stories from the shelter, west coast edition

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.

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.

© 2021 Fallout Five Zero

Thanks to Chris L for relaying this story and allowing us to share it on the site.

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