Saturday, June 25, 2011

Growing Up in The Fifties-Drop and Roll--Chapter Four

Growing up in the fifties was not without its’ worries.  Specifically the threat of nuclear annihilation preyed heavily on a lot of people’s minds. Even as a child I was made aware that our lives could be snuffed out in an instant if we were not prepared.  Many companies made their living selling bomb shelters.  They cost between a few hundred dollars to well over five thousand dollars.  In 1959, five thousand dollars could buy you a nice house or a very elaborately appointed bomb shelter complete with a filtration system, months of dried provisions and a generator. I’m pretty certain a hundred-dollar bomb shelter would be a pup tent, a used Coleman lantern and a Snickers bar.  As with anything, you get what you pay for.   

Public buildings had bomb shelters in their basements.  The theory was that in the event of a Soviet strike, alarms would sound, you and everyone else in the immediate vicinity would stampede to the nearest bomb shelter without trampling anyone, quickly lock the doors keeping out the riff-raff and wait for the all-clear signal.  The all-clear signal could be after a few hours or a few months.  In that time you and all of your new friends would more than likely kill each other fighting over the scarce water, food, and hygiene faculties. 

I vividly remember watching the Bert The Turtle cartoon give us advice on what to do in case of an attack.  “When you see the flash” the narrator would intone, duck and cover.  Only later did we learn that when you see the flash you are already gone.  In grade school we had to practice nuclear drills in our class. Each person had a designated job.  One person closed the windows, another drew the drapes, and someone else shut the lights.  The rest of us would crawl under our desks.  The desk was supposed to protect us against a bomb capable of destroying an area the size of Texas. Other pieces of advice were equally feeble such as putting a newspaper on your head to shield you from the light.  Yeah, I could see that working provided the newspapers were made out of lead sheets.  If you were out in the open you could throw yourself on the ground, face down, and wait as the nuclear pulse gently washed over you. 

We still have ridiculous drills in schools.  In addition to fire drills we now have lockdown drills. Apparently when the heavily armed intruders enter the building, the secretary will sound the alarm, assuming she either;
a) Hasn’t been taken hostage or
b) Hasn’t been dispatched to the next world 

The rest of us will lock our doors, and have the kids, who can’t keep quiet during a regular fire drill, huddle in a corner and pretend they aren’t there.  Apparently, doors bought from the lowest bidder will stop an armor piercing round fired from an AK-47.  I feel safe already. 

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