Thursday, July 24, 2014

Inside Box 1663 ... my hometown



Sometimes it seems the years I spent growing up on the Hill happened to someone else.   As if I were made of Teflon®, the significance of what went on there just a few years before never really touched me.

Then, a few years ago I happened upon an unassuming little book, Inside Box 1663.
It may sound crazy, but I've a need to identify on some level with a book's character - fictionalized or not.    Written from the perspective of a real LA wife - no sensationalism necessary - I empathized with Ms. Jette almost immediately.  

Her opening sentence gave me goosebumps: 
"In 1943 I lived in Croton-on-Hudson, New York with my husband Eric and my son Bill who was almost ten years old.  At that time I had no idea there was a Box 1663 in the Santa Fe post office, nor that I would disappear into it, lose my identity and emerge from it at the end of 1945 an entirely different person."

One observer writes, "Los Alamos, NM was a bustling city that officially didn't exist." 
To ensure that this town was completely hidden from the rest of the world, incoming mail was addressed simply to P.O. Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico.   Birth certificates of infants born at Los Alamos during the war even listed 'P.O. Box 1663' as their place of birth!

My heart ached for Ms. Jette and the others who worked in "grim secrecy" ..... whose parents and extended family members had no idea where they were.  But I was astonished at the harsh living conditions the families had to endure -- a far cry from what I witnessed in the 50's and 60's, when the government practically threw money our direction.

At the same time, there was humor: 
Long-time resident, Marge Schreiber remembers a quiet afternoon in early August of 1945 when her husband witnessed an accident at the Lab and was thought to have been exposed to radiation. 

"Harriet Hollaway was at the foot of the stairs and, after I told her, we just looked at each other. In times of crisis, we would take out the whiskey bottle, so Harriet went and got her bottle.  Every time I looked like I was going to faint, Harriet would give me another shot of whiskey. I have no idea how much I drank during that time, but I am certain I completely depleted her supply. Consequently, I have no real memory of that night, and that’s how I got through it."

.... in Daddy's uniform with service weapon  
...  Mother's gate pass

Yes, I'll be watching the premiere of WGN's "Manhattan" on Sunday night.   Obviously, it's historial fiction, but I hope the producers don't feel it necessary to sensationalize - or demonize those early citizens.   As Ms. Schreiber said, "They did what they had to do to win the war." 

Omega Canyon Bridge

13 comments:

  1. Amazing what we who live the 'normal' life, DO NOT KNOW.
    Ah but I do like your uniform! Saw many a gate and gate guard in my time, but NEVER in THAT area.(smile)

    As the drunk poet said, "Play the cards you are dealt!, OR ELSE!"
    Love your writing! Leaves some mystery that is for sure...

    Love from maine

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  2. The books sounds very intriguing. I'm quite familiar with the Los Alamos area, but I never realized it harbored such secrets.

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  3. I remember touring the historical center up there and them telling about the post office box in Santa Fe. I had to laugh about the whiskey; but it was a good way to get through things I'm sure they had to put up with. Such a fascinating part of history, isn't it?

    betty

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  4. Now I'm intrigued. Interesting look at a life through a different perspective for sure. I think I'll check out Manhattan too.

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  5. I had to come back. Funny how we humans accept things as normal life, that to others may seem wild or unbelieveable.
    I loved this peep inside your life.

    Now on our next trip WEST.......

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  6. You just opened up a whole new world to me. Very interesting!

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  7. Oh, dear...the mystery of those years makes my hair stand on end.
    I love the way you write...is there a book in the making??
    xo

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  8. Oh! This is a great story, sweetheart.
    It gives me the thrills.
    I would love to read more about it...
    You are an excellent writer, darling.
    Thank you so much for visiting my blog posts!
    I hope to see you soon, my friend.
    God bless you!
    Warm Big Hugs,
    Greetings from Poet Starry Dawn.

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  9. I love the books you choose! I need to read this one and check on that program! You are one amazing and interesting friend! Love to you! When my unborn daughter Rachel died in 1987 a nurse and I had had a long conversation and agreed perhaps living too close to the Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility led to her untimely demise. Haunted me for a long while. Sort of like the fracking issue today. Of course it is safe, as long as no politician or their family is within a million miles of it! Then they have the nerve to make political commercials with Haliburton, premier demon evil from the Bush/Cheney era. I am neither a Democratic or a Republican and when they call my home I simply say , sigh, we are not voters! It has cut back on some of the ridiculous calls at dinnertime! I worked in the political arena and I have to say, whoever I choose to vote for, is none of their damn business! SO now let me apologize for getting political! Ugh! I detest is all and the lies they tell us and have since the beginning of it all.

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    http://www.printablecalendar2017.us/2016/07/march-2017-calendar.html

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Thanks so much for dropping by! Your words are like hugs from afar.... and who doesn't love a hug!