- Sharon Short Contributing Writer
“During the spring of 1944, delivery trucks began rolling in an out of the affluent Dayton neighborhood of Oakwood, navigating winding streets and passing leafy estates such as that of aviation pioneer Orville Wright. The trucks came and went at all hours from the Talbott Playhouse at 715 Runnymede Road, a prominent family’s indoor tennis court and recreation facility. They drew the attention of neighbors who knew not to ask too much. It was wartime and the nation was involved in defense activity.”
So opens “Polonium in the Playhouse,” authored by Linda Carrick Thomas.
This nonfiction narrative recreates a fascinating portion of The Manhattan Project — the quest to build an atomic bomb led by the United States during World War II, with support from the United Kingdom and Canada. The part documented in the book took place in Oakwood, processing polonium, a critical radioactive ingredient for the bomb initiator.
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The initiative was directed by industrial chemist Charles Allen Thomas, chosen by project leaders J. Robert Oppenheimer and Gen. Leslie Groves to coordinate Manhattan Project chemistry and metallurgy. The “playhouse” was owned by Thomas’s wife’s family.
Linda Carrick Thomas is the granddaughter of Charles Allen Thomas.
“I grew up hearing some of the story as family lore,” Linda explains.
Linda grew up in Boston, then moved to San Diego. She earned a B.A. in French literature at University of California, Davis, and then an M.A. in journalism and West European studies at Indiana University. A former newspaper journalist and assistant director in higher education communications, she left her full time position at Purdue University in 2013 to focus on finishing her book.
“I began by wanting to pull together information about the project for our family,” says Linda, who now resides in Indiana. “But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that this information was missing from standard Manhattan Project literature. I couldn’t understand why it was left out. I’m a researcher at heart, and my own project — writing about this aspect of the history of the development of nuclear warfare — grew and grew.”
“I learned just how much responsibility my grandfather had,” Linda says. “One of the most fun parts for me was verifying and authenticating stories I’d heard about my grandfather. A big part of my motivation early on and throughout my project was to find facts to back up items that I’d heard casually mentioned. It was exciting to piece together the information, and verify that not only had my grandfather played an important role in the Manhattan Project, but so had men and women in Dayton.”
“Polonium in the Playhouse” was published by Ohio State University. Learn more and order the book at: https://ohiostatepress.org/books/titles/9780814213384.html
“This project was a labor of love,” Linda says. “My family and the greater Talbott clan are very happy with it, but I like to think a general readership would find it equally fascinating. My book captures a very interesting chapter of history.”
UPCOMING LITERARY EVENTS
• Sunday, Nov. 12, 2-3:30 p.m., Books & Co. at The Greene — Antioch Writers’ Workshop at University of Dayton presents a free mini-seminar “Personal Essays,” tips and techniques for successfully writing in this genre. The program will be led by essayist Kate Geiselman, professor at Sinclair Community College and Vice President of the workshop’s board. Learn more about Kate at www.kategeiselman.net and about the workshop’s programs at www.antiochwritersworkshop.com.
• Monday, Nov. 13, 1-3 p.m., Washington-Centerville Public Library, Centerville Library Lobby, 111 Spring Valley Road — This month’s “2nd Monday Authors” program will feature Kristen Otte and her book, “Alien Kid,” a new series for middle school readers, and Katie Haines, who writes for children ages 2-9 and her book, “Caution: I Bite!”
• Monday, Nov. 13, 6-8 p.m., Dayton Metro Main Library (215 East Third St., Dayton) — New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, author of popular novels for teens including “The Raven Cycle” and more,” will visit the library in the Eichelberger Forum. The program is free but advance registration is recommended. Call 937-463-2665 or visit DaytonMetroLibrary.org for more information.
• Tuesday, Nov. 14, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Ave., Dayton — Word’s Worth Writing Center (www.wordsworthdayton.com) offers “The Writer’s 12-Step Program: Write Your Novel In A Year” with author and creative writing instructor Katrina Kittle. This series breaks down the process of drafting a novel into a year’s worth of sessions, which may be attended as a one-off or as a monthly class. November’s focus is “Conflict and Personal Stakes.” See the website to register.
• Thursday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., Boonshoft CJCE (525 Versailles Drive, Centerville) — Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter shares her book, “Extreme Measure: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life.” Register at http://www.jewishdayton.org/extreme-measures-finding-better-path-end-life-author-jessica-nutick-zitter
• Friday, Nov. 17 (6-9 p.m.), Saturday, Nov. 18 (1-5:30 p.m.), Sunday, Nov. 19 (1:30-3 p.m.), Springboro Area Historical Museum (110 S. Main St., Springboro) — Nine local authors will participate in the museum’s “Meet the Authors at Christmas in Springboro” event. Authors on Friday are Erin Flanagan, Suzanne Kelly and J.E. Irvin; on Saturday, T.J. McGuire, Matt Birdsall, April Wilson, Aliya DalRae, Daniel Coldspring and Linda Marshall; on Sunday, Daniel Coldspring and J.E. Irvin. For specific details and author schedule, visit www.facebook.com/darkendoftherainbow and click on “Events,” then “Meet The Authors.”
• Sunday, Nov. 19, 2:30 p.m., Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Avenue, Oakwood — Writers’ Café, a casual hang out for writers ages 18 and up and of all experience levels, meets the first Friday (7 p.m.) and third Sunday (at 2:30) of each month.