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Things That Reveal You’re From “the Secret City” of Oak Ridge

June 9, 2020

June 9, 2020

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Susan Adkisson, the Regional Director of Cold War Patriots grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. From her years growing up there, she remembers things that would reveal she is from “the Secret City” of Oak Ridge. People who grew up in other nuclear weapons complex cities may be able to relate as well!


See the list that Susan has complied below. If you remember these things, you might be from “the Secret City!”

• You knew the word “radiation” from the time you could start school.

• You had “duck and cover drills” instead of “fire drills” at school.

• Most homes had a “fallout shelter” stocked with supplies.

• You played with mercury, shining coins and kicking it in little balls around the ground.

• You played in creeks with “Mercury Signs” posted yet continued to catch the crawdads.

• You played with Geiger counters seeing what in your home would “chirp” the loudest.

• You knew there was a “special hospital” in town that performed human radiation studies.

• Your ball team was known as the “glow worms.”

• You owned a car that had the US GOVERNMENT label on the side scratched off (bought at the plant auctions).

• You had a friend that took dirt from a plant to put in his garden; later the FBI came and dug up the entire yard and removed all the dirt.

• You knew of deer, that hunters had checked at the checking station, that could not be taken due to high limits of strontium 90 in their antlers.

• You thought nothing of the loud citywide warning “whistle” that went off at 5PM daily.

• You remember the carnival rides downtown each summer.

• You remember the Union Carbide Christmas Party that was held yearly for plant workers and you got a free toy filled stocking from Santa.

• You remember the “Bolo Paddle” that was in your stocking and you wished it wasn’t!

• You remember the “dog tags” you wore to school with your name and address on them.

• Most of the streets are named after states and are placed alphabetically from East to West.

• You remember living in A, B, C, D, E, F “Alphabet houses.”

• You think nothing of the guard shacks at the entry points of the city.

• You remember getting the first “moon rocks” brought to Oak Ridge from select X10 employees.

• You heard of John Hendrix, The Prophet of Oak Ridge, a mystic who had a number of visions in the early 1900’s that were accurate descriptions of future events in Oak Ridge.

• Summer fun included taking your “Carbide Park Badge” (employees only had these) and going to the park to swim at the beach, boat, picnic and camp (it is now a public park).

• You remember paydays and Wednesday night dinners at Davis Brothers Cafeteria with the highlight being getting to sit on Bozo the Clown’s lap and get a prize when you were finished.

• You remember the little hamburgers and milkshakes at the Snow White.

• You remember eating pizza with a paper plate and plastic fork that melted when stuck in the hot cheese at Big Ed’s Pizza.

• You remember the trampoline park and skating rink in the center of town.

• You remember taking the Grey Hound bus, at the bus station in Oak Ridge, to Miller’s in Knoxville and getting to walk through an underground tunnel into the store.

• Finally, you know what Katy’s Kitchen is and you sure don’t want to eat there!