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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Civil Defense Show


I was a kid in grammar school back in the duck and cover days of civil defense. We used to have drills where we'd all file down to the basement lavatory. Somehow that was supposed to protect us from atomic warfare. All I could think was that we were going to die in a stinky bathroom. While the room was in the basement, it was lit with a long row of chicken mesh windows at the top of the ceiling. Even as a little kid that didn't make much sense to me.

Since I showed some interest in bomb shelters my mother gave me a bunch of civil defense handouts to read. I was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade. By then I was reading a few years above my grade level. Government literature is generally written at about the 6th grade level so it wasn't that hard to understand.

Soon I came to realize that the self defense drills had very little to do with self defense. It confused the heck out of me. The adults around me didn't want to hear about how many feet of dirt we'd really need or anything about air filtration. They blindly went through the motions of doing something that was supposed to make us feel like the government had a plan and a solution.

That is when I came to realization that the government wasn't going to keep us safe. We'd have to do it ourselves. It was a harsh lesson to learn at a young age.

By the time I was a firefighter in the late 70s, the civil defense thing was a joke. Some of the basements of public buildings still had the emergency fallout shelter signs. There was a pile of civil defense supplies rotting in one of the back basement rooms of the firehouse.

The stash had been picked over pretty well. The supplies were stored in metal canisters, which by then were often repurposed as trash cans. They had some very low quality paper goods including feminine supplies. Woe be it to any lady who would actually have to use them. There were containers of hard round candy that survived the years in good shape. Those proved to be pretty popular. All in all, the whole civil defense exercise turned out to be both a deception and a waste of resources.

We can look back at those days and laugh. Then we can look around at today's TSA and Homeland Security and cry.

-Sixbears

8 comments:

  1. I, too, hid from the possible onslaught of bombs, Sixbears. But here in the Gulf Coast we have no basements, so we just went under our desks and covered our heads with our hands. Real effective that would have been, huh?
    But, you nailed it - laugh at what we did then, and cry at what we must do now. I pray fervently for our country, and for our enemies. Matthew 5:44

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    1. At least we had basements.

      May our prayers be answered.

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  2. Oh yes, I remember those days very well. Then when I got my first job, I had to help clean out the sub-basement of the huge office building that had all that civil defense stuff stored in it in huge tins and crates and even in feed sacks. There was a lot of canned water. What a waste.

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    1. It was a waste. Now I remember the inedible crackers stored in tins. Horrible stuff. Someone made a lot of money on those things.

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  3. Not only did we hide under our desks but all exterior walls were half walls of glass bricks. We children pointed this out. So they moved us to the hallways which each ended in double glass doors. Being a bunch of intelligent children we also pointed it out as we weren't much interested in picking glass out of our hide. They finally moved us to under the enclosed bleachers in the gym. No windows, no glass doors, duh!

    The same level of brilliance continued when I worked at the largest aircraft manufacturer in Kansas when they sent us into the cage they had for the oxygen-n-acetylene bottles storage for a tornado shelter! Management was a less-than-happy when it was pointed out we were sitting in a massive bomb and God-help-us if one of the tops got knocked off on one of those bottles. Furthermore, we had a salt heat-treat tank fifty feet from us and if it got water in it, it would blow up. The building we were sitting in was not safe to be in, in an emergency. They got the message and we vacated the building.

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    1. That's what you get when people are following the letter of the law without thinking about what it really means.

      I don't have a fallout shelter these days, but I could put together something reasonable and useful in about a half hour with materials at hand.

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  4. I've heard that all that home bomb-shelter business they pushed for a while was really just a plan to stimulate the economy.

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    1. Someone got rich selling shelter supplies. It was really poor quality stuff.

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