Every person who attended elementary school in the late fifties and early sixties must be permanently damaged with regard to mental health. We lived during a time of awful stress and fear…the fear of being incinerated by a nuclear bomb launched by Russia.
At the time, Russia was led by a charismatic, manipulative, and unbalanced leader by the name of Nikita Kruschev. And Russia was, by far, our biggest enemy. And they, like us, possessed nuclear weapons.
Every day we witnessed an intense struggle between Russia and the US, with the threat of nuclear extinction always present. Our fear reached an unbearable peak during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Every newspaper, magazine, best selling book and movie dealt with the possibility of massive death by nuclear attack, leaving a world without human life. The Twilight Zone, a fabulous TV show at the time, was great at tapping into that fear.
So, brilliant school officials conducted ‘air raid drills’ throughout the country’s schools during that time. Mrs. Baty, our third grade teacher, explained that we would likely be in a major target area because we lived near a very important air force base, Stewart Field (we loved hearing that).
She also informed us that we needed to crouch below our little, cheaply made wooden desks because we needed to stay clear of flying glass.
At this point, I thought, but didn’t ask, why we needed to worry about flying glass when we would be melted by the nuclear flash.
So I, being of larger bod than most, wedged myself under my tiny wooden desk, knowing full well that this turn of the century collection of wood slabs would not protect me from a multi megaton blast of nuclear fury.
When the all clear was signaled, I had to call in the Jaws of Life to extricate myself from underneath my megablast crypt.
I would often go home to express my nuclear fears to Mom. She was pretty good at keeping it as positive as possible. She obviously did not want me focusing on the stuff of nightmares.
But I will tell you this. Every kid, at that time, shared the same deep concerns that kids should not have to deal with.
Glad my son never spent an instant worrying about that stuff.