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Prepping 1950’s Style-What You Need to Know

Panic in Year Zero

Panic in Year Zero

If you are new to prepping you may think the whole prepping movement is also new. It seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and you may be hearing about survival and prepping for the first time. You may be too young to remember the cold war or fallout shelters. Or if you are like me you may remember practicing duck and cover drills in grade school. If you look back to the 1950’s and 1960’s you will find that there were actually a good number of hardcore preppers back then. As a matter of fact even the United States government was probably better prepared for a nuclear attack than they are today. If the missiles started flying today would anyone have a clue as to where the nearest “Civil Defense Shelter” was?

I recently watched two old movies that were both interesting and informative. The first was “The Atomic Cafe” This was a documentary that came out in 1982 that was a collection of 1940’s-1950’s government propaganda films to reassure Americans there was nothing to worry about when it came to atomic weapons. Included is also a good deal of history regarding the atomic bomb and the fear and worry that went with it. From people building bomb shelters to stocking up on supplies there is no doubt the modern prepping movement roots are firmly planted in the 1950’s. Recently a Wisconsin couple found a fully stocked fallout shelter in their back yard. Everything was in pristine condition from 1960. This was a rare find considering most shelters from the 1960’s have long fallen into disrepair.

The second movie was “Panic in Year Zero” It starts out with a family of 4 leaving on a camping trip just before a nuclear bomb goes off in Los Angles. Now I thought this was going to end up being a cheesy movie but it turns out to be very well done and it is prepping 101 at its best. Everything that preppers talk about and plan for today was covered in this movie. Once they find out what had happened, the father’s first thought was they need to stock up on food and quickly before others beat them to it. Next stop the hardware store for guns and ammo. When he doesn’t have enough money for the guns he just takes them and tells the owner he will pay him when he can. The camping trip quickly turns into a search for the perfect bug out location. They are pulling a perfectly good comfortable trailer but they decide to camp out in a cave to be out of sight and protect themselves from any nuclear fallout. When hoodlums attack his daughter he takes the law into his own hands. This movie is now 51 years old yet it displayed the chaos and breakdown in society as it could happen just as easily today.

Another movie I watched recently was the more recent “Take Shelter” about a man obsessed with a coming storm. The best line in the movie is when he is angry and shouting at a group of people “There is a storm coming and none of you are prepared!”

Looking back at the 1950’s-60’s one thing is perfectly clear- we knew who the enemy was. We knew the Russians had nukes and what it would mean if they used them. We could prepare for a nuclear war. Today we don’t fear a nuclear attack as much as a number of other events. It could be terrorism, grid down, solar flare, earthquakes, storms, dirty bombs, pandemics or economic collapse. How do you prepared for the unexpected when you don’t know what that will be? The fear of an all out global nuclear war may have passed but 50 years later the dangers of today’s global climate give us even more reason to be prepared for the unexpected.

Both The Atomic Cafe and Panic in Year Zero may be available online or streaming on Netflix or Amazon. If you are interested in fallout shelters from the 1950’s pick up copies of Popular Science or Popular Mechanics from that era. Many other magazines and news articles had information about building fallout shelters and stocking them. Prepping is not new and there are many valuable lessons to be learned from the past.