60 Years Ago: Secret No More
The city of Oak Ridge, founded solely as the site for enriching the fuel of the world's first nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project of World War II, was a cloistered community where residents had to wear identification badges outside of their homes and visitors needed security clearances.
All of that changed sixty years ago, on March 19th 1949, when the "Secret City" of Oak Ridge was opened to the world at a "ribbon burning" hosted by Vice President of the United States Alben Barkley. Today's commemoration featured the contemporary peers of the dignitaries from that day (with the exception of VPOTUS): Gerald Boyd, Manager of the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge Office, for John Franklin, the 1949 Manager of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Oak Ridge Operations; Dr. Thom Mason, Director of ORNL, for C. Nelson Rucker, the 1949 Director of X-10; Mayor Tom Beehan, for 1949 Town Council Chair W.A. Swanson; and Rev. Mark Walton, 2009 Pastor of Glenwood Baptist Church, who delivered the same invocation as Rev. Roy Arbuckle, the 1949 Pastor of Glenwood Baptist Church.
In the 1949 "ribbon burning", following remarks by Fred Ford (the 1949 U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Director of Community Affairs), George Felbeck (who led the K-25 gaseous diffusion purification plant for Carbide) made a 13-word telephone call to the operators at the Graphite Reactor in X-10 (ten miles away in Bethel Valley, today's Oak Ridge National Lab) to initiate the energy pulse that would burn the ribbon and officially open the Secret City to the world. While the 10,000 onlookers on that day had to wait nearly three minutes for the capacitors to charge and the ribbon to burn, today (after city historian Bill Wilcox's identical call), we only had to wait about 40 seconds: