When I was little, my father built a nuclear fallout shelter in the basement room which had been his workshop. My house was the only one I knew of with a Bomb Shelter, which marked us as somehow . . . um, special.
On Monday I posted about my research on birthday parties. We held them in our yard, our living room, and our basement. Once we had a Bomb Shelter downstairs, that was the end of our basement parties. For one thing, my parents didn’t want everybody knowing there was a shelter down there. How well would that work if the Bomb hit and we ran down there and were stampeded by the entire neighborhood seeking shelter?
After the bomb shelter entered my house, a dark creepy feeling settled downstairs, under our feet. When I had to go down there for something, I tried to avoid even glancing at the ominous looking door.
However, once I started researching these shelters, I discovered that it was a more common occurrence than I could have imagined. Elaine Tyler May’s Homeward Bound details “Grandma’s Pantry,” the home bomb shelter. Jean Wood Fuller, of the Federal Civil Defense Administration, enlisted “the help of the National Grocer’s Association, several pharmaceutical houses, and the American National Dietetic Association, [and] Fuller drew up guidelines for withstanding a nuclear holocaust.” May makes the case that the marketing efforts were directed toward homemakers, who were considered to be exclusively women.
While May’s theory is an interesting intellectual exercise and probably has a lot of merit to it, I will say that in my house, it was my father whose idea it was to build the shelter. Let’s face it: construction was considered to be a manly task.
The photo on the cover of May’s book depicts a serious-looking family inside their own home bomb shelter. I don’t remember ours looking so bright (well-lit) or so well-stocked.
Lucky for me, I have the actual list of supplies which my mother wrote and the specifications my father used for building it. These details will be incorporated into my book.
Here is a photo of an ideal home bomb shelter. Ours was a double walled cement block room without any “built-ins.”
My parents planned everything very carefully. There is very little evidence that they were any more paranoid than anybody else during the Cold War. But Dad was certainly proactive.
Today my father says he remembers building it to keep his family safe, but he can’t believe how naïve he was to think it would actually work to protect us or that we would have enough safe air and provisions to last for any length of time.