Thursday, May 13, 2010

Growing Up with Nuclear War Fears Part One: The Home Show

Part One: The Home Show

I have lived in fear of nuclear holocaust my entire life.

When I was six years old, in 1956, my parents took me to a “home show,” which is one of those convention center kinds of affairs where all things new and fantastic, for the modern home, are demonstrated and sold. There was a family sized fallout shelter on display there that we took a salesman’s demonstration tour of. It was a cement block, above ground model of an underground bunker that was smaller inside than my bedroom. It had a little hand crank air intake filter that I thought was really neat. There were suggested supplies, in there, that should be stored in one, like board games, books, food and water.

I was a modest child, I saw that there was no place to pee and poop in private, so I asked the salesman about that. He said that you would have to use a bucket to pee in and have a small, lidded barrel to pour it into, and that you had to take a dump in the corner.

I blurted out, “Right in front of everybody!?”

My father laughed and asked the salesman, “Yeah, well then what do you do with it.”

The salesman showed us a tin container of chemicals that would cut down on the - offensive to humans but attractive to flies - fragrance from the feces and help to decompose that solid human waste.

That created a fearful, indelible impression upon my maturing young psyche.

During my elementary school days, we had monthly air raid drills in school. The first few years, we students had to craw up into a ball under our desks. That was the best protection if bombs and roofs began falling down all around you.

Then a new directive came down through guv'ment channels. This is what we children of the 1950s were taught:

The United States Government had realized that it wouldn’t be plane loads of traditional bombs that our enemies would drop on us anymore; it would be one, modern, muti-megaton nuclear bomb per wide geographic area. There would be no danger of multiples of bombs falling and crashing in school roofs down upon students and teachers any more. If a nuclear bomb fell in our area, it would be a giant horizontal shock wave blast with super heated gasses that got us. So instead of hiding under desks during monthly air raid drills, we went out into the hallway to "duck and cover."

If a nuclear bomb detonated real close to us, then we all instantly fried and died - in a mighty, mighty intense flash - right there sitting in our schoolroom seats. There would not be enough time to run out into the hallway to duck and cover.

If the nuke detonated far enough away, and we kids had time to run out into the hallway to duck and cover, the bomb blast's horrific shock wave would blow in all of the windows on the side of the building that the blast came from, pass over and around the school, and then deadly shattering glass of the windows on the other side of the building would blast back into the schoolrooms when the shock wave came back through on its return trip that is caused by a vacuum effect sucking it back towards the point of where the nuclear bomb detonated.

If we schoolkids survived that by being out in the hallway, we had to head for the basement, where fallout shelter supplies were stored. There are still fallout shelter signs on the elementary school building where I attended first through sixth grade.

We were all taught the new air raid response technique and the reasons for it in a school assembly one day. After that, during air raid drills, everyone went out into the hallway to duck and cover.

Eventually, schools stopped having air raid drills; people figured out that it was useless to try to survive a nuclear blast, due to the deadly nuclear contamination of everything and everyone anywhere near the where the blast had occurred. Everyone was probably going to be dead within two weeks, anyway.

Copyright 2010 David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}

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