Post War Atomic Energy

The sisters heard two male voices shouting inside the house while they played in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon. It was grandpa and daddy arguing. Grandma and mama kept saying, “Be quiet, we don’t want to the girls to hear.”

Mama was crying. Grandpa was yelling at daddy. Daddy yelled back. A woman’s name came into the conversation now and then. Grandpa kept saying, “It ain’t right, what you’ve done. You’d better figure out a way to …,” but the girls couldn’t hear the rest. They decided not to listen any more. It must have been a touchy subject and it seemed best not to listen.

Months later, the girls’ father came home from work and announced, “Well they’ve called me to come work for the Atomic Energy Commission in Los Alamos, New Mexico.” Tears welled up in mama’s eyes. She didn’t want to leave her family behind and live so far away. Yet, she knew it was the only way to start over in her marriage.

“What will you do there?” She asked.

“My dedication to schooling has finally paid off. I will be one of a very few men working with non-ferrous metals. I can’t really talk about it. Everything is a secret. My clearance came through yesterday.”

Soon the family settled into a nice two-story unit in a building with four houses attached to each other. Their new home was half a block from the elementary school so the little sister could walk there each day, while the older sister enrolled in the Los Alamos Junior High School. The Los Alamos days were the best. Daddy worked a normal 40 hour week, while mama worked part time at an Indian jewelry store. The family went to movies on the weekend, the girls’ parents had friends they played cards with, and other family members visited often once they had turned in their papers and were cleared to visit the “secret city.”

Even though she did a school shop project with daddy, the “four eyed” girl didn’t adjust very well. The boys in her class made fun of her and she had frequent outbursts in the middle of class. “Shut up you contaminated worm!” A tomboy, she wasn’t interested in becoming friends with “all those prissy little girls in those silly ruffled dresses.” Accidents on the playground were a normal occurrence such as the time she fell off the swing, landing flat on her face.

Fortunately, the dog her parents had purchased for her came to Los Alamos with the family. The dog and “four eyes” were constant companions and friends. Still, when the dog ate some of the leather on her daddy’s work boots, he kicked the dog out the back door, threw it into the car, and dumped it off in a faraway field. Almost half a day passed before the little girl and her daddy went looking for the dog.

They found the dog and brought it home. She cried for days—she was so happy. Daddy said, “Don’t be such a cry baby.”

To be continued …

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