Duck and Cover (click picture to view gallery)

Duck and Cover (click picture to view gallery)

Local lifestyle columnists

Cold realities during the Cold War

By From page A2 | February 03, 2012

I took Angel Zimmerman to see “WarGames” in 1983 and while the thriller — about a teen who almost starts a global thermonuclear war by hacking into a government computer to play games — got its mojo from the Cold War atmosphere of the time, I wasn’t really scared. I just wanted Angel to be, so she would need me to snuggle with.

A different Cold War film that inspired real fear was the 1951 Civil Defense Administration’s “Duck and Cover.” It starred cartoon Bert the Turtle, who helped show U.S. citizens how to protect themselves in the event of atomic attack.

The film’s Ward Cleaver-esque-voiced narrator said that if there was a sudden flash of light brighter than the sun, Americans should drop what they were doing and cover their head and neck with those well-known radiation busters, their hands.

They were to stay like that until a government civil defense worker — whom we are told in Orwellian fashion that “we must obey” — came to help.

Schoolchildren had drills that included hiding underneath their desks in case of the Big One.

Locals reminisced about those days:

Janis Edwards: “Oh yes, duck and cover. Now we know how useless that was. Our house was near a siren and when it would go off at night it always scared the heck out of me.”

Barbara Macy Cordy: “I remember being told during drills, ‘Do not open your eyes!’ I just knew I would.”

Danny Cordova: “I wanted to watch everything melt.”

I’ve heard kids these days balk at having to carry student IDs. Well, back in the 1950s, kids didn’t carry IDs; they wore dog tags with their names and blood types, similar to the ones issued to GIs.

According to JoAnn Hinkson Beebe, Ray Anne Fune Sullivan, Carol Hanson and others, they were not really seen as frightening and indeed some saw them as kind of a fad or used them for hopscotch markers.

If given advance notice of an attack, locals were urged to get the heck outta Dodge.

Susan Macy Luckenbach: “If we had to leave quickly by car, we were to head for Chico. They had a trial run and it was a traffic jam. We would have been better off digging a hole and staying put if the real thing happened.”

Digging a hole and staying put was exactly what the Office of Civil Defense had in mind when it encouraged Americans to get underground fallout shelters.

Suggested provisions for a two-week stay included 1 quart of water per day per person, 700 calories of food per day per person (which equals one Jack in the Box milkshake), sanitation supplies and radiation detection equipment.

Los Altos built a 25-foot by 48-foot public shelter in 1962 that could sleep 96 people. Locally, a list developed in 1972 of designated fallout shelters included Holiday Inn and City Hall.

Running and hiding from a nuclear attack were not the only options. Nike surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile sites were installed all around the country. From 1958 to 1971, Fairfield had Nike missiles located off Clay Bank Road near the jail, where the Fairfield-Suisun School District Transportation Department now sits.

Comic movies like “Dr. Strangelove” and “Blast from the Past” have been made about the Cold War, but when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. came close to launching their respective missiles during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was no laughing matter.

Mary Fehrman: “In October 1962, I was a senior at Armijo. My dad flew C-124s with the 85th Air Transport Squadron at Travis. He came home one day with a duffel bag full of stuff, including a.45 pistol and a steel helmet. He was on one-hour standby to depart for parts unknown. With any luck he was supposed to get off the ground before the Soviets bombed Travis.

“He was honest and told us we were within 5,000 yards of ground zero, and could not expect to survive. Those were scary times. We came very close before they called it off. Travis would have been a smoking hole in the ground, and Fairfield would probably still be uninhabitable. In those days, the ‘cold war’ didn’t seem so cold.”

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade

Discussion | 11 comments

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  • Gary KatocsFebruary 03, 2012 - 5:49 am

    Is it any wonder if there are Alien life forms with knowledge of us why they don't formally visit...would you?

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  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 03, 2012 - 8:53 am

    Available from the Solano County Library system -- you can put a hold on it --- the 1964 movie Fail Safe really worth watching it has the same theme kind of as Dr Strange Love. Really Check it out. You won't be sorry. Watching this clip inflicts a similar, chilling sense of paranoia comparing to the current fiscal fiascos revealing our goverment's frightful ineptitude- only here it means a qucik annihilation once the president (Henry Fonda) follows through on his promise to bomb NYC after accidently leveling Moscow. It's a pending cold war apocalypse in this film called Fail Safe 1964 which has an interesting relationship with Kuprick's Dr.Stanglove. Look it up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvQqMBaVM80&feature=related

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  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 03, 2012 - 9:06 am

    It is very interesting to watch Dr Strangelove then immediatly follow it with Fail Safe, they are both based on the same novel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KULM72PoaOo&feature=related

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  • Gary KatocsFebruary 03, 2012 - 9:10 am

    Really miss Peter Seller..He left us way to soon

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  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 03, 2012 - 9:14 am

    LISTEN LIVE www.infowars.com

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  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 03, 2012 - 9:27 am

    Another interesting movie available throughthe Solano County Library System -- you can put a hold on it. The Americanization of Emily 1964 James Garner stars as a US Naval officer who is chosen to be the martyr at D-Day on June 6, 1944. His superior orders him to be the first casualty of the invasion, while ironically he is actually a coward and does everything he can to stay away from combat. Julie Andrews, James Coburn, Melvyn Douglas and Keenan Wynn round out the supporting cast. If you are aware of the occult (hidden history), follow the money you will find that International Financiers have funded both sides of every war since Napoleon. They set up the opposing side by picking the leaders/politicians of influence, they build up the corporate war machine. They created/financed our enemies, Facism, Communism, now Militant Islam. Lucifer likes death, destruction, war, disease, hate, suffering, poverty. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSC3hNY8Oa8

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  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 03, 2012 - 9:54 am

    The Secret History of the Bomb http://www.whale.to/b/mullins8.html

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  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 03, 2012 - 11:31 am

    The Illuminati is not a "Jewish" thing it is a vast consortium of persons of all purported creeds, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Jewish, nationalities, and races that have chosen to serve the dark master Lucifer. Luciferian-Illuminati, Satanists, high level wicca, high level Masons, high level Mormons, leading Christian Evangleists(that are really on the dark side), high level New Agers ect. At the top are persons who are associated being Jewish, but in the strict sense are not Jewish as they do not keep the Commandments of God. No one at a low level should be persecuted for their beliefs, God gave us free will, we are free not to choose Jesus, but this is a mistake with eternal consequences. IF YOU ARE NOT HURTING ANYONE ELSE you are free to believe as you wish. Money Powers and Governments/Politicians make the wars, not your average citizen anywhere in the world. Jerusalem is important to Lucifer as he seeks to mock God. The Abomination of Desolation must be established in Jerusalem, read Revelation. http://www.texemarrs.com/092010/triad_of_evil.htm

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  • Gary KatocsFebruary 03, 2012 - 11:52 am

    The 9th circle of Hades is the innermost ring..it directly faces Lucifer it is reserved for those that commit treachery..Those unfortunate souls condemned there are doomed to spend eternity in isolation on a frozen lake....For you though Republic a padded room will do for now

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  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 03, 2012 - 9:40 am


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  • Tony WadeFebruary 03, 2012 - 9:42 am

    Nice--I have placed my holds at the library--thanks!

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