Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pendleton--The Real West

After our tour of Hanford, we headed to Pendleton.  We have lived here for 20 years and have never visited Pendleton.  I was looking forward to seeing the home of the Pendleton Roundup.  That evening we went to Hamley's Steakhouse for dinner.  We were pleasantly surprised.  It was a relatively new restaurant built in 2006 but the Hamley name has been synonymous with Pendleton since 1883.  The family started out as saddle makers and had a Western store.  There is also a cafe in addition to the steakhouse and saloon.  Even though the steakhouse is a newly opened space, it is beautifully decorated in the style of the Old West.  And Bill was able to get his red meat fix.
Friday morning while Bill was doing some work.  I wandered around town taking pictures.  I did a little shopping at the Pendleton Woolen Mills and found the Roundup rodeo grounds.  Bill and I also took in the Umatilla County Historical Museum before we headed to our scheduled Underground Tour.
I've been on the Seattle Underground Tour and have been watching a lot of episodes of "Cities of the Underworld" so I was really looking forward to going on the tour.  As with any underground, there is a seedy history about it.  Chinese workers actually built the tunnels linking the basements to buildings all over the downtown.  There were some legitimate businesses.  An ice cream parlor made and stored its ice cream in the basement.  Empire Meat Co. had an ice water bath in the basement to keep its meat cold in the butchering process making them the most successful meat company in town because their meat lasted longer.  There was also a space that served as a shooting gallery at one time and then a pool hall and bowling alley.  But at various stages in history there were all kinds of illegal activities going on down there.  There were bars that took cowboys' gold as payment and there would be a little bit of over charging as the night went on.  The girls from the brothels would hang out in the bars as well.  During prohibition, there were speakeasies and illegal gambling rooms with secret passageways to escape when the police showed up.  And bootlegging whiskey. 
A big part of the underground involved the Chinese.  There was a group of about 90 Chinese workers that were basically indentured servants that built the tunnel system--partly so that they could move around town.  They were forced to live underground and there was a curfew at night that made it illegal to be above ground.  So they would use the tunnel system to get to where they needed to go at night.  There were also about a thousand Chinese workers in town at the time that they were building the railroad.  The Chinese that had paid for their own passage to America were able to live in homes above ground but at one point all their homes were burned to the ground.  The city did not allow them to rebuild as the property was pretty valuable by that time so they were forced to move to the Portland area.  Hop Sing had a laundry and bathhouse in the underground.  Near the Chinese worker living quarters was also a Chinese jail.  They Chinese dealt with their own prisoners.  And there was an opium den down there. 
The last part of the tour was seeing one of the 18 bordellos that existed in Pendleton.  We got to see the former Cozy Rooms.  It had a chapel for the girls to worship in because they were not welcome at the local churches.  We saw the parlor, madam's room, the working rooms and living quarters for the girls, and the secret passageways to get the prominent members of the community in and out of the building unseen.  The brothels officially existed until about 1953 when a Presbyterian minister blackmailed the city's prominent members to have them shutdown; however, the madam of the Cozy Rooms, Stella Darby, promptly moved around the corner and started Cozy Rooms 2.  It was open until 1967 when she decided to close for good.  Cozy Rooms 2 is now the Working Girls Hotel--also owned by the Pendleton Underground Tours company.  It was a very interesting tour for anyone who plans to travel to Pendleton.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Bill and I drove to Hanford for a tour of the nuclear production complex there.  He has been wanting to take the tour for some time but the tickets are very difficult to get.  If you don't book them immediately at the time that they post them on-line, you don't get tickets.  So he was on at exactly 1800 on March 6th to get our tickets.  The Hanford Site is a very secure location.  They only allow 40 visitors at a time a few days during the spring and summer months. 

The history of the site is basically that the federal goverment decided that this was the best place to locate a nuclear site as part of the Manhattan Project during WWII.  The minimal number of people living there, the recent construction of the Grand Coulee and Bonneville Dams for power, and the proximity of the cold water of the Columbia River was what made it an ideal spot.  Unfortunately, the people who lived in White Bluffs and Hanford were given 30 days to pack up their belongings and leave their homes and farms with no explanation as to why.  You can still see the remnants of the Hanford High School and the White Bluffs Bank as well as the stumps of the fruit orchards that were there before WWII.  During WWII, there were 50,000 people working on the site to build the facility.  There were pictures of babies born there, parties, dining halls, etc. in the tour headquarters.  All pretty amazing.  And all very secretive.  During WWII, most of the workers had no idea that they were working on building nuclear bombs until after they were dropped in Japan.  Even after that, no one was allowed to talk about what they did there.  If they did, they found themselves drafted into the military and sent some some really remote location like Patagonia--at least that is what our tour guide said.  And one of the guys taking our tour that used to work there confirmed that he heard guys talking in the bar about things that they shouldn't have been and all of a sudden they disappeared.  Didn't know where but there weren't working at Hanford anymore.  And uranium and plutonium were not to be in anyone's vocabulary.  Even the guy that worked there, couldn't bring himself to say plutonium today when talking about what he did.  Uranium was called metal and plutonium was called buttons.

The site is huge--the size of the state of Rhode Island.  There are nine decommissioned nuclear reactors and five plutonium processing centers there.  All but one of the nuclear reactors have been cleaned up as much as possible and sealed.  They have left one--the B reactor which was the one that produced the products used in the nuclear bomb used ion Nagasaki during WWII--open for tours.  It was pretty interesting to see it.  They are in the process of trying to get the nuclear waste moved out of the leaking tanks that they are in to tanks closer to a new vitrification processing plant that is being built.  There are 177 tanks with millions of gallons of radioactive waste in them.  A large number of them are leaking into the ground water.  We saw workers out in the waste tank farms in protective clothing and carrying Geiger counters at a couple of the sites.  They are hoping that this new plant that is being built will be the answer to making the waste a little bit safer.  It won't take away the radioactivity but it will basically make it into glass so that it won't leach into the soil anymore.  Then they plan on storing it very deep underground once that the waste has been processed.  They figure that whole project will take until at least 2052--but probably much longer than that.  It is still going to take tens of thousands of years before it won't be radioactive anymore.

We saw a big hole in the ground where they are moving asbestos and contaminated soil further away from the rivers and water supply.  There is a protective liner under all the waste to keep it from leaching into the ground water supply.  Pretty interesting seeing all the trucks bringing in contaminated and non-contaminated soil to cover over.  Also saw the facility where the plutonium used to be stored up until a couple of years ago when it was moved to Georgia.  It is only just recently that they have allowed visitors anywhere near it.  It was one of the most secure locations in the country.  It is still so sensitive to security risk that they don't allow cameras there.  So even though they allow pictures to be taken at Reactor B if you go on the Reactor B only tour--because of some of the other locations of the reservations, no cameras or cell phones are allowed on the tour. 

We saw where they bring the nuclear reactors from submarines and surface ships when they are decommissioned.  We also saw the currently still operating nuclear power plant and several research laboratories on the site.  There is a lot more than just nuclear production, storage and cleanup going on there.

I have to admit.  Going on a five hour tour of Hanford was not high on my list of things to do.  And some of the science and engineering of it all was over my head.  But is was interesting to see given that there is so much press about Hanford and it being the biggest radioactive contamination site in the country.  It is surprising the number of people that still work there for the government and contractors in the cleanup process and security of the place.  Fascinating place.

Now Working at a Theater Near You

Chris has so much going on in his life right now.  He is in his last quarter at Clark College, preparing to go to Western Washington University in the fall and leaving for China in just a few days.  Because he had a pretty light schedule for his last quarter--only a five credit on-line class--he started looking for a summer job early.  A friend of his works at the City Center Regal Cinemas and helped ease the job application process for him a bit.  He interviewed for the job at the beginning of April but never heard back from them so he assumed that he had gotten passed up for it.  But a few weeks ago, he happened to see that manager out on his smoke break and found out that they were still checking references for some of the applicants but that he should here back from them soon.  The next night he got the call that he had the job.  He was so excited.  He started about two weeks ago and seems to really enjoy it.  And he gets to see movies for free which is a great bonus.  Hoping he has a wonderful summer being among the employed, making some money and enjoying the summer movie season.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Darius Rucker In Concert

Tom and Maddy went to see Darius Rucker last weekend.  They were thrilled to have a stranger change tickets with them to get closer seats.  They had a great time!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Cinderella made an appearance at Maddy's preschool on Friday for the Mother's Day Tea.  I love this photo of her with Cinderella.  I'm sure the kids were ecstatic to see her as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

St. Josef's Winery

Our friends, Jeff and Julie, asked us to join them for an afternoon at a winery that they had just become members.  It was St. Josef's and had a German theme to it.  It was a beautiful day.  We have had two weeks of absolutely perfect weather.  So we enjoyed some wine, a little snack, music and each others company for the afternoon.  We had a great time.

80 Years

My dad turned 80 years old yesterday.  I wasn't able to go home but Sherrill traveled to Tomah to help him celebrate.  They had brats and beer--the perfect Wisconsin celebration--this night.
Then they traveled to Wausau to celebrate with Stephanie and Aunty Carolyn.  Thanks to my brother and cousin for sharing the pictures.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Birthday SweetHeart!

We celebrated Bill's birthday Tuesday night.  He got his requested steak, baked potato, brussel sprouts, salad and key lime pie for dessert.