On October 6, 1961, President John F. Kennedy advised Americans to build fallout shelters. I was only 6 months old, but my daddy made sure our house had a fallout shelter. Bomb shelters had to be built a certain way with specific features. It was more involved than building a tornado shelter and they were not inexpensive to build. When others in the neighborhood were buying fancy new cars and putting nice new furniture in their homes, my dad was building a bomb shelter to keep his family safe. It was not large or fancy, but cold and damp with a distinct sort of musty odor. If the civil defense sirens had sounded, the entire neighborhood would have clamored to get in to our dank little shelter.
Thank God the bomb shelter was only used to hide from Mother Nature’s tornadoes and not from the big bomb everyone was dreading. Was it worth it to be prepared? Of course. In my dad’s mind, it was more important to protect his family than to parade around the neighborhood in a brand new Cadillac or have a new color television set.
We welcomed the neighborhood in to our shelter when the tornado sirens sounded, but it was quite cramped when everyone was there. We sat there shivering, shoulder to shoulder, quietly listening to the transistor radio for the latest weather report. Even as a small child I remember thinking,
We could be here as long as it takes a tornado to come and go, but what if this was a bomb threat? There’s no way we could be stuck here like this for any length of time!
The neighbors got the same advice from President Kennedy that we got. Their priorities were mislaid or they just assumed they could come “live” in our shelter. While they were buying all those nice new things that, hello – if a bomb had been dropped – would surely be destroyed… my family drove an old car and we had an old black and white television. Daddy made much of our furniture, but I remember spending Saturday nights at the Bud Palmer auction, bidding on used furniture. We loaded it up and took it home in our pickup truck. No furniture trucks ever came to our house.
I’m proud of my parents! I’m also very VERY thankful we were not faced with a life or death situation in which we would have most certainly had to turn our friends and neighbors away from our shelter. Thank You, God! ❤