Duck and Cover!

 

Photo: Google Images; Duck and Cover drills in the 50s

I grew up in the 50s and 60s and during the Cold War between Russia and the United States school children were taught the “duck and cover” method to save our lives in case of nuclear bombing during school hours. Huh?  I vividly remember these drills that would come randomly during the school year in addition to our fire drills.

When the alarm sounded we were instructed to quickly and quietly (always quietly) to get in a huddle down on our knees underneath our desks with our heads protectively covered by our arms. I’m sure I wasn’t aware specifically of the reason for these drills at my young age but the energy surrounding the drill left me fearful and shaken.  Sometimes the exercise had us lined up and following our teachers out to the parking lot where waiting volunteer parents lent their cars as getaway vehicles to whisk us away off campus.

Not only would these drills be useless in protecting anyone during a nuclear blast but they added fear to an already too fearful child. We also had the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 60s…I lived in very close proximity to Cuba, and the Vietnam War was on television during the evening news.  It’s no wonder that I was well acquainted with anxiety as a child.

fire whips hysteria
crackling, consuming calm
frightened doe huddles

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51 Comments

  1. I too remember these exercises in futility Gayle. I love the “frightened doe” in your haiku. It is perfect for that is how I felt – fragile and helpless.

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  2. Hi Gayle! That is so interesting. We have never done anything like that. But I remember some of the instructions that were in When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs and what my grandparents told me about WW2 and the London Blitz.

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    • Hi Kim! I suppose the school district felt like they had to implement some type of safety measures for all of us children but when I thought back on it as an adult I realized how useless it was. It’s interesting to hear of stories from back then by others. My own mother as a teenager volunteered to watch for enemy planes during WW2 from local fire watch towers.

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  3. Oh, terrifying. My daughter was in a pretend air raid at primary school, and they all had to hide under the desks. She came home quite shaken from that! My memory of fire drills is of chatting and giggling, and not taking it very seriously. Your bomb drills sound much more anxiety provoking.

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    • Oh, I took those fire drills lightly too and it was just fun to be able to get up and walk outside and take a break from the day. The bomb drills felt more ominous for sure!

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  4. Anonymous

     /  April 17, 2017

    Yes, weren’t these drills totally ridiculous? We used to be lined up against the walls of the hallway. I don’t remember being fearful but remember it disrupted the day. Your writing explains well the effect o many.

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  5. I don’t think we ever did such drills, although fire drills were common. It could have been because I went to midwestern rural schools.

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    • I suppose all schools had/have fire drills. Florida is home to the 3rd largest military Naval Air Station in the U.S. and there was a station in my home town of Orlando back then too…we were a big target.

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  6. Glenn Buttkus

     /  April 17, 2017

    Yup–I was there, ducking & covering for most of a decade; can’t remember when they stopped those drills–late 50’s I think. I used to be awakened at night hearing jet engines, fearing that nuclear flash that might follow.

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  7. I don’t think we had these drills, just fire and earthquake drills. But this is scary for me, specially when all one hears is just war and violence. Love the haiku of the frightened doe huddling ~

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  8. I love the haiku! All the rushing fire…

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  9. The fire images in the Haiku are a perfect pairing to the prose – you have painted a stark picture of how we, as adults, pour our fears on children.

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  10. I remember those days, dad stationed at Homestead AFB. I guess they were a placebo for our young minds. I didn’t figure it out for quite a while. Thanks for the trip down memory lane

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    • Florida is home to the 3rd largest military air station located in Jacksonville and there was one in Orlando back then too…my home town. I suppose we really could have been in the line of fire. I wish the memory could have been a nicer one though…

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  11. Ooh.. the imagery. The thought of war makes me cringe.

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  12. I remember the Cold War…shivers! And disturbing dreams after reading Hiroshima.

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    • Yes, that is another horror of a memory and I remember watching documentaries on tv about concentration camps and seeing all of those poor prisoners…and worse. Why did my parents let me watch that?!

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  13. Oh My God, Gayle! I could have written this very same memory! I also remember this ‘behavior’ of the teachers, school authorities. We did the very same thing. Duck and Cover! As if this would make a damn difference? Your haibun brings back very sharp and disturbing memories. And your haiku is superb. Absolutely beautiful. And now? With the sword rattling of N.Korea and the US?? I am again afraid, but with very much more adult knowledge of it all. Excellent fear haibun. based in the reality of us as children of the 50’s and 60’s….which I thought would never happen again.

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    • Seems that I resurrected some bad memories for us baby boomers, Jane. Thank you for your generous compliment too. Let’s hope that we won’t be dragged into another war…although from what I can tell, war can be big business like so many other profitable pocket linings for our “leaders.”

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  14. My memory of this sort was tornado drills in rural Ohio. Slightly less global, but still terrifying to a child. Well done, Gayle.

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  15. It was bothersome but at least it can everyone working together in an emergency!

    Hank

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  16. …can get everyone….

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  17. Reality, it’s scary for an adult, yet a child. I hope humanity has learnt from the past. Love the memories of the past.

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  18. I can’t make up my mind as to whether the quietness with which you were being trained to meet oblivion was comforting or sinister.

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    • We were told that the quiet was so we could hear our teachers if they had important directions to give us during an emergency…makes sense to me. But I get where you were coming from with the ominous feeling, Paul.

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  19. its so frightening….
    Nice Haiku!

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  20. Gayle, with what is going on in the world today….in Europe with the issues of terrorism, such random violence against an innocent public by crazed men…and the issue right now with N.Korea, all this brings back a fear that perhaps the Blitz in London, and England…suffered. And your haiku today means something else to me: The wildfires on the border of Georgia and Florida. The wildlife destroyed by these fires, and no bombs need to drop.
    The ‘leaders’ we have, regardless what party, are what chills my spine and heart. I do think we have stepped into WWIII and we are seeing it unfold before our eyes. I prepared for Y2K seriously and ran a national website. that got my fear going but nothing like what we face today. Perhaps the only thing to do to lessen stress is turn off the TV and delete the political sites that invade our lives. I am going to go hug my radishes and swiss chard down in the garden.

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    • I wasn’t even aware of wildfires on our border, Jane, and that’s because I rarely watch the news anymore. The news serves me no good purpose these days. And while I don’t have radishes or swiss chard to hug, I hug and smile at my two wonderful granddaughters regularly. Best medicine for keeping my head and heart steady these days.

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      • Oh, Gayle!!! Those two granddaughters are MUCH better than radishes and swiss chard. LOL! You are so fortunate and I can understand about the news. I don’t know why only the worse is portrayed…or maybe there is nothing else….on the news, but I think we all can find something to find joy (as you do with your kids…) and embrace. I send love to you and yours!!!!

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  21. I have to chuckle when I think of this, too. And growing up in L.A. I recall some blackouts, too–but that could have been back at the end of WWII. Scary stuff and there are shades of it today.

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  22. Your haiku dovetails so nicely into the subject! The quietly seems ironic… “We wouldn’t want to miss the sound of the bomb, children!”

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  23. Gayle, I remember those drills. That photo looks just like my second grade classroom, and that was us, under our desks. It was hard to comprehend…. Still is.

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    • It looks like my second grade classroom too, Betty. Yes, hard to comprehend what we went through back in those days.

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  24. Love this Gayle! The good ole ‘duck and cover’ as if that would protect you in the event of some awful catastrophe. Well done!

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    • Thank you, Renee! It was only in looking back as an adult that I could see the ridiculous idea that we would somehow be protected from bombings. We would have been better off keeping our spirits up through playing or singing.

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  25. I never knew that there are such drills happening in some part of the world… but seeing it from a child point of you it makes me feel yes its scary… there could be a better option for this kind of education…

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    • I agree with you. There must have been a better option but these drills are no longer practiced in our school system these days. Thanks for coming by and sharing your comment.

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