This isn’t a bunch of school kids praying, it’s the Duck and Cover. I started elementary school in the 1960’s, at Lincoln school, where they taught me the nuclear bomb drill — Duck and Cover. Everyone had to prepare for a nuclear bomb blast from the Soviet Union. At school, I dutifully dove under my desk and hid in the fetal position.

"duck and cover"

Every month the air-raid would sound-off, long and loud, signaling a bomb threat. It was routine, and I didn’t think much about bombs dropping — it was like a fire drill. Of course, I didn’t really understand the potential danger of a  nuclear bomb. If I heard it on a non-school day, I didn’t do anything, but take note of the siren. If I was at school, I ducked under my desk and clasped my hands behind my neck, face to the floor. Perhaps a prayer would have been better. (I had desks like this until 6th grade:)

 

The county set-up these attack-warning sirens in the foothills around the valley where I grew up — all part of the protection we got from the County Office of Civil Defense. Huge, 180-horsepower sirens sounded off as part of our regular bomb drill — I still recall that sound. Here’s the culprit, the one I actually heard, overlooking La Crescenta, California:
bomb sirens

Air-Raid Sirens in La Cresecenta California

You had to stay away from windows and cover yourself — protect your face and skin from breaking glass, and a sunburn that you would never forget (until you were dead.) But I don’t remember being told this part.

I think the siren was the two-tone sound — going up and then down. Some sirens were one-tone. Here’s a SD-10 Federal air raid siren that a guy sounds off.

The Soviet Union tested its first nuclear bomb in 1949 and the U.S. thought they might use it. Duck and Cover became part of the Civil Defense Drills that all of us had to practice, every month.

They made movies to teach us as well — the famous “Duck and Cover” produced by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. There was a cartoon character — a turtle named Bert that taught kids how he hides in his shell for safety when a monkey waves a firecracker over his head.Hmmm…. no wonder I was confused and not too worried.

I asked my hubby if he remembers doing the drill and he replied, “of course, it was a chance to see a girl’s underwear.” Yea we wore dresses. Never thought of that. See, men are visual, even when they’re young.

An artist's rendition of a temporary basement fallout shelter, ca.1957.

An artist’s rendition of a temporary basement fallout shelter, ca.1957.

 

Photograph of a display of survival supplies for the well-stocked fallout shelter, ca.1961.

Photograph of a display of survival supplies for the well-stocked fallout shelter, ca.1961.

 

Photograph of a basement family fallout shelter 1960s

Photograph of a basement family fallout shelter 1960s

 

Photograph of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization exhibit at a local civil defense fair. ca. 1960

Photograph of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization exhibit at a local civil defense fair. ca. 1960