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Fallout Shelters Are Not What They Used to Be

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The once familiar yellow and
RALEIGH — The Cold War has been over for years.We no longer feel the imminent threat of nuclear war, but it wasn't toolong ago when we couldn't run.Back then we only hoped we could hide.

Shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis,President Kennedywarned we shouldstart digging fallout shelters and a craze set in.Those shelters are still around, but fortunately they areno longer being used for their intended purpose.

As Americans, we were confident in our military. But we were also veryconcerned.Russian nuclear missiles were pointed right at eastern North Carolina andwe knew it wouldn't take long to strike from Cuba.

Those of us who lived through the Cold War remember it as a frighteningtime. We knew the Russians were serious. And we were also concerned.Where on earth will we go in case there's a nuclear attack?

The government had an answer. Take over several state and federaloffice buildings and turning them into fallout shelters. And 30 years agoyou didn't have to look far to find them.

Fallout shelter signs hungon almost every old building along the Raleigh's FayettevilleStreet Mall.Even the basement of the state Capitol Building was stocked with food andmedical supplies.The only place you'll find these yellow and black Triangles now is on theState Supreme Court building.

In the early 1960s many families had a 125-page civil defense manualthat taught us about everything from gamma rays to gieger counters.But some families were even more prepared.Some went underground, such as a family who built an elaborate escapefrom radiation in a old Arkansas cave.

Others were equally creative but with fewer frills.John Hackney was one of the first to build a personal fallout shelter inWilson County. He was one of 200,000 across the country who wantedto outlive Armageddon."The inside wall is block and this is brick facing. And in here is sand. It's filled with sand and concrete on top."As a veteran of the second World War, Hackney knew what radioactivefallout could do.He built his shelter above ground... unlike some of his neighbors."The reason I built above ground is because the water table inWilson is only 4 to 5 feet in the ground. If you'd put this thing in theground you're more likely to go swimming instead of having a dry falloutshelter."

A narrow hallway now leads to a storage room and a place to store abottle or two of wine.But for years, this room was stocked with food, water and blankets andthis veteran was confident it would have done the job."Just like the shield a doctor would use for x-rays to stop the radiationfrom coming in."Building this small fort cost $5,000... a small fortune by 1960standards."Any regrets about building this and making the investment?Well.. If I had made the investment in the stock market it would have beena lot smarter... But that's 20/20 hindsight... (laughs)"

I guess the bottom line is you're glad you never had to test it... I'mglad it's a wine cellar and storage room.

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