Interview with Stephanie Janicek
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Victor Vargas: We’re rolling.
Robert Franklin: My name is Robert Franklin. I am conducting an oral history interview with Stephanie Janick?
Stephanie Janicek: Janicek.
Janicek: Just like it’s spelled.
Franklin: Okay, Janicek. On January 24th, 2017. The interview is being conducted on the campus of Washington State University Tri-Cities. I will be talking with Stephanie about her experiences growing up in Richland and working at the Hanford Site. And for the record, can you state and spell your full name for us?
Janicek: Stephanie Anne Dawson Janicek. Stephanie is S-T-E-P-H-A-N-I-E. Anne, A-N-N-E. Dawson, D-A-W-S-O-N. Janicek, J-A-N-I-C-E-K.
Franklin: Great. So tell me how and why you first came to Richland.
Janicek: My family came to Richland in 1949 when I was seven years old and I was in the first grade. My father had been a Montgomery Ward’s manager in the ‘40s and he managed stores all over the state of Washington. And he was so successful that they wanted to promote him to a regional position where he’d be traveling a lot, and he said I don’t want to do that. So he and another Ward’s manager who decided to be a silent partner talked to officials in Richland and decided that they were going to be the first store to open in Uptown Richland. The area had been set aside, there were no buildings; it was just empty lot. And the downtown area was too small and crowded, so they wanted to develop Uptown as sort of an outdoor mall, if you will. Dawson Richards was the first store built and opened. And it opened in June of 1949.
Franklin: What was your father’s name?
Janicek: Grover Dawson.
Franklin: And was Richards the silent partner?
Janicek: Jim Richards was the silent partner. He owned an orange grove and walnut trees in California, and so he was down there. They owned the store 50/50 for many years until my brother bought out Mr. Richards. And he would come up occasionally to see how things were going. But Dad was doing a great job, and everything was going well.
Franklin: So tell me more about Dawson Richards store. What kinds of products did it sell?
Janicek: Dawson Richards started out as a men and boys clothing store. And they had a little logo of a man wearing a suit and a hat and a little boy with a cap and a coat, because boys wore coats in the old days, you know, when they went to church. It said Dad and Lad. That was one of the early symbols of the store. And so it was a really interesting store, because my father wanted to cater to all the men in the area, most of whom worked at Hanford, regardless of their station in life. And so, for instance, he had two lines of suits; the expensive suits were made by Kuppenheimer and the less expensive were made by Timely. He had two lines of shoes. The good shoes—or the more expensive shoes, rather, were Florsheim’s, and he had Winthrop shoes for the everyday guys. And he did the same with sweaters and pants and shirts and neckties and pajamas and socks and everything you can think of. He also had—because there was almost nothing. Everybody had to go to Seattle or Spokane or maybe Yakima—I don’t know what was in Yakima in those days—to get their clothing. And especially the managers at Hanford. So they were tickled to death that they had a store that they could shop at and be very finely-clothed. And he—my dad—specialized in, oh, talls and shorts and stouts. He catered to every single size, and if he didn’t have your size, he would get it for you. And I remember one of the signs in the store said, OshKosh, because my father carried OshKosh B’gosh overalls. He really wanted to have clothing for everyone. Regardless of their station in life. And it became a wonderful gathering place. People would just come in to talk. My father was very outgoing, and we would have gatherings of high school kids, because he also carried letterman jackets, letterman sweaters. He sold the chenille letters and numbers for the cheerleader and song leader outfits. When Christ the King opened their Catholic school for kids, the students wore uniforms, and my father sold, at very deep discounts, the corduroy pants and white shirts and navy sweaters that the boys wore at the school. He really wanted to provide whatever the community needed and it worked out quite well.
Franklin: Okay, great. So there wasn’t—were there any men’s stores or stores of a similar type in Pasco and Kennewick at the time?
Janicek: There was—I don’t know how old the Sid Lanter’s store was in Kennewick; I think that was probably there most of the time. I don’t know if it preceded Dawson Richard’s or not. There was a small men’s store in downtown Richland. I might be able to remember the name of it later on. But just at this moment, it is—oh, was it something like Harvey’s or—I don’t recall. But my father’s was such a good sized store that he had wonderful variety. He had Pendleton woolen shirts and jackets, and he had Jantzen’s sweaters and swimsuits. Carried a lot of name brands that people were comfortable with.
Franklin: And you said that was the first store in the Uptown area?
Janicek: Yes, it was. And the next store that opened was a sporting goods store right next to Dawson Richard’s and it was originally called Frank Barry, which was the name of the owner. And a few years later that was sold and it became BB&M Sporting Goods, which was owned by three gentlemen with the last names of B and B and M. And then some years later they moved up the street. Dawson Richards was on the Jadwin side of Uptown Richland, and they moved farther up the street. I don’t know—is there a—I don’t think there’s a BB&M now, is there? No, it’s gone. Okay.
Franklin: I’ve only been here a year, so—
Janicek: Oh, okay.
Franklin: My memory is—
Franklin: I don’t have a long institutional memory.
Janicek: And you know, if we had time, and I’m sure we don’t, I could walk you around the entire Uptown area and tell you most of the stores that originally were there. The other oldest store was the Spudnuts shop. God bless them, they’re still there.
Franklin: Yes, they are.
Janicek: And still the same family owns it.
Franklin: And still very delicious.
Janicek: Yes, yes.
Franklin: So the Uptown was the first commercial—major commercial district in Richland, right?
Janicek: Yes, it was. And because they had wonderful, big parking lots all the way around the stores, people could just park and walk all the way around the square and get everything they needed. We had Stanfield florists and Parker hardware, and banks, and there was once a grocery store there, we had a theater—we had—everything you needed, you could get somewhere. And several shoe stores, jewelry, china and silverware—just—they just filled in everything that a person would need so that nobody had to go to Spokane or Seattle to shop anymore. Unless they really wanted to.
Franklin: How long did your family own Dawson Richards?
Janicek: Let me think. My father sold to his manager, his long-term manager, George Anderson, and George’s family. They bought out my father in the early ‘70s. And the store actually closed—ironically, the store closed in 1999 on its 50th anniversary.
Franklin: So it was open for exactly 50 years.
Janicek: Yes. And the gentleman who bought it—it’s now a much smaller store. The gentleman who bought it retained the Dawson Richard’s name, which tickled me to death, and he still sells tuxedos and letterman sweaters and jackets. And he also rents out tuxedos for weddings.
Franklin: Oh, okay.
Janicek: Then there were years when my father bought out the building—oh, I don’t know, bought or rented—the building next to Dawson Richard’s and they opened a women’s department called Lady Dawson. And so from inside Dawson Richard’s, you could just walk through to the ladies’ department. That was successful for a number of years. Eventually, they closed the boys’ department and then they closed the women’s department, and in the end, Dawson Richards was just men’s clothing.
Franklin: Was that, probably, just because of competition from larger department stores?
Janicek: Yes, we knew when Columbia Center was built that there would start to be more competition. Just a lot of people were going over to Columbia Center and while they were there they did all of their shopping. So a lot of people made a point of coming to Dawson Richard’s for one reason or another, but not necessarily for kids’ clothes.
Franklin: Ah, it stopped being the destination in terms—
Franklin: Because there was now competition.
Janicek: Yes, yes, yes.
Franklin: Whatever part of Richland that is.
Janicek: Yes. My dad had a policy of hiring as many high school kids as he could to sweep the floors, giftwrap at Christmas and Father’s Day and special events. So it was a really interesting gathering place not only for high school kids, but also they would come home from college and come back to see everybody. You know, if you wanted to see who’s who. And my father’s birthday was on Christmas Eve. And so everybody would come back and anybody who had ever worked at the store and not goofed up too badly, he would hire them just for two weeks. And they would see each other, and it was—and everybody came to see who’s home from college. And they would stand around and sing Happy Birthday during the day, and he’d have cake and punch in the backroom. It was very celebratory. Just lots of fun. A lot of fun to work at Dawson Richard’s or to just hang out there. The girls came in to get the chenille letters and numbers for their pep club and cheerleader outfits. People came in whether they bought anything or not. And he didn’t care, because he just loved people. It was a fun place to grow up.
Franklin: Did anything change in terms of the store, Uptown, or—when Richland became a private—yeah, a privately-owned city?
Janicek: Not specifically that I can think of. I was in high school at the time, and I remember that Richland became a Model US City. We had a day at Richland High School where a number of the seniors shadowed a Richland official for a day. So we had somebody shadowing the mayor and each of the city council members and the fire chief and the police chief and the city engineer and all of that. And went to—I was the city librarian for a day. And we all went to the city council meeting, in celebration of Richland becoming an independent city. And the other thing that I remember is that we were able to buy our house. Because always we rented. Richland was very much subsidized by the government. We had free garbage and free utilities and—I don’t know if the phone was free, but—just a lot of things that they took care of for us in the good old days.
Franklin: Right. But you said they—do you think the attitude was more celebratory, or did the people miss some of those amenities that had been provided for?
Janicek: I’m sure that people missed some of the amenities and realized it was going to cost them more money to live than it used to. But they—I think they also appreciated having choices. Originally, when we came, you can’t live in Richland unless you had a job, because everybody rented their house from the government. If you didn’t have a job, you left. So if people went to jail or were alcoholics and just didn’t—excuse me—[COUGH]—didn’t measure up, then they were booted out of town. So there were a lot more choices for people. We—old Richland, no one had a garage, because the city—the government didn’t build garages; they just built houses. And so nobody had an attic. Nobody had grandparents living there. It was all young families. Which was interesting way to grow up. I’m sorry. [COUGH]
Franklin: It’s okay, and there’s water right next to you, too.
Janicek: Oh, splendid. I didn’t even see it.
Franklin: What other kinds of civic activities or business activities was your father involved in?
Janicek: Well, as I said, he started out with being on the city council and being elected mayor, because he was very outgoing and because of his experiences as a store manager for Montgomery Ward’s, he was kind of a natural leader. So he was involved for a few years with what later became United Way. He got on the school board in about 1951, and he was there for 13 or 14 years. The people on the school board kind of took turns being the president, but he got involved in a lot of school things. He was a co-founder of the Bomber Boosters. He was instrumental in the first and the second remodeling of Richland High School and the building of the Dawald Gym. And he was one of the schoolboard members who advocated for building Hanford High School, which was very controversial, because a lot of people just wanted all their kids to grow up as Richland Bombers. That was kind of a sacred thing to be in the old days. It was sort of like, those other people, they have to go to Hanford. But that worked out. Hanford was an unusual school, because it was high school, junior high, and grade school—all 12 grades, well, plus kindergarten. Then later, when Sacajawea was torn down and rebuilt up in the Richland Village, then they removed the grade school from Hanford. And then Chief Jo Junior High School had been closed for a number of years, and they remodeled it and reopened it. And then moved the junior high kids out of—I don’t think—I think Hanford is just high school now, and all the junior high kids are back in either Chief Jo or Carmichael, which is what it was when I was growing up. So he was mostly involved in things having to do with kids and families. He sponsored a Little League baseball team, he sponsored and after-high school basketball league for young men who lived and worked around the Tri-Cities, and—what else did he do? Oh, his business sponsored all of the broadcasts of the Richland Bomber football and basketball games. He was very close friends with all of the coaches at Richland High School. In the old days, when the Richland Bombers went to the state basketball tournament, they were driven in cars. And so my dad and the coaches would put a couple of boys in the back of the car and drive over to Seattle. It was a four days, double-elimination, huge tournament at the Hec Edmundson Pavilion at the UW campus. So, he got to know all of the players as well as the coaches. Just loved that—more of getting to know everybody in the community. He just was that kind of guy. [LAUGHTER]
Franklin: Okay. Well, that’s great. So tell me about growing up in the government town of Richland and what kind of—what your impressions were when you first moved—
Janicek: My earliest impressions—we lived in south Richland for the first year and a half. We lived in an F House, which is a single-family two-story. And our street was only one block long—Atkins. My first recollection is that there were no garages, so everybody parked in the street. But everybody—families only had one car. The men didn’t drive to work at Hanford; there were buses that came through. There were three shifts, so Hanford was running 24 hours a day. There were three shifts: the day shift, the evening shift, and the overnight shift or graveyard. So the buses would come through and pick up the workers at corners and guys would all be there with their metal lunch pails and you’d see them going off. And then they’d come back, I don’t know, nine or ten hours later and drop them off, because it was quite a drive to Hanford. So the family car stayed at home, but a lot of them—and most of the mothers stayed at home. Very few women worked; some of them worked at Hanford or in some of the businesses, but most of them didn’t. And a lot of them didn’t drive. So the cars just sat there all day and were only used after Dad came home from work, or to go shopping on Saturday, or to go to church on Sunday. There were a lot of churches in the community, which I thought was kind of interesting. Lots of denominations. My family was Episcopalian, and it was a few years before we got our own church, and so the Richland Lutheran church let us have our services in the basement of their church. So our services were on folding metal chairs with little kneeling pads on the cement floor. It was a little chilly, but it was very kind of them to let us do that until we had our own church. But there were—and we had a lot of Protestant churches called Central United Protestant, Southside United Protestant, Westside United Protestant. But actually, if you asked someone or looked carefully, one of them was more Methodist, one of them was more Presbyterian; some of them, I didn’t know what they were. They weren’t in my neighborhood and I didn’t know kids that went to them until I got to high school. It was a very insular community in a lot of ways. You knew all the kids in your neighborhood, and all the kids in your school, which was—they were neighborhood schools. If you went to church, and most people did, you knew the kids that were in your church. But as a young child, we had no idea what everybody’s father did. We knew that most of them worked at Hanford, but we had no idea whether the father was a truck driver or a manager or a clerk or a—you know, scientist. That was beyond us. We never asked, and nobody ever talked about it. So, the kids in my class—when my class graduated in 1960, there were about 417 of us. And for the most part, if you didn’t ask, you didn’t really know what the other parents did. I knew most of the business community and a lot of those people had kids. People that owned the stores, and groceries and gas stations. One of my best friends in high school was the step-daughter of the man who managed the Desert Inn, which is now the Hanford House. It was neat to sleep over at her house, because she lived in the hotel. [LAUGHTER] And you could swim in the pool, and you had all your meals in the hotel dining room.
Franklin: Oh, wow.
Janicek: It was really different. Most of the time, there was no public transportation. There were a few years when there was a city bus, and I don’t know—I was young; I was maybe fourth grade, fifth grade, and I remember taking the bus in the summertime to the city library. And I would sit and read books all day in the library, and then I would come home at dinner time. It was one of the things I loved to do, because I was a very bookish person. And then one year, they stopped having the buses. I don’t know whether they—and it only cost—I don’t remember if they were free, or they cost a dime or something, but it was certainly not restrictive in any way. That was fun. I remember just—even as a pretty young kid—that the Richland Community House on George Washington Way had pool tables in the back for the adults, but every Friday night they had square dancing for the kids. So all the kids would go and learn to square dance. There were a number of callers and you’d be there for a couple of hours. That was a really fun community thing to do, and that was a way to meet people who didn’t live in your neighborhood or didn’t go to your school. The town was full of young families with young children. I think the only older people who were there were either highly skilled technical men who came with their wives and either they didn’t have children or the children had already left home before they moved to Richland. Then some of the older couples, the man was in management. A few of the older couples, the women were scientists or engineers or technologists. There were some, you know—we now are learning—some highly skilled women out there that kind of disappeared into the woodwork. Nobody knew anything about them. One of the curious things that I did not realize for many years is how—I don’t know what to say. Almost everybody in the community when I was growing up was—I hate to say it—but they were white. And I didn’t know any—I didn’t know any, any blacks, any Asians, any—well, there was one Hispanic family that went to my high school, two girl cousins, that were in my class in grade school. And then I guess they must have moved to another part of town, because then I didn’t ever see them in junior high or high school. There were a few black families that I got to know, partly because they would shop in my father’s store, and partly because—when I went to Chief Jo Junior High, the PE classes were separate: girls’ PE and boys’ PE, and they had a big curtain they drew down the middle of the gymnasium so that we wouldn’t see each other in our shorts or whatever it was. But there would be a six-week session where we danced. And we all learned how to waltz and, I don’t know, whatever the jitterbug had evolved to in the ‘40s—or in the ‘50s, rather. That’s when Fats Domino and Chubby Checker were coming out, and eventually Elvis. So we were all learning to do the twist and all those things—they were fast and loud. And that was fun, because if you had that in PE for six weeks, you learned how to do that stuff, and you didn’t feel like such a dorky wallflower. There was one boy in my PE class who was black. And so when it was time for the dancing, everybody would choose their partners. And I was the tallest girl in the school and wore glasses until the ninth grade when I was the first person to get contact lenses. But anyway, so he and I were usually left close to the end of who choses who for a dance partner. Which was perfectly fine with me. I didn’t care. I didn’t have any prejudices, any reasons to feel any different about him than about anybody else in the class. And he was actually polite and nice and, you know, dressed nicely and cleaned up. He didn’t talk much; I think he was probably more shy and scared than I was. But it was an interesting experience, because—it was fine with me, you know? We danced, talked a little bit. But it was the only time I ever saw him. I didn’t—I don’t think we had any classes together. So I didn’t run into him very often.
Franklin: Did he go to the school with you?
Janicek: Oh, yeah, he went to Chief Jo. Well, you have to remember that when I first moved to Richland, there was Camp Hanford that was a military camp north of town. And there was a—at one time Richland had the largest trailer park in the country. And I’ve forgotten now—I think it was 50,000 trailers. I think, for the most part, those trailers didn’t have kitchens or bathrooms, because people ate in—maybe they did. I don’t remember, because I wasn’t in them. But they had big mess halls where people ate and they fed—I mean, they had constant food. They were either cooking or cleaning up all the time because they couldn’t feed everybody at once. And then they had bathhouses in among the trailer camp where people—just kind of like when you go to an RV park, you go to the toilets and sinks and showers. And I don’t know—maybe some of the larger trailers had those things. But I know there were small trailers that didn’t. They looked like campers, with no plumbing and—I don’t even know what they did for lighting. But between the military and the construction workers who lived north of town, there were some black families. And so I have no idea what that fella’s family did. But then we had the Brown family. When I was in junior high and high school, we had two basketball stars. And basketball was as big at Richland High School as it was in the state of Indiana. [LAUGHTER] We were Hoosiers West, maybe, I don’t know. But Norris Brown and his younger brother, CW Brown, were outstanding basketball players. They played on the Richland basketball teams, and they were among those basketball players that my parents and the coaches drove to Seattle for the tournament every year. They were the nicest guys. Now, the—I don’t think there were any black girls in Richland at that time, but there were a lot of black people who lived in Pasco. And so they did their socializing, I think, with people who lived in Pasco. And I didn’t know for many years that Kennewick was a—I don’t know, they call it, now they call it a sundowner town, that all the blacks had to be out by the time the sun went down. Had no idea! But there was a place where kids went to dance on the weekends and it was called Hi-Spot. And they would advertise on the radio, and everybody listened to the radio. That’s how you found out what all the popular music was. And so they would advertise: everybody come to Hi-Spot for dancing and—I don’t know. I never went, so I don’t know, but I’m guessing maybe they had light refreshments there. Anyway, everybody was invited to come. So, Norris and CW Brown went with girlfriends who I’m assuming were from Pasco, and they were thrown out because it was after dark, and this was in Kennewick. Richland was horrified. I mean, number one, we had no idea that Kennewick had these laws. And number two, these guys were our heroes. They were winning basketball games for us, and they, number three, they were extremely nice and polite and good students and—you know, there was absolutely no reason that you wouldn’t want to have them at a teenage gathering. I think—and this is only my person opinion—but I think that that’s where a good deal of the Richland/Kennewick rivalry started. Because the Richland people were so incensed that our heroes were thrown out of town. And that was in the late ‘50s. Let’s see. CW was one or two years ahead of me—two, I think. So that would have been, like, I don’t know, ’56, ’57, ’58. And Norris had graduated, but CW was on the team that in March of 1958 won the state basketball championship, which was just the hugest thing that had happened to Richland, probably since the beginning of time. It was just a really big thrill. And I was at that tournament, and I was at that game. And it was the biggest thing that had happened to me, too. I was so excited for my team. Because always the state had been dominated by all of the Seattle and Tacoma teams, for the most part, and sometimes a couple from Spokane. And so poor little old Richland that was stuck out in the desert and nobody knew about Richland in particular and nobody wanted to go there. [LAUGHTER] What are these kids doing in our sacred basketball tournament? And we won the whole thing. And that was just very exciting. And CW Brown was on that team. Another member of that team was John Meyers. John Meyers was this—he was built like a Douglas fir. He was just big all over—tall and large. And he was the star of my dad’s Little League baseball team. His father was the assistant manager. And he regularly hit homeruns and broke the bat. Regularly. I used to go to a lot of the Little League games, and that was really fun to watch. John Meyers was a star on the basketball and football teams at Richland High School. He played at least two sports—I’m not sure about baseball—but at least he played two sports at the University of Washington where he went for four years, and then he was drafted into the NFL. He played most of his career for the Philadelphia Eagles. So we had a local celebrity. One of several local celebrities that we had. So that was a really—I just loved following sports, and then, I, myself became a Washington Husky. Went with them to the Rose Bowl which John Meyers played in, in January of 1961. And then I ended up marrying a guy from Notre Dame, and so we’re big football fans. [LAUGHTER] We’ve had Seahawks tickets for 19 years. [LAUGHTER] Just was destined to be, I guess.
Franklin: Yeah. What do you remember about civil defense in the Tri-Cities? Do you remember going through defense drills at school?
Janicek: What I remember—there are two different aspects that I remember. When I was—most of the time, after the first year-and-a-half of living in south Richland and going to Lewis and Clark, we moved to north Richland and I went to Jefferson grade school, and then Chief Jo Junior High and Richland High School, which we always called Col High, and most of us in our hearts, it’s still Col High and not Richland. But we would have air raid drills maybe once a month at Jefferson. And we would—every class would march out into the hallway where we would lie down on the floor next to the wall. We would lie absolutely flat on our stomachs with our head resting on one arm, and I think maybe that was partly to protect our eyes. And then the other hand behind our necks to protect our spinal cord, I guess. I’m not sure that would have done any good if the Russians had actually bombed us. Because we truly believed that there was a good chance that we were going to be bombed by the Russians. We truly did. And so those were serious, civil defense drills.
Franklin: You mean we as in you believed the Russians would bomb America, or Hanford specifically?
Janicek: Well, we thought that the Russians would bomb America, but that Hanford was a really good target. Because of—by then it was known that we were creating the plutonium for bombs and all of the nuclear activities going on out there. And we thought that, if Russia really wanted to take over the world, that they would want to take out all of the nuclear facilities so that we wouldn’t be able to fight back or build up our defenses to eventually fight back. The other thing I remember—excuse me—[COUGH]—about civil defense is that every so often, we would have drills where every neighborhood was told where to go, get in your car and drive out into the desert to get out of town, get away from Hanford. And they would have those—I don’t remember—maybe once a year. I don’t think we had them more often than that. But you were always cautioned to keep your gas tank at least half full, because there wouldn’t be time to go fill up if we all had to evacuate town. Now, I suspect that there was a second reason for those drills, and that is in case anything went wrong and something blew up at Hanford, like Chernobyl. We had an inordinate amount of faith in our government and our scientists and engineers and our leaders at Hanford, and believed they would keep us safe. And Hanford actually has an amazing safety record. Very few things went wrong and caused any difficulties. But I suspect that if something had happened at Hanford, that those evacuation routes would have—and those evacuation routes were marked for a number of years. Eventually the signs all disappeared. But you knew where your neighborhood was supposed to drive to.
Franklin: Interesting. Where was your neighborhood supposed to drive to, do you remember?
Janicek: Well, it was long before I was old enough to drive a car: I was in grade school. And I didn’t even know where I was when I was out of town. I didn’t know which way was up, down, or west, or south. I’m guessing, since we lived on McMurray in north Richland, we probably went west.
Franklin: Ah. And when we moved up to north Richland, did you also live in an alphabet house, or did you—
Janicek: Yes, we lived in a Q house. The houses on McMurray were all Qs and Rs. And they were all three-bedroom, one-story houses with a full basement, whereas the old houses—the old alphabet houses, As and Fs and many of the others—had a half-basement and then a three- or four-foot high wall in the basement of cement blocks, and then there was dirt behind that. And then some people, after they bought their homes, would dig out—it was called digging out—the basement. But we had a full basement, and really nice backyard.
Franklin: And is that the house that your parents bought when Richland—
Janicek: We were living in that house and then bought it, yes, when Richland sold. One of the tough things about living in Richland is that there was no air conditioning. The houses had swamp coolers, which also were called squirrel cages. They were great, big, huge things that attached to a window and made a lot of noise. It sounded like metal blades going around, very noisy, and water ran through them to cool the air. Well, that made the houses not—it didn’t cool the houses that much, but it made them very humid. So, sometimes, you forgot you were living in a desert or a semi-arid desert, because it was very humid along with the heat, and very uncomfortable. But my father’s store had refrigerated air conditioning. It was one of the first buildings to have that. I’m guessing that the hospital and—well, no, the hospital used to be little funny buildings. I’m guessing maybe the hotel had it, and maybe some restaurants. But, yeah, that was another reason that people liked Dawson Richards, because it was cool inside on hot days. [LAUGHTER] But that was difficult. And we had a lot of summers when the temperature was over 100 degrees. And, like now, we had some winters when it got down far below freezing, down to -10 or even 0 a couple of times. One of the other interesting weather things about living in Richland in the olden days is when you had the big dust storms, or the termination winds as some people called them, you would have great big huge clumps of sagebrush flying through town about five to ten feet off the ground. And one time, a sagebrush—I have never seen this since—a sagebrush as big as a Volkswagen lodged in front of our front door, and we couldn’t get in and out our front door. Because it had blown in and was kind of stuck to the doorknob and whatever we had around the front door. And we couldn’t budge it. We couldn’t grab a big enough piece, or reach in far enough to grab one of the main stems or limbs of the sagebrush to pull it out. So we’d all have to run around and go in and out the back door. But the worst part of the winds, or one of the worst parts, was the dust, because it got in your eyes. And people were starting to get contact lenses. And that was just absolutely murderous, to have all that dust blowing in your eyes and getting behind your contacts. And people would go around with tears running down their faces from--[LAUGHTER]—from how painful the dust was in their eyes. And people wore sunglasses day and night to try and protect their eyes. Of course, as Richland built up and got more civilized and more of the empty lots became houses with yards and grass and trees and flowers, then the dust was not as thick as it used to be. Some of the dust storms were blinding. They were like blizzards. Oh, and that reminds me. My first winter in Richland, the winter of ’49-’50, we had a blizzard that was so bad they would not let any children leave the school until their parents came and picked them up. Well, the dads worked at Hanford and travelled by bus, so it was a while before—I imagine they probably let them go home early to get their kids. I don’t know that, but I’m guessing. And we would all be waiting at the school until the parents showed up. It was not a problem for my parents, because I’m sure in a blizzard they weren’t selling any clothing, so they just came and picked us up. But it was really bad. I just read—the old Richland Bombers have an online Sandstorm. The Sandstorm was the school newspaper, and we have an online Sandstorm that comes out every single day of the year. And it mentions birthdays and anniversaries of people—married classmates—and announces deaths of classmates and also of favorite teachers. Somebody in the online Sandstorm only a day or two ago wrote about—and I never heard this story before, so I do not know if it’s truly true—but wrote about a father who came and picked up his little boy at school during the blizzard, and didn’t have a car. And so they were walking home and they got lost in the blizzard and were found frozen to death the next day. I had never heard that before, but I could believe that, because you could not see anything. Absolutely. It was dreadful. I remember that. I have a real good visual memory, and I remember exactly what that looked like. It was fearful.
Franklin: So you said you graduated in 1960.
Franklin: And then later on you came back to Hanford?
Janicek: Yes, I went to University of Washington for four years. And I developed this passion for Afghanistan. So I decided the only way—and I had spent a summer in Europe and did all of that and had a good time. But I don’t know why, I really wanted to go to Afghanistan. I had studied about it, I had written reports, read books. So I joined the Peace Corps and I said, don’t send me any place but Afghanistan. Well, in those days, you took all the tests and if they decide you were qualified—they’d never had anybody ask for Afghanistan, but they had programs in Afghanistan. So I went through Peace Corps training for three months and then went to Afghanistan. And I taught English in a girls’ high school. While I was there, I met and married my husband, who was from New York and Notre Dame, and I never would have met him if I’d stayed in Richland or even in the state of Washington. So we had this very unusual Afghan wedding that was written about in the paper last year when we celebrated our 50th anniversary. So we came back and he went to graduate school at Purdue. So we lived in Indiana from ’66 to ’78, twelve years. And our three children were born there. And then we lived in Indiana. His parents were in New York and mine were in Washington, and the kids never knew any of their relatives, they never got—and we said, well, this isn’t good. So we want to go one way or the other. There were a lot of reasons why we didn’t want to live on Long Island. It was overcrowded with traffic and polluted air and polluted water, and just a lot of reasons it didn’t appeal to us. So we came out to visit my parents, and my husband interviewed at Hanford and got two job offers. So we ended up moving to Richland in 1978. So for marrying a guy from New York who you met in Afghanistan, I never would have thought that my children would graduate from my high school. But they did. So we had three little Richland Bombers in the family besides their mom.
Franklin: And where did you live when you came back to Richland?
Janicek: When we came back, we moved into an A house on Thayer. And it was an A house—that’s the two-story duplex—but it had been converted by the previous owner into a one-family house. So we had more bedrooms and more living space and an unusual-shaped yard, and lived on Thayer, a half a block from Van Giesen.
Franklin: What did you and your husband do at Hanford? Because you said you—
Janicek: Well, he’s a mechanical engineer. So he started out doing mechanical engineering things. He was involved in robotics. He spent most of his career in the Tank Farms and was a design authority for a number of years before he retired. I began as a tech editor. Became a tech writer editor, and then had several stints as a manager of editors and word processors. And we were producing all of the huge reports coming out of Hanford, mostly reporting on cleanup. Cleaning up spills in the ground, cleaning up buildings—goodness. I worked on documents that were 6,000 pages long. Mostly online editing. When—at the height of the publications flurry at Hanford, we had 100 employees in our department. About 50 editors and about 50 word processors. But as time went on, the editors started editing online, and then we didn’t need word processors. Originally we would edit with a red pen, and then the word processors would type in all of our changes. But that morphed into just editing online. I absolutely loved my job. For 27 years, I worked with engineers and scientists and technical people. I felt like it brought me closer to my husband, because I had no technical background at all. But I had very good communication skills and had studied three other languages, and so I have a lot of good ideas about how English should be spoken and written. And really enjoyed doing that for 27 years.
Franklin: 27 years. So then you retired in 2005?
Janicek: No, I retired—he went to work in ’78; I went to work in ’80. So I retired December 2007.
Franklin: Okay. And how many different contractors did you work for?
Janicek: Well, when I originally came, we both worked for Rockwell. And in fact I worked on the Rockwell proposal when their contract was up. And that was a fascinating experience, because I got to work with national vice presidents of Rockwell. We spent the last three months at a secret facility in Downy, California putting the proposal together. I got to walk through a mockup of the shuttle—the space shuttle that they had built. Oh, now I forgot the question.
Franklin: The different contractors.
Janicek: Oh, yes, yes, yes. So after Rockwell ended up—it was a political thing, and Rockwell lost that contract. The contract went to Westinghouse and Boeing. Westinghouse was already here, but they won the larger contract that Rockwell had. And then the computer functions, including the editing and the graphics and all of the communication things were given to Boeing as a subcontractor to Westinghouse. So then my second employer was Boeing Computer Services. And then the next eight years or so later, the contract was up again, and that was when they went to about 13 different contractors, half of them inside the wall so to speak, and half of them outside. And at that time I went to work for—my job was still the same, and all of my management was the same, but it was just a different name on the paychecks for the company that owned us, and that was Lockheed Martin. And I was still working for Lockheed Martin when I retired.
Franklin: How had Richland changed from when you had graduated to when you came back and began to work for Hanford?
Janicek: Well, first of all, when I came back, a lot of the business had moved to Columbia Center, and there were empty buildings, and aging businesses in downtown Richland. It had spread out a lot in all directions. People were living in West Richland and in South Richland and in North Richland and all over the place. And that’s just Richland. I mean, Kennewick grew enormously; Pasco has grown enormously. So I had to kind of get used to driving and living in a much bigger city. And I have to laugh at myself, because even today, I mostly drive—I have it in my mind, a skeleton of the roads that I used when we lived here, when I first got my driver’s license in high school and drove around the Tri-Cities. And I kind of stick to those roads, because they’re the ones I know the best, and you know, they’re my old favorites. But one of the things I noticed is that a lot of people moved into the Tri-Cities who didn’t necessarily work for Hanford. And so you didn’t have that little small town, we’re-all-in-this-together feeling. You know, when people first came to Richland to work at Hanford, as I said, there were no grandparents, no relatives. We all kind of stuck together because nobody knew anybody; we all came as strangers and we came from all over the country. And so there was a real closeness. And I see that in the older classes that write into the online Richland Bomber Sandstorm every day, the alumni newsletter. By the time my kids were in high school and graduating, a lot of that closeness was gone. You didn’t know everybody in your neighborhood; you didn’t know everybody in your church if you went to church; you didn’t know all the kids in your classroom; you didn’t necessarily know the parents; you didn’t know whether your friends had younger or older brothers and sisters. It just was a lot more socially scattered, I would call it. One of the things I’m pleased about is there’s a lot more diversity in the Tri-Cities now. You have people from all parts of the world, all races, colors, creeds, religions. Which is really good. I have to laugh at my kids, because we made sure they grew up without any prejudices. They have had friends—they’re all adults now in their 40s. They have had friends of all different colors, races, and creeds. It tickles me to death that we succeeded in raising them that way, because it’s only right. What else is different about the Tri-Cities? Well, every day I open the paper and I read about businesses I didn’t know were there. All the years I worked at Hanford, I didn’t have time to go driving around and shopping and looking around. So I—there are dozens and dozens of restaurants I’ve never been to. One of the things that really confuses me is, because the Tri-Cities has grown so rapidly, there are many, many, many neighborhoods that I’ve never heard of the street names before. And when I hear about something being on a certain street, I have no idea where that street is. I have to get out the phone book and hope I can find it on the map. And I’ve also noticed that there are—in the old days, there was a lot more respect for Hanford than there is now. There are a lot of people in the Tri-Cities who are very anti-Hanford. They think either it’s evil or—well, it’s dangerous. That’s always true. We had—when I lived—when I worked at Hanford, we had a really good safety culture. We had safety drills, we knew what all the different sirens meant, whether they meant shelter-in-place or get out and run for your life. What’s going on and what are you supposed to do about it. I think some of that safety culture is lost, because the people who lived and worked here forever have been laid off or have retired or moved on one way or another. We don’t have that close confidence anymore that we’re all doing the right thing for the right reasons, and keeping each other safe. Some of that has been lost, and I see sometimes that people—new hires come in—and I saw this when I was working there—that sometimes new hires would come in, and they wouldn’t take safety as seriously as we thought they should. And, you know, once in a while somebody does something careless that gets them in trouble. There were very strict rules, and I edited a lot of those safety documents about procedures: how you did things, how you had to do things, double-checks and triple-checks on things that sometimes people kind of rolled their eyes and thought, oh, yeah, here we go. But in fact, those things kept you safe if you followed them correctly.
Franklin: It only takes one accident to—
Franklin: Do you think that that record of safety or the view of safety and the approach to safety changed as Hanford’s mission changed from one of production to a little more kind of opaque mission of cleanup?
Janicek: I don’t think so, because the people actually involved in the cleanup or, like me, I was reading about all of the dangers in all of the cleanup as I was editing the documents. I think that a lot of us were always impressed with how dangerous it could be and how close we were to somebody goofing up and causing an accident. And certainly, I think right before we came here was when they had the McCluskey incident where Harold McCluskey was badly exposed. It’s just astounding to me how well they were able to clean him up and keep him alive and how long he lived, and he actually died of a condition that he had before the accident ever happened. And that actually boosted my confidence that they were doing all the right things. I’ve been in buildings—I had a Q clearance for a while—I’ve been in building that were very restricted and—not passwords, but keypads and patrol and safety people and intelligence people and all kinds of things to try and prevent terrible things from happening. Whether it was just luck or whether it was good management, those things, for the most part, didn’t happen. I mean, Harold McCluskey was the only one—there have been some accidents where people have fallen and died or have been badly injured. Or I remember one time when they were cutting into a pipe that they didn’t—either they didn’t have the correct information or they didn’t take it seriously. And they cut into this pipe that was supposed to be empty and harmless, and it was full of hot burning steam. It hit these two guys right in the face. I don’t remember if they lived or not; I’m suspecting maybe they didn’t. But I’ve—that was a few years ago when—I just don’t remember now. Many of us have always been aware of the potential for accidents. Sometimes people coming in from other places, if they didn’t work in dangerous situations before, they had to adjust their thinking or they might get in trouble if they—every once in a while, either a person or a company self-reports that we screwed up and didn’t do something right. And they don’t do that often enough. I mean, we have whistleblowers with personal issues, and we have whistleblowers with true concerns and who have honestly seen something that needs to be corrected. I’m sure it’s very difficult to keep all of that in mind. We recently toured B Reactor, which was a fascinating experience. When you look at that huge, big thing and all of those fuel rods. And if you think about what little, innocent thing could have happened or some switch accidentally flipped and what it could have caused. You know, we all remember Chernobyl. I worked—I was in a volunteer group called the Hanford Family that was formed when they were shutting down N Reactor and it was about the same time that Chernobyl happened. A lot of people were really scared and concerned that the same thing could happen at Hanford. So I became their editor and communications person for this group. And one of the things I did was research and interview an expert and find out why it couldn’t happen here. And one of the things was the difference between boiling water reactors, BWR, and pressurized water reactors, PWR. And what they did at Chernobyl, you couldn’t do here. The reactor would not let you do it or it would shut down. And how these guys had overridden their own safety controls. Again, they didn’t take safety seriously enough or they didn’t understand the principles behind what they were doing and what they were causing. It was a terribly frightening time. But I published this lovely three-fold pink brochure about why Chernobyl can’t happen here, what’s different about our reactors from—and then we were just down to N Reactor and the power reactor, the Hanford Generating Station at Energy Northwest. It was an interesting experience to learn that stuff and to put it in language that regular people could understand and to hand it out at functions. We went to a fair in Yakima; we had a couple of things—big—I don’t know—exhibitions or shows that occurred in the Tri-Cities, and we had our little booth and handed out our information and told people about why that couldn’t happen here. That was an interesting experience. For a non-technical person, I appreciated getting information and putting it into a form that regular folks who didn’t work at Hanford or have any technical background could understand. I have no idea how effective the brochure was. But it was interesting to do.
Franklin: Interesting. Did you do any other public relations work when you—at your job at Hanford? Or was that a—
Janicek: Well, most of the time, I was editing big reports. I started after a very short period—I worked for several years with the BWIP project—Basalt Waste Isolation Project. That was the concept where we were going to bury the waste deep in the basalt. I first edited and then managed the editors who edited the environmental restoration—no, environmental assessment document and the—oh, goodness. Now I’ve forgotten what it was called. Two different versions, one of them was six volumes long about how we were going to safely contain the waste, and some of it had to do with Nevada, which has since [LAUGHTER] In fact, a lot of the waste was going to go to Nevada, and Nevada shut that off. I did have a very interesting experience. I was on a national committee that worked with DOE orders and directives. It had to do with information management, because Hanford and the other government facilities that did things nuclear had to send copies of their reports to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they were kept and managed by the government. Some of them were classified and some were not. Most were not. This group would get together sometimes once a year, sometimes two or three times, and go over the DOE directives and bring them up to date on how to manage all this information. And I ended up writing parts of a DOE directive and editing other parts. I think you can still get those online. And I can open that up and see my very own words there. It kind of tickles me to see that. That was a really interesting project. And I got to go see—I got to go to Bethesda, Maryland and see where all of the energy reactors, like the one that we have at Energy Northwest—how they have to report in—I don’t know—I think every hour to let them know that everything’s all right. And I got to sit at this huge, big console where all of these Hanford and Oak Ridge and Argonne in Illinois and WIPP project in New Mexico and the Nevada Test Site and—anywhere there was a reactor, all the lights flashing and the buttons and the hourly reporting in. They actually monitor that to be sure that nothing—there are not going to be any surprises or any Chernobyls. That was kind of an interesting thing to see.
Franklin: Oh, cool.
Janicek: It was.
Franklin: Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to talk about in your interview?
Janicek: Oh, I remember the Columbia River floods. Before we had all the dams and maybe even before the dikes were built—I’m not sure when they were built. The year before we moved to Richland, I lived—we lived in Vancouver, Washington. And there was a little community on the floodplain between Vancouver and Portland on the Columbia River called Vanport. When the river flooded, the spring of ’48, the water came up—maybe to the roof lines of those—it was low income housing and I suspect it was for guys who had just gotten out of World War II and were trying to build their lives and they had young families. The flooding was—it was just really terrible. I remember that and the pictures, partly because my father was one of many people who volunteered to patrol against looting. They would go out at night in motorboats. And he had a pistol that he kept for years. [LAUGHTER] We knew where it was hidden, but we never told our folks that we knew. [LAUGHTER] And we never touched it. Because they had to evacuate everybody, of course. And I have no idea whether people died or were injured during that flooding. But one of the memorable aspects of it was that there was a Jantzen Knitting Mill in that same area. And Jantzen’s old logo was of a woman in a one-piece bathing suit and a swimming cap diving. And she was—it was a huge sign and it was on top of the Jantzen building, and when the flooding came, the Jantzen Knitting Mills flooded and she looked like she was diving into the water in the flood. It was just really cool! [LAUGHTER] It was a picture they showed all over the United States. So then the next year, we came to Richland in the spring of ’49 and people were all talking about the ’48 flood and how bad it was. But I remember a couple of floods that were just about as bad after we moved here. At that time, the only way to get between Richland and Kennewick was on what we called the old river road, which goes through Columbia Park now. And so that road completely flooded. You couldn’t get through there. So leaving Richland, you would have to drive south over the hills and there were just—I don’t know, farm roads, probably—and go all the way around to get to south Kennewick and then come back into Kennewick. And even worse if you had to go to Pasco. Because the flooding really messed things up. And then some of those river floods would pick up a lot of trees and limbs from the shoreline, as the—and they would have rattlesnakes on them. For some reason, because of how the Columbia River turns when it gets to what was then called Riverside Park and is now called Howard Amon, a lot of those trees and tree limbs would lodge into the bank and all of the sudden we had rattlesnakes all over the park. So that was kind of interesting. [LAUGHTER] Scary! Opportunity for people to go out and see snakes or capture snakes or get rid of them, because rattlesnakes are serious business. But that was one of the things I remember about some of the problems with climate that we had in the good old days.
Franklin: The good old days.
Janicek: Oh, goodness. What else do I remember?
Franklin: Did you go to any of the Atomic Frontier Days?
Janicek: Oh! Yes! Well, especially after we moved to McMurray and I was going to Jefferson School, because Jefferson was right across from the Uptown area and I walked that area every day, knew it very well. And we would have parades for Atomic Frontier Days on George Washington Way. And in the really old days, when there was still a Camp Hanford in North Richland, that parade included—I remember a huge, big—I think it was called Red Dog—looked like a missile or a rocket or something. And then there were some smaller rockets, weapons. And they would haul them through town as part of the parade. And that was kind of fun and interesting to see, because my dad didn’t work at Hanford and wasn’t involved with the military. So that was all new to me and fascinating to see. They had a beard-growing contest. I think the Richland Atomic Frontier Days were usually in August and all the guys would grow beards for the month of August, and they had—I don’t know, some things for kids to do and things for adults to do, and clowns and a few floats. You know, you always had a Miss Atomic Frontier Days, which later became Miss Tri-Cities. That was a rather special event that happened. People would go by and throw candy on all the kids—kids would be there with their tricycles. We would decorate our tricycles with crepe paper strips, or put playing cards in the wheels so they would go click, click, click when the wheel went around and decorate. Sometimes they would decorate up the wagons and put wagons behind the tricycles. So we’d have a lot of tricycles and some bicycles lining the streets of George Washington Way as the parade went by. That was a fun thing to do.
Franklin: Well, Stephanie, thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing your stories about growing up in Richland and working at Hanford. They were wonderfully detailed and I really appreciate it.
Janicek: Oh, well, thank you. I love to think back to the old days and just reading the online Sandstorm everyday kind of tweaks my memory and—old teachers and old friends, and like to pass these things on to my kids who grew up in such a different time and they don’t understand about being afraid the Russians were going to bomb you. [LAUGHTER] Some of the other things that went on that led to me being who I am today and led to Richland being what it is today. And I enjoy talking about it, and I realize that because of my father’s position, not as part of Hanford, but very much as a part of a community, that I have a lot of great memories. Because I’m fortunate to have a good memory, I still remember a lot of people’s names, a lot of businesses’ names, a lot of things that went on. When my father was on the school board, there was a little town and school at Mattawa, which—and those people served—that was when they were building Priest Rapids Dam and Wanapum Dam. So the school board, once a year, would get special, special, special permission to drive—they probably were escorted—to drive through the Hanford Site and go out to Mattawa and they would have one school board session that the teachers and the parents could attend who lived at Mattawa because they had no way of getting in to town for it, and that was part of the Richland School District. Now, today, Mattawa’s completely gone. I mean, everybody left and the buildings are pretty much all gone and doesn’t exist anymore. But I always thought that was very nice and very thoughtful that they arranged to be able to go out there once a year to meet with the staff and the families and see—address their concerns for educating the kids.
Franklin: Yeah. Neat. Interesting. Well, thank you.
Vargas: That it? All right.
View interview on Youtube.
Years in Tri-Cities Area
Years on Hanford Site