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Inside of America's Atomic City
Old 03-04-2014, 04:36 PM   #1
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Inside of America's Atomic City

I ran across this fascinating website while doing some research for a project that I'm working on. Hope someone else will also find it as interesting. I knew a little bit about Oak Ridge before, but this wraps it up with a big old bow.

Most of the 75,000 residents of Oak Ridge, Tennessee had no idea they were processing uranium until the bombs dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. They had settled in the mysterious town, a “secret city”, with very little knowledge of what they would do there, other than the promise that their work was going to help end the war. Sure enough, on August 6th, 1945, a nuclear superbomb that the young men and women of Oak Ridge had helped develop, effectively ended World War II.
These photographs taken by the only authorised photographer for the entire town, Ed Westcott, documented life at Oak Ridge, from everyday moments of a seemingly normal suburban American town, to the residents performing their ‘tasks’ and ‘duties’ inside the secret nuclear facilities.

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Old 03-04-2014, 04:53 PM   #2
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One thing I did not see mentioned, all of the residents had to have ID badges, even children. It was a closed secret city for the most part. There were two main locations, K-25 and Y-12, which were simply the graph coordinates on a map that identified the locations.

One interesting thing to note, most of the workers were women, as the men were off at war. Any men there were supervisors typically, and almost all of the production side was women.

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Old 03-04-2014, 05:40 PM   #3
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I thought the men were responsible for employee relations.........
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Old 03-05-2014, 12:53 AM   #4
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Nice page, and fascinating. When I was in high school the Science Club took a field trip each year leaving the Sunday before Thanksgiving and returning the following Wednesday. Talking about a handful of personal cars and some kids and drivers/chaperones. In 9th grade (1970) we tried to plan a trip to Oak Ridge, but wound up at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, which was still a very good trip. Don't remember why we changed our destination. We also went to the NASA center in Houston before they were set up to accommodate visitors (and they also took us the Anheuser Busch brewery in Houston on that trip -- my how times have changed), and the Texas A&M Oceanographic Research Center in Galveston. Can't remember where the other one was, but it might have been in Houston.

The band also did one or two fun trips per year. We went to one LSU Tiger game every year (Geaux Tigers!) and usually another fun outing in which we didn't perform. The band director was a miserable alcoholic who yelled insulting words at us a lot, but he was good enough to take us on some fun trips (we performed on TV twice, which was quite a big deal for us), so go figure. Generally agnostic here, but if I knew the band director was in Purgatory waiting for a promotion, I would say a few Hail Marys for him if they would count ( <-- not trying to offend anyone with this comment).

Grew up in a really small town that had nothing to offer. I have no memories of family vacations, but have seen pictures of me in diapers on a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas. For many of us, these school trips were rare opportunities to get out of the tiny home town.

Apologies for the tangent, and thanks for posting this.
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:05 AM   #5
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Interesting. I used to ask my father what HE did in the war and all he ever said was he worked on the Manhattan Project as a grad student at Princeton. Something to do with boron, but he had no earthly idea why or what for.
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:32 AM   #6
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Great post, thanks for sharing. I had no idea.

BTW, it always amazes me when I look at photos of people in the 1940's and 1950's and not a single person is overweight. Pretty amazing to see how much we have expanded since then.
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:44 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Ready View Post
BTW, it always amazes me when I look at photos of people in the 1940's and 1950's and not a single person is overweight. Pretty amazing to see how much we have expanded since then.
I noticed that too. One middle-aged person in the photos was a bit heavy but nowhere near the obesity one commonly sees now.
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Old 03-05-2014, 06:35 PM   #8
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I got a chuckle out of the picture of the two nuns looking at the graphite reactor model. Last year, an 84 year old nun and two colleagues, also somewhat senior, were able to get pass multiple layers of security by cutting fences and made it to to the outside of the Oak Ridge uranium processing building before being stopped by security.

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