So Cynical Dad finally shared his famous (and scary!) death threat story after several of us pestered asked him about the details.  I, in turn, promised to share some stories as well.  So here goes…

The Nuclear Weapons Story

My grandfather worked in the labs where they were developing nuclear weapons after the second world war.  He had been in the Navy where he was trained in electronics, and at the time training through the military and working for the government put you pretty much on the cutting edge of technology (well, unless you went to MIT).  For example, my grandfather learned all about TV and radio equipment repair before TVs were found in every household.  (OK, TV repair isn’t a big deal now, but it was then.)  Anyway, he worked in labs in both California and Nevada. 

I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know exactly what he did in the labs.  You know how it is when you’re a kid… you hear these stories, but the questions that occur to you as an adult never cross your mind as a child.  Now that I’m a grown-up I’m a lot more curious about the details and I want to learn more.  I know he wasn’t a scientist, but he was definitely part of the developing/testing teams.  (I know there are even a couple of books out there about the nuclear labs with his picture in them.)  I imagine that he was a technician.  This part of my family has mechanical aptitude in spades.  My grandfather can build anything.  He’s built instruments (such as my hammer dulcimer), electronics, a working spinning wheel once for my mom, he brews his own beer (and built all the equipment), etc.  For his last project he decided to build one of those pop-up campers.  You know those ones that fold down into a little u-haul-looking trailer?  He’s in his seventies and he built a CAMPER!  From scratch.  With folding down beds, toilet, and working electrical.  Then he made my poor granny go camping.

OK, so here is the freakiest nuclear story (at least, I think so) of the family stories and the one that I wanted to share.  While my grandparents lived in Nevada, there used to be this testing site they called Doomstown.  It was basically a whole little town the testing facility built, and they used to drop bombs on it so they could see what happens.  At the time they still didn’t fully understand how long the radiation lingered at a test site and its effects (this is, after all, one of the reasons why they continued to do such extensive research for so long).  They thought that the radiation levels of the town were pretty safe to walk through only two weeks after a bombing.  They regularly took the local elementary schools on field trips through Doomstown!  My mom was still in grade school while they lived there.  My mom (and obviously, my grandfather) was seriously exposed to nuclear radiation.   

(I keep waiting and waiting for my mutant superpowers to appear but to no avail.  I probably should just shut up and be happy.  Anyone see the Hills Have Eyes?) 

I’ll save the FBI bugging story until tomorrow (if you all still want to hear it).  That one features my hippie parents (in direct contrast to my conservative grandparents).  Is it any wonder I came out strange?         – the weirdgirl