William Arleigh Eubank
April 7, 1900 - November 23, 1987
"The Secret City"
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
1945 - 1963
by Iris Teta Eubank Wagner
William started work at Oak Ridge in May, 1945. The "Secret City"encompassed all Oak Ridge residential and commercial areas, plus the huge production plants and facilities that helped build the first Atomic Bomb. Most residents and workers were unaware of the city's significance and importance to the War effort. The U.S. Federal Government's official name for the entire effort was The Manhattan Project. The official photographer for the project was Ed Westcott. His photo of William (above) was made in July, 1945, to accompany a short article Westcott published in The Oak Ridge Journal (below) about William and his work as a freelance writer.
Oak Ridge Journal - U.S. Army sponsored weekly
newspaper in Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Construction of the Secret City and its production
plants began in November, 1942.
It was the work of the nuclear scientists and engineers in Oak Ridge, and in several other federal facilities, especially Los Alamos, New Mexico, that produced the first Atomic Bomb and finally brought an end to World War II in August, 1945.
Thousands of workers were hired to first build then manage the city and plants. Housing for the construction workers were modular one-room units called hutments - five men shared a hutment. Men with small families lived in "Victory Cottages," which contained two family units.
Dormitory housing for the nuclear facility workers was an early priority. William lived in one of the dormitories - Dearborn Hall. He lived there from the day he was hired in May 1945 until a cold Thanksgiving Day in 1945 - after I'd been quarantined then recovery through the fall, from whooping cough and scarlet fever. Our family left our home at the cottage in Andrews and moved to Oak Ridge.
In 2005 Ed Westcott published his Images of America,
Oak Ridge - a book filled with photos of early Oak Ridge , with text detailing
each photo - the scientists, military officials, workers,
housing, construction, etc. Below is a photo of page 44 in the book -
showing a spread of recently completed dormitories and explanatory text.
William continued to write and publish . . . He wrote and published stories and features long after our family's move from the cottage to Oak Ridge. He often used his second North American publication rights and published many of his original stories in Canadian markets, including The Toronto Star Weekly and Our Family, Canada's Catholic Family Monthly Magazine, published in Battleford, Saskatchewan. He published fiction in the 1940's in Everywoman's Metropolitan Edition, published in New York.
William's writing for publication tapered off during the late 1950's. He did keep a day-by-day diary until September, 1956, when I left Oak Ridge, along with two friends from high school, Ellen Carey and Ann Brewer, to join the cast of dancers in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, summer theatre production of "Chucky Jack," telling the story of Tennessee's first governor John Sevier. By the end of September, I was on my way to study dance at the American School of Ballet in New York City, whose director was Russian Ballet Master George Balanchine, and home of the New York City Ballet Company.
Retiring in 1963 from the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, William and my mother Bonnie returned to once again live in and enjoy the cottage and my mother's old friends, and driving to places they remembered together.
My Personal Memories. . .
A New Kind of Life
Moving to Oak Ridge was an important intersection in the life of our family - we left an old world of cultural comfort with surviving family members of that old world. We came to live in a place where centuries-old trees had been cut to stump, and dozed up by their roots to make way for a modern military complex. My father was age forty-five; my mother Bonnie, thirty-six; older sister Betty Jean, seventeen; Mims, fourteen; and George, twelve; I was seven.
For months after the move I would sometimes stand at a front window of our small house in Oak Ridge and dream, with my eyes closed, and imagine being back home, walking along familiar trails and flagstone walkways with my dog Bhudy.
I looked forward to the next visit back to our beautiful place in the mountains we had left to come to live in this place of crowded housing, of the character of military barracks - the next house was fifty feet away from our door - we shared a board walk to the street.
Economic opportunity had little meaning for me. What did have meaning was a beautiful place for play and discovery - walks up into the summer trees to pick ripe and juicy huckleberries and taste their fresh sweetness. Listening to The Hit Parade on radio, I learned songs from Broadway musicals, and sang as I walked and dreamed along the flagstone walks under the great oak trees.
In Such a Place . . .
In such a place, when choosing the best house and surroundings in Oak Ridge for us, my father considered the cottage back home in North Carolina. He knew the family would miss our home there. So he chose a house in Oak Ridge that joined The Greenway, parcels of tree-covered forest that had been left natural and untouched in the residential areas.
It took some years, but after a while, just as I had wandered through the shaded slopes around the cottage under the great oaks, eventually I began to play, and write plays for my friends, and imagine in my new woods, shady and green, next to our house in Oak Ridge . . . but not with that familiar sense of home, sounds of home, nor with that particular fragrance that's produced by summer rain falling through dense old evergreen and mossy forest growth.
I have always come back to the cottage. Now, seventy years later I visit for a week or so each month, to find solace in the pleasure of being there, and in remembering the time of family.
I entered second grade in January, 1945 in Highland View Elementary in Oak Ridge, which was near our house and I could walk to school. There were new friends - my favorite person throughout school and dance and musical productions was Ellen, whom I knew from second grade.
My best friend in second grade was a boy who came from a far-off sounding place called Brooklyn, New York.
Westcott photographs have been widely published. The newly constructed Kroger Marketplace in Oak Ridge is named in his honor - The Westcott Center.
The Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge tells the story of the Secret City through extraordinary exhibits using many reproductions of Westcott photographs.
Original Narrative and Website © Iris Teta Eubank Wagner 2015