A Look at Yesteryear – Fallout Shelters

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Food and supplies would have been stockpiled along the walls.

Back during the “Cold War” (from about 1947 to 1991) everyone was worried about what to do in the event a nuclear bomb was detonated somewhere in America. Many people actually built bomb shelters in their back yards. But not everyone could do that, and there also had to be plans for large groups of people such as in cities. Sturdy buildings made of concrete with basements were designated as fallout shelters, with the hopes the concrete would help minimize a person’s exposure to radiation. These buildings were also stocked with food, water, and supplies to take care of people for a couple of weeks until it was felt they could safely go out again.

One place to see an example of a fallout shelter is at Ft. Worden in Washington State. The military also had to prepare a plan and supplies in the event of a nuclear attack. In the case of Ft. Worden they planned to use the concrete batteries as the shelters.

So how would you have known where to find a shelter? The first thing you would look for is the distinct yellow sign telling you which building was designated as a fallout shelter.

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Here you see how food and water is stored. Survival Crackers and Wafers – the food does not look particularly appealing, but I imagine if there had been a real emergency, people would have been happy to have any food to eat.

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Survival Biscuit

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Survival Cracker

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Survival Wafer

Medical and sanitary supplies were also stored.

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Medical Supplies

Booklets with information were distributed to all local residents to help them know what to do if the time came.

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Informational Booklets

It would have been a bit stressful to be in one of the shelters and see these Geiger Counters. They would have been important to measure the radioactivity not only in the shelter but to help decide when it was safe to go outside again.

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Geiger Counter

It must have been very scary, planning for and worrying about a nuclear attack. And who knows if all these preparations would have actually been helpful. But they all did the best they could at the time with their plans, and thank goodness fallout shelters were never needed.

Once the Cold War was over, most of these shelters were discontinued. Almost any town you go to though, there will be some building where you will still see the yellow sign. If you would like to see an exhibit showing how a fallout shelter would have looked back then, take the trip to Ft. Worden State Park on the Olympic Peninsula. The exhibit is located inside the Coast Artillery Museum.

Getting there: (from the Fort Worden website) –

From Seattle-Bainbridge Ferry to Fort Worden State Park

Depart from the ferry terminal, and drive straight (NE) on State Route (SR) 305 for approximately 13 miles. Drive through Poulsbo, and take a right onto the ramp for SR 3 to the Hood Canal Bridge – approximately 7 miles. At the lighted intersection for SR 104, take a left and remain on SR 104 for about 6 ½ miles. At the intersection of SR 19, turn right. Stay on SR 19 for 14 miles; it will merge with SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend, take a left on Kearney Street, right on Blaine Street, left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Canada/Northwest Washington to Fort Worden State Park

Travel south on Interstate 5 to Highway 20 (Burlington exit). Follow Highway 20 west through Oak Harbor and Coupeville to Keystone Ferry, approximately 42 miles. Take the Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend. Depart from the ferry terminal and turn left onto Water Street. At the first stop light, turn right onto Kearney Street. At the first stop sign take a right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, take a left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Edmonds-Kingston Ferry to Fort Worden State Park

Depart from the ferry terminal and drive straight on State Route (SR) 104. Follow signs to stay on SR 104 through Port Gamble to the Hood Canal Bridge, approximately nine miles. At the lighted intersection for SR 104, turn right and remain on SR 104 for about 6.5 miles. At the intersection of SR 19, turn right. Stay on SR 19 for 14 miles; it will merge with SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend. Turn left onto Kearney Street, and at the first stop sign turn right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, turn left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Tacoma to Fort Worden State Park

Follow Highway 16 across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and follow the signs to Bremerton, approximately 27 miles, where the highway changes names to SR 3. Follow SR 3 about 25 miles to the Hood Canal Bridge. At the lighted intersection for SR 104, turn left and remain on SR 104 for about 6.5 miles. At the intersection of SR 19, turn right. Stay on SR 19 for 14 miles; it will merge with SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend. Turn left onto Kearney Street, and at the first stop sign turn right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, turn left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Olympia to Fort Worden State Park

Take US 101 northbound towards Quilcene. About 12 miles past Quilcene, bear right onto SR 20. Follow SR 20 approximately eight miles then turn left at the lighted intersection, which keeps you on SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend. Turn left onto Kearney Street, and at the first stop sign turn right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, turn on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

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Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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