Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cold War Memories - Like Duck and Cover Was Going to Help??

I was born near the end of World War II, so my early childhood memories are filled with images of the Cold War and the fears that those images evoked. I remember that we used to have spend-the-night parties at one of my girlfriend's houses, and we slept in the basement. One whole wall was lined with shelving, neatly stacked with all kinds of survival goods.

There was a family in the next block who had their own bomb shelter in their back yard.

All the big buildings in downtown Birmingham had the Fallout Shelter Sign on them, which looked like a radioactive warning triangle, except it was bright yellow. Stockpiled in the basements of these public buildings were all kinds of K rations and supplies, supposedly to house the population while we waited for it to be safe to come out after an atomic attack.

When we went to the movies there were always Newsreels and cartoons before the feature movie. The cartoons were fun, but often the newsreels were pictures of the latest tests of the atomic bomb, or news of tests the Russians had made. I don't remember my school ever teaching us to do the Duck and Cover drill for nuclear attack, but I do remember seeing the drill on the newsreels.

The scariest of all were the newsreels showing the testing of the atomic bombs on the mockup American town built out in the desert. I can still see the heat wave passing across the roof tops and the houses dissolving in front of me over and over.

Growing up during the Cold War meant growing up with a pervasive sense of insecurity and paranoia.

15 comments:

Chana said...

oh what a scary cloud to walk around in...i can understand how those images don't ever leave you. I have a couple of those from the civil war in Nicaragua...a childhood is suppose to be stress free and fun and freedom. What an interesting mix you grew up in of all that was good and fun and the what if's state of mind...

thanks for another story. i love them..

re:being all ready with emergency supplies back then, i wish more of us would still do that. We depend way too much on our modern world. Quebec, a few years ago was blanketed with an ice storm...not many had any food or water etc..to last all the wks that it took to come out of the houses..

hope you have a great day..:)

Dirty Butter said...

It was a time with a strange mixture of childhood innocence and awareness of all the dark sinister world just beyond my street. After all, The atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima when I was a toddler.

As for emergency preparedness, we had a Winter Storm in 1993 that crippled the Southern United States for two weeks. We've made several changes with that in mind since then.

GJR Stevenson said...

Its just as bad now. After 9/11 home supplie stores were running out of duct tape and plastic wrap! What is duct tape and plastic wrap gouing to protect you from? And then there is the far more real concern of suffocation if you do manage to completely seal your home.

Check out my Blog at Rants and Slants, leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Dirty Butter said...

We live close enough to the Anniston Chemical Disposal facility to be very familiar with Shelter in Place. As a SHORT TERM measure, rather than driving through toxic fumes, trying to escape, it DOES make sense.

The notion, GJR, that ANYTHING they had us doing would actually have given us any protection at all from radiation is pitiful.

Mama Mouse said...

You had it right ... we WERE innocent ... and we still believed everything our government said.

I was born in 1946 ... and my hubby in 1944. He was born in England and can remember being told that after they came to the US in 1945 he STILL ran and took shelter under tables whenever he heard an airplane!

I remember the 'duck and cover' drills ... we had them quite often in the school I went to. Usually they were for tornadoes and Michigan at that time had many really BAD ones. But there were also the drills of the same type for 'the bomb'. We really believed that we would be safe.

Living in those times required learning to live with fear of not living to become an adult ... and still remaining an innocent. Very strange way to grow up ... and perhaps that is what made those of us that grew up in that manner a special breed.

I grew up paranoid of the future ... and not believing I would ever be an adult or get married or even have my own family. The world WAS going to end.

Scary times indeed.

Dirty Butter said...

I can't even begin to imagine the emotional scars that a child of the Blitzcrieg grew up with, Mama Mouse! Ducking on hearing an airplane, indeed!!

The World WAS going to come to an end, wasn't it?

All that testing and nuclear saber rattling may have prevented WWIII from ever actually happening, but it would explain a lot of the urgent preaching and intense Revivals I heard in church, too.

Cruxley said...

I just found your site, and I love it. I'm 41 so I don't remember all of this stuff. It's important to remember that the "good ol' days" had their share of fears and problems. Today it's dirty bombs, crime and pandemics, and nuclear war is still a threat. We're a little sadder and wiser, though... and so, I'm afraid, are our children.

Cruxley said...

(By the way, I'm really Cruxley's mom...but I'm sure he would agree.)

Dirty Butter said...

It's very true, Cruxley's mom, that even the Good Ole Days had a dark side. It's just easier to enjoy the glow of the happy memories.

Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it.

CyberCelt said...

Oh, boy. Then you remember them telling us to crouch under our desks in case of a nuclear bomb? Or against our lockers with our heads tucked down?

But the air was full of change. JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., women vice-presidential candiates, environmental progress...

What the heck happened?

Dirty Butter said...

The popular belief was, Cybercelt, at that time, that if you could keep from being touched by the fallout, you would be "safe." No one expected to survive the blast itself, but we had a complete misunderstanding of the dangers of radiation. People actually went out West to WATCH the testing!! So from that mindset, Duck and Cover "made sense."

As for the air of change you speak of ... that comes much later ... when I was in college .... more memories for another day.

the daily phosdex said...

You can say that again.

Especially considering the current state of affairs America is reduced to, or close to it....

Dirty Butter said...

Glad to have you visiting, Phosdex, and I hope you come again.

Chana said...

Wanted to stop by and wish you a wonderful wknd...and a very Happy Mother's Day.
Enjoy your day my friend....

Dirty Butter said...

An Happy Mother's Day to you, too, Chana.