Growing up in the Cold War

December 14, 2014
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The museum in Albuquerque, NM. photo by Steve Davis

During a recent road trip I visited the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico. More about the museum itself in a future post, but the gift shop had some old government publications for sale. I picked up one titled, “Survival Under Atomic Attack”. This is a printed by the Office of Civil Defense, State of California in October 1950. California reprinted it from a federal government brochure.

It is an extremely interesting document from the Cold War era. The government tried to prepare and reassure the populace by telling them it was actually possible to survive an all-out nuclear exchange between the USSR and the United States. Not only that they actually told people that life would go on much as before. Reading this brochure I found it so asinine that I actually laughed out loud at a lot of the contents. I thought I’d share some of the ‘deep thoughts’ found in the booklet.

On the very first page it states,

“YOU CAN SURVIVE,

you can live through an atom bomb raid
and you won’t have to have a Geiger counter,
Protective clothing, or special training in order to do it.

The secrets of survival are:

KNOW THE BOMB’S TRUE DANGERS.

KNOW THE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

TO ESCAPE THEM.”

Forgive my skepticism but okay folks whatever you say.

Then there is a page titled “Kill the Myths” I found this just absurd. Here it is,

Myth #1 “Atomic Weapons will not destroy the Earth. Not even hydrogen bombs will blow the earth apart or kill us all by radioactivity.”

Yeah right they’ll just kill most humans, animals, and all other life and leave the planet uninhabitable.

Myth #2 “Doubling Bomb Power does not double destruction.”

This is total bullshit. Nuclear weapons would be detonated above their targets causing enormous damage. The governments who control these weapons have done extensive testing and know full well that this statement is an outright lie.

Myth #3 “Radioactivity is not the bombs greatest threat.”

Maybe not over the short-term, but over the long-term it is the greatest threat. It would linger and as proven by studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagaski, do damage for generations. Why do you think those x-ray techs in the dentist’s office run out of the room when they take those shots of your teeth? Why do they drap that lead vest around you and your vital parts? It’s because of the radiation. Granted it’s only in small dosages from x-rays, but nuclear weapons emit massive amounts of radiation when they explode.

Reading this document at this time in our history is an amusing peek into the mindset of those in power during one of the most frightening periods in recent history. As a child who grew up during the Cold War the contents of this document are beyond comical. It shocks me that we actually believed this stuff. I guess it reassured us that we shouldn’t have been scared. Hell no in reality most of us were scared shit-less!

My personal philosophy in the event of an all-out nuclear exchange was simply that I would prefer not to survive thank you. Let others deal with the nuclear winter and fall-out that would affect the Earth for thousands of years. Let others try to live on without law and order. Let others live on without the benefits of modern civilization like drinking water, heat in winter, and food. The dead would be better off, of that I have no doubt.

Reference::

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
Alburquerque, New Mexico
http://www.nuclearmuseum.org

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Remember Their Service Always

November 11, 2014
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Uncle Ken with my grandmother. Although the youngest he was the tallest at well over 6 feet.

November 11, 2014 another Remembrance Day.

I always think of the young men and women who have given so that we can live in freedom and happiness today.

As a history buff and genealogist I’ve discovered so much to appreciate about these people, especially those who were my relatives.

World War I (The Great War)

Grandfather Bert Sendell

My grandfather on my mother’s side served in World War I. He was in the Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) from 1915 until 1919. He drove ammunition trucks loaded with shells and ammo for the troops from behind the lines to forward positions. Most times he was under shell fire from the enemy who were attempting to stop supplies from reaching the troops in the trenches. He told me one time that many of his friends were killed when the trucks were hit. Although he didn’t talk about the war much but occasionally he would. One of my heroes for sure.

World War II

My Father – Mike (Lloyd) Davis

MikeDavis with RCAF in Eng 1945

My father with the RCAF in England.

Dad served in the RCAF. He was posted overseas to London, England for several years from 1944 until 1946. Dad told me he served in military intelligence. His group set up phoney airfields around England to fool the Germans. While in London he was subjected to the V-bombs that fell almost daily near the end of the war. He was a newly-wed when he shipped overseas.

My Mother – Helen Davis

Mom served in the RCAF in head office in Ottawa. It was while there she met my Dad and eventually they were married. Because she wasn’t allowed to fraternize with officers she had to resign to marry my father. Ironically after her resignation they hired her back in the exact same position as a civilian.

Uncle Glen Davis

Glen served in the RCAF mainly on the west coast of Canada keeping watch for enemy subs and such. He survived the war and lived a good and long life.

Uncle Ken Davis

My father’s youngest brother Ken served in the RCAF and trained in the British Commonwealth Air Training Program. The day before he was to get his wings as a pilot he was killed in a training accident along with his best friend. He was 20 years of age.

Modern Era

Cousin – Robert (Rob) Davis

Rob served in the Canadian Forces. He was on the frigate HMCS Calgary and based on the west coast of Canada.

Thank you all veterans for your service to my country Canada.


The Way We Were 1964: Fifty years ago.

May 21, 2014

1964-the-beatles-life-270In this year of 2014 it is now fifty years since some of us lived through 1964. Here are some interesting things about this important year. Most of this information and factual data is from American sources, but at the end you will find some tidbits on Canada. Enjoy and please leave a comment about something you remember from that year.

What it cost:
Average yearly income $5,880
Gallon of gas .25c
Gallon of milk $1.06
Loaf of bread .21c
1st class postage stamp 5c (to mail a letter)
Magazine subscription (51 issues) $5.00
Pair of shoes $9.95
19” TV black & white $139.95

Entertainment:
1st appearance of Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show
Shooting starts for Star Trek pilot on television

Hit singles:
Baby Love – The Supremes
Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles
Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
I Get Around – The Beach Boys
Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
Rag Doll – The Four Seasons

Movies at the theatre:
Goldfinger – James Bond movie with Sean Connery
Mary Poppins
The Pink Panther – with Peter Sellers
My Fair Lady

Deaths of note:
General Douglas MacArthur – commander of the Pacific operations in WW II.
Jim Reeves – country star (plane crash)
Harpo Marx – comedian – part of the famous Marx Brothers. He was the one who never spoke on screen.
Gracie Allen – comedienne – wife of George Burns – Burns and Allen comedy team
Herbert Hoover – former President of the U.S. – just before Franklin Roosevelt.

Births of those who would become famous later on. Who knew:
Nicolas Cage – actor
Matt Dillon – actor
Rob Lowe – actor
Sandra Bullock – actor
Keanu Reeves – actor
(remember all these will turn 50 years of age this year)

Notable Factoids or Events:
Cigarette smoking is enjoyed by 60% of population.
U.S. Government reports, “that smoking many be hazardous to one’s health”.
Hasbro introduces the G.I. Joe doll.
Ford Mustang goes on sale ($2368 base price).
U.S begins bombing of North Vietnam which dramatically ramps up the Vietnam War. An LBJ decision.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is published, written by Roald Dahl.
Sony introduces first VCR video recorder.
Computer mouse invented, but not generally available until much later.

Notable Canadian Facts from 1964:
Prime Minister is Lester Pearson (Liberal Party).
Social Insurance Number cards issued for first time to Canadians.
Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup (over Detroit Red Wings). Most recent win for Leafs was 1967.
First Tim Horton’s donut shop opens in Hamilton, Ontario. (This is the one I like the best.)


Blow the stink off.

July 14, 2013
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Grandfather Davis possible originator of the saying.

When I was a kid my Dad would always be telling us to, “Go outside and blow the stink off”.

Every family has it sayings I guess. That was one of my father’s favorites. I tried for years to find out what the hell it meant, and second where in God’s name he ever came up with it.

He’d always say it to us kids. I think he’d use it whenever he got tired of us being in the house. It didn’t matter that there was a monsoon rain or the blizzard of the century happening outside, Dad’d direct that at us and then he’d get up and walk away. He never said it to our Mom, or anyone else only us kids.

As kids we actually got the part about going outside, but the “blow the stink off” part? Well I knew I didn’t smell because I showered that morning. I also knew I hadn’t farted, at least most of the time that wasn’t my transgression. Hell if it was the farts he did more of that than we did. Why didn’t he go outside and blow the stink off?

Now after many years I find myself using on my kids. I still don’t know what it means. I did find out where he picked it up. Turns out his father used it on him and his four brothers. Guess what? None of them ever knew exactly what it meant either.

The best interpretation I’ve ever have been able to come up with is this. Go outside meant to leave the house and go play outside where you wouldn’t be bothering him.

My interpretation of the “blow the stink off” is to get some fresh air. It’s a hell of a weird way to say it, but that’s the only way I can put a meaning to that phrase.

Where it came from originally I’m afraid is lost in the mists of time and family roots.

 


Remembrance Day – Letter to my grandfather

November 9, 2011

Grandpa in France

Dear Grandpa Sendell,

I am writing this letter as a Remembrance Day tribute to you and all the others that served our country so unselfishly.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to talk to you about your experiences in the Great War of 1914-1918. I was too young and not very knowledgeable about such things at the time. I certainly did not appreciate your sacrifice, nor did I have any concept of the conditions in France where you served.

I am now in my early sixties with children and grandchildren of my own. I have researched my family roots including the military side of it. Through my research and readings on your military experience I have come to have a deep connection with your experiences. My only regret is that I can’t speak with you directly about this period of your life. This letter is my attempt to do that in a public way.

I discovered you enlisted in the 3rd Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in 1915 to go overseas. You were assigned to the Canadian Army Service Corps within this division. There you drove munitions trucks from the rear areas to the front lines under heavy enemy fire. Now I realize why you were such an excellent driver.

Even though these trips were made under cover of darkness, the enemy could hear the sounds of the truck engines and rained heavy artillery fire down on the roads approaching the frontline trenches. Many of your fellow drivers were killed instantly when shells ignited the explosives in the trucks. The stress of driving under these conditions must have been unbearable.

When I compare your military record with the timeline of battles fought in the Flanders area of France during the time you were serving, it is obvious you experienced most of the brutal encounters of that time. It is fortunate you survived and returned to us here in Canada, so many of your friends and fellow soldiers did not.

Grandpa I value greatly this historical connection you gave our family. We treasure it with tremendous pride. Frankly I and others of my generation wonder how you did it. Your country and King called and you gladly gave up years of your life to serve under dangerous and dreadful conditions.

It’s shocking and sad to realize how young the soldiers were that went to war. I can only imagine what it was really like, but at least now I have a true appreciation for your experience. Bless you and all the others for your service to our country. We will never forget.

Your loving grandson,

Steve B. Davis


Spare the rod, spoil the child…hell no!

July 8, 2011

Recently my 85 year old mother visited me and my gang. You see I’m a do-it-again dad. We now have a 9 year old son, and twin daughters aged 7. The difference between her generation and mine with regard to child discipline is apparent.

In our house spanking is a definite no no. Children are treated with respect. Sure there is some yelling and fighting but with five individuals including three young ones, there are bound to be conflicts.

Mother gets taut like a spring just watching my active boy have fun. You can sense the urge to step in and bring him to heel. You can cut the tension. Heck he is just being a kid.

Proudly relates this little story to me whenever she visits,

Seems one time when I was a 6 year old kid back in the 1950’s there was I time when I didn’t come when I was called, too busy playing I guess. She came to get me with a flyswatter. She tells how she flicked my ass with it all the way home and boy did that ever make me listen. The point being the next time I was called I came.

Frankly I find this tale a disgusting example of the child discipline of the 1950’s. Talk about lack of respect for a child.
Much as I love my mother I am beginning to realize why I have so much deep seeded anger within my psyche.


Visiting Dealey Plaza

April 21, 2010

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My entire adult life an eerie fascination has drawn me to the Kennedy Assassination and the events of November 22 – 25, 1963. Over the years I have absorbed everything written on the subject. Now as I wander Dealey Plaza for the first time my brain releases remembrances of that era. I feel at home in a surreal way, not because it is a good place, but rather a familiar one. Memories of the 1960’s and my formative years flood my being.

The first major historical event in my lifetime riveted me at the time and has gripped me since. Historical and political awareness awoke in my young mind over those terrible four days in November 1963.

Forty-six years later like a moth to light, this place attracts me. The Plaza holds no mystery for me. I know every nook and cranny, every conspiracy theory and every person associated with those days.

The Grassy Knoll, the Texas School Book Depository, the Sixth Floor, the Triple Underpass, Stemmons Freeway, Zapruder, Oswald, and the forever young President John Fitzgerald Kennedy flood my mental vision as I wander Dealey.

Dealey Plaza is not an imposing place. It is a small park in the middle of the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas. The curious come here in a regular flow. They wander, some knowing the tale, others having only read about it. All attempt in some small way to recapture some of the Kennedy mystique.

            The story is the saga of youth lost and what might have been. Like all the others I wonder why and lament the potential killed that day. I think in some small way visiting this site is a way to get closure after all these years, to get my mind to accept that yes, it did really happen.


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