By Janet Rhea Payne
Members of the Johnson County Senior Citizens Center enjoyed a field trip on Monday, November 27 to Atomic City, more commonly known as Oak Ridge, Tennessee to explore the American Museum of Science and Energy and its role in the Manhattan Project. History is preserved in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park operated cooperatively by the National Park Service and the Department of Energy.
Members of the Senior Center Book Club had read The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. In the New York Times bestseller the story of the Tennessee town of Oak Ridge that was created from scratch in 1942 is told through the eyes of young women who worked there. Oak Ridge, one of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships and patriotism that permeated the story.
Those participating in the trip to The Secret City included Dennis and Barbara Henson, Howard and Linda Moon, Ollie Phipps, Wilma Smith, Jeanette Lawrence, Fred Price, Janet Rhea Payne, and Carolyn Eller.Members of the group enjoyed a bus tour which included many sites, including Y-12 New Hope Visitor Center which houses the spacious History Center featuring displays about the Manhattan Project, the Cold War, and other Y-12 missions; New Bethel Baptist Church and Cemetery, founded in 1851, was officially closed by former church members as a house of worship in 1949 following the area’s Manhattan Project incorporation into the Oak Ridge Reservation; The Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory which is a national historic landmark, having served as the pilot project that led to the first production of plutonium; Spallation Neutron Source which is an accelerator-based neutron source facility that provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world of scientific research and industrial development; and the East Tennessee Technology Park Heritage Center, formerly K-25 where tour visitors learn about the gaseous diffusion process that enriched uranium (later sent to Y-12 for further enrichment) to power the first atomic bomb.
For more information on programs and activities available at the Johnson County Senior Citizens Center visit the center 128 College St, Mountain City, TN 37683 or call 727-8883 for more information.
By Janet Rhea Payne