Contributor Theresa submitted these photos taken on February 1, 2023, from the Grand Lake neighborhood of Oakland, California showing a pole-mounted exterior Fallout Shelter sign.
Pole-mounted signs were generally seen in areas where a public Fallout Shelter was not close, and sometimes included rarely seen “Blocks” or “Miles” overlays with the number of blocks or miles away the shelter was located. There were also times when a pole-mounted sign was placed where a shelter was nearby, but the sign could not be posted on the building or structure itself (for whatever reason).
This seems to be the case here, as the sign has an “In Basement” overlay with an arrow, which likely means it was outside of a specific building or structure designated as a shelter.
The Jekyll and Hyde Art Gallery and Studio, located in Laconia, New Hampshire bills itself as an “Oddities and Curiosities” Gallery, and sure enough has what appears to be an NOS (new old stock – authentic but never used) exterior Fallout Shelter sign hanging in its window.
Unfortunately, the gallery was not open to ask the reason or origin for having the sign in the window, but this author likes the gallery’s style regardless of the reason.
One walking by this building at 136 West 28th Street in Manhattan might not notice the exterior Fallout Shelter sign that has not only been painted over but also used to mount not one but two different cameras.
While New York did start to take signs down in late 2017 as they found them “misleading” amid heightened nuclear tensions with North Korea, various visits since have shown that this occurred mainly at schools and not other buildings. Several exterior signs still exist within the burroughs, including this one, that despite needing the wall space they left up and mummified in time.
The Ho Toy Noodle Company was located for many years in Chinatown at 72-79 Essex Street, just on the edge of Chinatown. It has since moved, but the building that it once called home is still there and was marked as a Fallout Shelter.
These photos, taken in December 2010, show an exterior Fallout Shelter sign facing Essex Street. There was a second exterior sign on the Oxford Street side of the building. The Essex Street sign was removed in 2017, and the one on Oxford Street a year later in 2018.
There was also at least one interior sign as recently as 2017, but its current status is unknown.
Recently, Vincent Tocco Jr. was in the building and sent these photos and info:
The building is just a gutted shell now awaiting some future demo. [The first two photos] are broad basement looks. [next] is the back stairway. [The next one] shows the freight elevators. [The last photo] shows the only object of any interest in the building, the remains of a very old boiler. I couldn’t find any fallout signage.
The building itself is several stories but entirely vacant, and it is unknown if the shelter area was just in the basement or on other floors. Ho Toy Noodle still exists but is operating out of other locations in Boston and a suburb south of Boston.
At least if it was ever used as a shelter, the food would have been better than the rations.
As the saying goes, love is blind and the term “love at first sight” can be a very real thing. People fall in love everywhere, at any time, and sometimes with someone they just met.
This can even happen in your local public Fallout Shelter.
In May 1964, a civil defense exercise was held at Quincy High School, and student volunteers spent 24 hours in the school’s Fallout Shelter.
This excerpt from the 1964 Quincy High School yearbook “Goldenrod” shows the front of QHS, with two Fallout Shelter signs to the sides of the entrance doors.
During the exercise, Diane Sutherland, a QHS senior who was taking part in the exercise, met Tom Bryant, a local civil defense volunteer who had graduated 2 years prior from North Quincy High School.
In her first meeting with Tom, Diane said “I couldn’t get my cot together, and Tom came over to help me. After that, we spent the night playing Crazy Eights and other games. At the end of the exercise, Tom said to me ‘I love you and I’m going to marry you.’ I told him he was crazy, but if he was serious, to come back to me with $5,000 in the bank and a ring.”
It turns out Tom wasn’t crazy but very serious. In February 1965, he came to Diane with an engagement ring and had $5,000 in the bank, just as she asked.
And a life together was born.
Tom and Diane married and had two children, Mark and Lisa, and lived a comfortable life together for 58 years until Tom’s unexpected passing in January 2022.
Although Tom is gone, his legacy lives on in his family, and during a recent celebration of his life, both his civil defense volunteer certificate and a Fallout Shelter sign were displayed to commemorate where it all began for these two: underground and in love.
Special thanks to Diane Bryant for sharing their story and letting us tell it on FFZ. Special thanks to Tom Bryant for being a volunteer and friend to the civil defense program andmay you Rest in Peace.
From the desk of our assistant editor Tim comes this screenshot from a WGBH Archives clip of Hyde Park from 1979. Pictured is Boston Police Station 5 (now E-18) on Hyde Park Avenue. On top of the station is one of several Federal Signal air raid sirens that used to be on top of buildings throughout the city.
To the left of the left entrance door is a Fallout Shelter sign, and passing the station is a Checker brand White Cab, which before ridesharing used to be the only hired mode of transportation in cities across the US outside of limos and livery cars.
This photo, taken by Daniel White in February 1980, shows a clearer picture of former Station 5, sans cab.
Contributor Brian sent us these photos from the movie Alice’s Restaurant (1969), starring Arlo Guthrie, Patricia Quinn, and James Broderick. Here, Arlo is in a hospital and an interior Fallout Shelter sign is seen pointing the way to the shelter area. The placement of the arrows on the sign is a little bit of a mystery, as the “Nurse’s Station” sign seems to point left while the arrows point down, which would usually indicate a set of stairs.
As mentioned in previous posts, Fallout Shelter sign appearances were common in a large number of movies and TV shows from its creation in 1961 and still do on occasion even today. Conelrad Adjacent has compiled numerous stills of these appearances on their page Fallout Shelter Sign Cameos.
Contibutor Chris L recently wrote in and relayed a story of going through the Fallout Shelter areas under the Universty of Oregon with his father, who worked in the facilities department there.
Hello, Back in the late seventies when I was in my early teens my Dad was the associate director of housing at the University of Oregon and I recall going with him twice one summer down to check out “the basement” below several of the dormatory [sic] halls and the cafeteria at Carson Hall. I remember riding a freight elevator down into what I thought was Carson’s basement which was dark and about 2/3 full of old industrial kitchen equipment along with tables and chairs. From there we went over to an opening in the wall and my Dad flipped a switch to reveal a spiral staircase going down to what he referred to as “the bomb shelter”. WAY cool. At the bottom of the stairs was a door he unlocked from a ring of about 40 keys and beyond that was a dark concrete hallway that went farther than his flashlight could go. “Nobody’s been down here for a long time…probably 20 years” I recall him saying when I asked him what goes on down here. The hallway seemed to go on endlessly sometimes turning left or right, and about every 25ft there was a door-less entry way on each side that went into large windowless rooms, most of them either stacked to the ceiling with hundreds of boxes each containing several large metal tins of “Crackers, Civil Defense”. I think the date on them was 1962. Other rooms had stacks of cardboard “Sanitation station, Portable”-essentially a 16″ diameter 2ft high tube with several plastic bags inside and a cardboard seat. I wondered who among the faculty would get to put the twist ties on those when they got full, which you know would be very quickly. Still other rooms were piled high with cases and cases of aspirin. Several rooms had combinations of all three. But in typical government fashion, not a single can opener. They must have figured since it was a university the folks stuck in the shelter would be smart enough to figure out how to get into the tins bare fisted.
Finally we came to another door and after opening it stepped out into one of the basement recreation rooms of what I think was the Walton Complex a block from where we started. I remember him saying that all the buildings on campus that have the Fallout Shelter signs, which was pretty much all of them, were connected to the shelters via those concrete passageways and I realized that I likely only saw a portion of how vast it was down there. My Dad let me take home a box of crackers and my younger brother and I opened one of the tins with a can opener and indeed tried some. They were just like graham crackers….albeit ones that had been left out for a few days. My Mom busted us eating them and yelled “Oh my god…The preservatives!!” and forbade us to eat any more. Those couple bites probably took years off our lives. Some time afterward I asked my Dad what was the deal with all the stuff down there and I recall him saying the (U of O) needed more storage space for some reason and he was supposed to look into clearing out and utilizing the shelters for possible use. He went on to say that the university decided to do nothing because, always vigilant about image, they couldn’t throw it all out because someone would see it and would condemn them for wasting money nor could they donate it due to it being 20yrs past its pull date. As far as I know it could all still be there.
Chris Eugene, Ore
A check of recent photos from the campus did not show any current exterior Fallout Shelter signs remaining, but one or two may still be lurking around the campus.
If you’re a current student of faculty member and know of any existent signage, contact us here.
This Federal air raid siren sits on a telephone and light pole in Medford, Massachusetts. Medford had an extensive network of pole-mounted air raid sirens, and many of them are still there today. It is unknown when the system stopped being used or maintained, but based on the condition of the control box under this one, it was long ago.