|Hanford workers lined up to get their paychecks.|
Is there a significant event that happened in your town? Was your community impacted by some historical event?
Maybe when you did the Vulture Tour lesson, you identified something interesting you'd like to investigate further. Now you need to identify a person who either lived there then or knows a lot about that particular moment in history. The most immediate way to learn about a significant event is to talk to someone who lived through it. You can get facts from reading a history book, but you can get impressions, feelings, and real impact from someone who was there.
Interviewing someone about something that happened in the past is oral history.
During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration sought many creative ways to put Americans back to work. During this time, thousands of young men worked on construction projects that, to this day, benefit our state and national parks. Artists were employed to create murals for public buildings. Musicians sought out folk singers and recorded their traditional tunes. And writers were called to record histories with ex-slaves and pioneers. This marked one of the largest efforts to record oral history in our nation's history.
Today, the emphasis is on recording histories of World War II veterans and civilians who worked in the war effort. That generation is disappearing quickly, so their stories need to be preserved.
In studying the history of our town, we found that the most significant thing it's known for is its role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. Men and women moved here from all over the country to work at the Hanford site - it was good, steady work, with a good paycheck; but very few of them knew what it was they were working on. Only the senior army officers and researchers knew that the giant construction projects in the middle of the desert were nuclear reactors, built to separate plutonium to be used in atomic weapons. The mission was top-secret, a matter of our national security; and these men and women wanted to perform their patriotic duty to their country's war effort.
In the years since, many of those workers have stayed in Richland. Some of them serve as docents at the Hanford B Reactor, on the occasions it can be opened up for tours. Some serve at the Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science, and Technology (The CREHST Museum) where there are excellent exhibits about life here in the 1940's. CREHST is one of the local organizations that's trying to preserve the oral histories of the Hanford "old-timers."
That brings me, finally, to our third Investigative History lesson plan, Living Out Loud. I hope it will inspire you to make a new friend that you can talk to about the past.
|Billboards cautioned Hanford workers to keep their work secret during the Cold War era|