When I saw this in a friend's yard here in Newton, MA, I thought it was an opening to a cistern, or maybe to an aqueduct passing through. But no. The picture is the cover of a fallout shelter built in the 1950s. (The current owners keep it securely locked.) As young children of that era, we would practice hiding under our desks in school during air raid drills, being told that to do so would protect us from the atomic bombs that would rain on us from the Communist enemies of America who lived in the dark society of the USSR. It was all part of a fearful time that was manipulated by political leaders and corporations.
The cover of this bomb shelter is made out of lead to protect you from radioactivity -- since the government would promptly announce through the CONELRAD alert system that intercontinental ballistic missiles were en route so you would have enough time to get into the shelter. A nearby vent shaft brings in outside air -- no doubt through a filter that was sold as incredibly effective in sifting out any contaminants. Electricity was provided by, ahem, a line from your house -- as though the supply would stay remarkably reliable through the bombardment of the Boston metropolitan are. You would store lots of water and food in anticipation of your time in the shelter. Not exactly clear what you would do with solid waste, food waste, and human waste while you were locked up in your concrete bunker for several weeks. And what exactly would you come out to see after your hibernation?
As noted in this article:
The image of the nuclear mushroom cloud hovered above the thoughts of American citizens throughout the fifties, and in to the early sixties. Propagandists would capitalize on this, by creating an immediate need in the consumer mind for a bomb shelter. The idea was planted that a bomb shelter would protect you from the horrible effects of a nuclear attack, assuming you were able to construct such a shelter. Though the idea seems ludicrous now, since the effects of a nuclear attack are fully known, people were caught in the trap that the propagandist had set.
By 1960, The Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, estimated that a million families had constructed their own private bomb shelters. Shelters ranged in price from $1,795-$3,895, and of course many came in kits that make assembly much easier. Advertisements were found in magazines throughout the country. Many companies were capitalizing on Americans fear. Life Magazine in 1955, included a feature ad for a H-Bomb Hideaway, and the sale price was only $3000. Bob Rutske, a Michigan Sheriff at the time, remarked that "To build a home today without a shelter, would be like leaving out a bathroom twenty years ago." The amount of shelters that were built in that era, show how well propaganda had penetrated the American mind.How gullible were we then? How gullible are we still?