FEBRUARY 22, 1955
LANCASTER, Pa.—We spent last Friday morning in Knoxville, Tenn., catching up on mail and at noon a young Army officer, Col. Jacob Rippert, and his wife lunched with me at our hotel. Soon we were joined by Mrs. R. Coin Mason, the Hospitality Committee Chairman for the American Association of University Women, who drove me to Oak Ridge immediately after lunch.
There are no more gates as you enter the city of Oak Ridge and you can drive through the whole project except for certain restricted areas which are clearly marked. Only seven years ago this area was a quiet rural valley with wooded hills on either side. The city took its name from the hills on the northern border of the valley, called Black Oak Ridge.
The population of Oak Ridge has gone as high as 75,000, but seems now to be stabilized at about 35,000. The Oak Ridge project covers roughly about 100 miles, though the city itself is concentrated in a rather small area.
There are nine shopping centers; an old hotel; many churches, some of them fine buildings representing a large variety of sects; good schools, though at present overcrowded; a few isolated and rather pleasant houses near the woods; a great many houses all exactly alike and apartment houses which differ very little from one another. Most of the houses were government-built and have remarkably little landscaping. So, except for the wooded residential areas, the city is not very attractive, but on the whole the houses and apartments are convenient and livable.
A great deal of the housing is still owned by the U.S. Government, but the residents are permitted an advisory committee which represents them, and I was told that on the whole they were listened to and had few complaints about the attention that was paid to their requests. The whole area has been governed by the Atomic Energy Commission since January 1, 1949.
Oak Ridge is unlike any communities that grow up gradually over a long period of time, and there are disadvantages as well as advantages to this. One school superintendent told me that it was wonderful to have pupils who came from homes such as are prevalent in this area where so many scientists from different countries are gathered together. The public library has books on scientific subjects from all over the world and is said to be one of the most important libraries of its kind.
For a layman like myself there can be very little understanding of what really goes on in these great installations. Everyone was more than kind to me, however, and showed me as much as was allowed and tried to explain what went on, and I think I have a better grasp than I had before. I had the feeling that while much of this work is tied to the development of war material, among the scientists there is also a keen desire to see their work used for constructive peacetime purposes. Experiments are being carried on in cooperation with the University of Tennessee in the agricultural uses of atomic energy, and much has been done with many universities and hospitals in the medical field.