The Way It Was – The bomb shelter

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Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
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The decade of the sixties was a crazy time. The “cold war” was heating up, and Nikita Khrushchev was threatening to “bury us.” Then there was the Cuban missile crisis, and a “hot war” seemed possible. Things got so tense that school kids all over the country were taught to “duck and cover” if bombs started falling. And many magazines told readers how to build a bomb shelter in their basement. It was all scary stuff.
About the same time, I met a man named Bob West. He lived at 730 West Sixth St., and he worked in Scotts Research Department. In fact, Bob was in charge of the development of all Scotts mechanical products: lawn spreaders, mowers, rose dusters and things like that. He was perfect for that kind of job because he was one of those people who liked to “think outside the box.” And he was always trying new things with his ideas.
Bob became interested in basement bomb shelters the magazines were featuring, and I think he would have built one himself, except for one thing. You see, Bob’s house had no basement. That would have stopped most people, but not him. If he couldn’t build a bomb shelter in his basement, then he would build one in his yard. And that’s what he did.
He selected a spot in his front yard not far from his front door. That would provide quick access when the bombs started falling. It was just a few feet west of his driveway, in a spot where the bunker’s entrance could be nestled in a flower and shrub bed.
I don’t know where he got the plans for the shelter, nor do I know who did the construction, but it was all done under Bob’s watchful eye. People all over Marysville followed the construction. Cars drove past his house after dinner every night to see how the shelter was progressing.
Bob did take a little ribbing from his friends during the construction. For example, one of his friends, next-door neighbor Joe Lentz, sometimes needled Bob by referring to the shelter as “West’s Folly.” But that didn’t bother Bob.
The shelter was made of thick reinforced concrete. Access was made down a steel ladder. Attached to one wall were sleeping cots. On an opposite wall were shelves on which water and canned food were stored. Lighting was provided by carbide lanterns like the ones coal miners used years ago. A hand operated air pump and a portable toilet were also included. Oh yes, once the occupants were inside, a thick slab of concrete could be slid into position at the entrance to complete the bomb protection.
When construction was finished, Bob was ready for the bombs to fall. He waited for several years, and fortunately no bombs fell on Marysville. Then there was an easing of tensions and war seemed more unlikely. That was good, of course, however it created a challenge for Bob. I mean, what does one do with an abandoned bomb shelter? He could have it removed, but if the cold war heated up again he would then have to replace it from scratch.
I’m not sure what things Bob considered, perhaps he could turn it into a koi pond nestled among the flowers, or maybe a vault where he could store things that were in his safe deposit box at the bank. There were a lot of possibilities, so I was confident he would come up with something. And I was right.
Bob converted that bomb shelter into a wine cellar. It was a perfect place to keep wines – not too warm in summer, and not too cold in winter. He could put the wines on the shelves, which had held the canned goods and water. He might even add a small hand operated elevator to retrieve the wines. It would be perfect.
For the past 60 years or so, that bomb shelter hasn’t been needed … thank goodness. But it is still there today. I am glad of that, for It’s a good reminder of what things were like in the 1960s, when Marysville school kids were taught to “duck and cover” if bombs started falling. Those really were crazy days.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at bill@davidwboyd.com



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