I was perusing flygirlusa and she jogged my memory about the Cuban Missile Crisis with her post. I’m really telling my age, here, because that was back in September 1962; and, if you must know, I was 10 years of age.
For you spring chickens, I suppose I should explain: John Kennedy was our president; Nikita Khrushchev was prime minister of Russia. We kids were a little afraid of this grandfatherly-looking prime minister because just two years prior he had banged his shoe on the podium in a display before the United Nations; just a few years before, we were told, he had promised to “bury” us! Clearly he was the bad guy here.
Our guys found out that there were Russian missile pads on Cuba, just 90 miles south of the US. At the time, Russia was who we Americans feared most. There was a tense month or so, after which the Russians dismantled and removed the missiles in exchange for the US’s promise never to invade Cuba.
As I was looking at Wikipedia about this, I learned something new. It was after this crisis that the “Hotline” between Russia and the US (“the red phone”) was instituted, following a treaty named, appropriately enough, “The Hotline Treaty.” Who knew?
What I recall about the Cuban Missile Crisis are these things:
- Having to walk home from school in the middle of the day in some sort of test. I guess this was to see if we all got there within a certain time?? I’m not sure, I just know that I was told that in the event of an attack, I should hurry directly home. I expected to rendezvous with my mother there, as she was always at home. It was my father I worried about. What if he was at work? Could we ever find one another in the confusion of the attack?
- Having the “Civil Defense” guys come to our class to talk, bringing with them the insignia indicating that there was a “bomb shelter” nearby, say in the basement of a building. See that little yellow and black “wheel in the picture below?” It was everywhere…we knew where to go! I always had visions of overcrowding. Would we be able to get in?
- Folks being urged to built bomb shelters (could double as tornado shelters!) and stocking them with supplies. Again, my mind’s eye conjured up images: We’d be snug in our bomb shelter (not that we ever had one…), all supplied up, and then our pesky neighbors would be banging on the door to let them in and share our supplies. What a dilemma!
- Tasteless crackers that came in survival kits. They were gray and felt like that bumpy gray cardboard that egg crates used to be made of—sort of like gray paper mache. Pure nutrition, I guess—no flavor!
- Not being able to eat snow because it might contain radioactive “fallout.” No snow ice cream…
Truthfully, some of this did worry me, but I don’t think it was quite as scarring as we might imagine nowadays. I just did my drills and kept on growing up.
With all this tension piled on a ten-year-old, it’s a wonder that I did not end up on an analyst’s couch long before my husband left. On the other hand, maybe it explains a lot…C