When The Sirens Rang Over Boston

E51 Air Raid Siren Box E51 Air Raid Siren Controls

Starting in the early 1950’s, Boston once had an extensive air raid siren system. The Greater Boston Civil Defense Manual, published in 1952, stated Boston had 119 air raid sirens. In 1965, that number was at 132.

The above mentioned civil defense manual also stated that each siren could be operated individually, or from a central location, and all were tested on Fridays at noon.

The above pictures show the controls for one such siren. These were located at Boston Fire Department’s Engine 51 station in Oak Square, Brighton in the patrol desk area. These were taken in September 2009 (hence the quality, see below). However, the station underwent major renovations in or around 2011, and the controls (as well as the exterior Fallout Shelter sign) were removed.

The last known siren in the city came down in 2000, when the old Registry of Motor Vehicles building at 100 Nashua Street was demolished. Prior to that, many sirens had been removed when buildings were renovated in the 1980’s. It is unknown when the city stopped using or maintaining the sirens, although historical accounts have it somewhere around the early to mid 1970’s.

Editors note: These pictures were taken using the then technologically advanced, but now not so much iPhone 3G. Apologies for the very poor quality. 

 

A Contributor Talks Supplies

Fallout Five Zero received some mail today from visitor Kris Waterman, who recollected the status of some Civil Defense supplies at two Boston shelters: the German International School in Allston, and Boston Latin School near the Fenway:

I know what happened to the supplies in the shelters in two of the locations in your list:

1) The German International School in Allston was [originally] named St Anthony’s – I attended school there. My 5th & 6th grade teacher asked the janitor what happened to the supplies and he told her that they were still in place until the previous summer when they were thrown out (Summer of 1984? 1985? – sorry my memory is a little hazy on the year).

2) Boston Latin School – the water barrels actually [became] trash cans located in various classrooms throughout the school. Not sure if there were crackers or carb supplements stored at any point in  there. (1980s’)

What is interesting is that there have been similar situations where Civil Defense water barrels became trash cans for various reasons, but this is the first case where I have heard of it happening locally.

At least someone actually used them for other purposes, unlike the MBTA, who dumped all the ones at Boylston Station at the end of the tunnel.

Thanks to Kris Waterman for sharing this information.

Have similar stories? Contact us

Fallout Five Zero

The Boston Metro Article

Every so often, a story about Civil Defense supplies will appear in the media. It usually involves the finding of supplies or talk about Fallout Shelters or signs etc.

Recently, such a story appeared on boston.com when a staff member at Boston City Hall found the Civil Defense crackers and supplies located in the crawl spaces underneath the building and put up a video of himself eating one (I’d link the video but it was apparently made private after he was asked to remove it).

Shortly after boston.com picked up the story, the free and popular among subway riders Boston Metro paper decided to feature the story as well, and one of their reporters. Spencer Buell, contacted me to ask my thoughts on the subject. The resulting article was very good.

Just to clarify something, though….the reporter had me stating the following:

There are many places all over the city where crackers still sit right where the doomsday preppers of yesterday left them 

and this is quite the opposite of what I said. I do not blame the reporter, because it was a quick but intense conversation about a lot of Fallout Shelter and Civil Defense facts and numbers. However, I told him that finding any type of Civil Defense supplies is quite rare, and the only two sites I know of definitively in the city that still have them are Boston City Hall and the Up Academy in South Boston.

Civil Defense supplies were not always issued to shelters. Even when they were, however, they were not always kept. Once the program lost popularity, shelter supplies were often cleaned out and removed for various reasons. Signs would often remain for years after, but even those are coming down as time goes on.

I applaud boston.com and Mr. Buell from the Metro for bringing light to an important piece of our history. But I can say with utmost certainty that finding these supplies is a rare occurrence, and trying them, as the staffer at City Hall did, is only for those with an iron stomach. (Most were packaged in 1962 or 1963….you do the math).

(If you do find supplies still in place anywhere please let us know, we’d like to hear about it).

Fallout Five Zero

Fall: A great time to go out of town

Happy Fall (or sorry Summer is over, depending on how you like to look at it)..

In addition to adding some new sites to the Boston Fallout Shelter list, I have added the first in the Out of Town series with a page on the Lockport/Niagara Falls area in Western NY (made possible by Tim and Erica, two new volunteer FFZ correspondents). They got some great pictures of 7 shelters in that area with remaining signs.

As the year comes to a close, look for more Out of Town series from places outside of Massachusetts. (If you’d like to submit an Out of Town series, send me a note here).

As well, I will be adding Fallout Shelter lists for the cities of Cambridge and Somerville and adding more general fallout shelter pictures as time goes on.

Thanks to our correspondents for making the Out of Town series a reality and thanks to everyone who visits and contributes.

The contact page is always open!

 

FFZ

 

 

Well, the sign is still there. But where is South Cove?

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The picture above is owned by the Tufts Digital Library and titled “Fallout shelter in the South Cove area, ca. 1967”

The picture below is the same sign today. Although the doors are different, the lights have changed, and there’s now a building on top of what used to be a street, this is the same sign, and it is located on the rear of the Citi Performing Arts Center, or what was known for many years as the Wang Center. If you walked up the stairs from Washington Street next to Tufts Medical Center, or from Tremont Street and down the alley next to the Citi Center (this used to be “Hollis Street”), you’d find these doors and the sign above it.

Fallout Shelter Sign-South Cove/Citi Performing Arts Center, Boston

Although a definitive map of what the “South Cove” area exactly was could not be found, it is essentially what is now know as Bay Village, along with the area around Tuts Medical Center, The Doubletree Boston on Washington Street, and the Wang YMCA of Chinatown.

Passengers getting off of the MBTA’s Orange Line at the Tufts Medical Center stop will also see signs referencing South Cove, and some businesses in the area also use the name.

It is assumed that once Tufts (formerly New England) Medical Center expanded, that the street that the car was parked on, along with some adjacent streets, were demolished or changed.

At least the sign survived.

Fallout Five Zero

The top picture is owned by Tufts Digital Archive, Tufts University Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

The bottom picture is owned by Fallout Five Zero and was taken on April 26, 2015. 

Happy Spring

If you are visiting this page from the Greater Boston area, then the above title has more meaning than anyone could ever know. Winter sucked, plain and simple, and we are finally able to navigate the streets and enjoy some warm weather. If you are visiting from elsewhere, happy spring just the same!

Several changes were made to the page today. The Boston Fallout Shelter list has been updated (two shelters added and another updated). The remaining shelter tours at the Boston Public Schools were completed, including one with remaining shelter supplies. Lastly, a blog post with a historical picture was added.

As the weather improves I expect to obtain more pictures and add more content as much as possible.

I’m also asking, as I have in the past, if you have any photos, stories, or content to share, please contact me. You will receive full credit.

This might be a longer shot, but if you have permitted access to a shelter and would like it included on this site, contact me and I would love to do so.

Otherwise, enjoy the weather and everything associated with it.

Fallout Five Zero