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Watching the bomb memoir to appear in book

Amanda Hammon, Appeal Staff Writer

As early as 4 a.m., her father would gather the family and their lawn chairs in the back yard of the Sunnyside Ranch south of Lund to watch the mushroom clouds form on the southwestern sky.

With the sunrise as a backdrop, the sight was “spectacular.”

“We never missed a bomb if we could help it,” Mooney, 62, wrote in her short story, “The Bomb.”

The story, written in a memoirs class the Carson City resident took last semester at Western Nevada Community College, will be featured in the book “We Remember the Fabulous Fifties” from Reminisce Books.

It’s been just more than 50 years since the Atomic Energy Commission detonated the first atomic bomb over the Southern Nevada desert in January 1951. Mooney theorizes the timely anniversary was one of the reasons her story was chosen for the book.

In the unique era of the ’50s, Mooney’s story also stands out because of her family’s exposure to the atom bomb, something done for the good of the country during the Cold War.

“We didn’t know it was dangerous at that time,” she said. “It was really for the good of the world. It was a worthy cause because we had to compete with the world. There was the Cold War. They didn’t really care about us. The AEC was very good at telling us there was no danger. They were wrong.”

Her entire family wore badges, which measured the amount of radiation the family was exposed to. Her father collected the badges once a month and sent them to the AEC.

“One question I have is, where are all those badges we mailed in?” she wrote.

Family stories involve enduring nuclear fallout, sometimes being prepared to evacuate when radiation clouds came too close. Two of her cousins who grew up in Hiko, just 50 miles from the Nevada Test Site, developed cancer in their 30s and 40s. One died at 37.

Retired after 30 years with the Carson City School District, Mooney spends some of her time at her West Carson City home indulging her love of writing. A mother, stepmother and grandmother, she retired two years ago from teaching at Eagle Valley Middle School.

Everyone has a story to tell, Mooney said, and often people are surprised they have a large audience beyond just their families.

A friend of Mooney who grew up in the Midwest was fascinated with her bomb story, never realizing people could just watch a nuclear bomb explosion for entertainment. She encouraged Mooney to enter the story in the book contest.

“I’m not writing my stories to be published,” Mooney said. “It’s kind of nice that somebody else is interested in them other than my family.”

A 37-year Carson City resident, Mooney will teach the memoirs class at WNCC starting Tuesday.

“I love retirement, and I hesitated to teach this class,” she said. “But I just love stories that people tell. I just think everyone should be telling their stories.”

Mooney compiled a history of all her aunts and uncles that grew up on her family ranch, a book which has drawn her immediate and extended family closer together.

“I think it’s sad when people my age say, ‘I don’t know anything about my parents or grandparents,” she said. “The only way they continue to live on this earth is through their stories.”