Were We Really Prepared?

With all the grim talk about North Korea launching missiles, I attempted to look back on a time when we had a very frightening situation on our doorstep—the Cuban Missile Crisis. I hope you all learned about this even at school. It involved a deal between Cuban leader Fidel Castro and the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. It was an awful time, but since I was only seven, my memories are quite fuzzy.

What I do remember were the drills. I know many speak of hiding under their desks. I don’t recall that. What I recall was being shepherded out in the hallway—presumably because of the windows in my classroom—and then being told to sit on the floor and cover our heads with our hands. I look back and think how naïve people were in believing that we could survive a nuclear attack by simply protecting ourselves with a desk or sitting away from a window.

I have vague recollections of seeing fallout shelter signs around town. I believe they were in the gyms of some of the schools. Perhaps someone reading this can add to or correct my memory.


Grandma apparently was preparing for our doom by stockpiling canned food such as soup, vegetables, and Spam—which was a disgusting ham-like meat. I guess the thought was that once the bombs were dropped, depending on where one lived, some people would survive but the food supply would be unsafe.


When the crisis was averted, Grandma told me that one night, when she did not have the opportunity to go food shopping, she prepared a “fallout meal,” which consisted of all the food stored in the basement like the soup, Spam, and canned peas and creamed corn.

What would Dad cook for our fallout meal? I think it would be more ethnic than Grandma’s dinner.

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