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A Blast from the Past: Fall Out Shelter sign brings back memories

A sign in Lebanon, KY, brings back memories for a Child of the Cold War. Of growing up on Lindsey Wilson's campus. Of a nine year old's plans for her family, herself, and most importantly, her cat Trouble should the Evil Red Communists drop a bomb on their Number 1 target, Louisville or Ft. Knox, with the resultant fallout on Lindsey Wilson. Today, as a mother of two boys, she still has fears, and she'll share her coping plans with other moms in the same boat.
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By Shamarie Claiborne

While I was walking into the court house in Marion County the other day I happened to glance up and see a sign: Fallout Shelter. I immediately turned 6 years old and my heart filled with fear! For you see as a child, from the age of around 6 until I reached the wise old age of about 9. I was completely and totally convinced World War III would erupt at any moment. During those years my love for history was created, while at the same time my heart was filled with fear for the first time in my life.

Some may not know that a large percentage of my childhood was spent on the campus of Lindsey Wilson College. I roamed the dorms and buildings as if it were my own playground while my father worked there during the late 70's and early 80's. I spent a large amount of my time with college students and adults in general. Now, I can't tell you the exact day I learned of the evil RED's but it formed over a period of time from watching the news and listening to the college students and staff discuss their own concerns. The bottom line is that I awoke one day with the certainty that I was not safe and the Russians were coming!

It was my first experience with evil and the unsettling understanding that not all people were nice. The Red's didn't just hate us; they wanted to kill us. At that young age I didn't understand the details by any means but I understood the simple parts of it. They had BIG BOMBS that would flatten a whole city and we had BIG BOMBS that would flatten a whole city. We had millions of those bombs pointed at them and they had millions of those bombs pointed at us!

Hence came the period of my life that was consumed with living underground. Every night as tried to sleep, instead of counting sheep, I would plan my parents and my survival. I planned on everything from how to store food, water, cat food (for my cat Trouble) to the number of freezers and refrigerators it would take to hold the previsions. I planned on how to clean water and air since we would not be about to come out until I was very old somewhere around thirty. Anyway, you get the picture.

Then sometime around the age of 9 I decided maybe it would not happen. The grown-ups were after all the grown-ups and knew how to take care of us. Right - so the plan became to worry but not to worry too much!

Of course over the years as I studied more about Russia and Communism, I became consumed from time to time. The worst was probably when I was around 12 and we were studying about WWII. I learned the details surrounding the first Nuclear Bomb. I remember being heart broken when I found out it was not the evil RED Communist but my own beloved country that had set off the first nuclear weapons. The old fear gripped me and now that I was older I had to come up with a concrete plan with details. First I calculated that the nearest blast would be from either Ft. Knox or Louisville and we should be out of the "blast zone" from impact. Next, I made detailed floor plans of my families' fallout shelter. I wore out a calculator figuring the amount of food needed for my parents and myself and of course Trouble. I wrote out plans for creating electricity and recycling water and air. Lots and lots of math took place in a total of three bound folders. Finally, I had a basic plan; it was always a work in progress but I had a firm idea of what we were going to do. As I think back now I find it interesting that I never wondered about the cost of such a thing, I really just think I needed to THINK I had a plan.

As the years passed and the Cold War ended and of course I became a real adult! I quit worrying about Nuclear War yet from time to time I still think about it but overall I have come to terms with my childhood fear. It should be noted that now that I am a mother I have a much greater fear. The fear of the draft! -I have two boys and have completed an escape plan just in case! I have 2 binders full of detailed options. Will share with other mothers at no charge! -Shamarie Claiborne

This story was posted on 2011-02-23 06:42:11
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Fallout Shelter sign in Lebanon, Marion Co., KY

2011-02-23 - Marion Co., KY - Photo by Shamarie Claiborne.
Old Marion Co. Courthouse, 120 W Main ST, Lebanon, KY 40033-1245(MAP) 38 miles north of Historic Adair Co. Courthouse, 500 Public Square, Columbia, KY.
Shamarie Claiborne's eye was caught by this fading sign on a recent visit to the old courthouse on Main Street in Lebanon, KY. Immediately, she had a flashback to her Cold War Childhood when she and her cat, Trouble, were growing up with the whole of Lindsey Wilson College's campus as their home. The Reds and their bombs, and their known intention to hit Louisville and Ft. Knox, KY, first, with resultant fallout on Columbia led to some well thought out plans to protect herself, her parents, and Trouble.

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