In 1961, I started school. It was a wondrous, magical time of dressing up to go to class, meeting so many other kids, playing games in the school yard, and, learning cool stuff, including, what we needed to do to survive a nuclear blast. Fun!
For the next 8 years or so, I enjoyed the “duck and cover” drills that pretty much all school kids back then had to practice, even those of us up in Canada. We knew the days they would do this, and, all morning we would be giggly and silly, just waiting for the word, then, the principle would come on the PA system and call out strongly, with as much authority as he could muster – TAKE SHELTER!
Or…something like that. I cannot recall the exact wording of the frantic phrase he would use, but, once uttered, we would dive as fast as we could under our desks. We had to wait there, until the principal went to each and every room to make sure we had hidden ourselves underneath our wooden desks, which essentially would act like kindling if a bomb did hit near us.
The best ones though, were if they had a “duck and cover” drill while we were in the school yard. We were taught to find a depression in the ground and get in it, then, if there happened to be a newspaper nearby, grab some sheets from that and pull it over our head because the light color of the paper would reflect much of the blast.
Little did I know, the only thing I could have realistically done with that newspaper was peruse it for sales while waiting for the blast to obliterate me from the face of the earth.
As a little kid back then, when someone in school tried to show us the severity of an atomic blast, they did so with cartoons. After all, they didn’t want to scare us by showing us pictures of what actually happens during a blast, so, they would show us a cartoon bomb, and, a cartoon mushroom cloud and a cartoon turtle telling us to “duck and cover”. There was even a cute song we could sing on those days we had the bomb blast drills - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKqXu-5jw60
It was all so fun and cute, but when I see images of children hiding under flammable desks, or cowering beneath paper in a schoolyard, the hilarity is quickly replaced with despair and shaking my head at the absurdity of it all. Not much has really changed over the years if you really think about it. Students in schools still need to know how to save their own lives whether it is from terrorist attack or someone with a gun.
I don't want to forget those days, or, those wacky drills. It was a national thing, we all did it. Kids all across the US and Canada were diving under their desks, stiffling giggles and trying to keep their underwear hidden while they crawled around under there.
It did make me feel safe, but of course, safe from what? A stick of cartoon dynamite?
As I got older and learned what actually happens when an atomic bomb is detonated, I was shaken. At first, I was angry. What idiot though up hiding under flammable crap if we ever saw that bright flash of light on the horizon. No one would survive. We would all be turned to ash. You just cannot prepare for that outside of burying yourself way under ground in a shelter, and, most could not do that, so, we hid under desks and practiced it and practiced it instead of asking if that really made sense.
We didn't know. And, again, looking back, I was glad I didn't. My little mind would never have been able to grasp the true horror of what an atomic bomb could actually do. It was the most proactive thing we could do in those days to make parents and kids feel more secure and try to accept the fact that warfare had progressed to a planet-wide, massive, nightmarish phenomenon. Duck and cover takes on a whole new meaning once you realize what one is really trying to hide from, and, it is highly unlikely we, as a race of creatures, will ever NOT war on each other. Lets stick with the cartoon bombs! They were much more fun.