Friday, March 18, 2011

Atomic Radioactive Fallout

Well, they say the radiation from Japan is hitting the west coast of the USA as I speak lol. That would be me and my atomic ranch house.

No, Chris the 1950's Atomic Ranch House cat does not have radioactive eyes, but in every photo I take of him, he sure seems to!

In light of the subject, (but not to make light of it), I thought I'd remind everyone of the real threat of nuclear and atomic concerns during the Cold War era of the 1950's.

At one time, I blogged about my interest in collecting some of the surplus Civil Defense stuff for sale on eBay like this Geiger counter radiation detector:

Quite a bit of it is new old stock, and very cool. There is an interesting amount of it available.

Given the hysteria now though, you will have to wait at least a year before prices on CD radiation testing kits and such are affordable again.

I did opt for an official Fallout Shelter sign.

Oh and some propaganda Atomic books and such:

Because every 1950's Atomic Ranch House needs to have good information, just in case...

I grew up with my late older brother talking about the effects of radiation poisoning, and how many "prime targets" were in my area (there were, and still are, a lot of military bases here in southern California). I guess that influenced me a great deal, as I still have nightmares about nuclear winter.

Watching movies like "Panic in Year Zero":

Only made me more frightened, and with some good reason. The threat of atomic bombs WAS real. The 50's weren't always the "good old days" as many might like to think.

Two shows I'd like to highly recommend are a very campy documentary, or "mockumentary" called "The Atomic Cafe":


The film covers the beginnings of the era of nuclear warfare, created from a broad range of archival film from the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s - including newsreel clips, television news footage, U.S. government-produced films (including military training films), advertisements, television and radio programs. News footage reflected the prevailing understandings of the media and public. A quote which illustrates how the producers used archival footage to illustrate the absurdity of the government's public nuclear propaganda of the time:

Civil defense film: Be sure to include tranquilizers to ease the strain and monotony of life in a fallout shelter. A bottle of 100 should be sufficient for a family of four. Tranquilizers are not a narcotic, and are not habit-forming.

Though the topic of atomic holocaust is a grave matter, the film approaches it with black humor. Much of the humor derives from the modern audience's reaction to the old training films, such as the Duck and Cover film shown in schools. A quote to illustrate what can be perceived as black humor culled from the archives:

And a very sobering documentary (there are several excellent one's) called "Radio Bikini":

Radio Bikini is a 1988 documentary film directed by Robert Stone.[1] It was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988 for Best Documentary Feature.

The film documents the nuclear tests performed around Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads in 1946, and their effects on the indigenous population and American servicemen involved in the testing.

These three videos will give you a good sense of the feeling at the time from a few different perspectives.

I suppose I am mentioning all this today is because of the radiation hitting my coast, and because we have come to associate the word "atomic" with cool furniture and lamps, when it was borne out of something serious (as a small reminder), and because I am a realist, so I (personally) think we should not rewrite and romanticize the past.

There were some pretty awful things during those times... You know, like DDT, polio, Veterans returning from WWll with PTSD Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, no seatbelts, women and minority rights were sparse at best, the mentally and physically challenged were hidden in institutions and given lobotomies and electro-shock therapy, thalidomide and the awful deformations of so many babies, hydrogen and atomic bomb threats... Well, you get the point lol... But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the wonderful things about the 50's, I simply think we also shouldn't forget the terrible parts either.

So I hope everyone is keeping all things in perspective on this super fine Friday!


  1. My elementary school had that fall out shelter sign about the entrance to the kitchen. Cook's choice? Why, yes. Yes, it was nuclear!!

  2. I remember watching "The Atomic Cafe" back in jr. high- they showed it in our history class, I believe. My brother has three of those geiger counters. He's a CD buff as well- maybe now is the time to sell one!

    He put me on to this great website for finding 50s government and industrial documentaries:

  3. I remember Fallout Shelter signs too =)

    Thanks for the link, Susie =D

  4. My husband bought an old Geiger counter a few years ago on Ebay-just because it was cheap and he thought it was cool. I bet they are going for a LOT more now.

  5. I love "Panic in the Year Zero"... I love that and "X: The Man with X Ray Eyes" for pure later career Ray Milland kitsch.

  6. Wow! thats some pretty interesting stuff there! This will be nothing like the 1950's though... America was fine when Chernobyl blew up and even when the 3 mile island incident occurred. People tend to over react a bit, but out of the hysteria we do get to see some interesting items from the past nuclear scares and we learn from these incidents and figure out ways to further prevent them from happening.

  7. Those Cold War atomic boogieman movies are cool lol...

    Yeah, geiger counters are way expensive at the moment... If I ever build a Bomb shelter, I'll stock it with all the cool 50's stuff!

  8. I think the powers that be figured that "duck and cover" wasn't gonna help when I was growing up. Russia was the big threat and no one ever imagined that China would be the #1 Nuclear threat. "Radio Bikini" Now that is a new one I've never heard about and I'm to lazy to build my own fall-out shelter. Fun and information packed post.

  9. I love this post! I've been been looking for "How to Survive an Atomic Bomb" for a while, but every time I've seen it its been priced pretty steeply. Do you have any suggestions on where to find this CD/old Cold War stuff besides waiting for the perfect ebay auction? Btw, I never ever read blogs, but I keep up with yours because its so positive and I love how you take the time to put cool pics of you find! Thanks for such a great read!

  10. Another thoughtful reminder - it wasn't all sweet shops and hula hoops.

  11. 'Threads' was a terrifying (to me anyway) BBC series in the 80s. It focussed on the sftermath of a nuclear attack and almost made me join CND!

    K xx

  12. One movie I love about that era is "Desert Bloom" with Annabeth Gish, it's about the nuclear testing in the desert, and a family that lives on the outskirts of (I think) Reno. The mom was the one in Poltergeist, and I think the dad was Jon Voight. Lots of cool sets, too.

  13. Relevaant and poignant post, Ranchie...very well said.

  14. Hi all, and thanks for your comments!

    Hi anon, and thanks!

    I got my atomic books and such off eBay, but they might be available on Amazon too. =)

    I'm going to check out that series keshling, and that movie, ZSM!

  15. Watching movies like "Panic in Year Zero" is really something, nowadays when it comes in watching movies most people used to watch romantic and action films than suspense and whatsoever.

  16. excellent post. the good comes with the bad...