Bomb Proof and Family Friendly

During the Cold War, Fairbanks was included in government plans to experiment with the construction and use of personal fall-out shelters as this newspaper article published 59 years ago reflects.

Fairbanks Daily News Miner – October 10, 1959


If you’re married and have a couple kids, the state Civil Defense people have devised an experiment which may drive you to hermitage—probably Old Hermitage—but which will nevertheless provide you with a jim-dandy radiation fall-out shelter.

For free. Interested?

Vernon M. Metcalfe, who’s the state director of the Civil Defense is going to put up a family-size radiation shelter in somebody’s basement. It won’t cost the recipient a thing.

You may, however, have to live in the 10-by-10 foot blockhouse for a week or so with all your youngsters.

Or, if you’re skittish about all that togetherness, you’ll have to let the government put somebody else and their kids in it for a while. This probably won’t be much of a bother; the shelter is pretty well soundproofed.

According to Director Metcalfe—he’s got five or six children himself – the federal government is financing the whole deal. They’re going to put model outdoor and indoor shelters up in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau.

Now comes the University of Alaska.

They, says Metcalfe, have expressed some interest in making a sociological study of the week-long living situation—having to do with all that togetherness you, your spouse and innumerable kiddies will suffer through in a fall-out shelter.

When two years are up, you get the radiation shelter all to yourself: no one else will come and look at it unless you invite them. No more fuss, it’s yours.

A contest will determine which lucky family will have this latest necessity of modern living. Details of that will be worked out later.

Director Metcalfe is now seeking bids form some contractor for the local work, and says specifications are available from E. Johnny Coonjohn, the local Civil Defense director. (yes that was his real name) He wants the bids in by late next week. They, too, can be offered through Coonjohn.

Just think: if you get this jim-dandy radiation fall-out shelter, the Joneses will have to keep up with you!

Note: Apparently no contestants signed up for this free 10’ x 10’ home upgrade. In a newspaper article published two months later, the “concrete family sized blockhouse” was to be built at the University with federal money. It is not known if it really was built or not. It appears that no one ever did build a personal shelter, despite the promotion and a large public education campaign by the federal government. Later, public buildings were designated as shelters instead. This “bomb proof, family friendly” history nugget was brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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