The Manhattan Project

Walt Grisham's Interview

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Walt Grisham's Interview

Walt Grisham grew up on a farm at Hanford in the 1930s. He was serving in the Air Force in England during World War II when his parents were informed that they would need to leave the farm - the site was being requisitioned for the Manhattan Project. Grisham recalls what life was like growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. He remembers picking fruit at the orchards, how neighbor helped neighbor, and the challenges of getting the fruit and produce to market. He talks about what the area and the Columbia River continues to mean to the people who were kicked off the land. He explains the history of Hanford and White Bluffs, and recalls walking across the Columbia River one winter when it was frozen solid.
Manhattan Project Location(s): 
Date of Interview: 
2003
Location of the Interview: 
Hanford
Transcript: 

Walt Grisham: Okay, what you’re looking at is our old family well. It’s a little different than it used to be, because it’s sitting kind of up on the top of a bank here. After the project was built, they did a little roadwork out here and cut it way down. But where I am at the present time is the meadow of our front yard. The old dead trees off to this side were cherry trees. We used them not only to produce the cherries, but also as shade trees in the front lawn. The house sat back in this direction.

At the time of the government takeover, this was just a little slip of a tree. I don’t think we even intended for it to stay, but since then it has sort of grown. As is the case with so many of the places around here, every place you see a live bush or tree, is probably a sight of where there was a farm or home. In this case, the farm we actually owned, or was buying at that time, was ten acres and irrigated from the irrigation canal which was in the far corner of the place, at the same level as our well ̶ all underground pipe. We irrigated all out of underground pipe.

We had two acres of grapes in this area and also four acres of apricots. The land to the east in this direction over here was rented land, and we had seven acres of peaches there. We also had a small patch of asparagus in the far corner, and I believe I can even see some live asparagus back there yet. We also had enough ground that we had some alfalfa hay and pasture, and we grew some row crop.

It was typical of the kinds of rural farms in those days. They were small, and yet, you had enough that you did almost everything. You had a place for your cows and chickens. I had a herd of registered Duroc hogs, all within a relatively small space. We didn’t run to town for a quart of milk or a dozen eggs in those days. It was kind of a self-supporting, diversified situation, where you were pretty much on your own.

Yeah, there was a pipeline along here and the irrigation out of that pipeline went off to the west here. The pipeline itself, in this area, was what we called a wood stave pipe, built like a barrel and was held together by winding wire around the pipe. As it is here, a section of it that apparently got dug out in the time when construction took place here. It’s all dried out. We had the same thing in the spring. When we turned water in, it would just leak like a sieve, but as soon as the wood  began to swell, then it would hold water. As a matter of fact, the grape vineyard ̶ the wires in that grape vineyard were resurrected from old pipe like this, that we had picked up.

This has a great deal of spring-like characteristics. It’s been tempered. In order to use it, we had to build a bonfire and throw the rolls of that wire in there in order to anneal it and soften it up, so that we could straighten it out and use it in the grape vineyard.  We straightened it out by tying one end against a pole and driving with a vehicle or a tractor. When we hit the end of the slack, that wire straightened out. Then, we’d take it down and run it through the grape vineyard.

Interviewer: Tell me about what was seen out here.

Grisham: You don’t see very much right now. You see a lot of cheatgrass. As I said, we had two acres of grapes. These were the Concord grapes. We had an apricot orchard in here. We had row crop space and alfalfa, so we grew our own hay. In front of me, in this area, there’s sort of a depression here. Apparently, that’s a spot where the basement of the house was and the foundation is gone. Evidently, they put it down in the bottom of the hole. The barn sat back in this area and the garage, the chicken house, and that took care of the buildings.

Of course, the whole place was fenced because we had to fence in the livestock. We also rented a peach orchard up in this area, and you can see the remains of the peach orchard there. We also had a peach orchard down in this area. Again, you can see the remains of that orchard. This ten acres we rented. We had an option to buy the ten acres behind us there, and never had a chance to exercise that option.

It’s kind of sad to see how little there is now, or what’s happened in sixty years. It happens in any sort of place, where people have been at one time and then aren’t there anymore and it’s allowed to go back to nature. I guess that was somewhat the purpose behind it.

Our driveway off the road was right through here. It went by the house and out to the barn and the garage. We also had crops out this way. Our major garden was out in this area, the vegetables and so on that we grew for our own use. There isn’t much more that you can say about it. It’s kind of sad to see it in this condition.

Interviewer: Well, why don’t you tell us something about the neighbors? Your brother had this spot right over here.

Grisham: My older brother ̶he was next to the oldest in the family, and his farm was in this direction. There's an intersection down here of the road. We went to his place by taking that road down there. Again, you can see a tree where his farmhouse was and apparently some of the trees there that must have been on one side of the farm. People by the name of Keal owned the farm between us and the river. They had a little Jersey dairy.

The people directly across the road from us was Wagner and they had a couple of boys ̶no girls ̶but a boy about the same age as I was, and an older one. The one my age and I went into the service together. We were both drafted at the same time. That was in July of 1942, and I didn’t get back into the area for twenty-five years. It was due to the reunion that we have every year that allowed that to happen. The area was opened up for us at that time. We were allowed to come out and visit our old farms.

Interviewer: How did you feel about that? I mean, you left the service and came back. Tell me that whole story.

Grisham: Well, as I’ve said, I left in 1942. All of what has happened here, as far as the atomic installation, happened after I left. I didn’t realize what was going on. I was in England at the time that I got the notice from the family. Before I went to England, I was at McChord Field, and it was at that time that I got the notice that the family was going to have to move. They said very little.

Interviewer: Hang on just a sec there. We gotta back up a few sentences. Start at McCord, where you were at McCord, again.

Grisham: At that time, I had gone to a good deal of basic training and other Air Force training, and ended up stationed at McCord Field in a fighter squadron. We were getting ready to go overseas. I got the notice that the parents were going to have to leave the farm, but very little was said. I suspected that they were instructed not to say too much. There were some comments about, “Don’t upset the service men or the morale.” So it was kind of a mystery and remained that way until the end of the war, when it was announced what happened or what was taking place here.

A lot of people asked the question about how we felt about it or how we feel now. It’s hard to speak for everybody, but the question asked to me is, “Are you bitter about what happened?”

I passed that question off by saying, “Not really bitter, but disappointed. Disappointed that it happened, disappointed how it happened to us.”

At that time, the assistance in moving was lacking. Families were instructed to leave by a certain date, and no offer for help in how to get away. Trucks were hard to get. Gasoline was rationed. You couldn’t buy tires.

According to the stories I have heard, they would meet people on the main street downtown and they were loaded up like gypsies, heading out. The question they would ask one another was, “Well, where are you going?” And many of them would say they didn’t know. They didn’t even know where they were going or how they were going to get there. Those were some of the kinds of disappointments that were faced by almost everybody. They were given a deadline and that was it. No assistance in how to get there or how to leave. It became a real tough situation.

In my case, my mother had a stroke in the process of moving. The stories I hear from other family members was that there was a bonfire here in the backyard, burning up things that they felt that they couldn’t move. Much of our family memorabilia went into the fire, partly because of the condition my mother was in the time, I guess. They moved to Portland because my sister induced them to move down there for medical help for my mother. My dad ended up building aircraft carriers in Portland, or helping. So that was where he spent the war.

We had five boys and four girls in the family. Four out of the five were in the military service at that time. That was all the way from one in the Navy, two in the Air Force, and one in the Army.

The brother that had the farm that neighbored us was married and had two children of his own, and so he wasn’t drafted at that time. He also went to Portland and went to work for the Forest Service. He was a pretty good mechanic. They put him to work as a mechanic. He spent the war primarily working on military trucks and jeeps, because the military didn’t have people or facilities enough to do their maintenance work and overhaul, and so they went to the Forest Service to get it done. In a way, he was pretty well tied down with military as well. Whenever his name would come up for draft later on, the Forest Service would pull his draft notice.

He never did go into the service, but four out of the five boys were in the service. One in the Pacific, in the Navy; three of us in the European area; and the one in the Army went in the invasion and was wounded at the Saint-Lô breakthrough and was flown back to England and never went back into combat. The two of us in England that were both in the Air Force never really got into any combat activity at the time. By the time we got there, London was pretty well wiped out with bombing. The tables kind of turned, and we began to take it back to Germany at that time.

Interviewer: Let me ask you, what’s important about coming out here? Now you got that reactor over your shoulder.

Grisham: I don’t know how to answer a question like that, you know. There are some pretty deep feelings. My dad was still alive when we came out the first time, and my older brothers were also still alive. My dad cried, and I had never seen my dad cry. He’s a different generation, you know. You didn’t show those kinds of emotions that we kind of take for granted today, but it was kind of a tough situation on the older people.

When I went into the service, I was maybe a little closer to my mother than any of the other boys. As I said, the neighbor and I went to the service at the same time, and so his dad took us to town to catch the bus to go to Yakima to catch another bus to go to Fort Lewis. When it came time to go, my neighbor came around the road and down this road out in front of the house and picked me up to go to town. I turned to say goodbye to my mother, and she was on the far end of the place. I don’t know. How do you ̶you just can’t describe feelings like that.

Interviewer: Well, where were you when they told you that the bomb had dropped and they had produced the plutonium in Hanford?

Grisham: I was in England and we were getting ready to go to Germany. The war had progressed at that time that we had an airfield that we could move into near Munich. There was still war going on, but they just hadn’t gotten that far that Hitler had decided to give up. We operated that airfield in Germany for a while, but it was pretty well decided by then.

I spent six months in Germany after two years in England, and it took a little doing to get back home. That was a big deal. Everybody was coming back at once, and so it took some time. From the time I left Munich, Germany in September, it was December 10th before I got a discharge in this country. Took that long to come back.

Interviewer: Where did you come back to? Did you go to Portland?

Grisham: I came back to Portland, because my family was still there and it was the only address that I had to give to the military. You know, as a home address. I didn’t have an address here anymore. At that time, though, my family and my dad and my mother, who was still alive, but in very poor health, had decided that they were going to leave Portland and come back to Kennewick to get us as close to old home as they could.

My dad had bought some building blocks in Kennewick and decided to build there. He was kind of a rough carpenter, not a finished carpenter, but he did a lot of carpentry work. He was in the process of building a log home down here on the river at the time that we had to move out. He did a lot of that kind of work for neighbors. They destroyed the log home. It was about two-thirds built, and they burned it up in the takeover.

The family was the Morford family, and there were quite a few people in the family. One of them was running the service station downtown and one was running an orchard, and the old folks also had an orchard. It was down close to the old town site of White Bluffs, down where the ferry landing is now, and kind of a social gathering place for the White Bluffs people. It was a park-like area there. It was close to the ferry landing, and things like the Fourth of July celebrations and any of the times you could figure out a reason to get together for potlucks and that sort of thing were down there. The Grange Hall was there, even after the town moved up to the site along the railroad in 1912 when the move took place.

It carries a lot of memories. There was an Anderson family in this direction. The Ponsat family in this direction. Kellys, Clarks. Kind of tests my memory to remember what all the families were in that area.

We swiped watermelons in the place up here, about a half mile up the road, like most kids did growing up. We had watermelons at home, but it was a lot more fun to go out there and get in the neighbors. We had another dairy on up the river, towards the reactor that can be seen in this area. Beautiful orchard up there in the bend of the river there that was called Burns. A woman and three children ran that orchard. After they got the orchard established, or the farm established, I understand, the old man took off and left. The woman kept the farm and ran it and did a good job.

This slight depression down here is apparently what’s left of our basement. There is some indication of a piece of concrete or brick from the chimney or something like that there. The ground area, the surface area, has obviously been bulldozed. They apparently used that to fill up the basement when they tried to clean up the area. The area that I’m walking towards now was our driveway. We came in on the east side of the house. That went back to the garage and the barn and the corral for the livestock and so on that were a short distance down the driveway.

We also had a pipeline out here in about this area here. It’s hard to find now because all our pipelines were buried. We irrigated out of buried pipelines, and there were holes in the pipe for every coordination that we had. Our garden was often in this area. We also used it for some of our livestock pens and corrals. Then, fence was run between this and the next ten acres that we were renting and we grew an alfalfa pasture and peaches over there. Of course, it was all fenced at that time.

I’ve looked at the so-called appraisal that we had on the land that was given to us at that time and there was no mention on the appraisal of buildings. No buildings. No irrigation system. No fences were listed on the appraisal that we had, and that was always a mystery to me. I just couldn’t quite figure that out, you know, because to me that constitutes a major value as far as a farm is concerned. The orchards were not mentioned. And again, that’s expensive stuff.

Interviewer: Do you feel that the government compensated you correctly for it?

Grisham: No. Just plain no.

Interviewer: They probably won’t hear my question, so maybe you want to incorporate the question into your answer. You know what I mean?

Grisham: The question you asked, “Were we adequately compensated?” And the answer to the question is, “No.” It’s just that simple, because I think that some of the people involved in making the appraisals did not realize the value of some of what was there besides the land. There was a good deal of land in this atomic reservation that was not developed, and I suspected that it might have been a temptation to value everything based upon that. And that was unfortunate.

Like I said, the question asked is how we feel about it and whether or not we were bitter. My answer is, “Disappointed.” Not bitter, but disappointed, because it had to be done somewhere. We don’t have that question about the atomic installation, that it wasn’t important enough to be done. It was how. Not whether it should be, but how. There was a good deal of urgency about the time. It had to be done quick. And quick meant sometimes that some people get hurt. We just feel that we got hurt.

 It’s too bad, and I suspect that many of the atomic installations across the country, in Colorado and some of the eastern areas, the Savannah River installation and all of those also involved, were taken over from people.  I suspect that, again, there were a lot of people that were hurt and disappointed because of the circumstances. So we weren’t alone. Certainly, I have connections, family connections, in eastern Nebraska. There were extremely large military bases built there, and they took corn fields and everything else. So somebody got hurt. How hurt? I don’t know. I just feel what we experienced here, and that’s all.

Like I said, I wasn’t here. My mother and father were at the time. There was nobody else on the farm, other than my older brother, who had his own farm and the same problem that my folks faced. They had to move under extremely difficult conditions and a pretty short time. My family had twenty-eight days from the time they got their letter that they had to leave. That meant disposing of livestock and machinery and whatever you felt you didn’t need, as far as household goods and that sort of thing. That of course meant you disposed of things at a price that probably wasn’t very favorable. I shouldn’t say “probably.” It was not favorable.

Like I said, I had a herd of registered Duroc hogs that were high-priced animals. They went at market price, just like they were going for sausage and pork chops. That hurt my dad and me, because that was a loss to me as well.

Otherwise, Tom, what was some of the questions—?

Interviewer: We’re going to ask you about the operation of the farm and how you’d get produce from here to the market.

Grisham: Well, the operation on the farm ̶the first time we moved on to this farm, we actually had horses. Had one mule that was blind in one eye and couldn’t see out of the other one, and deaf when you wanted him to go. We primarily used him in the grape vineyard because it was a relatively narrow, restricted space. The marketing of the grapes ̶they went to Church’s grape juice at that time. Church’s changed to Welch’s later. They were picked and hauled to Kennewick.

The peaches and apricots were marketed in different ways, depending on the year, which was the most advantage as far as price was concerned. Sometimes, we only had the option of shipping them to Chicago or maybe some other Eastern town, and hoping the brokers did a good job for us. Sometimes during the Depression, we actually got a bill rather than a check, because it was supposedly greater expenses than the crop was worth.

The crop was generally packed at warehouses in White Bluffs, close to the ice house. The railroad cars that were fixed up for refrigeration, if you could call it that, in those days were loaded with ice on each end and the ice provided the temperature help that they needed to get the crop to market. So the packing was done there. It was done primarily by women in the community that would pack the peaches, the apricots, the cherries, and then they were loaded on boxcars and shipped out.

There was a regular ice house, where they made the ice on site. The boxcar was moved alongside the ice house and was moved out of the ice-making set up ̶big metal cans, and they were probably maybe five feet long and a foot thick and maybe a couple feet wide. They would move down this chute towards the ice cart and a man would be on the top, near the end of the boxcar. He would have to use a sharp spike on a pole to break up the ice to get it into the chute of the boxcar. The car then was refrigerated that way as it went down the railroad track, headed for whatever market they were going.

It was a favorite place for the kids in town. I didn’t get a chance to do it very often, but it was a favorite place for the kids in town to be where they were breaking the ice up, because some of that would chip off and they could pick it up. On a day like this, that would be kind of handy.

The fruit was packed in the warehouses. The women primarily did that. Some of the physical labor of handling the boxes, putting the finishing lid on the boxes and so forth was men. Just before I went into the service in 1942, I had a job away from the farm for a while to haul apricots from the farm out into the warehouse. All I would do would be to go to the farm and help load the apricots on the truck and drive to town, turn around come back for more. So it was a matter of just going to the farm that was marketing to the warehouse at that time.

Jobs and so forth varied depending on the time of the year. Sometimes of the year in an orchard, you’re a pretty busy person ̶the thinning time, the pruning time, and the harvesting time in the orchard was a very busy time. A lot of it was neighbor to neighbor. Neighbor would help out neighbor and even if you were being paid for it, it didn’t amount to much. I think the first job that I had that involved orchard work was picking cherries, and you didn’t make very much money. It was a job based on how much you picked and so if you were lazy, you didn’t make much. If you were ambitious and so on, you made more.

One of my high school buddies and I entered a predatory contest conducted by the Rod and Gun Club or whatever they called it then. It was our job to go around and pick up predators ̶sparrows for one thing and gophers and jackrabbits. Jackrabbits were a real predator at that time. They were thick and a real problem to orchardists. So we entered this contest. The prize was going to be a rifle. Never even dawned on us how two guys were going to own one rifle, but we won the contest and it was not an easy job.

It was kind of messy, because you got your points for a particular part of the predator. In sparrows, we had to turn in the head. So when we gathered a bunch of sparrows in a neighbor’s chicken house, all we did was grab the sparrow, twist off the head and throw it in a bucket. The same with the jackrabbits ̶we had to scalp the jackrabbits to include both ears. There had to be connecting tissues in between the two ears or you didn’t get credit for it. For gophers, why, it was the same situation, you just turned in the head.

We won the contest and we decided that the best way was for the person who could buy off the other person first was going to be the one who got the rifle. Well, it turns out, I picked the wrong partner because he was a cherry-picking whiz. He beat me because we were both picking cherries at the same time and he got the price of the rifle, or my half, by the time I had just gotten started. He was really a good cherry picker.

So those were kind of neighborly things that we did. We did a lot of swimming in the river. It was very close in this direction. We also swam up in the areas, or close to wherever we were working in an orchard. If we got all covered with peach fuzz, why, come lunch time, we would all run down and jump in the river. When we got comfortable enough, we would go back to picking more peaches.

It happened that I learned to swim when I was actually about ten years old, almost straight north of here, about where you see the major part of the white on the bluffs up there. I say I learned to swim in the river, where it was flowing so fast that I couldn’t sink. That’s what my brother told me. “Get in there and swim,” he said. “You can’t sink because the water’s going too fast.” That probably wouldn’t stand up in theory.

Interviewer: Hang on just a second. Come on over here a little bit. Stay there, Walt.

Grisham: If I make any mention of the saddle, you almost won’t have to look at it on your film.

Interviewer: Don’t worry. We will. Talk about the saddle and we can make shot of it. Why don’t you tell us about the importance of the saddle and how Saddle Mountain got its name?

Grisham: The saddle in what they call Saddle Mountain was a major landmark to the early day cattlemen and sheep men. They wintered their sheep in this area and moved to the foothills of the Spokane area for summer range. In order to get there, they moved the whole herd, thousands of them sometimes. They had to cross the ferry, generally the Wahluke ferry because it was a side-wheeler ferry and you could load the sheep on one end and out the other end. The White Bluffs ferry was a stern-wheeler and they could not get nearly the same number of sheep on there, though they did move some.

The sheep would go across the Wahluke slope and through the saddle, because the saddle represented the spot where Saddle Mountain was a gradual slope on the other side. If you go further west on the Saddle Mountain, there was a sheer cliff and you just couldn’t move livestock that way. So the saddle had become the closest spot for moving livestock back and forth.

Back in the day, when there were early gold rushes up here somewhere in Idaho and so on, why, a lot of trade went across the river here at White Bluffs and they used the ferry and then used the saddle of the mountain to get through. So it has some significance from that standpoint. The name of that mountain is based on that saddle.

We hear a lot of talk these days about the sloughing off of the bluffs because of whatever may be going on out there in the way of agriculture, but I tell people that’s nothing new, absolutely nothing new.  It was long before there was any irrigation or anything going on up there. I was swimming in the river many times and I would see major slides, that looked like the ice sliding off the glaciers in Alaska, come off those bluffs and go into the river. That was going on all the time.

I don’t know. I’m not a geologist, but I would be willing to bet that the White Bluffs were right here once, that the river did exactly what it’s doing right now. It’s undercutting that bluff until a chunk drops off. Now, I’m not saying that you can turn loose whatever irrigation that is going on and forget it, because something down there is no doubt happening too and so it needs to be considered. In my opinion, it’s primarily government development that took place with the canals and so on that is probably the problem as much as anything, not the farming. The farmer has to pay for that water. He isn’t going to overuse it if he can help it. That damage is going on, but I don’t think it’s the major reason.

As young people, we would often cross the river with the sheep early in the morning. We would hobnob with the sheep herders there for a while. First cup of coffee I ever had in my life was there, what I call “sheep herder coffee.” Big old black can sitting in the fireplace, or in the fire, the bonfire. They would pour a cup for us kids. You didn’t dare refuse it because that meant you’d hurt their feelings or you weren’t manly enough to do it. But it took a man to drink it. Then we would ride across the ferry with the sheep, go up and hike around across the Wahluke  slope and up the mountain as far as we thought we could go until the end of the day. We knew that the last load of sheep was coming, and we would go back to the ferry and ride back. That was our exciting activity when we were growing up.

I walked across the river right there, where the Wahluke ferry is, on the ice. I hear talk about that— about whether or not the Columbia River ever froze over—and I can tell you that it did because if it didn’t, then I’d be pretty darn wet and cold. That was on the twenty-second day of February, that I walked across the Columbia River on the ice. The reason I know it was the twenty-second was, we didn’t have to go to school that day. That was Washington’s birthday and in those days that was a holiday. We went over and back the same day. It was a nice warm day. Turns out we came back around four o’clock and about an hour later, the ice went out completely. It just went out with a roar. We were stretching our luck, probably a good deal. 

As far as getting the crops, you know, it was a real problem sometimes getting them to market. The place down here ̶ the intersection where I referred to a dairy being here ̶ just across the intersection they had a peach orchard and I watched them dump tons of peaches on the ground because at the time they were ready for market ̶ and I mean they had already been sorted and packed and ready to go and the word he got back from his brokers was that the bill for doing the shipping and the selling was going to be more than he could realize from the peaches. So, he just dumped them. Flies had a good time. I bet there’s a pile of peach pits down there from that situation.

We would go down there and ice skate sometimes, straight down the river, down across the intersection. We have some slews down there, close to the White Bluffs ferry landing, that the water was fairly stagnant that it would freeze over quite easily. It would freeze over enough that they would drive cars out on it. I heard that they even drove cars across the river, but I never did see one go across myself. I don’t think I’d want to be in one.

Twenty-five years ago, first time the government would allow us to come in, I would have gladly moved back if I could. You can see that we don’t have any electric power on the road now. We did then. So I’d have a hard time irrigating, unless I wanted to put a gasoline engine on the well, but we could irrigate the place from this well right here, adequate water. I might have to plant a tree or two. But otherwise, you see, we’re not directly affected by any reactor. That one, I think, is far enough away. Maybe it isn’t far enough away for the downwinders, but it doesn’t look dangerous to me. Even back twenty-five years ago. So we could have started back again. At that time, even the pipeline was in pretty good shape. We’d have to build a house or pitch a tent, but otherwise it would have been ready.

But not likely now, cause I see the situation at the present time. I don’t know how much of the 600-odd square miles could ever be farmed again. Maybe further out. But I suspect there’s a considerable amount of the area here that could be farmed.

Our dream at that time as farmers—I’d sit around the old potbellied stove in the Grange Hall and listen to the old timers talk about what they think was going to happen. Now this was back in the 1930s, and the talk was a major bridge here on the Columbia, between Yakima and Spokane. The dam at Priest Rapids they envisioned as being a more Grand Coulee dam, both for irrigation and for electric power. There would be a canal going across the hill there west of the Yakima barricade, what they call Coal Creek or Barrel Springs Hill, and that canal would go so far as around the foothill of Rattlesnake Mountain. This whole area, all 600-odd miles, could come under irrigation. We would see acres and acres of orchards and grapes and whatever. I referred to what little we had as an oasis in the desert and that would be nothing compared to what it could have been.

Once in a while, somebody’s suggested to me, some of my own family mostly, that I ought to write a book. I said, “No. I wouldn’t write a book.” If I did, the subject would be what might have been, What Might Have Been. I could pick up every neighbor and I could say, “Well, Bob Cotting is going to be involved in some way in the orchard business.” In the book, What Might Have Been, Bob Cotting would have been involved in the upper level ̶the warehouse, the marketing, and all this in the orchard industry. Those who are involved with some of the farming would probably have their offspring involved. There would be schools in the proper areas between White Bluffs and Hanford, maybe a consolidated school instead of separate.

It really boggles your mind to think about what could have been. It really is a possibility, or would have been a possibility. I’m disappointed that the public doesn’t see more of it because of whatever restrictions we feel we have to keep.

I’ve looked at the river myself as a piece of history that could be much more utilized by the public. A major riverboat where people could go up the river and hear some of the history and the geology that exists here. An opportunity for a real entertaining trip, for Tri-City, or even visiting people who come to the Tri Cities. I’ve tried to promote that, to some extent, but it takes money.

The riverboat that I envision would probably cost somewhere in the neighborhood of four million dollars, where you could have a large enough gang of people, maybe 150 to 200 people, a sit-down dinner, where you could have entertainment, dancing. Major holiday celebrations and even political rallies. Everything on the river. I think a good deal of that is being lost at the present time, unless something is done. I’m not talking about that little jet boat, that little puddle jumper, that they run up here. I’m talking about something that people can be on and enjoy.

I know it wouldn’t be an easy thing, although there has been a feasibility study of it a number of years ago that indicated that it would pay for itself in five years. If you got four million dollars, you want to sink some place, why, there it is. I think it’s still there. That possibility is still there, as long as they leave the river and allow it to be used as it is now. It would be used much more so there by that means there than by any other.

 I’m acquainted with the superintendent there at Mattawa. I discussed this with him and he says, “Boy, what an educational tool. I could put my students on there. They could make the Hanford REACH trip. I could teach them history, geology and whatever and make it real for them.”

I’ve worked with Bill up there at Mattawa on some of that possibility. We have had students out at the old Luke ferry landing on the Grant County side. The students would look out across the river out here at the reactors and the barrenness that goes along with it and the students would say, “You mean, there were people over there?”

You know, there’s no indication that that was ever true. And yet, they ought to know that. They really ought to know that and have an opportunity to experience it. It just hasn’t happened yet.