The Union Recorder

March 4, 2014

BROWN: Life during the era of the fallout shelter

Brenda Brown
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — We never had a genuine bomb shelter at our house on Nicholson Street in Richland, but there was a concrete safe room in the back of our basement that was designated as our family gathering area in case of a catastrophe. Our family huddled there several times during tornado warnings but thankfully never because of a bomb threat.

However, there were several real bomb shelters in our hometown; burrowed into the ground and manufactured according to specific instructions. The pictures you find when you search for bomb shelters on the internet are fascinating to study; there are instructions of how many canned goods to store, how much water is required to support a family for several weeks, and designs that addressed sanitation concerns. The instructions are quite detailed, and still today, fully stocked bomb shelters are being located and opened for the first time since the early 1960s.

Supposedly, if an atom bomb was detonated, and you survived the explosion, you had to remain in a secure location for weeks until the danger of fall-out had passed.  

I wonder what happened to all those staple goods and emergency supplies that were purchased and stored in fear of a nuclear attack.

At Richland Elementary School we routinely practiced drills of how to duck down and cover our heads, hide under our desks and stay away from exposed windows. In our case, the drills were totally useless because each of our classrooms were all lined with one entire wall of massive glass windows.

During the evening news we heard scary stories concerning such subjects as Fidel Castro in Cuba and Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin, and frequently President John F. Kennedy appeared live, to brief the nation on the impending dangers or what we refer to as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Of course, in those days all our television coverage and most of our photos were in stark black and white; color film was invented but rarely used.

In metropolitan areas there were fully stocked fall-out shelters; we all recognized those black and yellow directional signs with three triangles, but few of us ever saw the inside of one of those areas. There were designated areas for the citizens of smaller towns too, but without the sophistication of the large shelters. Civil defense officers were well trained, specific instructions were widely distributed and public service announcements were broadcasted on radio and television during what is remembered as the cold war.

Because my hometown of Richland is located within 20 miles of Fort Benning, it was believed that we had a greater chance of being victims of fallout or from a direct bombing, but thankfully, we never had to experience such a catastrophe.