Oak Ridge, Tennessee, research
The next stop was to visit Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in October 2018. We packed a lot into this short trip. We learned about the town, a ‘secret city’ built to support three major facilities or factories, each working to create enriched uranium using different methods, and housing to support those who came to work on the project. A visit to the Oak Ridge History Museum (https://oakridgeheritage.com/oak-ridge-history-museum/) at the Midtown Community Center, one of the original town buildings. A talk with one of the history volunteers helped to clarify some of the information that appeared on Mac’s employment card. While there was little doubt about the information, it’s great to have an explanation that every visitor to and resident of Oak Ridge had a badge and number assigned to them from someone who is knowledgeable in that area. As it turns out, Mac had a relatively low number.
Lunch at Dean’s Bakery and Cafe, The Soup Kitchen, and Big Ed’s pizza each provided a gallery of old pictures of Oak Ridge. A trip to the Oak Ridge public library (orpl.org) introduced us to the resources of the Oak Ridge History Room. A tour of the newly-reopened (at that time) American Museum of Science and Energy (https://amse.org/) had a display of one of the calutron cubicles. A calutron is a “. . .mass spectrometer originally designed and used for separating the isotopes of uranium”. The calutron cubicles were individual operational units that enabled a group of operators to work at the same time separating the uranium isotopes. The cubicles were generally operated by young women who were trained to use the cubicles without actually knowing anything about the resulting output of their work.
A bus tour through and around the old facilities, Y-12, X-10, and K-25, provided a sense of the scale of facilities needed to get the work done. In addition, we learned about the numbers of people working each shift, how most workers lived on-site, and how they kept the city secure during WWII, with stops along the way to visit various facilities. A visit to the old Alexander Hotel, now a senior home, provided more pictures and history, and, wayside markers around the town of Oak Ridge provide additional information on the work that was done here.