After that first nuclear test happened at the Trinity Site, in the years that followed, there were plenty more tests of nuclear weapons. My joke has always been that those years were about, “Hey, let’s blow this up to see what happens,” but all of those tests were nothing to joke about. They really were testing multiple forms of weaponry to better understand the power and capabilities.
Two places where nuclear weapons testing occurred for decades are a group of small islands in the Pacific Ocean and in the desert in a dry lake bed between Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada.
It was in 1958 that my dad found himself out on an island called Bikini Atoll, doing telemetry for several tests of thermonuclear explosions.
After returning home, he then found himself sent out to the Salton Sea, where ballistics tests were being carried out. Family scrapbooks contain really goofy and incredibly embarrassing love letters from my dad to my mom, quick missives sent during the time while they were dating but not yet married. Letters postmarked from the Salton Sea in California.
Once my parents were married and after the birth of my brother, my dad went back to school at the University of New Mexico to complete his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He had been told if he wanted to continue to grow in his career at Sandia, he’d need a full degree. So he worked and went to school. My mom worked and took care of her firstborn.
Later, he got a job opportunity to go to Los Alamos with the hope of improving his career by working on a particle accelerator. He moved his wife and son and began work up the hill and the small but mighty lab. Los Alamos was considered more prestigious.
My mom was also able to get a job at the lab in Los Alamos, and they lived and worked and really enjoyed living there. This was the mid 1960’s and things were hopping. Soon enough, my sister was born.
Then came a job opportunity through a good friend that promised even better career advancement if my dad would move over to the Nevada Test Site, which back then was called the Tonopah Test Range.
While working at the Nevada Test Site, my dad worked in an area of the site called Area 52. You know… just next door to Area 51*?
And it was there in Tonopah that I enter the story. My folks had only really planned for two kids, but oops. I guess I had something to say.
Not long after I was born, the family then moved back to Albuquerque and Sandia National Laboratory, and that is where I was raised. I have only vague memories of Nevada, I was really too young to remember anything.
New Mexico is where I’m from and who I am. Something I remain proud of and always will.