Crackatorium Revisited: The Show

On September 28, former Mass College of Art students Karen Loftus and Gretchen Baer premiered their show, Crackatorium Revisited, which was a redux of their original 1983/1984 Civil Defense performance using actual civil defense ration crackers.

The original show as well as version 2 used the crackers and civil defense memorabilia to make an abstract show about nuclear war. Gretchen and Karen lived for a time in the basement area of one of the MCOA buildings, which was a designated Fallout Shelter.

Gretchen had reached out to Fallout Five Zero for information regarding the shelter and it’s status, and therefore FFZ has chosen to feature this because of the unique idea of using civil defense items in the performance.

Although the building in which they lived remains, the Fallout Shelter signs do not, albeit for potentially one, and it’s not visible if it is there.

Below are pictures of the creators and a link to a video of the performance.


The crackers they used for the redux were not actual Civil Defense issued crackers, but similar survival ration crackers made by the National Biscuit Company, known better to us as Nabisco.

Here’s a link to the video here

The area where the performance took place was dubbed the Crackatorium after the original performance, and is still called that to this day.

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

Pictures and video owned by Gretchen Baer and Karen Loftus and used with permission. 

Saying Goodbye to the Man Behind the Sign


Robert Blakeley, the US Army Corps of Engineers employee tasked with creating the very sign this website chronicles, died on Wednesday, October 25 at the age of 95.

Mr. Blakeley was tasked as part of his duties to create a sign that would be recognizable, even without power, and with time and creation, the black and yellow Fallout Shelter sign was born.

Conelrad Adjacent did an entire interview with him after tracking him down over 10 years ago, and this story can be found here, and is told in great detail.

It was important for this site to recognize the man without whom this site would be possible, and although at the time the task was just part of his duties, he would never know how much interest and buzz his sign creates to this day, over 50 years later.

We salute you, Mr. Blakeley, and may you Rest In Peace.


© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

Crackatorium Revisited


You are cordially invited to join Karen Loftus and Gretchen Baer for Crackatorium Revisited, a re-hash of their early 1980’s civil defense inspired art show at the Mass College of Art. 

The show opens on Thursday, September 28th from 6-10pm.

From the Facebook page:

In 1984, a group of us at Mass College Of Art in Boston, created the world’s biggest survival cracker loaf obtained from the Mass Art Civil Defense Fallout shelter that also served as our underground studios. 
We coined the name “Crackatorium” for the gallery above the 924 person fallout shelter where we made the loaf. 
Join Karen Loftus and I, as we return to Mass Art with “Crackatroium [sic] Revisited”, a two women show about our time in the fallout shelter, nuclear survival, activism now, and of-course, survival crackers. 

For more information, you can visit their Facebook page here.

Crackatorium Revisited, the above poster, and all associated art is property of Karen Loftus and Gretchen Baer and not owned by or associated with Fallout Five Zero. Any views expressed within the show are those of the performers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fallout Five Zero. 

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

That Time They Took The Sign Down To Renovate And Actually Put It Back Up

As has been seen in previous posts, this website’s mission is to chronicle the public Fallout Shelter in the United States and especially the signs that marked them, as they are being taken down at a steady rate.

Sometimes, however, strange things happen.

20 Hudson Street in Boston’s Chinatown is an older building that once housed the Golden Leaf Restaurant, and is well known to motorists from Interstate 93 (known in Boston as the Southeast Expressway) because of the large marquee on top that says “Welcome to Chinatown.”

In this 2014 Google Street View image, the restaurant is seen with the Golden Leaf signage still up.

To the left of the main door and above the red ramp, an exterior Fallout Shelter sign can be seen.

In 2016, they began renovating.

In this 2016 Google Street View image, the sign still hangs in it’s original spot.

While passing the building yesterday, it appeared that the renovations were complete, and the front facade had been either painted or the brick had been cleaned; as well, the name had been changed to Station KTV Karaoke. The Fallout Shelter sign was also gone, falling victim to time and renovation as they usually do….or so I thought until a second glance showed otherwise.

That’s right! The sign was not taken down and trashed, but moved to a different location, over to the left near the new lights above the ramp.

A second view of the building from a different angle

Next to the door, the shadow of the original sign can still be seen.

And below, the sign itself in it’s new spot.

It’s a little worse for wear after being taken down and put back up, but overall it’s still in great shape.

There are many theories available as to why those who either renovated the building, or own it, put the sign back up, but my best guess would be that they didn’t know the program was now defunct and they didn’t have to.

Either way, it’s a welcome change from the usual removal and destruction (or taking) of the signs and just one minor preservation of history, even for a short time.

Google Street View Images owned by Google and taken in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

All other photos taken on June 18, 2017 and are property of Fallout Five Zero.

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero


The Shadows at 20

The above photo, owned by the City of Boston Archives, shows the Claflin Building, located at 20 Beacon Street in Boston (seen to the right of the middle of the photo), sometime in the 1970’s or 1980’s. Next to the “Claflin Building” sign, 5 prominent marks from a removed exterior Fallout Shelter sign are seen.

Below are photos of the same building today


While the sign marks in the historical photo are gone, more remain inside the right side of the

doorway to the building, as seen above.

The building today is private residences, and was once a great example of how private buildings were licensed and used as public shelters.

(This is across from the Massachusetts State House, which became the first public Fallout Shelter in Massachusetts on November 5, 1962).

Live or work somewhere you know (or think) was once a shelter? Let us know.

Historical photo owned by the City of Boston Archives and used under Creative Commons licensing. No portion of the photo was altered in any way.

3 modern photos owned by Fallout Five Zero. 

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

When The Sirens Rang Over Boston, Part 2

Back in May of 2016, we featured a post called When The Sirens Rang Over Boston, which featured a picture of the former and now non-extant controls of a Federal Signal Air Raid Siren, which were located at Boston Fire Department Engine 51 in Brighton.

As stated in the last post, Boston once had an extensive siren network (many of them on top of city fire stations). However, it was thought at the time that those were likely the last set of air raid siren controls in the city (or anything having to do with the sirens period, since the last siren itself one came down in 2000).

However, here in March of 2017, it was discovered that another set of controls exists at yet another fire station in Brighton (this one is on Chestnut Hill Avenue).


Unlike the last set of controls, there is no protective box over these; however, they are the exact same design as the others.

Historical photos show the siren still on top of the station into the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, although it is unknown exactly when it came down for good.

Either way, it was rare but welcomed to find it’s controls still in place.

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero


Rationing Art: The 1983/84 Mass College of Art Civil Defense Performance

Fallout Five Zero was contacted a few weeks ago by Gretchen Baer, a former Mass College of Art student, asking if Mass College of Art was still considered a Fallout Shelter.

Figuring she had seen one of this site’s original posts and was intrigued by the shelter as a former student, I relayed that none of the buildings at MCOA (nor any former shelter) were technically a “shelter” any longer, but just a building with an old sign on it essentially, as the program had stopped being funded years ago.

What she wrote me back has been one of the most interesting stories I have ever been told regarding a public fallout shelter.

In 1984 we did an art performance using the survival crackers from 1964. There were lots of tins of crackers, water of some kind, sanitary pads, and I don’t recall what else. We were ( illegally) living in that cellar for a couple years while attending art school. 

At the time, we named the space we used for our installation, “The Crackatorium” after the survival crackers. Our art piece was called “the Loaf”. We opened up the tins and filled the room with the crackers, then added water with a hose. People jumped in it until we created a giant loaf the size of a small car. We used the tins as drums for percussion during event. 

I found out recently Mass Art still calls the gallery The Crackatorium, as well as another gallery they call the South Crackatorium. Of course no one remembers why it’s called this, except a few of us.
I decided it’s time to revisit the subject and am considering an art show called “Crackatorium Revisited”. 

By the way, we ate some of those crackers, they were terrible!

She was then kind enough to provide some photos of the event.

I think the year was 1983. This is Karen with the crackers. That entire closet was full of the crackers. Janitors were sniffing around prior to event saying ” I smell F#cking crackers!” We were sweating it because the school had no idea what our performance actually entailed. The President of the school was seen at the closet door with a janitor getting ready to open ( a room full of crackers would have fallen on him, as we emptied them directly up from the basement into that closet). Luckily a friend managed to sweet talk him into not opening that door. 😀

Gretchen relays that should Mass College of Art allow a follow up performance, it may be in September 2017. If so, Fallout Five Zero will provide updates.

Above photos owned by Gretchen Baer. Text relayed as written by Ms. Baer and not changed in any way. 

FFZ would like to thank Ms. Baer for providing this story and the accompanying photos of the performance.

Have a similar shelter related story? Let us know.

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero