Hanford excavation stirs meaningful memories

By the Herald editorial staff

There were those who doubted the wisdom of unearthing Hanford workers' garbage pits from the early days of the project.

With lots of beer bottles and old Vick's VapoRub jars, the excavation shows something very real about what life was like at Hanford in the 1940s, when scientists and laborers struggled to build the nuclear reactor that would help end the war with Japan.

Reporter Annette Cary's story on the excavation captured much of the charm and hinted at some of the little quirks of this bygone day.

Coca-Cola bottles were found in profusion. Many were made in Yakima, Bend, Ore., and other plants around the nation.

Many nickels changed hands on the basis of those cities. It was a common thing in the '40s and into the '50s, at least, to gamble on those bottles. The winner would be the guy whose Coke came from the farthest away.

And those Parker Quink bottles will bring back memories to anyone old enough to have used them in grammar school, first dipping nibs mounted in wooden shafts into the little ink well at the top of the bottle and laboriously writing out the day's assignment in real ink.

Parker Quink (which still is made) was a notable invention because it was so quick-drying. Most inks of the day dried by evaporation of alcohol in the fluid.

Parker invented one that would penetrate the paper and dry much, much faster.

Just as the workers at Hanford were on the cutting edge of science and physics, they were using "state of the art" ink to record their progress.

Old car parts, hubcaps and other paraphernalia from those long-gone days still are being rooted out of the ground at Hanford, to the delight of researchers sorting through the debris.

We're told that after the dig is completed, a public display of the artifacts is being arranged.

That's a great idea. And this was a worthy undertaking to try to re-establish a connection with those long-ago workers, and with most of those still living probably in their 80s and 90s, it is none too soon.