Monday Jul 02 2012
Auburn has well-stocked bomb shelter at Placer High. Now what?
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Placer High?s collection of Cold War fallout shelter supplies inspires plenty of ideas
AUBURN CA - Placer County Museums might have some space for Placer High School?s Cold War bomb-shelter artifacts. The bomb shelter supplies, locked away for perhaps a half-century, were re-discovered by workers at the back of the Auburn school?s weight-lifting room. While the museums division or the school aren?t making any commitments, Curator of Collections Ralph Gibson said there was enough interest to inspect the well-preserved contents of the room, located in the Earl Crabbe Gym basement. ?We did go down and see what they had,? Gibson said. ?If they?re donated, I?m sure we would be interested. It?s up to the school district office and we?d be is full support of what they want to do.? The county museums division already has some Cold War civil defense artifacts in its collection, Gibson said. ?It certainly covers an area of history that many people have no perspective on,? Gibson said. ?I was in Southern California and up to the second grade, I was having nightmares. It was the time of ?duck and cover,? with an overall presence of fear.? The Placer High cache would have provided supplies ? from drinking water to food to medicine ? for students at the high school if a nuclear war had broken out. The Placer High supplies were in remarkably good shape, Gibson said. ?What amazed me was the water ? it was still clear,? Gibson said. ?It was stored in the right temperature with the right humidity and no light. It was quite a find.? Gibson added that people who find items that they believe are of historical value can call the museums division to find out more. ?We?re always looking for unique items from history as well as the more mundane things,? he said. The report of the find by painting contractor Doug Randall and other workers at the school spread quickly on the Internet, with news sites Huffington Post, Fox News, MSN, AOL and Yahoo picking it up. Randall said that it was ?like discovering a time capsule.? Now he?s hoping that the collection will be displayed for more people to see. ?The space it?s in now doesn?t do it justice,? Randall said. ?It would be great if it could be put on display in a space that?s protected. It?s certainly a part of history.? The initial Auburn Journal report drew several comments online, including one from the Web-based Civil Defense Museum that dates the cache to between 1962 and 1969. ?That?s when most shelters were stocked,? a museum commenter said. ?The public fallout shelter program started in 1961. There would have been nothing secret about the supplies being there.? Placer High would have been listed as a public fallout shelter in the 1960s and the list distributed publicly by the city civil defense office. It would have been for student occupation during school hours and surrounding neighborhood occupation after school hours, the Civil Defense Museum official noted. Reader Brenda Webb McFarland of Santa Rosa commented ?Wow ? Way cool!? ?At my old high school!? she said. ?Knew we had an old bomb shelter. Wasn?t aware there were still goods there.? Gale Edward Boulton of Grass Valley commented that the crackers and water in those boxes stacked at the school may yet be of use. ?During the Cuban Missile Crisis, I gathered as much stuff as I could and we headed for our cabin in the hills,? Boulton said. ?Anything could have happened. Spooky. Given all the dire predictions for 2012, this stuff may well come in handy. Get it tested and add to it.? Placer High Principal Peter Efstathiu said Tuesday that there is no set plan in place on what to do with the bomb shelter. ?The goal right now is to leave it locked and untouched,? Efstathiu said.