Life is swell… in a fallout shelter!

Cute placemats! (Via X-Ray Delta One)


  1. I estimate a 90% chance that that fallout shelter will contain at least two intact bottles of Nuka Cola; but being jumped by three feral ghouls in its cramped confines will scare you pretty thoroughly.

    1. Let’s go scavving, like the Raiders do
      Let’s go scavving; stuff for me and you
      Scavenger economy
      All you own is stuff that you can take for free …

  2. Is that the toilet space in the upper left-hand corner?

    See? I’m already wondering if someone will be able to take a dump (or even do it in peace), or have sex while in containment for an excruciatingly long time without little Suzie having to watch.

  3.  I want to build one with a series of tunnels connecting it to various locations…

    But more as a Batcave than a fallout shelter.  Then I just need a giant penny.

  4. Looks to me like there’s a chamberpot and not much water to rehydrate the dried food with.  They’ll last about a week.

    1. About a week to ten days is about how long they were intended to last. Most radioactive fallout is made up of light elements with very short half-lifes; the standard civil defense assumption was that within as little as a day, and no more than ten days, radiation levels outside would have fallen far enough to make a brief trip to more durable, better equipped public shelter reasonably safe. The plan was 1) hear warning and confirm it via radio or TV, 2) rather than jump in traffic and die in your car, climb into basement or backyard shelter, 3) listen on radio for instructions as to where to relocate to and when to come up, 4) after at most a week and a half, obey those instructions. Unpleasant, yes, and what Civil Defense had to offer people who couldn’t afford that level of self-protection was pretty limited (dig a ditch in back yard, cover yourself with door, wait 1 hour for the worst of the radiation to drop off, sprint for public shelter, probably not make it), but it wasn’t as stupid as it sounds.

      (I had that exact book as a kid, plus quite a few other civil defense books and pamphlets. It was a minor obsession of mine.)

      1. Hi Brad, judging by the relatively greater amount of grey in your beard, I’m guessing that you’re a Boomer probably 12 or more years older than me. However, me and quite a few of the older Gen-Xers had a similar experience with the joys of civil defense materials relating to Doomsday. 

        When I was in grammar school (still called that) in the 70s and Jr High-Middle S (went to both) and HS in the 80s, we still had special blocks of time (ranging from every month to just at the beg. of the year) to explain what to do. 

        In grammar school it was all quite serious, in Jr H/M.S it was kinda meh, and in HS the kids openly made fun of it, just like the teachers delivering the material. One of my International HS teachers delivered the material wearing a Mao Hat and Groucho Marx glasses. But still, my pot-smoking computer/ham radio geek friends and I would spend time reading these preparation and bomb-shelter making books and have grand plans to construct one somewhere, preferably on blackberry infested public land (where we grew our pot), not as a prep for Doomsday, but as a cool place to smoke our pot and chill – you know, a fort. One friend even had drawn some sort of plans/circuit diagram to grab power – I believe by induction from the high voltage lines above our proposed underground playhouse — she’s an electrical engineer now. We had so much fun planning this that we never built it. But it did benefit us because we learned independent project management skills and became proficient using the BBS system.  Civil Defense materials are such a vastly underrated practical resource, and historical resource, it is really cool that they are being rediscovered, scanned and made freely accessible on the InterWebz.  

  5. At least they thought ahead enough to bring plenty of magazines with them . . . and a back up shovel, in case they get on each other’s nerves and break a handle.  That way, they can still bury the corpse.

  6. I like how Mom is still in an apron getting dinner ready. Dad needs some time to relax in that chair; he must be exhausted after another long day at the… fallout shelter?

    1. First thing that hit me as well – “Mom’s making dinner, kid’s setting the table, dad’s on his ass with a magazine. Must be the ’50s.”

      1. It’s quite reasonable to assume that people faced with an incomprehensible situation (their world has ended) would revert to tried&true behavioral patterns in order to cope. I can imagine doing that for as long as the food and water lasts.

  7. Man of the “house” still enjoying his leisure time apparently. Lady-folk still busy as always! With the aprons, in case they have to dispatch the nuclear-mutated zombie-folk outside.

  8. That’s not a fallout shelter, it’s a rumpus room. All they need is one of those big cabinet-style record players, a dart board, and a place to hide the whiskey.

  9. It’s really easy to look back on this using your 20/20 hindsight and comment on how unprepared they actually were. Having lived through that period, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it was a fucking scary time. We had duck and cover drills in school, the city tested all of the air raid sirens twice a week for 30 seconds. It’s something you never want to hear. There was even a demonstration fallout shelter with a big picture window in it so you could examine the layout right in the center of town.

    The shelters were only supposed to keep you safe from fallout for about two weeks, so they would have enough water for two weeks. Dehydrated food wasn’t readily available to the public at that time, so all food in a shelter was supposed to be in cans. Apparently, the radioactivity in fallout has a fairly short half-life, so the two weeks was (optimistically) all you’d need to wait and rescue efforts would be in full swing (again, an idea put forth by an overly optimistic government).

    Count yourself as fortunate to be relatively free of planet ending bombings.

    1. Agree – it’s easy to look back and chuckle at mom in her apron in the shelter, but the fear of a nuclear attack was very real and very frightening.

      I was recently in Budapest, Hungary and toured the fallout shelter / hospital built into catacombs underneath the castle atop the hill that overlooks town – the fallout shelter that would have protected Hungarians from *our* nukes.  Very strange and jarring place to actually stand inside.  

      1.  My family’s shelter was never so swank. Budget shelters suck. Yah, those were terrifying times. I was born in 1950 and grew up in a LostAngels suburb with missile plants and USAF bases nearby, so I *knew* I was fried bacon. It is REALLY FOCKING SCARY to constantly think that each minute could be the last, with annihilation possible at any instant. In school, we all knew that duck-and-cover was crap. We soiled ourselves a lot.

        For years, the news message was THERE IS NO FUTURE, WE’LL ALL DIE SOON. The message stuck. I still don’t make plans. I still expect glowing mushrooms to blossom. I’m further from targets now, in a rural mountain hamlet, but I’ll catch fallout from any SanNarcisco-Sacratomato blasts. Guys who moved into the next-over cabin are digging a gold mine / fallout shelter. Rotsa ruck.

        1.  Yeah. I grew up in a heavily industrialized area (refineries, chemicals, electronics, steel) next to two very large hydro-electric plants. I heard many discussions about the topic that all ended up with us becoming glowing bits of plasma.

    1.  It’s been my experience that parts of war always change. Only the end result for the unlucky individual (the death part) remains the same. There’s always plenty of death to go around. I spent the period from 1967-1981 fighting one war or another for a variety of nations/causes. In general, lots of people died, little was accomplished, no one gained any permanent peace at the end.

        1.  Ah, yes. I see. Unfortunately, all of my experience with war has been of a practical nature, as opposed to computerized.

    1. If I remember the design correctly, that’s the hand crank for the air pump. Missing from the painting, there’s supposed to be a pipe leading up to a charcoal air filter. The crank is in case dust or debris clog the filter; crank it hard in the exhaust direction, then crank it back the other way to refresh the air you pumped out.

      1.  I thought it looked like a crank. I even thought it might be a hand cranked telephone. But I liked the robot visual association and apparently at least one other saw it that way, too. Of course it’s a cliche of a robot. People sure had a lot of faith in their survival in those days and what their world would look like when they exited the shelter.

        1. What our world would look like after? We had no illusions; our parents’ generation showed us pictures of London after the Blitz, and like a lot of kids I grew up with a copy of John Hersey’s /Hiroshima/ in the house, read it fairly young. We were expecting to have to rebuild from rubble, like the Europeans and Asians did after WW2, only to not be able to rebuild at all where the actual blast craters were. The only parts we were uncertain of were (a) how big the blast craters were and how many there would actually be, and (b) when they were going to go off.

          At a certain level, stuff like this was very, very political. RAND’s Dr. Herman “Strangelove” Kahn had argued that any level of nuclear preparedness, any attempt to plan to survive a nuclear exchange, was a violation of the basic principle of Mutually Assured Destruction, and thus a provocative act and, as such, indicated a willingness to engage in a nuclear first strike. Since he was on record as saying so, the Soviets frequently pointed to things like our brief bomb-shelter fad as proof of the existence of US first-strike nuclear war plans. We Americans were told that both sides had such plans. Since the opening of the Soviet Cold War archives, we have since had it confirmed that no, in fact, it was only us, and that’s why US Civil Defense plans assumed that we only had to survive a limited exchange; it was assumed that the most likely nuclear war scenario was one in which only the handful of Soviet missiles that survived our nuclear first strike would have to be absorbed.

          1. I think at least sub-consciously we’re still living with the same threat of a nuclear attack but now that so many nations have nuclear weapons, and the U.S. has more than all combined, the comfy back yard bomb shelter seems ridiculous. If the U.S. ever really had an age of innocence, it was lost a long time ago. Even the most ill informed hold little hope for any optimistic outcome ,as opposed to this cheery P.A.

        1. Trade? Hell, no! Rented! You don’t want to lose that regenerating population source. Not to mention all the fun she can provide.

  10. The shelters were heavily marketed in So. CA including radio commercials. They also were part of a song lyric sung by the Chad Mitchell trio who imagined what the Hammacher Schlemmer version would be like. They create problems for real estate salesmen to this day.

    1. Why is it a problem for real estate agents?  I’m not going to build me a bomb shelter, but I wouldn’t fill it back in if I had one.  It could be a nice extra office/wine cellar/Groovy Greg Brady attic for when the kids grow up.*

      * I guess radon might be a problem, ironically enough.  But otherwise, it’s just some extra space far as I can see.

  11. People are still building bombshelters/bunkers for “the pocalypse”.  Though most of them say Zombie Apocalypse so as to only seem ridiculously rather than ludicrously crazy.

    Evidently it is ok in mixed company to explain in detail how you are going to mow down Zombies by the thousands because it gives everyone in the conversation an out.  

    Everyone can pretend that their fantasies of massacring hordes of starving refugees (mostly inner city African-Americans) are not only “ok” but are part of an acceptable course of action in the aftermath of some dramatic event…. involving the “undead”.

    Thinly veiled “shoot everything FUBU” comments give it away (as well as date the speakers connection to pop culture (and non fox news/vox day media to the mid 1990s) … assuming zombies all wear FUBU is pretty assinine anyway… everyone knows from walking dead that zombies pretty much wear non designer clothes with brands/styles obscured by grime and mud (so as to avoid paying royalties/getting sued).

    This sort of crap has begun to permeate non traditionally crazy cable TV too… History, Discovery, Learning, Nat Geo all have a finger in the pie… every scripted “reality” gun related show has to have zombie something in it… including Mel Brooks’ pudchild.

    1. What does Max Brooks have to do with reality TV? He wrote a great book, he’s not filming actual hilbillies waiting for “new world order”.

  12. The world we knew has been destroyed but we’re having a grand old time down here!  Let’s hope the port-a-potty doesn’t overflow before the half-life of the fallout.

  13. My mom told me that my dad was seriously considering building a bomb shelter in the back yard during the 50’s.  I think his frugal nature won out.

  14. Yes, the retro minimalist furniture is ‘to die’ for…

    And yes, that family might survive the preliminary blast and possibly the oxygen depleting mega inferno to follow…provided the shelter has some sort of positive pressure auxiliary life safety system.

    And oh my yes; all they can hope for is to merely postpone the inevitable, in which death by starvation and dehydration would be a kindness as opposed to the de rigueur rape and torture cannibalism by the remaining mutant gangrels…never mind the fallout.

    But…at least they have placemats!  Western Civilization FTW!

      1. Yes, but what an interesting plot device, as used in Harlan Ellison’s  A Boy and His Dog. This was a novella and a movie (1975.)

        Here is the trailer on YouTube: 

        Oh yeah, B.gear, dontcha just love how not only the radiation turns people into mutants, it turns the already-born into mutants.

        Don’t get me started on the science fiction plot device that has the crew age 80 years in less than a week, and/or where they develop a full head of grey and white hair in eight or so hours.

        1. Thank you!  I’ve read many books written by prominent authors, and seen quite a few films on the subject…and I am pretty sure that most nuclear annihilations result in a fair segment of the population devolving into scabrous villains with unfortunate dental hygiene with a hunger for human flesh…

          It’s a well known fact.

          1. Well g_j, I’d be disappointed if I lived though a nuclear Millennial Event and there weren’t the mutants and scabrous villains you describe. 

            I would be also disappointed if I were not a _normal-type_ survivor protagonist, or a mutant, you know, the type of mutant with enhanced brain-power, moral wisdom, irresistible preternatural good-looks and the guidance and blessing of G-d* to save humanity from continuing the cycle of destruction, escape, flight, rebuilding and so on. 

            *he doesn’t like being called that.

            1st pic…While Kirk was off fucking with late 20th century U.S. Air Force officers, Spock was hanging out with his hero Jimi Hendrix.

  15. There are 2 Regional Government nuclear shelters open to the public in the UK – the road signs have ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’ on them.

    In the one in Cheshire the whiteboards still have the reports from the last exercise carried out there on them… mapping the lethal radiation zone over Manchester. Never have I felt a deeper chill.

    I don’t honestly know if I can recommend a visit: some things you don’t want in your head – some things are still best confronted.

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