...The radios we'll always remember

Occupying A Public Shelter

Civil War era film

Ham Radio History 0 Comments 01/11/2023 

Posted By: Robert Nickels (W9RAN)
Posted on 01/11/2023

Everyone who grew up in the 50s and 60s remembers "duck and cover" civil defense drills in school and why there are little triangles marking 640 and 1240 kc on the AM radio dial.    We also remember seeing those bright yellow and black "Fallout Shelter" signs on various buildings - each marked with a capacity number.   (Who didn't do the quick mental arithmetic to realize there were nowhere near enough shelters for the population of a town?)

Civil Defense as a function slid into oblivion with the end of the Cold War and those shelter signs and barrels of water and boxes of emergency rations were finally discarded (or ended up on eBay) -  many of the geiger counters and dosimeters would turn up at hamfests, usually in pristine unused condition (thankfully!).     There is no "civilian" involvement anymore, all disaster planning and operation is done by government employees of Homeland Security and as far as nuclear war and fallout shelters are concerned,  well, you're pretty much on your own.

But at one time it was considered important to educate Americans about what could be expected if they were among the lucky few who made it to a fallout shelter after "the big one".   This film was produced by the US Army in coooperation with the Civil Defence Staff College in Battle Creek MI in 1965 (or MCMLXV as film makers like to say) and while corny has one aspect that is of special interest to hams and shortwave listeners:  the shelter radio station.

A Heathkit Cheyenne and Commanche are shown, which would be a period-correct set of AM/CW equipment.   It could be argued that if all the radio was used for was communicating with the Mayors Office  a VHF set like a Gooneybox migh have been a better choice, especially since they were produced with "CD yellow" cabinets specifically for Civil Defense use, or the Johnson Viking II-CD transmitter might have been shown.     The film says that certain amenities such as cots were not part of the bare minimum provided by the federal government and had to come from local sources, so maybe that is also the case for the shelter radio equipment.   In any case the manager is fortunate to have a couple of trained radio operators who seem very  diligent in the amount of band-scanning that is done!


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