Dad worked there
Everybody's dad worked on the base. Not because they were in the service; they just worked there.
I'm not sure what they did there on the base. My dad never told me what he did. "A lot of different things," he'd say when I asked. As I got older, I learned not to ask. It was strange to grow up there, in Albuquerque. The Government was an ever-present influence in everyone's lives, yet nobody was that aware of it. Since 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission and Sandia National Laboratories had made their home at Sandia Army Base. And everybody's dad worked there.
"What's a sonic boom, mommy?"
"They're testing something, that's all. A rocket or something." Sonic booms. We heard them every morning when I was young. Nobody thought much of them. It was normal to hear those things in Albuquerque. Sonic booms were caused by rocket sleds racing across the desert faster than sound. That was Sandia's business. The AEC worked quietly. Sonic booms were unique to Albuquerque in the sixties. But I guess every city has its own character.
Family Day, 1965
Every five years the AEC had Family Day. Something like a science fair. It was the only time I ever saw my dad's office--we didn't go in 1970. All muy friends from school were there. Everybody's dad . . . They were doing a lot of new things there on the base in 1965. I saw lasers, rocket sleds, radiation suits, nuclear reactors, and my dad's computer, Sadie. She was as big as a living room. And noisy. Sadie and the lasers impressed me in 1965.
When I took physics in college, we experimented with lasers. I thought about Family Day and wondered how many of my classmates had seen a laser in 1965. Not many, I figured. Unless they were from Albuquerque.