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         A Blast From the Past!

New England has many odd ruins from our distant past hidden away in its deep forests. Often I am led to the outlands of our region to rediscover these structures. My most recent adventure led me on a different path. This time I was looking for a ghost  from my past, a fallout shelter! 

During the 50's and 60's, the 'Cold War' inspired many Americans to build fallout shelters. According NSC-6, a document  issued by the National Security Council in the 50's, the Soviet Union was likely to launch a surprise attack "once it has sufficient atomic capacity." What most of New Englander's were not aware of, were the nuclear missiles in their back yards that made the coastal NorthEast a prime target for the Reds! 

In schools kids, were being taught to duck and cover for safety. It wasn't uncommon for part of your middle school education to include civil defense training. Just like Sex ed and home economics, nuclear war preparedness was required to earn you right of passage into society. 

In the 50's and 60's most people believed that fallout shelters would provide a secure place in their homes for refuge in the event of nuclear attack. Public shelters were plentiful and clearly marks for those not fortunate enough to have their own. Though the public shelters generally provided extremely poor protection from the fallout, they were well stocked with Civil Defense supplies. The back yard shelters weren't much better. They provided limited protection and inadequate food, water and ventilation for the stay necessary to avoid damage in the case of severe fallout. The Government believed that shelters provided more realistic options for surviving a nuclear war than earlier civil defense evacuation policies.  Officials maintained that fallout shelters were the best hope for surviving a nuclear war. Today it is believed that to a certain degree it also was also was a form of  propaganda to ease the worries of the citizens. 

While taking my Civil Defense training in middle school, I had heard a lot about Fallout Shelters. The films and literature I had seen, gave me the impression that just about everyone had one. At the time, I was very surprised how difficult it was to find one. Either they weren’t as popular as I suspected or they’re owners were keeping them a secret so not to attract any company when the bomb was dropped. 

Recently my friend Hooch  mentioned  that he grew up with a fallout shelter in his back yard and invited me to visit his parent house to view this cold war icon. I had been to the house previously as he would mow the lawn or tend the garden for his parents, but never was aware of the shelter. When I arrived to see this fortress of concrete, I was surprised to find that it had been  hidden behind a wall of shrubs all the time. Once I penetrated its leafy camouflage,  I found the entrance of the shelter, which was now boarded. It appeared to be fairly small, approximately 10' by 10'.  From the outside it appeared very short since only its upper half penetrated the surface. Peaking between the boards I could see a cobweb filled  hallway about 15' long. This gateway to safety conclude  where it appeared there pervious had been a steel door to the inner chamber of the shelter.

Inside the shelter was a mess. Various sorts of debris were strewn across the floor. Wooden shelves that previously held the canned goods and supplies were now rotting away. It was now more of a shelter for insects and occasional rodents. Now that the fear of nuclear devastation had past, it seems that the shelter had lived past its usefulness. I can only imagine some others post cold war families now using it for more current needs such a shed or storage of junk that would otherwise clutter the house. 

Though Hoochs' family never  needed to use the Shelter, Hooch found it to be a haven for his youthful mischief. While researching fallout shelters, I found this to be very common. Having pilfered building materials from my father the contractor,  I once believed my brothers and I had the best clubhouses. Now I realized that our armature constructs fell far short of those lucky individuals

Though I found it interesting to finally see urban relic, I was still a bit disappointed. I always imagined them to be more like those I had seen in the movies or in the news. Constructed deep underground with secret entrances, and battery powered electricity. Like a subterranean RV with all the comforts of home, ready to wheel you into America's post nuclear future. 

Well,  neither side was stupid enough to push the button, the Reds we feared now have issues of their own as they shape a new capitalistic future and there is no immediate nuclear threat but fallout shelters are still are here. You can still find companies selling plans and supplies to replenish those still functional or provide new shelter for a safe future for your family. Call it a need for a hobby, an obsession, or just plain paranoia, but out there in your community, in the back yard of one of your neighbors or person you pass by every day, there is a fallout shelter hidden behind juniper bushes and a family of lawn gnomes. Get to know them! You never know when some idiot just may decide to aggressively pose their own New World order with the flick of a switch. 

~Strange NE

 

~Strange NE


   
 

 

 
 

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