Interview with Myles Pasch
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Northwest Public Television | Pasch_Myles
Robert Bauman: Okay. All right. My name's Robert Bauman. And I'm conducting an oral history interview with Mr. Myles Pasch, today June 11th, 2013 and we are conducting this interview on the campus of Washington State University, Tri-Cities, and I'll be talking to Mr. Pasch about his experiences working at the Hanford site. So good morning, and thank you for being willing to have me talk to you today and be our first subject in this project. Appreciate it.
Myles Pasch: Welcome.
Bauman: So what if start by just having you tell me how and why you ended up coming to the Tri-Cities area to work at the Hanford site. How did that come about?
Pasch: Well I come about, my mother was working here when I got out of the Army in '45. Why, she already had a job lined up for me out here, and so come out here to take that job that they--the job actually didn't materialize, but I start working with the electrical distribution as a lineman's helper, because of the experience in the Army. I was a communications system in the Army, and so I started out in the line distribution as a ground man for the line gang, and about six months later why the Corps of Engineers turned the telephone system over to DuPont and with the telephone experience I had, they--I mean if you put me in the telephone system and I worked in there then until I--until my retirement. And various jobs from cable splicer helper, to cable splicer, to lineman and supervisor of the installation and maintenance crews, and then supervisor's office. Finally end up in engineering section by the time I retired.
Bauman: So you worked in a lot of different places, but mostly on electrical and phone.
Pasch: Just about all of it on phones. Phones, phones, and phone lines.
Bauman: And what sort of job did your mother have when you arrived?
Pasch: She was in the T Plant, 221-T Plant cleaning instruments and that from the separations group when they--vessels that they had to use for transferring materials and so forth and she was cleanup on that.
Bauman: Oh, okay. And when had she begun work here?
Pasch: She began work there when they went into production. She worked at Hanford during construction in the mess hall, and then she transferred to DuPont and started working soon as--right after they went into production instead of construction. My dad also worked there. Both in construction and in--and he went into patrol, the Hanford patrol, when they went into production.
Bauman: And do you know how your parents ended up coming here for work?
Pasch: I really don't. I was in the Army at the time that they did come out here, and so I'm not sure how--other than I know they were living in northern Wisconsin. There wasn't much going on there, and so I know that they tried to find something in the war industry to work on, so they applied for and came out here to Hanford.
Bauman: And did both of your parents continue working at Hanford after the war also?
Pasch: Yes. Fact is, I think my dad retired in '52. My mother retired when DuPont phased out and they went to General Electric. She phased out with DuPont, but Dad stayed in until 1951, actually, when he retired.
Bauman: Right. So you said you initially worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and then DuPont?
Pasch: No. I worked for DuPont when I hired on in July of '45, but the Corps of Engineers was running the telephone systems at that time rather than DuPont, and they turned the telephone systems over to DuPont in January of '46, and at that time I transferred right over to the telephone section and worked there until retirement.
Bauman: Okay. So what might a typical work day have been for you back in the late 1940s early 1950s? What sorts of things might you have done in a typical workday? Where might you have gone on the Hanford site?
Pasch: Well, we had to go wherever they needed telephone service, and it was installation of the wiring, telephones, and maintenance of them. And so wherever they needed telephones, we went. I worked in the outer areas all the time, very little in the 300 Area. Most of my work was in the two East-West, and the 100 Areas, wherever they needed a telephone repaired or put in, why, there's where we worked.
Bauman: How large of a crew or group did you work with usually, would be out there doing telephone repairs?
Pasch: Usually there was about eight or ten men on the telephone installation and repair group, and there was anywhere from one to four cable splicer crews going splicing cable. Especially when they really start opening up in the late '40s early '50s, and they start increasing the size and that of the telephone systems.
Bauman: So I imagine over the 37 years--is that how long?
Pasch: Yes, 37.
Bauman: Imagine over the course of those 37 years the telephone systems changed quite a bit.
Pasch: Yes, we started out with--when the Corps of Engineers had it, they started out with common battery switchboards with operators on them in each area, and each area had a 100 or 200 line switchboard, whatever they needed. And when they turned it over to DuPont, though, they'd already had installed a automatic switching station. So right after they turned it over to DuPont, why it switched over to automatic switching stations and the operators were taken off the project. And then it wasn't many years later they had to increase the size of that. They went from a Strowger switching system to a North Electric all relay switching system. And just in the--well not what, in the early '80s or late '70s, why, they switched over to a computer-controlled switching system, which is what they are still using out there now is a computer-controlled. But they went from say 100 lines in each area to several thousand lines and now, and the increase in people and buildings that were put in during that time. During that period of time. When I first started there, there was only three reactors and the East-West Area each had a separations building, but the only one that was actually in use was the 221-T Plant.
Bauman: So were some of those buildings more challenging to work with install or fix phone lines?
Pasch: Yeah, some of them we had to get special permits, special clothing, monitor buttons, and pencils, and badges to go into them. Probably only allowed 30 minutes in some spots. They were restricted to how long you could work in there and so forth, because of the radiation.
Bauman: Mm-hmm. So did you have a radiation monitor or some sort when you did that?
Pasch: We had a radiation monitor. Our badge was a radiation monitor. Whenever we went into an area, why, we got a couple of pencils that you put in your pocket that rated different types of radiation. Some buildings they had to have even another different pencil in your pocket in order to work there. Because there was different types, different radiations.
Bauman: And, so you mentioned you worked in T-Plant? In there as well?
Pasch: Oh, yes, I worked--fact is that was one of our most challenging ones. We went there to work, and you had to drive dressed in double protective coveralls and boots, and gloves, and hoods, mask, and then when you went out, you had to strip all that and you couldn't drag your tools out with you. They stayed, either stayed or got thrown away. So in that one you were very limited on how long you could work in the canyon. That was in the canyon itself.
Bauman: Yeah. Now for the site itself, when you first started working at Hanford site, given high security and secrecy, did you have to get a special security clearance, or--?
Pasch: I had a Q clearance all while I worked there. I had a Q clearance, which allowed you into everything except top secret buildings. The only thing about Hanford there is a need to know basis. You never learned anything about anything else that was going on except if you were doing it. [LAUGHTER]
Bauman: When you first started, were you--how did you get to Hanford? Were you able to drive your own vehicle or did you have to take the bus?
Pasch: We took a bus out. You could drive your own vehicle off the area, park it outside the fence and that, but most people rode the bus out. They had bus transportation to all areas.
Bauman: And did that continue for most of the time that you worked at Hanford, or did that start to change?
Pasch: That continued. Most of the time I worked at Hanford, except the last few years and I was manager or supervisor of the business office. I was working in the 700 Area in the Federal Building. Was then based in there. So at that time I no longer had to ride buses out. But then the last three four years I worked, I was back out in the areas again, but of course I was driving company car out for instructing people on the new telephone systems. They'd set up meetings and I'd go out and instruct them on how it worked and what they could--what they could use of the communication systems. There was a lot of stuff they weren't allowed to use by DOE because it was expensive and unnecessary. So some of the things that they could have had and used, why, they weren't available to the plant operations. Some of the top management had them, but a lot of the systems was not available to the regular—most of the divisions.
Bauman: Now because of the security at Hanford, and secrecy, were there any sort of special phone--concerns about communication, using telephones. Was there any special security or anything like that, related to telephones?
Pasch: They always stressed security. That, talk and sink your ship, and so forth and that, to keep people from talking, and of course they had monitoring systems that they--the FBI had one set up in one of the buildings there where they could access any phone in the plant if they had the need to monitor to see if anything was going on that shouldn't be going on. And they then recorded them on little old spools of wax. Little drums of wax recordings that they used to use way back when.
Bauman: Really? [LAUGHTER] Wow, that's interesting. Did that impact your work at all, the connections at all, or how you did the telephone lines at all?
Pasch: It just gave us more work. I mean we had to--and that was top secret, we were not allowed to discuss that with anyone that this was set up was there, available to the government.
Bauman: I’m going to shift a little bit now and talk a little bit about the area, the Tri-Cities area. When you first arrived where did you live? And what were your first impressions of Richland or the area here?
Pasch: Well it was--lived in a--with my folks. They'd rented a three bedroom prefab, because they wanted us to come and live with them while I was there. So we lived in that prefab for the first six months, then we moved into one of the B houses down the south end of town. And it was pretty desolate, lot of wind, no trees. [LAUGHTER] And I thought every time the wind blew, why, they'd lose about half their—half their employees would terminate—termination winds they used to call them. [LAUGHTER] And of course the--none of the cities were any too large at that time, and they just grown a lot since. But Richland was all government owned, all the homes and everything was government owned until about '53 they sold the--about '52 or '53 they started selling the houses to the resident who was in the house. And I moved out just before that. We'd moved out and went to Kennewick, so we didn't buy one of the--one of the plant houses.
Bauman: Now had you--did you know anything about the area before you came here? Had your parents told you anything really about--
Pasch: Not a thing. Just come for the job.
Bauman: So what was the community like in those early years in the late ‘40s early ‘50s? Because I would assume most people had come from all over the United States to work. What was that like?
Pasch: They come all from all over from the United States and they--everything in town was government owned. So they had a big recreation building. They had two theaters and they had the recreation building where they would contract some major musicians to come in and play, oh, probably once a month they'd come in and play for a dance there for the people. About the only other--well, we had the bowling alley and one tavern in town. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, the bowling alley and the tavern and two theaters. So a lot of the recreation were just people parading up and down the streets on a Sunday when they weren't working.
Bauman: So there were theaters to go to. Were there any parades or those sorts of events going on in the summer at all?
Pasch: Every year they had parades that the government sponsored. Either parades or art in the park and such as that, that they got started. So there was quite a bit going on, and like I say, every so often they'd get a big band, one of the big bands in to play for the dances. And each department would manage to make a couple of parties every year to keep their people happy.
Bauman: You mentioned the termination winds and often a lot of people came and went. What made you stay and your family stay there?
Pasch: Oh, I guess I liked the job. [LAUGHTER] It was just what I had always had been doing was telephone work. So I liked the job, and the pay wasn't too bad. And we had all—a lot of free time. I mean on the weekends and that, and it wasn't too far to go out to find recreation in the areas. Fishing or boating or just sightseeing. So we enjoyed—and we enjoyed the climate and that here compared to in some other areas we lived in.
Bauman: Not quite as cold as Wisconsin, I guess..
Pasch: Yes. That's--
Bauman: I wonder if there were any major events or things that happened while you were working at Hanford that stand out in your memory. I know President Kennedy was here in 1963, right, to sort of open the N Reactor. I wonder if you remember anything about that or are there any other events that really stand out?
Pasch: That was one time that they even let school out so that school kids could go out there. And our son was in the band, so he was out there playing, and the whole family was out at the N Reactor when President Kennedy was there. Were able to spend the afternoon out there. Fact is, they even got a chance then to take them by the building I was based in at the time, which is out the old BY telephone building. Got to take the family by there, and so we had a family picnic there at the BY building on the way home from the outing.
Bauman: That's probably the first time family members had a chance to be out--
Pasch: That's the first time they were allowed out there at all. I mean if you didn't have a badge you didn't go out there, unless you got special badge to go out into the area. But they had the checkpoints at 300 are and out at--on the highway coming in from the Yakima area--the highway where that highway 24's junctions with it. They had a gate out there, and one out by the--before you got to 300 Area and you had to have a badge to go through there.
Bauman: Okay. And were you able to drive your cars out for that event?
Pasch: You could, but they were inspected. Trunks inside and outside as you went through, and--but you could drive your car out. But most people did use the bus.
Bauman: I wonder if--what would you like future generations to know about Hanford? What it was like to work there. What it was like living in the Tri-Cities, especially in the 1940s and 1950s and those years in early Cold War years.
Pasch: Well, I don't know. [LAUGHTER] That's a--other than the fact, that it was one of the main things that stopped the World War very soon. I mean they saved--people worry about them having killed a lot of people, but they saved a lot lives. And if you look at it in the long run, well, they saved one amount of lives with the production at the Hanford plant.
Bauman: It seems like your work experience in 37 years was generally very good. You liked your job, is that right?
Pasch: Most of the time it was good, yes. It was--there was ups and downs, but it was as a rule it was pretty good. It was a good job and it was a sure job. I mean as long as you did your work and kept your nose clean, why, you had a job for as long as you wanted to stay. I could've stayed on beyond retirement age if I wanted to, but I was ready to go traveling.
Bauman: And how about the Tri-Cities as a place to live? You mentioned you moved to Kennewick in the early 1950s?
Pasch: We moved to Kennewick in 1952, and lived there until 2011. I moved back into Richland, about four or five blocks away from where we first started out in Richland. [LAUGHTER] So I liked it in Kennewick, but it's crowded. We found a real nice location out in Richland that we liked and I built a home there, and we--I moved out there.
Bauman: Well that's really interesting about your work and seeing the different changes right, with the telephone system and changes at Hanford. So you started with DuPont. What other contractors did you work for over the years?
Pasch: Well, DuPont, and General Electric, and ARCO, and Westinghouse, and main one, Rockwell. Fact is, I've spent a lot of time—Rockwell was one of the last ones that I just transferred over to Westinghouse as Rockwell phased out just about the time they were phasing out and combining a lot of the companies. Rockwell went out and I've worked with--or with Westinghouse for just a short time, then just to carry over until they got it--got all their programs going again right. There's a lot of change every five years at least, why, they were changing contractors, and was always a big change.
Bauman: Was there a contract you worked for that you really enjoyed working for maybe more than some of the others?
Pasch: Oh, no. They were all pretty good. I mean they were--had a job to do, and I was working in the same telephone department all the time. We just transferred under different management, and seems like all of those contractors were nice to work for. I mean, they were all—seemed just one as good as the other.
Bauman: Okay. Is there anything that I haven't asked you about? Or any memories that you have of either working at Hanford or living in the Tri-Cities that you think is important to share that I haven't asked you about yet, or haven't talked about yet?
Pasch: Not off hand. I can't think of anything. [LAUGHTER]
Bauman: Okay. Well, I really appreciate you coming and sharing your memories and your experiences working at the Hanford site and being a part, especially of those early years at Hanford. I really appreciate it, and thanks very much.
Pasch: Other than being a little nervous, why, I enjoyed it. [LAUGHTER]
Bauman: Thank you.
Man two: The only thing I can think of—well you--
Woman one: Last week my daughter came here when we came for the chancellor thing. And she's 15, and they had studied it somewhat in school, but she had some really strange thoughts, and not really positive thoughts about things that had happened here. And I was wondering if maybe you, since you lived through it, if you could make that—the reality of life at that time more real to them?
Pasch: I don't know, it just--there was a lot of restrictions and that, that you had to consider, going through that. And the security involved with it was very strict, but I can see where it was very necessary. Any of that restrictions and the production that they made, like I say, saved a lot of lives overall, if you'd have continued with the war as it was going. Why, it brought a stop to it in a hurry. And I think we should be thankful that it did that rather than carry on for invasion of Japan and whatever would have happened after that.
Bauman: Well again, thank you very much. I really appreciate you being willing to be the first person to be interviewed as part of this. You get all the little nuances of everything so I really appreciate Mr. Pasch. Thank you very much.
Pasch: You're welcome.
Man one: Okay. Stop the tape.