When the Fallout Shelter sign becomes art

Since it’s introduction in 1961, the Fallout Shelter sign has appeared (sometimes purposely, many times inadvertently) in the background of movies and TV shows and many photographs.

This photograph, taken by photographer Peter Simon (petersimon.com) on February 26, 1968, is titled “Verandah Porche: portrait standing between stone columns, with fallout shelter sign” and was taken in Allston.

The capacity on the sign reads 60, and it is unknown where the picture was taken or if the sign still exists. However, this is one beautiful example of how the sign can be art, and not just an eyesore or inconvenient backdrop.

© 2019 Fallout Five Zero

Photograph citation: Simon, Peter, 1947-. Verandah Porche: portrait standing between stone columns, with fallout shelter sign, February 26, 1968. Peter Simon Collection (PH 009). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Special thanks to Ronni Simon for allowing use of this photograph. Peter Simon passed away in 2018, and may he Rest in Peace. 

Special thanks also to Danielle of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Special Collections department for her assistance.

Perfugium in Fundamentum

Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in America, was founded in 1635. The first school building was on School Street in Boston (a plaque marks the site). It moved to it’s current location on Avenue Louis Pasteur in 1921.

Like many of the other Boston Public School buildings, it was marked as a public Fallout Shelter. The first two photos above excerpted from the 1964 Liber Actorum. which is Boston Latin’s yearbook, and presumably taken around the same time. The third photo was taken from the 1979 edition.

It is unknown if this was the same sign, but the school had an addition added in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, and it (or they) were likely removed at that point, as publications of Liber Actorum from the mid-1990’s no longer showed them.

The picture below of the Boston Latin football team is from the 1969 Liber Actorum  and shows the exterior sign on the front of the building, which based on photographic evidence was removed by 1990.

The building also had numerous interior Fallout Shelter signs on the first floor, in the interior stairs, and in the basement. Three such signs existed in 1995, and all were removed within the next 6 years.

Pictures below show two different signs from the 1979 Liber Actorum

Another picture from the 1984 Liber Actorum shows an interior sign on the first floor hallway next to the stairs

A listing of shelters in Roxbury (which is the area this school is considered to be in) shows the shelter capacity for Boston Latin at 1,006.

English High School, which has been Latin’s football rival for decades, was once housed across the street from Latin in the former High School of Commerce and was also designated as a shelter. However, a new English High School was built in the 1970’s in a high rise (which still sits across from the current Boston Latin and is now owned by Harvard Medical School) and was not marked as a shelter. English High later moved to Jamaica Plain.

Several other editions of Liber Actorum show signs in the hallways, and by physical and photographic evidence, it was likely that 7 or more interior signs existed when the school was designated as a shelter. One FFZ contributor even shared that Civil Defense water barrels became classroom trash bins at Boston Latin in the 1980’s.

As the phrase goes, Tempus Fugit, and no signs remain at Boston’s oldest and most renowned public school.

© 2019 Fallout Five Zero

All photographs above excerpted from editions of Liber Actorum and accessed through archive.org at https://archive.org/details/bostonlatinschool

 

Two sides, two signs, one store

These two photos of Jordan Marsh in Downtown Boston (now Macy’s) taken by Andrew Zalewski in 1975 show two different sides of the building, both with exterior Fallout Shelter signs. The first photo faces Washington Street, and the second is the corner of Washington and Summer Streets.

The facade of the building has changed and both signs are gone; the then Jordan Marsh had a minimum of 2 exterior and 2 interior signs, for shelter areas in the basement and floors 2-5.

Only one sign remains, as seen below:

This interior sign inside the Summer Street entrance to the store is the only known remaining sign. The “FLOORS” overlay appears to have ripped off but the sign is in good condition otherwise. It hangs next to the store entrance as well as a set of private stairs likely used by store employees.

Another interior sign at the Chauncy Street entrance of the store was removed in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s.

No word if you only got fallout protection with a minimum purchase.

 

© 2019 Fallout Five Zero

Vintage photos taken by Andrew Zalewski in 1975 and shared from the Boston Public Library Flickr using Creative Commons licensing. No portion of either photo was altered in any way. 

Interior sign picture taken in December 2018 and property of Fallout Five Zero. 

 

 

 

The Roxbury Papers: The list of shelters after the survey.

Some years ago, while researching Fallout Shelters, I came across a book that listed a history/annual report of the Roxbury section of Boston, which includes the Longwood Medical Area and Mission Hill. Unfortunately, the book was for library use only and now it is no longer available.

Within the book, there were several lists for Roxbury residents of local resources, including fire stations, police stations, and TV stations.

The book also included a list of approved Fallout Shelters in Roxbury. Many of these buildings still exist, but many have had their signs removed. Some buildings were demolished for redevelopment, and others rehabbed for the same reason (for example, the old Ferdinand Furniture building in Dudley Square).

One odd thing on this list was the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum being listed as a shelter, and a listed capacity of 39, which would have been under the standard 50 minimum capacity for shelters. One other shelter on Dudley Street had a listed capacity of 34.

As well, the Boston Normal School on Huntington Avenue in Boston (one of the first posts on this site, and now part of the Mass College of Art) is listed on the sheet under its former designation, The State Teacher’s College, and has a listed capacity on the sheet of 1272. However, the sign itself, when it was revealed on the building, had a posted capacity of 923. No other building in the area was listed on the sheet with a 923 capacity, so likely the capacity numbers on the sheets were incorrect.

Anyways, the sheets are below. Any questions on building designations or further information available, contact me.

Roxbury Fallout Shelter List, Page 1
Roxbury Fallout Shelter List, Page 2
Roxbury Fallout Shelter List, Page 3

© 2017 Fallout Five Zero

The documents above were copied with permission from an unnamed book at the Boston Public Library reference section, main library, Copley Square. The PDFs are property of Fallout Five Zero.

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

Sitting, Strolling, and Reading in City Square

Army and Navy YMCA-Charlestown Massachusetts. Copyright City of Boston Archives
Army and Navy YMCA-Charlestown Massachusetts. Copyright City of Boston Archives

A woman strolls by as three men sit outside the former Army & Navy YMCA in Charlestown in this undated photo. A Fallout Shelter sign is posted on the wall to the right of the entrance. This building and it’s neighbors have since been demolished.

The above photograph is property of the City of Boston Archives and used under Creative Commons licensing. No portion of this photograph was changed or altered in any way.

Massachusetts Community Shelter Plans

As found on Archive.Org, several Community Shelter Plans existed for Massachusetts going into the late 1970’s.

The following links are for scanned copies of Community Shelter Plans for various counties in Massachusetts.

As I looked through some of them, I noticed that there are public shelters listed in some places that once had posted signs, and several others that were not believed to have ever had signs. That makes me wonder if, by the 1970’s, that officials wanted to let the public know which buildings might have been suitable as shelter, but did not make the effort to mark them with signs, or could not allocate signs to put on them. The lists also did not include all known shelters in an area, especially in larger cities and towns (i.e. Boston).

You might also notice that the maps with the shelter plans contain the disclaimer that these shelters were only for people whose basements were not suitable as shelters, and as well that not all shelters were stocked with food, and to bring whatever you could carry with you to the shelter.

An interesting read for anyone that lived in Massachusetts during this time, and maybe even remembers these documents being published or distributed.

Fallout Five Zero

Suffolk, Essex, and Middlesex Counties – Massachusetts (1979)

Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, and Plymouth Counties – Massachusetts (1978)

Worcester County – Massachusetts (1978)

Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties – Massachusetts (1978)