Leon Victim Of Nuclear Fallout

Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 09:24 AM.

            When I was a kid I greatly feared an atomic attack. My feeling was enhanced by the seriousness with which every adult approached the “Cold War”. I was far too young to understand oxymoron, paradox or even onomatopoeia……but something didn’t sound right here! All the fighting I’d ever heard tell of somebody got heated up! A “Cold War” didn’t seem like much of a conflict to me. I understood my age and my place so I didn’t say nothing, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t scratch my head and wonder.            

It became a little more unsettling when our fifth grade teacher passed out the ugly yellow and black colored pamphlets entitled “What to do in case of a nuclear attack.” The first thing we had to recognize was the Civil Defense signs that marked the nearest fallout shelter. Those signs were also yellow and black with triangles in the background. I think it was Ricky Hale who pointed out that not only did our little school not have a single fallout shelter, there was not one to be found in the whole town!

Now, I’m telling this story with my hand up. I went to school one morning thinking I’m going to be asked to spell “article”, and maybe, “rarified” and ended up under my desk with my head tucked between my legs. It was in the booklet! We had, as per instruction, air raid drills. We dived under our desks at different speeds depending on whether it was a “Red Alert”, “Blue Alert”, “Yellow Alert” and so on. It was also Ricky who took his life in his hands by leaning out from under his desk and asking, “Will this save us if the bomb lands anywhere close to us?”

That atomic Cold War saber rattling could scar a guy for life!

Me and David Mark went to building a fallout shelter just as soon as we got home. It was a good thing we were small. There wasn’t much crawl space beneath the floor joist. We pushed the excess dirt to the far reaches of the underpinning and hauled a few loads out to the field beside Aunt Jessie’s house.

It took us a month to get it where we could stand up in it. David found some old cans of Vienna sausage and I begged Mom for a sleeve of saltine crackers. We hauled in some black walnuts from Mrs. Boaz’s yard and figured we’d be set if this nuclear attack only lasted for a day or two.

The very first “Weekly Reader” we were exposed to in junior high had a map of Russia right on the front page. That danged country which had us ducking and digging for two years was on the other side of the world! Why would they want to bomb us? We must have really made them mad. And, maybe more to the point, how could they get over here to drop an atomic bomb on us? ’Course, those Civil Defense folks had done thought of that. We had NORAD, the DEW line across Canada and a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System to alert us to exactly when to sound the CD sirens. I scratched my head again. Why would we put in a Weekly Reader for the whole world to see detailed information about our nuclear missile defense system?

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