September 6, 2009

In Praise of the Tri-Cities

Friend of the blog Patton Oswalt (in that he said "thank you" on facebook when I told him about this post) has a great bit about the "test of the small town." Listen:


I grew up in the Tri-Cities area of southeastern Washington... For those of you that don't know the back story, my hometown only exists because of the Manhattan Project. Why was this patch of scrubland selected as the site of the plutonium-producing "B Reactor?"

- A large and remote tract of land

- No towns of more than 1,000 people closer than 20 miles

- No main highway, railway, or employee village closer than 10 miles

- A clean and abundant water supply

- A large electric power supply

- Ground that could bear heavy loads.

That's how my hometown came into being, as part of the effort that produced the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Through the Cold War, the Hanford Site was at the front lines of our arms race with the Soviet Union, churning out the essential radioactive materials for America's nuclear arsenal. The bowling alley in Richland, Washington? The Atomic Lanes. The high school nickname? The Richland Bombers. Here's a great pic of the football helmet:

My family moved there when my Dad got a job on the civilian side of Hanford back in the 70s, and as Patton Oswalt escaped Sterling, VA I fled the Tri for Bellingham and six years at Western from 93-99 (I hung around to get my Masters).

It's easy to slag on the Tri... There's the radioactive tumbleweeds, the dust storms straight out of WALL-E and the vibe my future wife noticed on her first visit: "It's like a suburb without a city."

But I'm here to praise my hometown... because 12 years ago, the Tri Twelves were instrumental in keeping our Seahawks in Seattle.

Remember Referendum 48? In June 1997, the voters of Washington State were asked to approve funding for what we know now as Qwest Field. Paul Allen's purchase of the team was dependent on R48's passage. Without the new stadium, Behring was going to pack up the trucks and the L.A. Blackhawks would have been born.

Thankfully R48 won by 36,780 votes, or a margin about the size of a big crowd for an M's game... Support for the Stadium was concentrated in Seattle and its suburbs, which was enough to counteract R48 getting absolutely McGoverned east of the Cascades... In Spokane county alone, R48 lost by 27,000 votes.

But there was one outpost of the Twelve Army in Eastern Washington... In Benton County, where I grew up watching the Hawks, R48 passed 11,117-9,789. Benton was the ONLY Eastern county to vote in favor of R48.

So on Sunday, give a round of applause when they announce that it's Tri-Cities day on the video board at Qwest. When Seattle needed help keeping the Seahawks in town, all us glowing radioactive freaks took a break from cramming spudnuts down our gullets to vote Yes on Qwest. Respect, y'all.


K. G. said...

I'm strangely conflicted about the Tri. I love it and hate it. More like I hate it, but no one else that isn't from there is allowed to hate it.

Do the Bombers still use that helmet? I thought they switched to one that just had the word "bombers" in gold on a green helmet.

Byron said...

As a fellow 12, I'm deeply grateful...and a little ashamed of my beloved Yakima.