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Hidden Cold War cache re-discovered at Auburn's Placer High

Rations include water, biscuits, toilet paper stored more than half a century ago
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - It was the Cold War and every community in the country had a plan in place for when the bombers arrived or the missiles started dropping. Even Auburn. In the Earl Crabbe Gym basement, civil defense workers stored canisters of water, hard-tack biscuits and toiletries in anticipation of an attack from the skies that never came. Over the years, the room was locked up, ignored and then forgotten. In the past week, however, the cache of containers with the once-common ?CD? civil defense emblem were re-discovered by volunteers working to repaint the high school?s weight-lifting room. Wednesday, some of them were marveling at what they had found in a room that time appeared to have forgotten. Stacks of biscuit containers, tongue depressors, bandages, commode liners, plastic cups, and even containers of clear water were neatly stacked, all seemingly awaiting the day students would be rushed from their classes to escape a nuclear attack. ?It was always rumored that there was a bomb shelter at the high school,? Doug Randall of Auburn?s Consolidated Painting said. ?Now it sets the rumor to fact.? Randy Albright, Warehouse Paint sales representative and a Placer Class of 1983 grad, said he was surprised that the water being stored in plastic bags was still perfectly clear. ?I?m just surprised everything was in good condition after 50 or 60 years,? Albright said. While the time frame for when the boxes of civil defense supplies were brought into the room and locked away isn?t known, retired Placer athletic director Bill Flake said they were there when he arrived at the school in 1961. Before it was turned into a weight room in the late 1960s, Flake?s wrestling program used it as their practice area. Flake, who had a key to the room, remembers the canisters. ?But we never paid any attention to it,? Flake said. Over the years, it was forgotten. Flake retired in 2000. Jug Covich served as the school?s principal from 1970 to 1988 and his association with Placer, first as a counselor, goes back to 1950. ?They still have it there,? Covich asked, with a chuckle, when learning of the unearthing of the Cold War cache. Covich said a similar room with supplies had been situated in another Placer building. It was cleared out years ago to make way for a student art gallery. The room off the weight room would have provided storage for emergency supplies used by students and teachers if buses couldn?t get them to another, more secure location, he said. ?We had to come up with a plan for the students in case of attacks,? Covich said. ?I believe it was right around the time of the Cuban missile crisis. We were afraid of an air attack.? Randall said early conversations with school administrators indicate there may be interest in preserving the room intact after cleaning it up ? with a secure display window to allow viewing. Flake said he wonders if there might be some danger if someone decided to try to eat some of the food or drink some of the half-century-old water. ?They should dispose of it in case some knucklehead got ill or worse,? Flake said. ?And why would they need it?? Principal Pete Efstathiu could not be reached for comment. The repainting was the result of volunteers and contractors devoting their time and donations to spruce up the weight room. Funding assistance came from Kellie Casper, Jack Casper, and Dick Brooks. Warehouse Paints chipped in with paint. True Value Hardware donated free use of rental equipment. Consolidated Painting and Phil Holmes? Better Homes Construction provided the manpower. Judy Sage of the high school coordinated the project. The Cold War discovery was a bonus. ?In the process of doing the cleaning, we started nosing around and opened the door,? Randall said. ?We got a flashlight and started saying ?Wow, this is really cool.??