Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we came to recognize the symbol above as a place where you would hunker down in case of a sudden nuclear attack. We can laugh at this today but please bear in mind we had films and such that conveyed to us that if we were smart and we ducked under our desks if we saw a bright flash we would make it through World War III alive. Nevermind the very desk we were ducking under would be kindling after the blast wave arrived….
My house in the Swamp here was built in 1960. Apparently the original occupant was scared enough during the Cuban Missile Crisis of ’62 that he had a bomb shelter built directly in the backyard. Today I would ask him what he was thinking because (1) the warning time from missile penetration into U.S airspace to detonation here just north of Jacksonville would be no greater than ten minutes. Also, (2) there is a reason why we don’t have cellar in the Swamp – they flood – badly. Finally, (3) what naturally is attracted to dark, damp places? Bugs, and lots of them. Which is great because they would be the only residents left after the radiation settles. But whomever was selling these shelters apparently got three residents to buy them and have them installed. Apparently the locals knew where to run in case of sudden war I guess.
When I first moved in to this house in 1995, I had no clue I had a shelter in my yard. I thought the water pumps and pipes were a part of the city’s water system. After living here a few years I mentioned this to a neighbor and they revealed it’s true purpose. Then it was followed up by a stunning revelation. Apparently as a child he had used it as an underground swimming pool! Bear in mind this space is only 10 foot by ten foot by six feet in height. Also, that explained all the water pumps and pipes in the area. I asked him why they used such a small space underground for “swimming” and he told me it was to avoid getting sunburn. Yea… okay.
About ten to twelve years ago I went down into the space and saw that it was dry. I moved some “extra” furniture down there, but since then the ventilation pipes have collapsed and the space is now a bug-infested flooded space. I dare no use the wooden ladder that was installed there because it would collapse under any amount of weight. So I do what I can to make sure nobody gets in there by placing about a half-ton of concrete on top of the entrance hatch to the shelter.
I do occasionally get asked about the shelter. Some of the locals tell me it is awesome I have it because I have someplace to go during a hurricane. I respond with “Sure, with the storm surge I am happy I have a place where the rescue teams can find the bodies after the water subsides. Some tell me it is a great place during a tornado, but again, after moving all the rocks off the hatch I am sure I will be in rough shape as the funnel passes and I am outside.
Hopefully those locals who know about the shelter will not pass this knowledge to their kin in case of World War III. I can only imagine living within miles of a nuclear submarine base that this damp hole in the ground will keep all of us safe from a sudden strike. Trust me the last thing I want is to become a permanent monument here in the Swamp.