MyStoryYourStory: I am a child of the cold war

The other day when I heard a TV news commentator say, "I am a child of the Cold War," I immediately was catapulted back to an edgy, silently neurotic code of my childhood.

Those of us who grew up during this time have a frame of reference that may strike young people today as odd and totally foreign.

For those not familiar with the Cold War, it was not a battle between troops but a war of ideologies that lasted decades beginning in 1945.

Back then, there existed a constant pervasive state of political tension between Communist governments led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States and its allies. This power struggle was fought with words as weapons and threats as defensive armor.

Flashbacks of classroom air raid drills set in place by the Federal Civil Defense Administration are not uncommon for children of that era.

This exercise involved simple commands, such as "Drill" shouted by the classroom teacher, which prompted us, ever so innocent, to quickly kneel under our desks. Tucking our chins to chests, clasping our hands over the back of our heads, we didn't know if this was the real thing.

Waiting out the drill curled beneath row upon row of desks, we resembled harvested corn fields with pitiful bent stumps left to withstand winter's snare.

Half-finished papers with multiplication tables, verb conjugations or cursive lessons lay above in stillness, pensively waiting with cold hope that we would soon return.

In retrospect, how ironic such little protection this exercise would have provided. Even so, it made us feel safe and managed our emotions, which was the government's intent. Little did we know that if under nuclear attack, we would never return home.

When we notice Fall Out Shelters signs left over from the Cold War in schools and municipal buildings, we get it.

We aren't strangers to gas masks either and wouldn't be afraid to use them. We recall the how-to handbook "Nuclear Protection: What to know and do about Nuclear Attack." And, we haven't forgotten the Civil Defense Council sign "CD – Your Block Leader Lives in This House" or the slogan "Alert Today. Alive Tomorrow."

As a child of the Cold War, I can't pass a fruit cellar and not consider it a good place to run for cover during a nuclear winter.

I can still picture mine with a stockpile of non-perishable foods. Buried in the bowels of my basement, our cellar was a gold mine of sustenance, well stocked with mostly canned pork and beans, whole kernel corn, cocktail wieners, beets, applesauce, mandarin oranges and government issued jugs labeled Emergency Drinking Water.

It's where my family of eight would cram while waiting out the attack with Civil Defense sirens drowning out life as we knew it. The place we would tunnel our small hope of survival, postpone our future for who knew how long – a week, month or more?

Children of the Cold War are familiar with night terrors invading sweet slumber, causing us to bolt out of bed coated in cold sweat, panicked over horrific images of nuclear annihilation. So real. So real.

2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email  boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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