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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • JOIN THE NAVY, 1917

Family Shelter: 1961

Family Shelter: 1961

Oct. 11, 1961. "New York Civil Defense Commission Family Shelter display." Including Chess-Dominoes-Checkers. 35mm negative by Hans Knoff for the Look magazine assignment "The Great Fallout Shelter Panic." View full size.

 
On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Cold War Willies

I thought that perhaps tterrace's lack of fear in that era might have had something to do with his living further from Cuba, but Dbell's post puts the kibosh on that notion.

I can remember being terrified from about the third grade (1960) up to the Kennedy assassination. We lived on the Gulf Coast, not all that far from Cuba. I have vivid memories of JFK on TV letting the nation know the seriousness of the situation and thinking, "That guy is telling it straight."

At the same time, I had serious doubts about whether bringing wool blankets and jugs of water would do much good in case of a nuclear attack. My friends and I were fairly certain that if something bad happened, we were toast.

--Jim

Living in fear!

Contrary to tterrace's experience, I absorbed quite a lot of the fear mentality. I was also 4-14 in the 50's, and living maybe 40 miles away from him in northern California.

I can't say I was constantly aware of being afraid of WWIII, but as with 510Russ, I was aroused by every siren, test or not. Even many years later, if I heard heavy aircraft overhead at night, I just *knew* they were Bear bombers. Then I went to work a block from the Blue Cube.

Living not in fear

Experiences obviously varied. I was age four to fourteen in the 1950s and thoughts of nuclear war hardly ever entered my consciousness, low-level or otherwise. When it did, it was the transitory result of news coverage of some particularly critical international event, but even then I don't recall having any great sense of anxiety. That didn't happen until the Cuban Missile Crisis. We never had duck-and-cover drills in school - in fact, I'd never heard of them until the films started showing up as funny retro-nostalgic items on video and TV in the 1980s. I knew of the fallout shelter craze, but to me it was mainly just another one of those things about contemporary culture that I'd see lampooned in MAD Magazine. And none of my little friends so much as mentioned nuclear weapons or any fears generated by them.

Duck and cover

I remember the constant, low-level terror of worrying about nuclear war when I was growing up in the 60s. I read about shelters in the back of Popular Mechanics and such, and always wanted my family to build one. My wife actually tried to dig to build one when she was a kid.

Sit down, put your head between your legs, and kiss your arse goodbye!

Flemish bond - now that's one fancy shelter!

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Dad casually remarked to Mom that World War III was probably imminent. He didn't think I overheard him, but I did. After that, whenever I heard any kind of siren -- police, fire, ambulance -- I was convinced that it was an air-raid siren and that Soviet ICBMs were on their way, due momentarily. I memorized the location of every Civil Defense Shelter in my end of town, and I had a pretty good idea of their capacity, too. Quite a burden for a 7-year-old.

Re: Canned Bread

Don't knock it: B&M Brown Bread is a New England staple, and very tasty!

Canned bread?

That definitely calls for some aerosol cheese spread.

What about Dad?

With all that "generic" food on the shelf, they almost forgot the important stuff: Dad's emergency supplies.

Like home

Our house was built in 1962, and it has a fallout shelter - probably because there was a Nike missile base a few miles away at the time. So far, it has proved pretty useless, except as a wine cellar.

Oh yummie!

Canned Bread!

Brings back memories

When I was a kid, the next door neighbors had a shelter installed in their basement right about this time. A big yellow, reinforced steel box that occupied a corner of the basement and had a heavy entry hatch. Being around 7 or 8 at the time, I remember the nuke threat as something the grownups talked about, but I didn't really understand any of it beyond the duck and cover drills we had at school.

The shelter is still there today. I don't know if the bottled water, dried foods, bunk beds and the box of toys are still there because I haven't seen inside it in years. But the metal air vent still protrudes from the back of the house.

 
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