Journal-News, Monday, March 1,1993
Residents understood Fernald's origin, purpose
(This is the last in a five-part series on the history of the Fernald uranium feed materials plant.)
By Jim Blount
In the mid 1980s — during a deluge of disclosures of Fernald environmental problems — some media reports contended that the government had cloaked the plant's atomic work in a misleading name. Critics said the official name — Feed Materials Production Center was a disguise which led some area residents to assume the government was producing cattle feed.
For example, a 1988 Newsweek report referred to the 1,050-acre facility straddling the Hamilton County-Butler County since 1951 as "a huge and highly secret government installation known only as the Feed Materials Production Center."
The same week, Time, in a cover story headlined 'The Nuclear Scandal" said "the innocent-sounding name and the red-and-white checkerboard design on a water tower led some nearby residents to think it produced cattle feed or pet food."
But a look at the plant's history doesn't support the claims of subterfuge. "The United States Atomic Energy Commission will construct a uranium ore refinery and other facilities for the production of uranium feed materials," said the government press release announcing the location of the complex March 30, 1951.
The AEC release explained that Fernald "will produce uranium in forms suitable for use in the AEC's fissionable materials production plants." Newspapers stories and headlines in the 1950s repeatedly referred to it as an "atomic energy plant" or "atomic plant." In local conversations, at first it was called the "atomic plant" and eventually more often "Fernald" and "National Lead," the latter the name of the company operating FMPC during most of its productive years.
In a 1953 speech at the Hamilton Rotary "Club, David J. Blythe, general superintendent in charge of production for the National Lead Co. of Ohio, made no secret of the plant's purpose and the company's safety concerns. "To state it as simply as is possible," Blythe said, "raw uranium ore will be processed into uranium metal and made into shapes and forms for use to other AEC installations."
Blythe said "everything has been planned and designed with the thought of making the plant a safe place and a healthy place to work. "To start with," he said, "no employee's personal clothing is exposed to what is referred to as contamination." This is accomplished by supplying coveralls, caps, smocks, undershirts and drawers, socks and shoes to all employees who to into the production areas. Everything but the shoes are laundered every day, he explained.
"Surrounding areas are similarly safe," he said. "Constant sampling is carried on in the surrounding air, ground and waters. Effluents are not released unless they are below established tolerances." The AEC's news release had said "no atomic weapons would be made at the site and that operations there would create no environmental toxic or radiological hazards" — a statement which clashes with information released in recent years.
The Fernald complex, about one-sixth of which is located in Butler County, was known as the Feed Materials Production Center (FMPC) until August 1991 when the U. S. Department of Energy renamed it the Fernald Environmental Management Project, reflecting its transition from production to cleanup.
In January 1975, the Atomic Energy Commission was reorganized as the U. S. Energy Research and Development Administration, which, in turn, became the U. S. Department of Energy March 1,1977.
Three companies have managed Fernald for the government, starting with National Lead of Ohio.
NLO signed a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission June 1, 1951. It was succeeded Jan. 1, 1986, by Westinghouse Environmental Management Company of Ohio (WEMCO), formerly Westinghouse Materials Company of Ohio. Starting Dec. 1. 1992, Fernald Environmental Restoration Management Corp. (FERMCO) assumed cleanup management under a five-year contract with DOE.
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Journal-News, Monday, March 8,1993
Hamilton planners dreamed of their own central train terminal
By Jim Blount
"A temple of transportation was open here today" said the Associated Press in reporting the March 1933 dedication of Cincinnati's Union Terminal.
For Hamilton rail travelers, the new terminal meant an end to confusion and inconvenience when making train connections in Cincinnati. Previously, the seven railroads hauling passengers in and out of Cincinnati used five scattered depots.
Local Baltimore & Ohio passengers relied on the former Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad station at Sixth and Baymiller streets. Hamilton passengers on Pennsylvania Railroad trains used a depot at Front and Butler streets shared by the PRR and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.
Union Terminal and accompanying rail facilities cost $41 million, including $8.6 million for the passenger complex of shops, restaurants, waiting areas, ticket booths and baggage offices.
"Almost a city in itself, covering 287 acres, it provides nearly every conceivable comfort for the traveler — even to a movie theater," said a report on the March 31, 1933 dedication.
"Accommodations are available for 17,000 passengers and for the movement of 216 trains daily," said a Hamilton newspaper report on the impressive structure which required three years and 3,000 workers to erect. It included 94 miles of track.
Completion of Union Terminal 60 years ago also revived interest in building a central railroad station in Hamilton, but economic woes of the Great Depression made it impractical. An earlier plan would have replaced the B&O station at S. Fifth and Henry streets and the PRR depot on S. Seventh street with a new terminal at Fourth and High streets.
Instead, Hamiltonians could only appreciate the Cincinnati terminal. Three Hamilton clubs (Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary) sponsored an April 12 excursion to the terminal, directed by J. Walter Wack and Robert G. Taylor.
Eight days later — Thursday, April 20, 1933 — was "Hamilton Day" at the terminal as about 500 Hamiltonians participated in the program sponsored by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
After a three-hour visit to the new terminal, the Hamilton visitors boarded their coaches for the return trip, arriving in Hamilton at 10:30 p.m.
The next day the Journal-News said "these hundreds are joining others who have marveled at the completeness and beauty of this building that now stands practically alone in its classification in the entire country."
The decline of passenger service after World War II saw Union Terminal arrivals and departures drop from more than 200 in 1933 to only two trains each day by 1971.
For nearly 19 years, starting Oct. 28, 1972, "no passenger trains used Union Terminal. During those years, Amtrak relied on a nondescript station which would have easily fit inside the public restrooms in the terminal.
Amtrak returned to the terminal Monday, July 29, 1991, after a $68 million refurbishing and the relocation of Cincinnati museums in the art deco structure, which has been called "the last of the great metropolitan railroad stations to be built" in the United States.
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Journal-News, Monday, March 15,1993
Vacationers, patients needed ration points during World War II
By Jim Blount
Hamiltonians were counting points instead of calories in their kitchens and in the grocery aisles 50 years ago as World War II restrictions were applied to food purchases.
Rationing of more than 200 processed food items started Monday, March 1, 1943, after an eight-day "freeze" on the sale of the rationed items. The freeze — from midnight Saturday, Feb. 20, until midnight Sunday, Feb. 28 — was ordered by the Office of Price Administration.
Consumers were unable to buy canned or frozen vegetables and fruits, fruit juices, soups, baby goods, chili sauce, catsup and dried fruits during the week. Other items were available, as usual, except coffee and sugar, which already were rationed.
OPA mandated the freeze to permit an inventory of foods on store shelves, allow retailers to place orders and post official point values in their stores before rationing started.
It also afforded retailers a chance to learn the complex steps involved in collecting stamps from customers and trading them to processors or depositing them in point bank accounts.
Meanwhile, consumers tried to get by on food in their pantries while learning how to manage and budget their food stamps. For example, the first 48 points in a new ration book were good only until the end of March 1943.
A newspaper explanation urged shoppers to "buy with care to make your points come out even, because the grocer will not be able to give you change in stamps."
One point was required for each can or bottle of baby food in four to five-ounce containers. Other point values for foods in 19 to 22-ounce containers included 25 points for dried and dehydrated prunes and raisins; 16 for canned or bottled apricots, pineapple, tomato products and frozen vegetables; 10 for canned or bottled applesauce; and five for canned or bottled sauerkraut.
A store advised in a newspaper ad that "the drained weight of a No. 2 can of peas worth 16 points is the same as the weight of a 12-ounce package of frosted (frozen) peas worth 10 points."
Cabell Phillips, in his history of the 1940s, described rationing as "the biggest headache" of the war years. "It meant getting used to an entirely new system of currency without which the coin of the realm was valueless for the purchase of most foods and variety of other necessities," said Phillips.
"Obtaining and keeping track of one's allotment of certificates and ration stamps (usually they were distributed on a family basis) was trouble enough," said Phillips, "but even worse was keeping up with their shifting values and expirations" because revisions and clarifications of its regulations were frequently issued by OPA.
A warning on the ration book said when buying, "the proper stamp must be detached in the presence of the storekeeper, his employee or the person making delivery on his behalf. If a stamp is torn out . . . in any other way than above indicated, it becomes void."
Some families encountered complications in June 1943 as they sent children to summer camps. YMCA and YWCA camps required parents to send ration stamps with their children.
The ration book also had to be given to a hospital if its owner was confined for more than 10 days, and had to be surrendered to the local OPA office if the person died.
A total of 52,620 persons registered Tuesday through Friday, Feb. 23-26, in Hamilton for War Ration Book No. 2. The details were handled by 600 registrars in Hamilton schools, under the direction of C. W. White, superintendent of schools.
Armed guards were assigned around the clock to protect the 60,000 ration books stored first at the municipal building and later at the school administration office. That precaution was ordered after bandits got away with thousands of ration books in a holdup in Buffalo, N. Y.
Food rationing continued until the end of the war in 1945, but some items —including corn, tomatoes, beets and some leafy vegetables — were removed from the program May 1, 1944. because supplies were plentiful.
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Journal-News, Monday, March 22,1993
Presidential names given to Hamilton schools in 1909
By Jim Blount
Hamilton public schools have been named for presidents for 84 years following a controversial decision by the school board in December 1908.
"It was decided to name the Hamilton schools after the presidents of the United States," the newspaper said. "There are 11 school buildings now open, or in course of construction and it is planned to give each of these a new name.
"The Fifth Ward school building is now in the Third Ward and some of the other names of local schools are not exactly satisfactory to the citizens of Hamilton and members of the school board.
The system suggested by a school board committee was that the oldest school be called Washington School, and the second oldest Adams School "and so on in rotation."
The newspaper said "Hamilton High School will retain its name, but it will be the only one that does." At that time it was located on the northwest corner of South Second and Ludlow streets.
"The new First Ward school, soon to be completed, will be known as the Lincoln school because of the fact that the Lincoln centenary will be celebrated during the year the building is completed."
Lincoln, located at the northwest corner of N. E Street and Gray Avenue, opened in 1909. That same year, Taylor, a new school at the southwest corner of Corwin and Benninghofen Avenues was opened. Lindenwald had been annexed to the Hamilton district in 1908.
Presidential names skipped between Taylor and Lincoln were Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan. Those names would be given new buildings which opened in 1929.
Before the board acted, it received other recommendations. James E. Campbell, a former Ohio governor and Hamilton resident, suggested that the school board name its buildings after pioneer citizens of Hamilton.
Several weeks later, as the conversion began, a newspaper contended that "Hamilton has had many citizens worthy of kind remembrance and the naming of school buildings and other public institutions after such men is eminently proper."
The buildings in service during the 1908-1909 school year and their old and new names were:
* The Third Ward School, located on the north side of Dayton Street between N. Third and N. Fourth streets, was named Washington. That structure, built in 1889, was converted to the district's administration center in 1947 and remains in use as such.
* The 12-room Miami School, built in 1902 on the northeast corner of South "C" Street and Ross Avenue, was renamed Adams. It has been a senior citizen center since the 1950s.
* The Fourth Ward School, erected in 1903 on the east side of South Eighth Street between Rigdon and Chestnut streets, became Jefferson. The Fourth Ward Annex, at the northwest corner of South Ninth and Chestnut streets, was called Tyler.
* The Fifth Ward School, on the southeast corner of North Ninth and Buckeye streets, was designated Madison School.
* The Straub School, on the south side of Long Street between Central Avenue and Lane Street, was named Monroe.
* The Columbian School, on the south side of Park Avenue opposite Sherman Avenue, was changed to Jackson.
* The Mosler School, on Grand Blvd. in East Hamilton, became Van Buren.
* The Second Ward School, on the west side of South Second Street opposite Central Avenue, was renamed Harrison. It had been built as a music hall and had been converted into a school in 1899 and remained in use until 1953 when a new Harrison opened. The old Harrison building still stands.
* The old Lindenwald School, on the south side of Woodlawn Avenue, east of Pleasant Avenue, was called Polk. Belle Towers is now on the site.
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Journal-News. Monday, March 29,1993
Brewers led campaign for first Columbia Bridge
By Jim Blount
The campaign for a second bridge over the Great Miami River in Hamilton was led by brewers in the southern part of the city.
The first Columbia Bridge was built 40 years after the first High-Main Street Bridge had been constructed by the Miami Bridge Company to connect the towns of Hamilton and Rossville.
There were several breweries in Hamilton in the 1850s, some several blocks south of the only bridge. The more remote beer producers wanted a second crossing because they believed their rivals near the only existing bridge had an advantage in buying the best barley raised in Butler County west of the river.
The present Columbia Bridge is the fourth at the site. Previous spans also were known as the Columbia Bridge, the Lower Bridge and the Old Covered Bridge.
It was called the Columbia Bridge because the Columbia Free Bridge Co. was employed in 1858 to construct the first bridge. It was completed in 1859, four years after the merger of Hamilton and Rossville.
The first span was a 338-foot single-lane covered wood bridge. It stood for 39 years before being washed away in a flood. It broke into two pieces and fell into the surging Great Miami River at 8:30 a.m. March 24. 1898.
The second structure, a 400-foot iron truss bridge costing $61,000, opened Dec. 6, 1899. Located on the east side of river, it was built at the junction of Chestnut and Wood streets. (Wood is now Pershing Avenue.)
It had a short life -- less than 14 years. It was the fourth Hamilton bridge to be destroyed within a few hours during the massive flood which hit Hamilton March 25-26, 1913.
The first to go — at 12 minutes after noon March 25 — was the Black Street Bridge at the north end of town. Sixteen minutes later the High-Main Street Bridge collapsed. At 2:12 p.m. the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Indianapolis Railroad bridge plunged into the river.
About 12 hours later — at 2:15 a.m. March 26 — the Columbia Bridge toppled into the river, after being struck by portions of the Coliseum, a sports and entertainment center which had stood between North "B" Street and the river near Wayne Avenue.
A barge served as a ferry boat and then a pedestrian pontoon bridge was added until the bridges could be rebuilt.
The third Columbia Bridge —- which cost about $121,000 — was planned by J. W. Mueller. a Richmond, Ind., consulting engineer, and built by the A. J. Yawger Co., which started construction in May 1916.
It was "a concrete bridge, reinforced with steel," and a newspaper said "10,000 cubic yards of concrete will be used, and will be reinforced with 330,000 pounds of steel."
"The length of the structure will be 720 feet between abutments, and a total length of driveway of 810 feet. The total width of the bridge will be 34 feet 8 inches, and there will be a driveway 22 feet wide, and two sidewalks each five feet in width." The 1916 article said "the bridge will be supported by seven spans sunk in the river at various depths of from 12 to 30 feet."
Completion was delayed by several factors, including high water which caused the loss of machinery and materials.
The contractor also encountered an engineering problem when bed rock was struck only 13 feet below the river surface while pilings were being driven.
Finally, a shortage of horse teams hampered completion in September 1917. "Providing teams can be secured for backfilling, the Columbia Bridge. . . should be ready for traffic of all kinds within 10 days," reported the Journal Sept. 4, 1917. County Engineer Fred Hammerle told the newspaper that pedestrians had been using the bridge for several days.
The two-lane span remained in use for 48 years, until replaced by the present bridge in 1965.
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