasn't much for a while. Finally I put in an application for General Electric, and they hired me. And that was my first trip as a civilian out to Hanford.

Bauman: You mentioned you got married. Did you meet your wife here?

Trent: Yes. Her dad came in '43. Actually, he came in 1940 out to the Northwest. And he went back to Memphis again. And from that point, he was working just across the border in Arkansas, out of Memphis. And some guy come through, I guess from the government, and put the word out, anybody want to transfer or go move to Washington? We've got a project up there we're building, and we need help. Anybody we can get to go. And he came out with that group and worked out here. And a year later, she came out. Well first off, he came in '40, went back and came back in about '43, in '43. And then he was here about a year, and then the kids came out. They came out by railroad, and no supervision. I think she was 12, my wife, 11 or 12. Her mother had—she would have been 12--because her mother had died earlier, tuberculosis. And she came out, and the rest is history. He stayed here and raised his family and worked at Hanford and wound up--one day, they came in and they had nobody that could really read a blueprint and follow it. And so they come around looking, and somebody said, go see Mac. He'll do that. And that was the beginning of his rise, which didn't go very far. He was some kind of a maintenance supervisor out there. And they come and got him and he said, let's see your prints. And he looked at them a little bit. Yeah, he said, I can build it. So they took him over there and he built the building for them with a crew. But they'd already started building. He had to tear it all down because it was wrong. And then after, I don't know, maybe six months, seven, I was in passing, and went into the drugstore at O’Malley’s—you remember where that was at? Okay. That had a little soda fountain in there. And I went in there and me and another guy and ordered a milkshake. And she said what kind do you want? I says, any kind you got. I don't know, just a milkshake. She figured she'd fix me, so she went back there and made me a suicide milkshake. Everything in the fountain went in it. That drink’s pretty good. So that's where I met my wife, 1950. And we were married in December after that.

Bauman: That's a great story.

Trent: Raised three boys. One of them is a Microsoft jet pilot. Flies for Microsoft. And one of them, well at this particular time, is in Edmonton, Canada—construction manager of some kind, hot spot guy. And the other one, Frank, is working in construction over on the west side. And he is living in Brown's Point in Tacoma, right on the ocean.

Bauman: Yeah. So you mentioned at some point you got a job with GE. What sort of job was that?

Trent: Anything to get on. I started out doing manual labor and mowing lawns. And I probably had about five or six months of that. And then I was transferred to White--not White Bluffs—Riverton. And I was doing maintenance work and oil changes on the railroad engines. And many times you'd have oil clean up to your elbows. And I don't know what they did with the oil. We drained it out into containers, and they disposed of it. Probably illegally, in these days. And from there then I went to work at 2 West. And I worked T Plant, U Plant,--at T Plant 221-T, 224-T, those two plants. And then I worked also, that was T-Plant. And then U Plant, I went to work down there. They needed people down there, so they sent me down there and done the same thing down there in U Plant, because the areas were almost identical in operation. And then the stuff that came out of there went to REDOX I believe. And they run through the procedures there, separating stuff out and boiling it down to what they were really looking for. And so anyway, we handled a lot of powdered uranium in that 224 Building. And after it was centrifuged, the heavy metal uranium powder was thrown out to the sides and stuck to the sides of the centrifuges. And the liquid was settled back down and drained back out and recycled back through I guess. I don't remember exactly the procedure. And we'd ship that uranium out of there and put it in barrels. And it was shipped out, I don't know where it went to. Maybe some of it went to Oak Ridge, I don't know. And then that was in operations. And we worked the hot zones. And they had us when we'd go into one, we'd have the RAMU people. They'd check you in, and when you had up to your limit on exposure, you'd come out. Go in and take samples and clean up in areas that were really hot spots.

Bauman: When you did those sorts of things, what sort of protective clothing did you wear?

Trent: Well, we would go in and change into SWP clothing and hoods. We had our regular shoes and we put covers over the shoes, plastic over the covers. And your pants legs were all taped down so that nothing could get through. And gloves, of course. And it was all taped down. And the last thing that went on was a mask. You had a canister of air. And I think you had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes and you're out of air. You better be out of there, or at least close enough where you could hold your breath and run to get out of there. Yeah, we worked the hot zones quite a bit. Sometimes we'd have to work until we were triple exposed to get a job done. And then of course we was relieved out of that until we were even with the scale of exposure. So that when you back in, why, they basically had you at zero exposure for starting back up. There was a lot of sitting time, because they had to have the people. And if you didn't keep them there, you didn't have the people to do the jobs. So rather than fire them, they'd put them on clean work. And if they didn't have that, you sat in the lunch room and played cards. Then from there—I went in and later, I went from the 2 West Area to the 100 Areas, and was in power operation there--boilers, refrigeration, air conditioning, and pumping stations that pumped water for the reactors.

Bauman: So you were at several places on site then?

Trent: Mm-hmm. I worked 100 B, C, D, DR, 2 West, not 2 East, but I'd been in 2 East a number of times. 2 West, I think that's about it out there, Riverton of course, at the beginning I was in Riverton. That's the old railroad station that hauled stuff in and out of Hanford.

Bauman: So of those—of the different places on site that you worked at different jobs that you had, did you have one that you enjoyed the most?

Trent: I enjoyed operating equipment--boilers, steam engines, pumping water, of course, electric, diesel generators. We had on our river pump station, we had pumps down there that'd pump 105,000 gallons per minute each of water. And if something happened to those pumps, then the diesels come online automatically. Now the diesel size was the PT boat that John Kennedy used when he was in the service. They were two diesel generators of the same size that came out of the—or were installed in the PT boats. And they were pretty good size. They would pump the same amount of water as the big electric box. The lines, I don't know what size they were now. I seem to remember 100, 102 inches in diameter. Pretty good sized piping. And if something happened, the scram, why, of course, they had to have water and generally pumped through with the diesels if something happened to a pumping station. So you always had backup. There was one incident in the 200 Area's power house. We had a backup generator down there generating electricity to use in case of power outages or whatever. And they were set on automatic standby. And my father-in-law was at that with his crew, was there doing work in that area. And it was in an open, kind of an open area. The showers were in that general area too. Never had a problem with any of those diesel generators. And they were in there eating dinner. They set a row of lockers up to separate the area. And that was where they ate. And that's where they went in and took showers before they went home. Or they come out of hot zone, they still had to take a shower. And they were in there having dinner, and for some unknown reason, nobody hung around. They ate their dinner, and they got up and went out back to the job and whatever they were doing I guess, early. And the generator tripped and came online. There was something wrong with the governor. And a diesel generator when it turns loose like that, and it can't get fuel from one place, it'll get it from another. It went on up to critical speed and blew up. And it embedded metal about three inches into concrete, solid concrete. So that's how bad—it could have wiped out everybody in that room. It wiped the room out. All their lockers and everything, that was gone. But that was one of the incidences that I remember that happened.

Bauman: Do you have any idea roughly what time period that might have been?

Trent: Phew, no, I don't. It would've been in the low '50s, early '50s. Because he went to work there in 2 West when I first came here. Yeah, his crew worked 2 West, 2 East. So they rotated around, wherever they were needed. But that happened to be in the 2 West Area where that generator blew up. Nobody was hurt. Pure luck.

Bauman: Earlier when you were talking, you mentioned that when you were in the army stationed out here, you didn't really know anything about Hanford or what was going on?

Trent: Well, we know we were guarding the installations there. And we knew that workers came in by buses and left by buses. And then later years—first you couldn't drive a car out there of any kind other than government. And then later years of course, that was relented and people could drive out there to their area. But mostly we were in and out of there in buses. And we came in nothing but bus to the 1100 Area, which is over here, off of Spangler, south of Stevens. And we came into there and unloaded there in a big parking lot in there while we had our cars parked there. So that's the routine. Everyday, we get up, the buses come through town and picked you up, all you to the 1100 Area. You changed to your area bus and get on there and it'd take you to right straight to your area, and off of there and check you through the security. And the same way when you come out. Security would check you out, you'd get on the bus, they'd haul you home.

Bauman: Was there at some point that you ended up driving your own car out? Or would you take buses?

Trent: I did a couple of times, but it wasn't worth it. There's too much fuel. But fuel was cheap then, compared to now. Still, you had to—and we came out when John F. Kennedy came out here. The whole family went out. And I was at that time working at 100 N Area. And we got 100 N Area up. And I was on duty the night they went critical and put the reactor in operation. That was the first dual purpose reactor, 100 N.

Bauman: Do you have any specific memories about when President Kennedy was here? What the day was like, or remember anything about him arriving?

Trent: The only thing I know is we were--they had the place set up for visitors to come in. And they had a lot of chairs. And a lot of it was standing room only because they didn't have enough chairs. They were getting ready to build the Washington Public Power Supply System’s generating system out there. And the pumps, those pumps I swear that they were longer than this room, each pump, steam-generated or steam-powered. And that was 109 N, was that generating place. And people were rotated shift-wise the same way—ABCD was the shifts. And of course, the fourth one was off. And then while that one was off, a spare would come in. So actually it's five crews. It was interesting. I worked water side of it for a lot of years. We had one guy that worked out there that was scared to death of something he couldn't understand. And he could not understand the big piece of equipment operating. And he was scared of it. And one night on duty—our shift was, and the chief engineer said Frank, can you get down to 181 real quick. I says, well, yeah. So anyway I headed out, grabbed the first pickup I could find in the parking area there and drove it down to 181. Both diesels were running backup. Don't know what happened, still don't. Anyways, I found him. He was sitting back in a corner away out of sight of the diesels. He was standing there in a corner shivering, just scared—petrified. So I got him out and put him out in the pickup. And I say you stay out there and let me take care of the problem here. So anyway, I guess I took care of the problem and then got him out there. So I got the generators under control and asserted the diesels under control, put them back on automatic and standby. And then the other pumps of course, got them going in the order I was doing the job. And I went and got him back out there. And when I reported in and wrote the incident up, he came to me, I don't know, very short time thereafter. And he says Frank, I'm going to quit. He said, I'm married, I've got three kids. I can't get into the military. And that's what I want to do. So he said I'm going to divorce my wife and I'm going to volunteer for the Coast Guard. And he did that. And the next thing I know, he put a transfer in from the Coast Guard into the military, army. And they accepted him. So he got into the military even though he was married. And a few years down there, well I guess it was nothing but two or three years, or a year or two. Anyway I got a call from my son who was a warrant officer flying helicopters down in Louisiana, Texas and Louisiana area. But anyway he--I guess, yeah, it was Texas. Killeen, Texas. He said do you know a Dave Eggar? I said, yeah. He said you won't believe this, but he's the guy in charge of training us in these helicopters. [LAUGHTER] And he had went through the school, learned how to fly the helicopters, and wasn't afraid of them at all. And he wound up leading that group that my son was in through their training program. And my son flew choppers down there. He already had his private pilot license. He got that before he got out of high school. And anyway, he spent his time in the military and he started flying with them. Wound up at his own company with two jets and a chopper and a little fixed wing, twin engine plane. And then 9/11 went and wiped him out. His business went to nothing. So then he started with putting his pilot's license out there, his experience in getting letters out. And he got a call one day from Microsoft people and went to work for them. He's still doing it, all over the world.

Bauman: Yeah. I wanted to ask you, you had mentioned when you were in the army here and you would have you week off, you stayed in barracks. Once you got married, what sort of housing did you have?

Trent: The first house we got was a small--I think it was about a 20-foot trailer, used. And a lot of the early Hanford people would move trailers in out there. And added onto them as a matter of fact. But as they had kids in a small trailer, where do you put them? You put a room on it. And that's what we did, we lived in that trailer. And then we lived there up until I was discharged. And then we bought a trailer. And I was working for a guy that didn't like the idea of me buying a trailer. It was a single wide. But it was about, I don't know, probably 50 feet long, somewhere in that. It may not have been that big. It was big enough, it had three bedrooms. And bought the trailer and moved it in and set up in and fat, dumb, and happy. But he didn't like the idea of me working for him who was selling trailers and buying it from somebody else. So he fired me. [LAUGHTER] So that was our first home. And then we were forced to move out of the place out there next to the Battelle area, just south of Battelle. We had to move out of there because I wasn't in the military anymore. When I did go to work for GE, we got a house, prefab. I think it was a--first one was a two-bedroom. And then we got a three-bedroom house. And we lived there until they started selling the town back to people. And I was interested. They set it up in blocks. So they would complete the transfer of one block by contracts to the owner that lived in it. And some of the prices were, for the two bedrooms, were like $2,500. And three bedrooms was just slightly more, like $3,000, $3,200. And I don't think any of them ran over $5,000, any of the homes. And lo and behold, I got an eviction notice. I was laid off in between. And two days after they evicted me and I got out of that house, they sold my block. So I didn't get a house. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, that was kind of how we got started. Finally, I left here and worked down in Colorado for about a year and a half, two years. And put in a transfer back there, a transfer or quit and came back to—I was out here on vacation a week's vacation, ten days I guess. And I dropped by the unemployment office and they said yeah, we'll put you back to work. So anyway, I went down and terminated. Gave them my notice and came back out here and went to work. And I worked there until—see I don't remember now, '50—hmm. Late '60s, because I left the project completely in '68. And I was out there one day and boss came in and said, Frank, he said, I understand you talked to so and so. He’s an instrument guy, a contractor that installed instrumentation and tubing for those instruments. I don't remember his name. And he told you were a job was at. And I said yes, he did. Anyway, he said, did you go down for an interview and talk to those people? And I said no. He says, why don't you do that? I said why? I was working at Battelle. Well, he said, you never know. I said yeah, I can go down and talk to him. I went down and interviewed. Went on back out. Still hadn't heard nothing from him and boss came by again and asked me about it. I said, don't know, just sat in there fat, dumb, and happy waiting for things to happen. And then his boss came down and he says Frank, you take that job if they offer it. And after three months, if you decide you don't like it, you come back and we'll put you right back where you're at. You won't lose no seniority or anything. Lo and behold, it was the beginnings of the university here in North Richland. And I came down here and they put me to work. Punched out construction and—helped punch out construction and get them out here. And got everything in operation and moved the staff in. And the rest is history. I left here in 1995, right at 30 years retirement. With military, I had more than enough time for—I think it was a year and a half. 27 and three-quarters or something like that years--and then of course I had five years of service to attach on so, retired with 30 years.

Bauman: When you look back at your time looking at Hanford, overall how you assess Hanford as a place to work?

Trent: Well compare that to where I came from, and it was a gold mine. Because we were hand-to-mouth. And we had to raise everything by hand or horses or whatever, and some cows, and raised all of our eats and stuff like that. So, we worked. We didn't have no spare time. From the time I was seven, I had a hoe in my hand working. And my brothers, the same way. Girls took care of the house, the boys took care of the outside. We had a pretty good sized garden. And we also had large acres of corn and beans, cornfield beans, potatoes, large patches of potatoes. So we have plenty to eat. Never did lack stuff to eat. But when you look at the lifestyle, and you didn't know where your next shoes was going to come from or your clothes, because money—cash money was hard to come by. And dad worked the coal mines, so he didn't make a lot, but enough to feed his family and keep going. So it was pretty nice to get out here where you can make a decent living. I think I was making--I think I was making about $75 a week, net out, when I first started.

Bauman: When you first started working for GE or for--?

Trent: With GE, yeah. And I also worked the 300 Area. And I helped start up the Sandcastle out here, Battelle where they're at now. The first buildings, there was three of them. And I was down there to get the equipment started and get it running. So I did that until the union got me and forced me out. So that was another reason it made my decision easier to leave there. I had four layoffs from Hanford due to cutbacks. And seniority, it didn't matter who you were or whatever. Seniority won. The other guy sat there and laughed at you and said I told you. You'll be out there working your tail off and he'll be sitting on his fanny reading or whatever. Doing his job, but nothing extra. You get a guy that would get in there and work, it didn't matter. If you didn't have the seniority, you were gone. So I got caught in four layoffs. No, three. The fourth one I quit and came down here. But it was a nice way to make a living.

Bauman: Well, I want to thank you for coming in today and telling us about your experiences both in the Army and working at Hanford. Appreciate it.

Trent: Same.

Bauman: Thanks very much.

Trent: You bet.



Bit Rate/Frequency

192 kbps

Hanford Sites

Y area
2 West
2 East
T Plant
U Plant
T Plant 221-T
224 Building
100 Area
B Area
C Area
D Area
DR Area
200 Area

Years in Tri-Cities Area


Years on Hanford Site

ca1950-?, ?-1995

Names Mentioned

Eggar, Dave
Kennedy, John F




Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Frank Trent,” Hanford History Project, accessed July 16, 2024,