Secrecy News

Notes on Los Alamos, 1953

A previously unpublished account of life in the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory in the early 1950s describes a community determined to achieve, and to present, a semblance of conventional suburban life. It was circulated last month by Los Alamos historian Roger A. Meade.

“In 1954 an unknown author drafted a report, reprinted below, describing the Laboratory and the community as they existed in late 1953,” Meade wrote. “This report, perhaps intended to be crafted into a public relations document, is valuable because it gives us an autobiographical look at Los Alamos during the first half of the 1950s.”

“First-time visitors to Los Alamos often come with a preconceived notion that the will find something awesome and abnormal about the Los Alamos community,” the report says. “They leave, however, with the feeling of having visited an interesting but a perfectly ‘normal’ American community.”

“Los Alamos has fourteen churches representing nearly all denominations. Land for church buildings is available on 99-year leases at a nominal fee.”

“Los Alamos offers a wide selection of cultural and recreational activities. Presentations are made regularly in the commodious Civic Auditorium by such groups as the Civic Orchestra, the Concert Association, the Little Theatre, the Film Society, and the Los Alamos Concert Band. There are frequent lectures and forums; many distinguished speakers have appeared at the Civic Auditorium. Two motion picture theaters have continuous daily showings.”

See Notes on Los Alamos, Report No. LA-UR-17-22764, published April 5, 2017.