The Norman Transcript

Columns

October 28, 2012

Not the same old drill

NORMAN — Duck and cover: 50 years ago today The kindergarten students at Jackson Elementary School thought it was just a fun little drill, something like playground Red Rover or tag. Stop what you were doing, get under your desks and put your head down and cover your head with your hands and arms.

But to the teachers and parents in Norman and elsewhere, this was serious business. Fifty years ago this past week, the United States’ Cold War came closest to becoming a nuclear conflict. The Cuban Missile crisis officially ended on this day, Oct. 28, in 1962.

We’re still not sure what good it would do to get under a desk and shield your eyes but no one questioned it, especially not my fellow kindergarteners. We were just enchanted with “Bert the Turtle,” star of the civil defense movie, “Duck and Cover.”

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My family full of Kennedy Democrats trusted the young president. He had been to war and knew the price. We never knew that a few different scenarios could have significantly altered the course of world history.

Shelters were stocked with water and provisions. Basements cleaned out. At church, the nuns prayed with my older sisters. We were told there were Russian kids doing the same. Finding the familiar “Fallout Shelter” logo on public buildings became a game.

We were looking forward to the drills since there was a shelter in the basement of the old Norman Public Library, also home to the children’s book collection. (The library looked promising since we didn’t have a basement and our grandparents’ basement was scary).

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As the headlines for the week got bigger and more frightening, Norman civil defense officials prepared to mark the 55 buildings cleared for safe refuge from an attack. Santa Fe canceled its “football special” which carried fans to OU games.

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