The guide opens with the story of John Hendrix. Known as the “Prophet of Oak Ridge,” in 1900 he predicted that a city would be built on Black Oak Ridge and help win a great war. On September 19, 1942, General Leslie Groves approved the selection of Oak Ridge as the enriched uranium production site, just two days after accepting his role as director of the Manhattan Project. During the Manhattan Project, Groves never allowed himself more than an hour to make a decision.
Much of the initial uranium enrichment research was done at Columbia University, the Woolworth Building, and other sites in Manhattan. Many of the physicists and engineers who worked there were later sent to Oak Ridge. Donald Trauger remembered working at Columbia University’s Pupin Laboratory on the gaseous diffusion separation process, “We were working 7 days a week and long days. It was really a privilege and wonderful learning experience.”
“Life in the Secret City” and “Oak Ridge Community” provide a glimpse into daily life in Oak Ridge. In the muddy city, residents coped with cramped living conditions, constant construction and long lines. Most people accepted the shortcomings as the price of contributing to the war effort. This section also explores the experience of African Americans who were recruited throughout the South and offered an hourly wage of fifty-eight cents or more as laborers, janitors and domestic workers. While the segregated housing and other facilities were far from ideal, most black workers were glad to have a steady, paid job and the promise of a brighter future.
Filled with colorful photographs and engaging stories, the book is an introduction to Oak Ridge’s fascinating history.
Length: 64 pages. Paperback.