I had a good laugh today. I was in conversation with a much respected person on the left and he said, “Tell me when did you become so defiant? Well now what a great question. I suppose if I thought about it I was always a defiant child. I defied the play norms of what a boy should play with and who he should play with. I defied how a boy should act, loving to get all dolled up in satin and silk gowns that were hanging in the attic and creating wigs with piles of curtains that would put the wigs of Marie Antoinette to shame. I defied the poor vrs rich norms and stole old man Bevin’s apples and then let his cows out of their pasture. I defied the sexual norms and would rather look at naked boys and play around with them than with naked girls and on and on I could probably think of more but you get the story.
But my real turning point came one day in the late 50ties or early 60ties. Now I don’t have time to try to figure out just what year it was. But it was one of those years when the air raid drill would sound and we were all suppose to stop what we were doing, duck and cover and if home go down into the basement and hide from the Russian bombs. I often wondered what the people way on the other side of town, way out there up near the lake or in the backwoods near the mud hole would do as they certainly could not hear the air raid whistle. So the bomb would drop and poof they would be gone with out any warning. Suppose its better that way. Take a listen to this song that terrified so many kids.
I can’t for the life of me remember what day of the week it was but know we were all home from school and my mother was home from work. My father who knows where he was most likely hanging off a bar stool, maybe at work, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that is where he was at work hiding under his machine. But on that day it was announced that there was to be an air raid drill and if you heard the air raid whistle everyone should duck and cover or in our case at home go into the basement and hide in a corner. Well whatever time the fire chief, the police and the air raid specialists deemed to be the time the Russians would drop their bombs the whistle wailed and wailed. My sisters ran to the basement door, along with my mother taking with them whatever they could carry to sit out the bombing of Goon City. “Come on,” they said to me and our grandmother. “Shouldn’t we go hide too as I have heard those Russians are such nasty people and they have bombs as big as our bombs if not even bigger and if we don’t hide we will all get blown up.” “Well,” my grandmother said, “if the bombs are dropped it won’t matter if I am here in the kitchen making my apple pies or down in the basement under the stairs.” “We’ll all be dead no matter what.” Being a follower of my grandmother I stayed upstairs and made apple pies. My sisters told me that they use to knock on the basement wall to my cousins hiding under their basement stairs as she said, “just to make sure they were still alive.” But I made pies and defied such nonsense and my grandmother gave the basement crew the, “you fools” look when they emerged to a world just the same as it was before they went to hide in the basement. I stayed and made apple pie and defied something bigger than my own little world. I defied the US government and the Russian bombs.
Here is some propaganda that was floating around during those days.
Here is a good one:
When you see a flash of light brighter than the sun—
Don’t run; there isn’t time.
Fall flat on your face.
Get Down Fast!
The recommendation in most of the literature at that time was to stay down for “at least a minute.”
Kathy remembers it well: “A warning siren would sound, and you were to immediately, in an organized fashion, take cover “Duck and cover” as it were. If you were outdoors on the playground (and this is where I remember having to do these drills), you were to line up in an orderly line and shuffle single file into the fallout (bomb) shelter. By the time we’d get everyone in, we would have all been “glowing in the dark”. But I guess it lulled people into thinking that they were being proactive and doing something.’
File this under the government knew what would happen if the big flash came to town;
Shadows of humans after the bomb blast in Hiroshima 1945.