The 1960s and ’70s weren’t like other decades. It was a time when history seemed like it was happening all at once, and we were right there to see it all.
Here are 10 things you’ll remember if you grew up at the height of the Cold War:
After World War 2, the Soviet Union quickly became an existential threat to life here in the United States, and the Civil Defense authorities loved to remind you:
Your home town probably had an air raid siren, and your family must have owned one of the pamphlets they made. The idea was to warn people how to stay safe during a nuclear attack, but mostly these leaflets, posters and books just terrified everyone.
But there was no reason to worry, as long as your family marked the two spots on the radio dial where you could receive CONELRAD emergency broadcasts. People were ready to run for the hills at any moment. Speaking of which…
Like we said, families were convinced that a war between Russia and the U.S. was ready to break out at any moment. That’s why so many families built their own fallout shelters, or paid to have one built.
Most families built shelters in their backyard, or as an extension of their basement. Today you can still find many older homes with built-in shelters, which new owners use for storage.
Some families actually tried to keep their shelter a secret, because they worried their neighbors would rush to get in during a real emergency.
Is it any wonder we were so terrified? Just like grownups, kids were expected to practice Civil Defense drills, and warned that they would only have minutes to get to safety during a real attack.
In case you couldn’t get to safety in time, you were taught to “duck and cover” under your desk. The government even produced an adorable cartoon starring Bert the Turtle, which some schools kept airing right up until 1991.
So would hiding under a desk actually protect you during a nuclear attack? Actually, maybe. As long as you aren’t smack-dab in the middle of the explosion, covering your body is an important safety tip.
Throughout the ’60s, America and the Soviet Union competed technologically, trying to out-produce each other by making more and more nuclear warheads. A side effect of this contest was the Space Race, a race to see who could reach the moon first.
While we remember the space race as a big science competition, there were real-world stakes too. Both governments planned to use the moon as a base for missile attacks, or for defensive weapons.
But in the end all we got was Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s incredible moon landing, watched live by over 750 million people. Oh, and lots of fun Space Age food, like Tang and Easy Cheese.
And all of that Space Age innovation changed our homes for the better…