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April 29, 2014

Luncheon - 4 - Literacy and the Girls of Atomic City

Posted by emily

A few weeks ago, Anna Robinson, one of our readers, shared with us that she and her book group attended Oak Ridge, TN’s “Lunch – 4 – Literacy” --- an annual event that raises money for literacy. Anna's group contributed $1,280 toward literacy, and were a part of over 400 people attending the event. Here, Anna shares details about the “social event of the year,” including highlights and an appearance by Denise Kiernan, author of the bestselling THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY. You shared with us that your book club attended Oak Ridge, TN's annual “Lunch  4 – Literacy” event last month. Tell us about this event.

Anna Robinson: This is an annual event sponsored by the local Altrusa Club and the Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Club. It is always well attended. This year had the biggest crowd ever! I am sure it was because of the guest speaker, Denise Kiernan. As one of my friends said, "This is the social event of the year." She has a point because you do see people you haven't seen for months. Everyone dresses up and goes to enjoy a nice lunch and hear a great speaker. All this fun and for a very good cause. The money raised is used to promote literacy. Everyone deserves to know how t read and to have books available. 

RGG: I read that the lunch takes place at the Oak Ridge High School. Is there significance to that location?

AR: No. It is held there because it has the biggest space in the city. The high school was renovated a few years ago and the cafeteria area is very nice. It is big, with lots of windows and can handle a big crowd. The luncheon event is held during the school's spring break so the students are not there.

RGG: Oak Ridge is nicknamed the "Atomic City" (because the area was used to develop materials for the atomic bomb). Not coincidentally, of course, Denise Kiernan, who is the author of THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY, was the guest speaker at the luncheon. What did she speak about?

AR: She spoke about the reactions she has received when speaking about the book in other cities. Some of the questions she mentioned were, " Can we visit Oak Ridge and see some of the places where the women worked?" “Is Oak Ridge still there?” "Is it hard to find?" She said people are coming to see our town. She did say the book was going to be made into a TV series and it is being printed in many different languages. Denise has been to Oak Ridge several times and said she always feels so welcome here. She told about interviewing the women and most of them said," Well, I didn't do anything special. I just did my job for the war effort."

RGG: Who were some of the other "girls of Atomic City" who attended?

AR: I took a dear friend of mine, Kay Steed, who came to Oak Ridge from middle Tennessee right out of high school to work in here. That was in 1945. She has worked at X 10 for 37 years. She met her husband here. At first she worked in the typing pool. Then she became the executive secretary for the man who was in charge of engineering. Several other "girls" were there, too. I'm sorry I don't know their names.

RGG: What were some of the highlights of the event?

AR: One of the highlights was meeting and talking with some of the "girls" that were there: Colleen Black, Dot Wilkinson, Celia Klemski and Virginia Coleman. I have known Colleen Black for years. We volunteered at our local YWCA years ago.

Also the mayor of Oak Ridge made some comments thanking Denise for what she has done for Oak Ridge.

RGG: Literacy is obviously an issue that we book lovers care about a lot. How did you find out about the Literacy Luncheon? What drew your book club to that cause specifically?

AR: Many of us in the book group have been attending this event for several years. This year, I decided to encourage as many members to go as could. The tickets are $40, which might be a bit much for some. All of us are so devoted to reading and cannot imagine that there are people out there who cannot read or don't have access to books. Also, one of our members is a member of the Altrusa Club and she was a big help with tickets and getting our tables set in a good place!

RGG: Was the event a success?

AR: Yes!!

RGG: Is there an

ything else you'd like to share with us about this event or how your book group gets involved with community events?

AR: For years my book club sent donations to the Briceville, TN Public Library fund. They desperately needed a new building and last year it was completed! Also, at our monthly meetings, members bring an item for ADFAC (Aid to Distressed Families of Anderson County). They have a "crisis cupboard” for items that cannot be purchased with food stamps. Such things like toothpaste and toothbrushes, toilet paper, deodorant, shampoo and personal items. The ADFAC office is housed in the church where we meet, First Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge. Several members of the book club belong to this church, myself included.