The city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee is nestled between the Cumberland Mountain range and the Great Smokey Mountains in Eastern Tennessee. As you come in to OR, from Interstate 40, you sometimes can see the Cumberlands long before you get to Oak Ridge. It is 20 miles from the city of Knoxville, home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Oak Ridge did not exist in 1940. In 1942, there were 70,000 people living there. The town literally appeared out of nowhere, but no one new about it much, because it was part of a secret WWII project called the Manhattan Project. The town was fenced in, with military patrols, and you had to have special clearance to get in.
The Manhattan Project is where the first two atomic bombs were createdm, that were dropped on Japan to end the war. I lived most of my life in Oak Ridge, and I still ponder the wisdom of developing nuclear weapons. I guess the rational used to justify them was to ultimately save lives, given the estimates for the continuation of the war would have killed many more than we did with those bombs. Still, did we need to develop this weapon of mass destruction? The Germans were working toward this goal, and the science had advanced to the point where many scientists thought they would work, so it was probably inevitable that atomic bombs would have been created sometime.
The resulting cold war was, as a child, somewhat frightening. I remember helping my dad build a bomb shelter in our basement in high school. One that might let us survive a nuclear attack. One evening, as I was driving along the mountain ridge on the north side of town, I saw a pink glow in the sky, far to the north of town. The sun had set an hour or so before, and I wondered what this glow could be. My fearwas that this was the result of a nuclear attack. This incident gave me chills up and down my back for some time. Those were scary times. Now, with the end of the cold war, and a false sense of security, we go on with our lives.
Oak Ridge has some spectacular views of the Cumberlands from the homes along Black Oak Ridge Mountain. Many homes were constructed just for these views. Smog and other things prevent you from seeing all of the mountains most of the time today. We used to be able to see the Smokeys on a clear day, some 60 miles south east, but that rarely happens today. What a shame.
The town, because of the way it was created, with a heavy mix of engineers and scientists from all over the world, is a very cosmopolitan town of about 30,000 people. It has the largest concrete swimming pool east of the Missippi. There used to be a mountain stream flowing around the east and southern edges of the town, but smarter minds decided that we needed to be able to navigate this waterway, so they built the Melton Hill Dam, about 20 miles down stream. I guess it is okay, since we were able to ski whenever we wanted to. The water, being fed from the mountain stream, was usually very cold. The picture is of the lake, about a half mile from my parent's house.