I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;
- Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
- Valley Times : Do You Remember?
- The Independent : Do You Remember?
The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.
They will also be found on this page each week as well.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.
Sandia opened its Livermore Branch 50 years ago
By Barry Schrader.................................March
March 8, 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of a small contingent
of engineers and support personnel in Livermore, mostly from Sandia Corporations
laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The two dozen staffers were first housed in the pink barracks across
East Avenue at the then-named UC Radiation Laboratory (now LLNL) so they
could provide increasing support for the design and testing of the new nuclear
weapons being developed by the UC Lab since 1952 in Livermore.
The reason there were two separate organizations working on the same
weapons goes back to the days of the Manhattan Project. After the end of
World War II the University of California was given the contract by the
new Atomic Energy Commission to operate the nuclear weapons program that
had started at Los Alamos. But when asked to take over the engineering arm
which was called Sandia (created out of Los Alamoss Z Division), UC
management balked, saying it preferred to stick to the pure science part
of the project.
So in 1949 President Truman wrote a letter to AT&T asking its president
to assume oversight of Sandia to render an exceptional service in
the national interest. AT&T accepted with the proviso it would
operate the engineering organization for a dollar a year and take no profit
So Sandia has remained independent from Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore
national labs to this day. And Sandia management was smart in making the
early decision to tear down the old Navy WAVE barracks on their new site,
thus constructing all new facilities, while Lawrence Lab has had to contend
with the old Naval Air Station buildings to this day.
Talking with Clif Selvage, a retired Sandian who actually arrived in
town six months ahead of the formal startup date along with another Sandian
Grover Hughes, I learned that the first project the two organizations collaborated
on was the B27 bomb and its counterpart for the Regulus guided missilethe
W27. He even produced a photo showing him and LLNL colleagues on a barge
at Eniwetok working on Project Redwing in the Pacific. He thinks those in
the photo were Alan Work, Joe Livingston, Bud Loveland, Roy Higgen, Harry
Perl, Dean Christensen, Fred Warren, Bill Lavigne, Hank Otsuki, and Roy
Tidwell. He wonders if any of them are still around here today.
Clif was then asked by Sandia management to be a part of the startup
operation in 1956 but due to the loud protest of his wife at the time, since
she was a New Mexico native and thought Livermore must be at the end of
the world, he declined. But then by 1967 circumstances changed and he accepted
a later offer to transfer to Livermore and, except for some overseas International
Energy Agency assignments, has stayed ever since.
Another early arrival from Albuquerque that first year was Lorena Schneider
who was brought out with another secretary to provide support for managers
and spent their first five months living at the Town House Motel on First
Street. When she finally decided to accept a permanent assignment she worked
for Jack Howard, the first manager of the fledgling engineering department.
She recalls the hot summers on the second floor of the barracks when there
was no such thing as air conditioning. After 37 years at Livermore and five
prior to that at Sandia Albuquerque, Lorena retired and now lives in Florida.
Sandias Livermore Branch grew to 1,000 people in just a few years,
but never went beyond 1,100 because growth control was exercised
by the headquarters in New Mexico.
Over the years there were some lighter moments, as reported in a1996
book called Sandia Anthology, Remember When
by Cindy English and her boss Cliff Yokomizo. Inside those 125 pages are
great stories, remembrances, old memos, cartoons and humorous photos collected
from desk drawers, filing cabinets and walls from across the site.
The book includes some instances of frivolity I still recall: One day
in 1986 the directors decided to smuggle a horse onsite after then-Vice
President Dick Claassen threatened to rid the site of unsightly and illegally
parked bikes. They offered this hoofed alternative to the VP and he surprised
them by mounting the steed and riding it. They didnt know he was an
amateur equestrian! In 1992 then-VP John Crawford was holding a Teamwork
Celebration Day. We found out it was also his birthday, so hired the East
Avenue Middle School Band led by Bernie Berke to be bussed onsite, hidden
until the appropriate moment when we could surprise John. Then there was
the farewell for VP Tom Hunter when we bought him a fancy belt buckle, even
bigger than the one worn at the party by Lawrence Labs Bob Kuckuck
who had beaten Tom in the Rodeo Week greenhorn calf-penning event. We didnt
want Tom to leave town feeling second-rate. It must have boosted
his ego because now he is President/Director of Sandia.
There will be a lot of reminiscing like this when retirees and longtime
employees gather to celebrate the Livermore Branchs 50th anniversary
this week. But dont let anyone dig up the time capsule that was buried
there in 1999 when Sandia Corporation observed its 50th. The plaque clearly
states it is not to be unearthed until 2024!
When listing all the National Historic Register sites in the area last
week I overlooked a recent addition, the David Glass house, which was moved
onto the grounds of the Forest Home Farm in San Ramon from its original
location at Circle E Ranch. Thanks to Nathan Greene for pointing this out.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551