When looking at old articles, film clips, cartoons, and advertisements from the depths of the Cold War, it’s easy to laugh. Viewed through modern eyes, things such as old mid-20th-century “Duck and Cover” film shorts seem incongruously upbeat and ill-informed, with their claims that all a schoolchild needs to do to survive an atomic blast is hide under a desk.
Ditto with the era’s Life magazine stories about the merits of having one’s own bomb shelter in the backyard.
But the last laugh may be on us.
On page 27 of the March 2018 issue of Fine Homebuilding magazine —a trade publication aimed at contractors, builders, and homeowners—is an ad from Atlas Survival Shelters for the latest in prefabricated, personal bomb shelters, something which we have never seen in that publication before. (“Five sizes available. 1-6 Persons. Includes air systems. Starting prices $9,999 – $18,999. Made in the USA.”) Buyers have their choice of locations where it can be installed, such as under the driveway, in the backyard, or below the home. An FAQ with helpful hints is available; for example, the manufacturer recommends “You fly out an out-of-state contractor to install the shelter so it stays a secret.”
And to make sure that readers get the point about the shelter’s intended use, the ad contains a version of the international radiation hazard symbol, next to the words “Dealers Wanted, 1-855-4-Bunker.”
The company website notes that the Atlas Bomb Shelter was started in Sacramento, CA in the 1950s during the Cold War era, and says: “To be politically correct in the world that we live in now, the name was modernized to ‘Atlas Survival Shelters’ in 2011 because a nuclear bomb is not the only threat we now face in this world… Shown below is the 1961 [Atlas Bomb Shelter] pamphlet that was handed out to home owners during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Notice the letter of Certification from the Department of Defense dated August 14, 1961.” (The same website page also says: “$46,999 special price, limited time only, 20’ Backyard Bunker. Shelter financing now available.”)
But we should not be too surprised, at a time when a prominent national news organization ran an upbeat story last week titled “How to prepare and survive a nuclear bombing”—which ended with the following succinct advice to anyone exposed to high doses of radiation: “…[R]emove the clothes you were wearing and take a shower immediately.”