Interview with Bob and Dianne Taylor

Dublin Core


Interview with Bob and Dianne Taylor


An interview with Bob and Dianne Taylor 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

2018-31-1: Metadata v1 created – [A.H.]


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


Bob and Dianne


Washington State University Tri-Cities


Northwest Public Television | Taylor_Diane_Bob

Man one: Okay

Robert Bauman: All right. Good to go?

Man one: You ready?

Man two: We're ready to go.

Bauman: Okay. All right, well, we'll get started. And I'm going to start first by having each of you say your name for us. Make sure we have that on there. So go ahead.

Bob Taylor: My name is Bob Taylor.

Bauman: All right.

Dianne Taylor: And I'm Dianne Taylor.

Bauman: And Dianne is spelled with two Ns?

Dianne Taylor: Two Ns, yes.

Bauman: Okay, great. And my name's Robert Bauman, and we are conducting this interview on the campus of Washington State University, Tri-Cities. And today is June 10th of 2015. And so, if we could start maybe, start, Bob, maybe, with if you could tell us a little bit about your family and how they ended up coming to the Tri-Cities area and when that happened.

Bob Taylor: My father was employed by the US federal prison system. He went to work as a guard at McNeil Island in 1934 for the Department of Prisons, the US Bureau of Prisons--there, I'm finally saying that correctly. And he started off as a guard and was employed at McNeil Island from 1934 actually until he retired in 1955. But the real story to talk about is how I happen to be sitting here. And in the early stages of the creation of the Manhattan Project and what was developing here with the acquisition of all the lands for Hanford, very early in that process, the US Army went to the Bureau of Prisons and contracted for a minimum security type prison camp to be constructed here in the Richland area. The purpose of that being the minimum security prisoners would be farming the lands and the orchards that were being acquired by the Manhattan Project, but would have no men available to take care of the fields and the orchards. And so the Bureau of Prisons contracted with the Department of the Army on behalf of the Manhattan Project to maintain those fields out in Vernita, White Bluffs, all in this area. And they agreed—they, the Department of the Army--agreed to build a, what they call, prison camp. It turned out to be right out on the bend of the Yakima River right near Horn Rapids Dam. And they constructed buildings, facilities, kitchens, dining areas, administration buildings, and the facilities to house and support approximately 250 federal prisoners who were brought in in early 1944 to take care of the agricultural needs of this area. And my father, who was at that point then had been with the federal prison at McNeil Island and had become a senior guard, was chosen to come over here and become superintendent of this camp. The name of the camp is Columbia Camp. And that's a little story in itself. The people in Washington, DC, were out here and didn't quite know the geography. They knew the Columbia River was here somewhere nearby, and even though the Yakima is a much smaller river, they didn't realize it. And so they named this federal prison camp Columbia Camp simply because they were on a river and they thought they were on the Columbia River. That's how it came to have the name Columbia Camp. Anyway, they started bringing the prisoners in in early 1944. And as I say, they typically for the next three and a half years, had about 250 prisoners on site at any given time. I think the number in the various information files I have, there were probably more like 700 prisoners rotated through this area. But the facilities were actually to hold about 250. So my dad took over as superintendent of the prison camp. He came here in early 1944, and initially they had—and I have many pictures of the whole camp, the buildings, and also the housing—there were initially 16 Quonset huts that were built out there for the initial officers and their families to move. At the time he came, those were the first. We moved in here actually on D Day, 1944, June 6th, in the middle of a major windstorm. And my mother who was born and raised in Western Washington, to arrive here in those kind of conditions—I don’t have to say that we had no air conditioning, and fans weren't even really very available. We moved into a Quonset hut. We ultimately, by the next spring, they—the Army, the prison—built eight more fancy housing. They brought in prefabs, the basic 609 square foot prefab that everybody in Richland is familiar with, of which there are still hundreds of them. That was the new fancy housing, and my dad as superintendent was able to claim the first one in the row next to the administration building. So in the next spring, then, we moved into a prefab. Again, I have lots of pictures, family pictures, of our housing. The kids, we were bused into Richland. Initially we all went to Sacajawea the first year we were there. And then when Jefferson grade school opened in the fall of '45, we all went there, switched over to there. We had a couple of older kids—family, kids in the camp—that went to high school at what was then called Columbia High School. My mother was a teacher, actually ended up teaching at Columbia High School part of the time that we were here. So as families living at Columbia Camp, we were bused into town, pretty much bused back home. And we played. As kids we played in the heat of the summer and cold in the winter and just pretty much in the desert surrounding the camp out there. The camp itself existed from early 1943. In early 1947, they started—they, again, the US Bureau of Prisons and the US Army--started writing back and forth corresponding about the continued need for the maintenance of the orchards and the fields and ultimately decided that it wasn't necessary anymore. And some of those fields ultimately were left to go, and others were maintained I guess in other ways. In the files that I have, my dad's files, I've got a tremendous amount of correspondence between he and the officials in Washington, DC. The Department of Army, I've got synopsis of what all was done during those period of years. I have interesting files about prisoners and some of their experiences in managing them as agricultural workers, how they got them to work every day, how they kept them fed every day. There's a lot of material in the files that I have of my dad's about that sort of thing. There's a lot of information about the contract itself between the US Army and the Federal Bureau of Prisons as far as payment of fees and expenses and also the type of crops that were harvested in volume and in prices and that sort of thing. It makes for very fascinating reading to have this kind of information available to me about what went on out there. Then ultimately in the fall of 1947, I think we were about the last to leave as a family. We left in November of '47. And basically the place was abandoned. I have, again in the files, there's information about dismantling the camp and sending knives and forks to Leavenworth and dishes to somewhere in Arizona. So there's a lot of very detailed information about the camp. But the long and the short of it is that the camp existed for those three and a half, almost four years. And very, very, very few people anywhere even know about it. The families, the other families, were rotated to different jobs. Three or four of the families went back to McNeil Island. Others went to Arizona, Leavenworth—other federal prison camps. And everybody just went their own way, and nobody was left here to even be a historian for what all went on. And thanks to my mother, who keeps all these documents and records and letters, and even—there’s a lot of letters between my father and my mother when he first came over here, where he's giving examples of daily life here in Richland in 1944 that are just fascinating reading. And the cost of a rental house that the government was charging for people and the cost to buy a refrigerator, things like that. So it's really fun for us to be able to come and sort of make some of this information available as to what Columbia Camp was all about over many, many, many years in Richland, because nobody was here to contradict that statement. A lot of people said, oh, it was a prisoner war camp. And ultimately, finally, that got changed. There was some documentation. At the present time, out at the day camp, there's a kiosk out there with a few pictures and a commentary posted out there, a little parking lot that you can drive to that gives just an extremely brief summary of what Columbia Camp was. There's a picture of a man, a far distant picture of a man standing in front of the administration building. Cannot guarantee it, but I think it—I'm pretty sure it's my dad. He was the superintendent of the camp, so his picture's out there in that kiosk for anybody that wants to go out there and look. But that's what Columbia Camp in a nutshell was all about. We have many, many, many pictures of the camp, the buildings, the dormitory buildings, the kitchen, the administration building, the power plant, the steam plant. And then we ourselves have taken pictures recently from some of those same positions, including the foundation of the steam plant that we've got so we can supplement a lot of what I've been talking about. Well, everything that I've been talking about we can supplement with pictures, and letters, and documents, and correspondence, and files.

Dianne Taylor: Memories.

Bauman: Yeah, right. So really interesting, and so first of all, let me confirm that there are still rumors out there. I've had students tell me, wasn't there a prisoner of war camp?

Dianne Taylor: Really?

Bauman: Oh, yeah.

Bob Taylor: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Bauman: Or, wasn't a Japanese internment camp here?

Bob Taylor: That's what--

Bauman: No.

Dianne Taylor: Mm-mm.

Bauman:  So this is great to--one great thing about interviewing you is to clarify that for people as well.

Dianne Taylor: One of the things that I'd like to bring in, because we didn't know about this for so long. Dad would not talk about his prison experiences. He was a loving, wonderful, wonderful father and grandfather and wonderful father-in-law. But this was never discussed. It wasn't until he died and I'm going through all of their things because Bob's an only child that I find all of this stuff. So Bob's mother's in a nursing home. She's quite elderly. We find this stuff. We get so excited over these pictures. Of course, she thought we were crazy to move to Richland anyway because her memories are not the Richland it is today. So we went, took all these pictures. And all she did was she took them from me, put them down in her purse. And I said, well, Mom, this is exciting. We found all dad's stuff, and we want to talk about it. No, it's secret. She would not talk about it. It was secret. And this is in 19--when did she die?

Bob Taylor: Well, this was in 1995, I think, that we--

Dianne Taylor: It was so ingrained in her, the secrecy of their lives, that even after all that time, she couldn't talk to us. So we took the pictures. I said, mom, I've got to have the pictures. And we took them back. But I think that's when it really hit me what their lives must have been like living here at that time.

Bauman: Right, that even that, which was only tangentially connected to Hanford--

Bob Taylor: Exactly.

Dianne Taylor: Yes. Yeah.

Bauman: Was very secret, right?

Dianne Taylor: Yeah, absolutely.

Bauman: So let me ask you a few questions. So first of all, what was your father's name?

Bob Taylor: Harold E. Taylor.

Bauman: Harold Taylor, okay. And your mother's name?

Bob Taylor: Doris C. Taylor.

Bauman: Okay. And so it was the three of you when you--well, your father came initially, and then you and your mother came.

Bob Taylor: Right, in June.

Bauman: In June of '44. And you mentioned the dust storm.

Bob Taylor: Termination wind.

Bauman: So, and you said that it could hold about 250 prisoners at the camp at once.

Bob Taylor: Yes.

Bauman: So it was minimum security. So what sorts of--but they were federal prisoners.

Bob Taylor: They were.

Bauman: So what sorts of crimes would these men have committed?

Bob Taylor: The vast majority of federal prisoners were not necessarily minimum security, but they were white collar crimes. In some cases bank robbers would sometimes fit into the category, depends on the nature of the individual. But bank robbers weren't necessarily restricted from ever being in the so-called minimum security camps. And, see, we went back to McNeil Island, where my dad then took over the minimum security part of McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary. And so some of these same prisoners went with us back over there. That's kind of an aside, but it's part of explaining to you, or answering your question about minimum security and who qualified. I'll finish that answer first. A lot of them were conscientious objectors. And in fact there's correspondence in the files where prisoners would be sent here to Columbia Camp, but they were always—the conscientious objectors—they were always being monitored, talked to, perhaps convinced that it would be to their best interest if they would revoke their claim to being a conscientious objector and go back and join the Army and basically reinvent themselves in society. And there's a few prisoners did that. We've even got in those boxes, we've got a couple letters that one or two of them wrote to my dad personally thanking him. He's gone back, he's gone in the Army. He feels better about himself. So we've even got that kind of stuff in the file. Anyway, then, just as an interesting aside, when you talk about minimum security versus the hardcore inside the walls type, like at McNeil Island, state prisoners—murders, that sort of thing—of course they're maximum security. But any white collar crime, including—might not sound like white color crime—but bank robbery, that sort of thing, there can be any number of--

Dianne Taylor: In those days.

Bob Taylor:--forgers. There can be any number of kind of people that aren't really hardcore criminals, but they've made mistakes. They've done things bad. But they know that they're decent people. And these are the people that, even on McNeil Island, again, same as here, they would stay in a minimum security area and do the weeding, doing the gardening, doing the orchards, doing the fields, like over there like they were doing here. My dad, as superintendent of the camp at McNeil, we had kind of a beautiful estate, ranch home estate with about an acre and a half of rockeries and gardens and rose trellises. And we had five--as a kid, I never mowed the yard. I had five prisoners that—we did, the family did—that took care of our yard and our place. It was kind of a strange childhood that I had. But that's what minimum security means, that they could be trusted. They were called trustees, as a matter of fact.

Bauman: And so about how large of a staff was there working at the camp?

Bob Taylor: Here at Columbia Camp, there were 24. 24 with families, and then there were another ten to 12 that lived in Prosser, Benton City, some of them right here in Richland that would come to work. So there was less than 40 total staff, 24 of whom were on site with families.

Dianne Taylor: Tell him the story that you were telling me about Dad writing a note about getting these guys to come in on Sunday for roll call.

Bob Taylor: Oh, it was one of the notes, one of the memorandums to his officers in the files that I read. It's something to the effect—no, I guess it was a memo to the entire camp, to the prisoners and the officers. And it's just kind of a tongue-in-cheek, that it seems to be hard to get prisoners to make bed call or duty call or account for themselves on the weekends. And it was just kind of an interesting, the way he wrote that even on the weekends, they still, after all, are prisoners and have to account for themselves. They actually only had I think it was three escapes. Nobody actually ever fully totally escaped. They had three that walked away, but they were caught along the river on the way to Benton City. So that was part of the minimum security idea is that they weren't particularly threats. They knew they just needed to serve their time and get out. And so they weren't trying to break out.

Dianne Taylor: And where could they go? That's the desert. There's no transportation. That's one of the stories Dad did tell me about two of the guys walking to Benton City. And of course they didn't get there because there's nowhere to hide.

Bauman: And so how old were you then when you came here?

Bob Taylor: My birthday's in July, so I was six years old when we moved here in June. And as I said, it was D-Day. And then just turned seven in July, and then I was ten when we left in late '47.

Bauman: Okay. And so what was that like as someone roughly between the ages of seven and ten living out here in the camp in initially a Quonset hut? Is that right?

Bob Taylor: Initially in Quonset hut and then in a prefab. Well, first of all, six-to-ten-year-olds don't really think about hot and cold. The only thing that we were ever really cautioned about by our parents is it's a little problematic to go running around in the desert barefooted. There were rattlesnakes. Never got bit by one. Saw a few. But we had the swimming hole right there at the bend of the river for summertime, spent a lot of time in the swimming. The pictures you can see the two rows of Quonset huts. It was kind of, I call it a parkway, which wasn't necessarily what you would call a bunch of grass in 1944. But nevertheless, there was a grassy strip, two street, two roads for cars, and the Quonset huts and in the middle grassy strip that that's where we played our soccer and mostly soccer that we played there as kids. And we were either in the river, out there in that strip, or just wandering out in the desert barefoot. And with our bicycles, there's a picture I've got showing me standing beside a tree that was very near our house that I crashed into and cut my head open. That sort of thing as living here as a kid. We were typical kids, even though we were--in fact, my entire life growing up was always subject to prison service. We lived on McNeil Island, which was, when we went back, I mean, my grade school and my high school years, I went to school in Lakewood Tacoma, Clover Park High School. But we still lived on the island. We had to catch a prison launch back and forth every day. As kids growing up, none of us ever had the typical life experience of just walking to the store, walking to the theater. We didn't live on Swift and could walk down to the Village—to the theater. We never had those kind of experiences. Speaking of the theater, we did get to come into town. Our parents would carpool or whatever, and we'd come into town to the Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix movies on Saturday afternoon at the Village Theater here in Richland. But it was never anything we could ride our bike to or walk to.

Bauman: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that, about getting into town and how often you were able to do that. And what was the town of Richland like? What sorts of memories do you have?

Bob Taylor: Well, I mean, you've got all the pictures as a historian. You know what Richland basically looked like in 1944, 1945. It was like that. I mean, we came into school. The first year I said we went to Sacajawea. The second year, we from then on went to Jefferson. We would become friends with kids in the class and do things with kids in the class, but it was always more difficult. I was in Cub Scouts. My dad would have to drive in to make separate arrangements to go, and to some of the other kids out there as well, to come in to the Cub Scout meetings. One of my memories, and I'm not sure why, but one of my memories was one of the girls’ parents had--and I don't quite understand it now, but her parents had—I can't say they owned, but maybe they did—a large enough piece of ground that she could ride her horses. And I remember some of us—and it was like right here. It was straight north from Jefferson that we would come out of town, although not very far, and ride horses out here in the open prairie. And it might have been right here. I don't know. But we were able to socialize to some degree with the kids in town. But again, one of the things that I have to say, it's like my mother. Even as kids, talked about secrecy. We were instilled with absolutely every bit of that, just like the adults. We absolutely were. And it was just a way of life, so we didn't question it. We didn't try to violate it. We just--everything was secret.

Bauman: So you didn't talk to anyone about the camp at all really?

Bob Taylor: Just that we lived out there. And that was all.

Bauman: Right. So did you know what Hanford was, what was going on?

Bob Taylor: No, not until the bomb was dropped and the paper headline right here in Richland. That's when we knew what was going on. The road now as you go out there is not the same road it was then. What is Horn Rapids Road, which comes across—wherever we are—comes across, that was the road that we came in on. So we came in a little further north into Richland than we do now, where the intersection is. And so right at that corner right there was the beginning of the trailer camp where so many people were living and so many of the kids in school with me were living in the trailer camp. And there was a wire fence along the road, and so we just knew we were outside the fence, and something was going on on the other side of the fence. But we didn't know what it was—until the article came out in the paper.

Bauman: You mentioned, so, the prisoners, would they get transported, then to different fields--

Bob Taylor: They were bused.

Bauman: --to different farms then?

Bob Taylor: There were like, I think as I recall in reading the files, there were sometimes as many as ten different gangs or groups, for lack of a better term, that were bused out to the various sites. And that's part of what's in my dad's files is just the logistics of taking--they called it dinner then--lunch out to feed everybody at lunchtime, and just the difficulties of that sort of thing in running this prison camp. Because some of them out in Vernita, for instance, they basically had to leave with the lunch service right after breakfast to get it out there. Because the road, the road was not great going out to Vernita from here. The road that we drive now and think nothing of was basically just a dirt road in those days going out there. Because the road, the paved road, bent south and went to Benton City when you go out that way. So yeah, there were a number of different orchards. I can remember clearly the—what are now all the Richland ranches on Cottonwood and Birch and Cedar, all those where all the Richland ranches were ultimately built in 1948. All of that was cherry orchards. And we always had one or two crews harvesting the cherries, for instance, right here in town. And a couple times my dad brought me out and actually I helped them pick cherries. So that's just one of my memories is picking cherries in what is now that major housing part of Richland.

Bauman: Right. Now, so, in 1947, when the camp closed and you left, I assume maybe your mother was probably happy about going back to the west side? [LAUGHTER]

Bob Taylor: Extremely, yes, extremely happy to get back to the cool west side, yes.

Dianne Taylor: She was a tiny, tiny, lovely lady, a teacher. Heart and soul a teacher, and totally supportive of Bob's father. But she wasn't happy to be here at all. [LAUGHTER] And she was very, very happy when they finally left.

Bauman: You mentioned she taught at Columbia High School.

Dianne Taylor: Yeah.

Bauman: What did she teach?

Bob Taylor: English, primarily English. And she was in charge of the journalism one school year.

Dianne Taylor: She had to quit teaching, though, because of her duties as--and the words are official hostess of the camp, which is really interesting. She organized bridge activities, social activities, to keep the wives that were thrown out here in the middle of the desert happy. Because of course they weren't working, very many of them. So she worked that first year at Hanford, and then she quit and was kept busy keeping activities going on for the women and children.

Bauman: That’s very interesting. Were there a lot of children around your age you were able to play with?

Bob Taylor: I'm trying to remember. There were, of my own specific age that were my closest friends, there were seven of us that were either within one grade one way or the other. I think there were some older kids that came into high school. Our bus—I think there were about a total of 12 or 14 of us rode the bus into town. There certainly weren't two kids in every household of the 24 officers that worked there. Some of them were more senior and kids were grown and gone.

Bauman: So did you have your own bus, then, that would just take a group of kids from the camp?

Bob Taylor: I guess, yeah, we must have, that there was just a bus that came out and got us and took us back into town. There was nobody else to pick up. [LAUGHTER]

Bauman: And do you remember how you felt about first of all coming here? Do you have any memories of that, and then when you left in 1947?

Bob Taylor: I certainly had no--at age six, everything in the world was exciting to me. I think I mentioned earlier heat and wind, that sort of thing didn't really mean much of anything to me. I have no recollection of being upset about being here, other than knowing that my mother was upset about being here. I liked it here. I had good friends. I was kind of disappointed to go back to McNeil Island. Three of my closest friends at camp that were out there too--let's see, Kenny and Jerry and—

Dianne Taylor: Were they out there then?

Bob Taylor: Yeah. There were, I think, five of us actually went back to McNeil Island. So, at least I wasn't--had my friends going back there with me, which made it better. And then we had a very--from a prefab in the desert, we went back to a fairly palatial estate that we lived on because of my dad's position, so I liked that. And then that next year I started junior high at Clover Park. And so starting then I went back to--I rode the boat to Steilacoom and caught the bus to school. And then I was off on a whole ‘nother part of my life. I think I'd say I was probably happy to be leaving, but not the way my mother was happy to be leaving.

Dianne Taylor: Well, I think it was a pretty idyllic childhood for kids like this. They've got the free reign of the desert, within reason. They've got the swimming pool. Nobody was worrying about jumping into the Yakima River. And they had friends, and they'd go into the movies. We've got a picture of Bob--we think it's Bob--with his buddies. There was a picture in Richland years ago at the post office there was a little museum.

Bauman: A kind of display.

Dianne Taylor: Yeah. And there's a picture of the kids outside the Uptown--not the Uptown, the old Village Theater. And we're pretty sure he's there. But the stories he would tell me, running around, riding their bikes, it was--

Bob Taylor: I just think of it as fun and unique. I really do.

Dianne Taylor: What about the stories about Dad and the baseball field? They had a baseball field there for the prisoners, for their recreation.

Bauman: Oh, at the camp.

Bob Taylor: Well, that was their big activity on the weekends. They had a very nice ball field. Again, there's pictures of it outside of the administration building. And my dad was a good guy. For somebody in 1934 to survive starting as a prison guard at McNeil Island, those were tough times. Those were really tough times. I don't mean living as a family, my mom and dad. I mean just as a human being who felt some degree of emotion about people. Prison guards anywhere in any prison in 1934 were really tough, mean guys. They had to be. But when he came over here, he really--and it shows in his correspondence--he really had a lot of humanity and caring. And he ran a really great camp here and has lots of letters saying so from people, from superiors. What started me on that was just her idea about the baseball. He wanted to make sure that they had sporting activities to do things with over the weekend.

Bauman: Recreation and entertainment.

Bob Taylor: Yeah.

Bauman: I find it very interesting neither of your parents really talked about this stuff, but they kept--

Dianne Taylor: Yeah, oh yeah.

Bauman: --the photos and the documents that you didn't even know.

Bob Taylor: Yeah. We didn't realize they had all that.

Dianne Taylor: And Dad would talk about it a little bit. It wasn't like he never talked about it. But he told me the story one time about the prisoners escaping, and he talked some of these things. But it wasn't something that you talked about very much. It was once in a while. I mean, like every few years there'd be a comment. But Mom didn't talk about it at all, other than the teaching, which of course she loved to be a teacher and loved doing that. But it was a very, very quiet non-discussed part of their lives.

Bauman: Are there any other either events or things that happened that were humorous or special things, memories that stand out in your mind about your years here?

Bob Taylor: One of my major memories actually was the very first summer we were here. And three or four six-year-old boys never, ever, ever, ever got in trouble. But for some reason, we chose to go into the crawl space underneath our Quonset hut. I mean, there was no foundation in the sense you’d think of a foundation. But there was a raised floor and so there was space under there with snakes and bugs and spiders. And my parents never specifically told me, don't ever go down there. You'd sort of think that was understood. But three of us, one hot, hot, hot day, we thought, well, it was just boiling hot outside. It was boiling hot in the Quonset hut. Those things are not fit for human habitation without air conditioning. And so we got the smart idea it might be cooler down there in the crawl space. So we got down in the crawl space, and then for some reason some guards--I say guards—some of the men came around doing some kind of a check of the housing. I don't know what they were necessarily—but here we were, little boys where we were pretty sure we weren't supposed to be, and the adult men walking around sounded like we just knew they were looking specifically for us to get us in trouble. That's kind of silly, really, but it was a big thing for me as six years old to be down there where I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be and knew what kind of trouble I was going to be in when they found us. The other thing is the coming into the shows in the afternoon and standing in the line outside the theater. And, as I say, Tom Mix, and Hopalong Cassidy, and whoever else, the Saturday afternoon shows at the theater. I remember going to those a lot.

Dianne Taylor: One of the fun things that we go out to there. We hadn't been there for a few years, out to the camp. It's just kind of fun to walk around and realize what was there--the families, the men—brought together from all over the country for one purpose. And they fulfilled their purpose and kept the orchards going and the fields, and then they left. And to me there's a lot of kind of neat spirit and ghost—ghost isn't the right word. But there's a sense that there was something really interesting, good happening here—good or bad depending on the way you looked at it. But it's just an interesting place to go and walk around out there. You should do it sometime.

Bauman: Yeah. And a unique place.

Dianne Taylor: Very unique, very unique. And it's fun to walk around, and we think we found the kitchen. So I'm thinking about the guy making the good cinnamon rolls. He was there. And you think you found where Dad—where the office was.

Bob Taylor: Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can identify where the administration building was. But the various cement foundations or partial foundations that are still out there can pretty well match up with the pictures that we have from back then.

Bauman: Well, great. Maybe this might be a good time, then, to sort of end this part, unless there's something we haven't talked about yet that you'd like to in this part of the--

Bob Taylor: Well, I've covered the things that I certainly, the bullet points that I had in mind that I wanted to cover. There's probably always more things to talk about. Part of it is sitting and having the box and going through and pulling a piece of paper might remind me to say something else. But I feel comfortable right now in saying that anybody watching this interview is going to know a whole lot more about what Columbia Camp was about than they knew before. And that's the main point of what we're trying to accomplish here.

Dianne Taylor: There were no fences at Columbia Camp.

Bob Taylor: Right.

Dianne Taylor: There were no fences.

Bob Taylor: Right.

Bauman: Right. And these were all male prisoners, right?

Bob Taylor: Oh yeah.

Bauman: Yeah, well, maybe this would be a good time to end this part, and then we can look at some of the photos and have you comment some of those.

Dianne Taylor: I wish that they had shared it with--Bob's mom and dad had shared it with us sooner, because there would be so many more stories and so much more understanding.

Man one: Okay, so I'm going to give this. Why was it located--I mean, I know it was located for the orchard support and stuff. But why where it was? Ever hear why it was located?

Bob Taylor: I don't specifically know, other than it was near Hanford. It was on the river, which helped with the infrastructure. It was away from this burgeoning 1,500 population big town of Richland.

Man one: And yet kind of remote.

Bob Taylor: And kind of remote. I mean, it was remote for those days.

Bauman: Like you said, escaping was tricky because--

Bob Taylor: Yeah, it was far enough.

Dianne Taylor: Yeah.

Man one: It was Alcatraz in its own way.

Dianne Taylor: Well, it was. It was, because it was--I mean, can you just imagine being out there and trying to escape? And how are you going to get water? It's the true desert.

Bob Taylor: I guess the real answer is, if you realize that Hanford took everything from here north and they weren't going to go across the river, and here's Richland, and down there is Benton City, and this is the Yakima winding out there and just kind of a nice little bend in the river of the Yakima.

Bauman: I love that they call it Columbia Camp even though it's not--

Dianne Taylor: Isn't that funny?

Man one: I know, it's great. Close enough.

Bauman: They didn't know their geography very well.

Dianne Taylor: Yeah. We know it wasn't Bob's father because there were guys from Washington out here long before that. But it's kind of interesting.

Man two: Well, [INAUDIBLE] will bring that light around, put it behind that camera if it'll reach. If it won't I'll bring--or just unplug it and I'll move this cord.

Dianne Taylor: What you doing?

Bob Taylor: Just got one minor issue. I'm just seeing if anything's--

Dianne Taylor: Yeah, this guy had no clue what it's like to be raised in the city, because he started--

Man one: The stories that you tell remind me of this other guy I knew that had grown up--his father was in the Navy. And he grew up on Midway, I think. Midway or Wake Island where it was a mile this way, and it was two miles that way, and that was it.

Bob Taylor: Yeah.

Man one: And as a kid, he loved it. Down at the beach, having a good time, going to the movies, all he wanted, soda pop and all that stuff. But the parents were going crazy.


Bob Taylor: Oh yeah.

Dianne Taylor: Well, when we got this little note from Bob's mother--there's pictures in there of the women of the camp. And if you watched at all the Manhattan Project TV show that was on for a while, these gals are—it's the same women.



Bit Rate/Frequency

189 kbps

Years in Tri-Cities Area


Names Mentioned

Harold E. Taylor
Doris C. Taylor




Hanford Oral History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities, “Interview with Bob and Dianne Taylor,” Hanford History Project, accessed May 25, 2024,