March 7, 2010

Search the 137-year Popular Science archive.

But you have to go in by keyword. So what do you search... and what does that say about you?

I searched "bomb shelter" and read an article from January 1962 and scrolled through the rest of the magazine to see what was going on from the PopSci viewpoint when I was 11 and wondering why my parents weren't building us a bomb shelter. The article, "Plain Facts About Fallout Shelters" is written as Frequently Asked Questions, and the first question is exactly the one my parents would have asked — "What's the point of all this effort? Wouldn't an H-bomb attack kill everybody anyway, shelters or no shelters?" — if they were the sort of people who put their thoughts on the subject in question form. They were not.


Charlie Martin said...

Well, hopefully the answer was "no."

magpie said...

I tried "Apollo" and looked at some great articles about the space program from the 1960s. What a fantastic time. I think I'll watch From The Earth To The Moon tonight instead of the Oscars.

John A said...

There is an intent to widen the search mechanism to include other thingsm such as date searching.

And "Modern Mechanix" also has back issues on file - indeed, there is a blog with interesting/amusing extracts -

I am sure there are many others.

Ron said...

If you were in a shallow bomb shelter when an H-bomb hit, you'd probably wind up a roasted chicken, not alive.

Metal box...shallow dig...dumb chicken inside.

Mark O said...

Wow. You look so much younger than that. Are you sure?

[note to self, alwyas suck up to the professor.]

AllenS said...

April 1964, page 70
Let's talk about beer. You say it comes from grain? How? ... American beer is getting blander; the water content is rising while the solids decrease. ...

If a man had a fallout shelter, you could brew and then store your beer in there.

rcocean said...

Thanks for the link - very interesting.

Does anyone know of any Dead Newspapers - particularly the NY Herald-Tribune or PM - with an online archive?

Lincolntf said...

Yes, thank you. Very interesting link. Anyone catch the first article in the first issue? Change the language just a little bit and it sounds exactly like a 2010 blog post.

Unknown said...

There were some people back then who went to sufficient expense that they could expect to survive even an H-bomb (think IRS). The good news was all those neighbors and in-laws you didn't like would no longer be a problem. The bad news was the Feds would still expect a 1040 on April 15.

rhhardin said...

The Herald Tribune had the best train crash photos.

Cedarford said...

The answer to those that claim there was "no safe place anywhere" if we and the Russians ever did a thermonuclear war - are of course mistaken.

Clearly, a fallout shelter in downtown Manhattan or on the outskirts of the Bangor missile sub base or the St. Pete Red Army HQ was not going to do much good. But MOST of America and the Soviet Union land would be outside the blast and fire zones. But back then - both sides had huge, dirty 3-stage H bombs in the 3-25 Megaton range - then "upgraded" to smaller, but far more numerous 600KT-1.8 Megaton weapons....and the fallout shelter was designed mainly to shelter from the 300 mile long "plumes" of lethal short-lived radiation each bomb would cast off as fallout.

They were effective for that, and many countries who would be unaffected, like Sweden, Iran, the Swiss - nevertheless had huge shelter programs in place.

In America, many built them, and did so secretly. It never came up in our family when I was a kid because that was well after the 50s, early 60s craze for the things. And we seemed to end up close to what even I knew as a kid were significant nuke targets, in our 3 moves.

In my 20s, visiting a close friend, his Dad let me in on the "family secret". Literally. He was then planning on moving and was fretting with a lawyer what to do about the "hidden shelter". The guy had dug out and built by hand a 3-room, 1000ft2 shelter and concealed it from the neighbors but also the building inspectors and tax assessors.

I took a tour. It was impressive. 40 miles away from any nuke target, reinforced concrete c/o a close friend in the construction business who had his own secret shelter. All family sworn to silence. He had also cached fuel, food, extra supplies, weapons for trade in other buried locations on their property - and was part of a local civic group that had meetings on how to recover after "The Big One".

I had little doubt that they would have been around after a nuke war. Intelligence, basic paranoia and survivalist beliefs..

Never came to that..but my parents were among the many, they say, scared out of their minds in the Cuban Missile Crisis and they did have a "vital services employees shelter" they would have gone to with my older sister who was a baby at the time. (Mom was a trauma nurse).

On Popular Science and Popular Mechanics - they are good reading, and a cautionary tale for any that believe that technology will be created to solve all our green power needs and create all kinds of "exciting new alternate energy jobs". The magazines from 40-50 years ago were full of technology solves all problems thinking and optimism. Dad rides his personal aircar to the fusion plant he works at while Mom in a perfect dress fresh from the sonic wash watches the robot iron, do the laundry, and defrost or rehydrate the instant dinner packages. While she talks with her mother-in-law on the lunar colony.

Expat(ish) said...

Funny, we have a bomb shelter in the basement of our 1963 house. Three foot concrete roof, copper layer in there (no idea why, really), double thick cinderblock/concrete/rebar walls.
A water heater for 75G of clean water.

And a hollow door - the old metal door was hurting the previous owner's grandkids fingers, so she replace it. Very funny.

So now we have the worlds best tornado/hurricane shelter AND a safe place to keep the xmass ornaments.

Sadly, not zombie proof.


Donna B. said...

My parents built a bomb shelter, but never got around to stocking it. We'd have starved, I suppose. But it was the best playhouse in the neighborhood.

In the spring of 1962, my husband was watching nuclear bombs explode off Christmas Island. He said they would issue very dark glasses to the enlisted men, while the scientists and officers walked around in hazmat suits wearing dosimeters.

rhhardin said...

If there was an attack as a kid, I was to go to my neighbor's house and run the 2 meter radio, if I was home. He had a generator and an antenna fifty feet up.

Special call sign 3MI-10, I still remember it. We practiced it all once.

The gave out neat CD cards.

The guy in charge of all the preparations had CD painted on doors of his yellow station wagon.

I never heard any more about it.

rhhardin said...

You use fake call signs so the Russian bombers can't home on them.

Ralph L said...

In the mid-80's, I worked for a dvision of SAIC (beltway bandit) that modelled nuclear weapons effects on the US. Even in the worst Soviet attack, the lower tip of Texas and upper tip of Maine were safe from fallout in most weather patterns. We made multicolored maps showing the worst areas.

We normally assumed the missiles weren't aimed at our cities but at our military / nuclear (counter-force) / political sites.

The big model was run on the supercomputer at Los Alamos using DARPANET at 1200 baud, my first and only exposure to the internet until this century.

My boss, hick that he was, sold someone on running the model against a livestock database from FEMA ("pigs and chickens").

former law student said...

The author of Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank, wrote a book back then called How to Survive the H-Bomb, And Why.

The thesis was that the Russians would not be able to bomb the entire US, and would have to concentrate on major targets, leaving vast swathes of the country with only fallout to worry about. And when the fallout all fell out, then you could unscrew your shield door, and go back outside again.

Frank figured the well prepared would have to defend their stash from the ill-prepared, so he recommended including carbines and ammunition in your fallout shelter.

Ken Pidcock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.