When I hear people talk wistfully about the carefree days of youth, and I have to think about my own. Since I’m getting up there, you may not have had the same experiences. If not, you were lucky.
With my youth in mind, I ask you, have you started to build your fall-out shelter yet? To stock up with a couple of years’ worth of supplies? To carry out air raid drills?
When I was a kid, there was constant talk of nuclear war, of the bomb and bomb shelters. In fact, bomb shelter salesmen used to come to our school with delightfully illustrated examples of their product, with the level of luxury commensurate with the amount of money you could pay. In our case, we were immigrants, and honestly couldn’t afford to pay anything, so that was an easy choice. But, for those of lesser means, they also sold plans for bomb shelters you could build yourself. Again, though, no money was no money.
There was constant news about the Soviet Union and their capabilities and also constant bomb tests on some poor atoll or in Siberia, with images of mushroom clouds and each side bragging about how many times over they could destroy the world. We kids all knew the latest test kiloton results of power these test blasts produced. Yes, the blasts were then measured only as how thousands of tons of dynamite it would take take to produce the same results – unlike the the megaton measurements used now. And they had us convinced, in the days before the term “mutually assured destruction” was coined, that we could actually win this. Of course, the other side was told the same. Both sides were wrong.
The DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line was being constructed across Canada’s north, a string of radar installations, now abandoned, that would give warning of bombers bearing nuclear bombs (there were no ICBM missiles yet). And in conjunction with the U.S., we started up NORAD, which had secret installations in mountains and such, from which the the privileged could continue to wage war while we sat a listened outside for the bombers. To top it all off, we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world came what was then the closest we’ve ever come to nuclear war.
There were air raid siren tests and emergency test patterns on TV and, as if we kids weren’t nervous enough already, we had drills at school. At the sound of air raid sirens, piped in over the PA system, we were taught to crawl under under desks because, as we all know, radiation couldn’t penetrate desks, which were obviously strong enough to hold up a collapsed building (sure).
Yet, through it all, we managed to have a lot of fun when we were kids. The idiot games played by adults were so far above our heads that they seemed somehow unreal, despite the news and the sirens and the drills and the bomb shelter salesmen.
Why do I bring this all up? Because now, it looks like a whole new generation of kids is going to have the pleasure of wondering about the likelihood of nuclear war. With North Korea arming itself and the U.S. President shooting off his mouth in return, and I’m not at all certain which of the two leaders is the crazier, the whole possibility opens up again.
And we thought that was all behind us. Silly us. We forgot that history moves in endless cycles. And leaders, especially wack jobs like Kim Jong-Un Donald Trump, never learn from it. So now, because of these idiots and their machismo, our kids and grandkids get to enjoy these experiences, or maybe worse. At least the leaders when we were kids had a measure of impulse control.
Better start digging. Or find a desk?