After watching last Wednesday night’s hilarious Republican debate, I was reminded of the Cold War days of growing up at a time when the fear of atomic war was ever present. Historians generally agree that the Cold War period existed from 1947 until 1991. Following World War II the United States and the Soviet Union began a nuclear weapons race that almost led to what could well have been the end of the world—at least as we knew it back then. Now, today, with Russia’s dangerous leader Vladimir Putin, and the crazy “kid” leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea in possession of nuclear weapons, Americans must take notice of more than just the unfortunate state of our economy. The question may be: “Is it time to build bomb shelters again? Or to teach our school children the “duck and cover” routine that many of us went through in school while we were growing up?”
For those of us “baby boomers” that were around in 1962 when most of us had access to television and the news, the Cuban Missile Crisis back then looms today as a scary time when the world was on the brink of a nuclear war, and from October through November of that year, some kids were not even allowed to play outside. Russia has always had some unhinged leaders, and Nitka Khrushchev during that time was certainly one of them. Not only had he authorized the building of the Berlin Wall to separate East and West Germany, but he had made preparations to install missiles in Cuba, which, of course, is just 90 miles from the coast of Florida. This led to President John F. Kennedy ordering a naval blockade around Fidel Castro’s Cuba, which began a political chess game standoff between Kennedy and Khrushchev with millions of us serving as the pawns. Finally, Khrushchev backed down, but not before Kennedy agreed not to invade Cuba. Castro later was quoted as saying he would have allowed the launching of nuclear weapons on America, because he knew Kennedy wanted him assassinated anyway. “…….we took it for granted that it would become a nuclear war anyway, and that we were going to disappear,” said the Cuban leader.
Since “bomb shelter craziness” started in the 1950’s, as did the “duck and cover” practices in schools, the missile crisis only served to heighten some folks’ need for their own personal bomb shelters. I remember people talking about putting canned food goods and other non-perishable items in secure places. Some people really were freaking out. Flashlight and radio batteries and first-aid kits were a must, as was candles. The talk was that you had to be prepared for 14 days of avoiding radioactive fallout. As I recall, most people in coal camps considered themselves “goners” in the advent of a nuclear attack — that is, unless coal mines, both abandoned and operating, were utilized. And, as I recall, that was the general plan.
Just as there still are fire alarm practices in schools today, during parts of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, drills were mandatorily done in our schools. I vaguely remember the routine, which only helped to psychologically heighten our fears of a nuclear war. We were told that at either a warning being issued, or after seeing a large flash, we were to cover our heads with our hands and try to get on our knees with our heads under the desk, if possible. I do not remember it being explained at the time, but I understand now that anticipated flying glass from imploding windows was the biggest reason for the drills we practiced. Although it was, and remains today unlikely that Logan — or any other part of West Virginia — would be a nuclear target, shock waves from a nuclear blast somewhere else could eventually reach here. The result of which would be breaking window glass and other flying debris. We were also taught that if there was suddenly a brilliant flash that illuminated the sky, we were not to run to the windows to see what was going on. We were to do what we had practiced — the “duck and cover.”
The threat of a nuclear attack was so prevalent during the early ‘60’s that there were some people who had constructed very elaborate fallout shelters; some equipped with enough supplies to last for several years. Commercial business suddenly appeared offering home shelters called “safehouses.” One such deluxe model, which sold for $5,000, included a telephone, beds, toilets, and even a Geiger counter. As an example of how “scary” the times were back then, one should know that New York City alone spent $159,000 on 2.5 million identification bracelets (dog tags) for students to wear at all times; the purpose of which was to be able to identify children who would be lost or killed in a nuclear explosion. Many other cities did the same thing.
Like most all Logan Countians, growing up, I was sandwiched between two mountains and most of the time could not see an approaching airplane, even though I could hear the engine noise. It was always an eerie feeling when a plane could be heard. It was even sometimes frightening when suddenly a sonic boom was heard. Since everybody in the neighborhood came running out onto their porches to look up at the sky, I suspect the “duck and cover” routine was a lost cause. We surely would have all been “goners”. Maybe the only survivors would have been the folks tending their stills in abandoned mines. Who knows?
I don’t know if people living in or near the town of Logan would have survived, or not. But at least they had at least two designated bomb shelters. One was at the White and Browning Building on Stratton Street. The other was, and I suppose, still is at the Masonic Temple on Main Street. That’s probably great news for some of the local town drunks. Spread the word, folks, now you have a place to go whenever you get bombed. As for myself, when I hear the words “duck and cover,” I do not think of the Cold War period some of us lived through. Instead, I remember the “duck and cover” antics of a world renowned boxed — a guy named Mohamad Ali.
I guess I know where he learned that maneuver from.
BITS and PIECES
I used to have a friend in Huntington who absolutely refused to watch the news, or shows like The Walton’s— which was a popular television show in the ’70’s about a poor family that lived on a mountain— simply because he said they were too depressing…..the guy eventually moved to El Paso, TX., and married a Mexican girl. I suppose he’s happy now, but I haven’t heard from him since…..truth is, nowadays, watching the news is very depressing for me…..floods in Utah, fires in California, Syrian refugees struggling to find a safe haven, children born addicted to drugs, polar ice melting, etc.…..I’m not a preacher, but even with the Pope visiting America, things just aren’t looking very good anymore…..on a local note, I’ve noticed a decline in business on just about every front…..some smaller businesses are really struggling, and it probably will get worse before leveling off…..however, there is some good news to report: sources tell me that even though the Pizza Hut at Monitor has been closed and the one at Stollings will also be closing, a new and larger Pizza Hut is planned for the area, though no location has been found…..recent challenges in both professional baseball and football games makes me wonder how many games in the past were won or lost incorrectly on bad calls……gambling and bought-off officials might have had a little to do with that……recent Hall of Fame inductions into both Logan and Man High Schools included some fine personnel…..I can’t help wonder, though, why former Man High School star Rick Toler has never been graced as such…..the guy was good, and as I recall, played baseball, football and basketball; just wondering?…..the FDA’s decision to approve the use of OxyContin in pediatric patients is equivalent to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce bringing in former Vice President Dick Cheney (who once insulted the entire state by making bad comments) to the Greenbrier to speak…..tickets for that event were $700 each…..how do you spell STUPID?…..speaking of former politicos, a longtime lawyer here in Logan recently made a comparison of presidential candidate Donald Trump to former candidate George Wallace of Alabama…..the attorney said Wallace was a hater like Trump, and was anti-this and anti-that. “And, he didn’t get anywhere,” the attorney concluded……while that may be true, Georgie-Porgie didn’t have Trump’s money…..a Republican may be the next President, but I just don’t think it will be Donald Duck, although Americans are desperate…..congratulations to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for his efforts in the implementation of the West Virginia Drug Abuse help Line…..available 24 hours a day, the telephone number is 844-HELP4WV……the reason I know this is a good thing for West Virginia is because of the number of people who have called my home (many crying and suicidal) wanting to know who or where they could call for help…..with the largest rate of overdose deaths in the nation,I say thank you, Governor Tomblin…..thanks also goes out to State Road employees for getting around to cutting the weeds along our county highways…..can you believe that there are some people out there who still think either Hobart Adkins or Curly Belcher are the Dept. of Highways County Supervisors?……fact is, Mike Gillum has been serving in that capacity for a good while now…..speaking of Belcher, we were saddened to hear of his wife Wilma’s recent passing; heartfelt wishes are extended…..I read where the U.S. may be taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees…..I don’t believe Logan Countians need to worry about that—we don’t have enough housing for our own population…..however, I have some good news coming soon in that regard…..DID YOU KNOW that 46 people die each day in America from pain killer overdoses?…..the push for wider use of painkillers such as opioids during the 1990s was mostly financed by drugmakers, who made untold amounts of money, and too many doctors were willing to go along with the plan…..by the way, you may know that drug reps are routine visitors for many doctors…..I’ve known some docs in the past that got all-expense paid cruises from drug companies, and other lavish gifts……as a result, we got death, addiction, and a spike in crime …..I can’t help thinking southern West Virginia was a targeted area for these drug makers….. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.”—the late great Yogi Berra, the second best all-around major league catcher (in my opinion) behind the Reds’ Johnny Bench…..FINAL NOTE: A new house in 1932 cost $6,515; a new car was $610; a movie ticket was 25 cents, and tuition to Harvard University was $400 per year. So, with all of that in mind, let me explain that famous Loganite Don Chafin paid his brother-in-law F.P. Hurst $27,500 for the house that still stands on Main Street in Logan. Since the sale was made Oct. 23 of 1920 (12 years before 1932) one can get an idea as to the real value of that property at that particular time. By the way, it has been reported that the house was built about 1900. I will prove that to be untrue. But that’s a story for another day.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.