A look back: 60 Years of Family Days

Oct. 4, 2017

On Sept. 7, 1957, the University of California Radiation Laboratory, Livermore hosted its first “Family Day” in celebration of the Laboratory’s fifth anniversary. (Download Image)

A look back: 60 Years of Family Days

Breanna Bishop, bishop33@llnl.gov, 925-423-9802

Editor's note: On Oct. 7-8, LLNL will mark its 65th anniversary with Family Days, a two-day celebration to recognize the accomplishments and support of employees and their families. While the Laboratory celebrate 65 years of making history, we also look back at 60 years of Family Days.

On Sept. 7, 1957, the University of California Radiation Laboratory, Livermore hosted its first “Family Day” in celebration of the Laboratory’s fifth anniversary. For the first time, families of employees were welcomed onto the guarded grounds of the Lab to explore and learn about an array of nuclear physics research and development programs conducted at Livermore.

Visitors were invited to explore the Computation Complex, home to the two IBM 704 computers, as well as the new, almost completed, Physics Building, which was to serve as the future location of the Director’s Office and the A and B Physics Divisions. (See Family Days through the years.PDF iconfamily_days_60_years.pdf)

Family Days celebrations were a hit and continued throughout the following decades, celebrating employees and their families and marking major anniversary dates and accomplishments of the Lab. For example, in 1967, to celebrate the Lab’s 15th anniversary, more than 1,000 employees and their families gathered at a VIP dedication for the new Radiochemistry Building, where the occasion was marked with the announcement of the discovery of a new element - Element 101 (Mendelevium).

Family Days not only allowed spouses and children the opportunity to explore the work environment of their family members, they have provided a setting where they can learn and have fun with science. For example, in 1977, kids and family members were given a chance to use the world’s most powerful computers to play a variety of computer games, including strategy games like chess and battleship, as well as arcade-like games such as “TV Trek,” based off the Star Trek universe, and a spaceship game inspired by a new film called “Star Wars.”

In 1977, kids and family members were given a unique chance to use the world’s most powerful computers to play a variety of computer games, including an arcade-like games such as “TV Trek,” based off the Star Trek universe, and a space-ship game inspired by a new film called “Star Wars."

(See Newsline for more information about the 1977 Family Days computer games.PDF iconnewsline_1977.pdf)

In the Lab’s fourth decade, Family Days continued in popularity, with more than 20,000 visitors in attendance for the 1982 celebration of LLNL’s 30th anniversary. However, in a sight that would become more frequent and larger throughout the 1980s, the celebration also attracted a crowd of 800 anti-nuclear demonstrators.

In efforts to open up more to neighboring communities, as well as to acquaint specific audiences with the capabilities, achievements and the legacy of the Lab, LLNL expanded Family Days in the 1990s to allow “special guests” access to the Lab. In 1990, more than 300 civic leaders, educators and business leaders attended sessions on energy and economic competitiveness; and, two years later, Special Guest Day was expanded to six days of visits for hundreds of community leaders, public officials and educators.

The new millennium saw LLNL mark its 50th anniversary, in 2002, with a weeklong celebration featuring the likes of former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn and capped off with a Family Days celebration of more than 12,000 visitors. At the end of the decade, in 2009, the Lab marked the completion of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) with a symposium and dedication ceremony and a Family Days celebration with tours of the new facility. And, in 2012, the Lab hosted its most recent Family Days, in honor of its 60th anniversary.

Breanna Bishop
925-423-9802