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What Happened To All of the Fall Out Shelters?


In the 1950s, during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, many people in our country believed that it was just a matter of time before we experienced a nuclear attack. This led to the creation of fallout shelters. If you were a kid during the 1950s and ’60s, you’ll remember that fallout shelters were designed to protect the people inside them from radioactive debris, or fallout, from a nuclear attack. These shelters had thick concrete walls and were stocked with supplies such as canned foods, drinking water, cooking items, medical supplies, etc. A family or group of people could live in a fallout shelter for a couple of weeks while waiting for the atmosphere to clear up. Since the 1950s and ’60s, the political landscape has changed and the Cold War is over. So the question arises, what happened to all of those fallout shelters? Take a look into a couple of those fallout shelters today.

A Fallout Shelter Turned Historical Exhibit

One family inherited a fallout shelter from the 1950s when they bought their home in a Wisconsin estate sale. After opening the doors of this backyard fallout shelter in Neenah, Wisconsin, they discovered an enormous stockpile of supplies. Medicines, food, clothing, and even a folding toilet were hidden in this well-equipped fallout shelter. After spending decades underground in airtight containers, many of the supplies were still in excellent condition. A replica of this backyard fallout shelter complete with its original supplies is on display in Neenah. It serves as a teaching tool to help 21st-century kids better understand the Cold War and its effect on our citizens.

A Glimpse into an Abandoned Fallout Shelter

Another notable fallout shelter stands locked and empty beneath Interstate 5 in Seattle, Washington. It was a community bomb shelter built to accommodate 200 people. It’s a large circular room with restrooms for both men and women. The concrete walls are several feet thick, but you can still hear the traffic going overhead. There is a storage area for canned foods and other supplies for the people inside. Thankfully, this building was never used as a fallout shelter. However, it served as a driver’s license office in the 1960s and ’70s. After that, it was used to store important documents. Today, the electricity and the water have been disconnected, making it just a cavernous place under a highway.

Relics from the 1950s

There are 1950s fallout shelters that still exist in the basements of city apartment buildings, in the backyards of older homes, and elsewhere across this country. Over the past few decades, the canned goods, clothing, and other supplies have been removed from inside of these shelters. In many cases, a faded yellow and black sign made of aluminum is the only thing left to indicate the presence of a shelter. Do you think that most young people could tell you what those signs mean? I think seeing one of those signs would be a great opportunity to give a young person a short history lesson! Thank you for reading! – Alan

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