Today we want to continue with our visit to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as we share just a little bit more about the day to day life at the Secret City. Our tour of the three facilities provided a lot of information on their missions, however, not much was said about the way of life within the complex. Hopefully we can fill in the void in the next few paragraphs.
The three facilities, Y-12, K-25, and X-10, were located within a fenced and gated complex which occupied an area of 10 miles long and 2 miles wide. This area, known as Black Oak Ridge was surrounded on three sides by the Clinch River and a mountain ridge on the fourth. Even though it was the fifth largest city in Tennessee, it didn’t show up on any maps and the general populace had no idea of its existence.
Several communities sprang up in “the valley” surrounding each of the facilities. Within each community there were grocery stores, clothing stores, pharmacies, bowling alleys, movie theaters, barber shops, beauty salons, schools, churches, so on and so forth. The people who lived and worked inside the gates hardly, if ever, left the complex; therefore, all the necessities for daily living had to be provided within the complex.
In the early years, neighborhoods would rise up literally over night; it took builders a whole twenty minutes to frame up a flat roof four room home. Houses were erected so fast that one child stated that when he left home for school in the morning there were hardly any houses on his block and when school let out that afternoon he couldn’t find his way home.
The plants operated 24/7 – 365 with 12 hour shifts. Both the husband and wife generally worked at one of the facilities with buses providing most of the transportation to and from work. People were forbidden from discussing their jobs with one another (even husbands and wives). Everyone had to wear a badge whenever they were outside of their home and, more often than not, secondary badges were required to gain access into various sections within each facility. After all, this was a “Top Secret” mission with multiple levels of security required throughout the complex.
Crime was virtually non-existent and, in spite of all the diversity, people got along especially well with one another since everyone was focused on one goal – provide services that would bring an end to the war. Even though they never fully understood how their part contributed to the effort as a whole, they just believed that it did and on August 6, 1945 they stood amazed with Americans across the nation at what had been carried out.
It certainly must have been a different way of life but, what was accomplished in a two and a half year period was nothing short of phenomenal. We are truly blessed to live in such an amazing country and should be grateful for the freedom and the abundant lifestyle that we have.
Well, now back to the lifestyle of the Wandering America ensemble. Yesterday was a shopping day to stock up the pantry before heading out tomorrow. Other than that, we stayed in the park, went swimming, and played at home.
Today we will ready the coach for travel and will head out for eastern Tennessee in the morning. So, all that is left to say is, “God Bless America”.