Monday, March 31, 2014

Cold War Recollections

I am about to post the following at another site, in response to a request for people's memories of the Depression and the Cold War. You can access it here.

I remember the duck and cover practice at kindergarten and grade school. We would all run into the windowless storage closet, which I suspect was built for that purpose, sit cross legged, bend over as far as we could with our arms over our heads, and wait for Mr. Khrushchev to explode a bomb over our school.

I remember stealing the first aid kit from the school bus when I was about 6 or 7, and hiding it in my closet, and filling wine bottles with water and putting them in the pump room, because that had a concrete ceiling. My parents didn't find them for months, and didn't mind when they did. They weren't into preparing, tho.

One of my better friend's parents, did, though. They built a fallout shelter in grandma's basement, which was used mostly for storing non prepping gear. I don't remember any food or water in there. Might have been.

I remember the two Nike missile sites, one in downtown Milwaukee by the lake, and the other in River Hills, which was another suburb nearby. Sometimes we would drive past one or the other and see the white missiles pointing up into the sky.

Mostly they lay down in concrete troughs to protect them. They were intended to be fired if incoming Soviet bomber fleets were over Wisconsin, and were to be exploded about 60 miles out, in the air among the fleet before they could get to Milwaukee.

It was years later that I found out that Nikes carried nuclear warheads, so we were planning on airbursts over Wisconsin (and probably over or near smaller cities like Oshkosh, which were more or less 60 miles out) in order to protect industrial Milwaukee.

So thinking back, we had nuclear weapons deployed in downtown Milwaukee, and in the suburbs, planned to be used over our own state. They were all over the country, of course, so long as there was a chance the Soviets would deliver bombs via bombers, rather than ICBMs.

I remember TV ads of Khrushchev pounding his shoe on a table, and the voice over saying "This man is saying "We are going to bury you."

I remember the Lyndon Johnson ad against Goldwater (which IIRC only ran once), of a little girl playing in a field full of flowers, picking the petals off a daisy, suddenly replaced by a mushroom cloud, with a voice over saying that we needed to love each other, or else. Vote for Johnson.

You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Id_r6pNsus

I remember my friends and I turning the big crawl space under our summer porch into one of our numerous forts. I drilled a hole in the ceiling and ran an extension cord up to an outlet on the porch so we would have a lamp, and we used a loose board for a spy port and gun port for watching for Russians coming down the road.

We also had rock fights on the beach. One of my friends had a Nazi helmet his father brought back from the war, with a bullet hole on the right side and a small outward dent on the left side, which we would trade around during the rock fights. One time we were lobbing rocks/grenades at each other over a hedge and I had no sooner gotten the helmet on than a particularly big grenade landed right on top.

I still have a small scar on my forehead from where a friend's little sister hit me with a rock. I got two stitches for that one. I don't remember any parental admonitions about more rock fights, though. We were all allowed to do pretty much as we pleased.

We picked up a lot of planks by beach combing, and one time dug a big pit in the sandy soil of the vacant lot next door, covered it with driftwood planks and then newspaper, and covered it all up except for an entrance. It made a great bomb shelter, if not easily defended.

We were very big on rock fights, and playing army. Between the recent World War, the Korean War, and the Cold War, war was on the kids' minds.

I remember sitting on the kitchen counter when I was 9, home alone with my two older sisters, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and my sister telling us that Milwaukee was 35th on the list for the Russians to bomb. I have no idea if she was right, but I remembered.

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