The cold war-affected civilians in different ways. Tensions between the U.S. and the USSR were at an all-time high. During this time the fear of Soviet invasion and nuclear war lead companies, schools, and homes to prepare for the unknown. Fallout shelters became popular along with communities installing air-raid sirens. This was hard for many to understand and preparing for the fear of the unknown became everyday life.

During this time companies trained their staff in case of a nuclear attack. They built shelters for them. Schools trained children to “duck and cover” and what to do if they were out on the streets or playing outside. Libraries helped train with civil defense information, they showed educational films, offered first aid courses, and provided information on how to best survive a nuclear attack. People built shelters in their backyards or basements to prepare and keep their loved ones safe. Buildings, churches, and schools were also used as designated shelters.

While preparing for a nuclear attack civilians would walk and see evacuation routes signs, they would hear radio stations testing the siren for the emergency systems. Everywhere they went it was a constant reminder of what could happen and how to react if it did. Schools practiced the drills and taught children what to do and what to listen for.

The fear of the unknown is hard for many and preparing for it can create a lot of tension, stress, and anxiety. I think about the kids during this time and the families. As a parent how do you prepare for that? I look back and see supplies that were bought canned goods that were prepared and think the work and money that was needed also brought on stress. One of my fondest memories with my grandmother was learning to can and pressure cook. I still love doing it today and spend a lot of time preparing canned goods. For me, it is a hobby and a way to feed healthy food to my family. As I look back now, I think of how she learned to can and how different but similar our reasons are. My grandmother also did it to provide healthy food for her family however, she was preparing for the future in case she wasn’t able to feed them during this time.

I also look at how the children feared things that they were not fully capable of understanding. I look at the pictures of them learning to “duck and cover” or how they drop and cover while walking the streets or playing outside. I wonder how was this explained to them and how where they were able to process it at this time? We see a lot of those fears in the elderly today as I listen to them talk about the Pandemic or the Russian invasion now. As we listen to what they experienced at that time we have a new understanding of their fears now. I sit and listen to the elderly talk and feel that our generation and the next could learn a lot from them.

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Cheryl Hayes

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