Visiting the Fallout Shelter

It was the early 1960s in a small town in the southeastern US. His family were good friends with the family of their doctor, who was a member of his father’s church and had three sons about the same age as he and his brother and sister. They frequently visited the doctor’s family, when the children would play together and people would drink tea or lemonade and watch their color TV, the first one in town. This started out as another typical day of visiting them and playing with their sons. However this time there was something different and special: Dr. M asked them if they would like to see the fallout shelter he had just finished building, and they all said “yes”. He’d heard the word “fallout shelter” and had a vague idea that it had something to do with a place to go if there was a nuclear war and a lot of radiation, but none of his family had ever actually seen one. He also heard regularly about the “communist threat” on TV and radio and in the newspapers, but even though he was aware of it and shared the indoctrination against “communism”, it was not something that was often actively in his mind. But seeing a real fallout shelter sounded interesting! Dr. M proudly led him and his family into the back yard, where they went through a low door (Dr. M, who was over 6 feet tall, barely fit) into a dimly lit room with unpainted cinder block walls. Even as a short 6-year-old he could tell that the ceilings were pretty low. Along one of the walls were shelves filled with huge drums (10 gallons or more each) of drinking water and all kinds of canned food such as soups, stews and vegetables. Also in the room were about 10 cots with mattresses. Dr. M explained that in case of nuclear war and radiation, there was enough food and water and beds to last for a couple of months, by which time the radiation should be low enough to go outside. He also mentioned that there were toilet facilities and a diesel generator to make electricity for lighting, since there were no windows in the shelter. The boy felt a little shudder of excited fear, like watching a scary movie, but mostly he was impressed and fascinated with all the provisions and the shelter and found it quite impressive, even though he didn’t have a real idea of what a nuclear war would look like.