Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cuban Missile Crisis

Where were you October 1962? I was in the third grade - almost 9 years old when Kennedy went toe to toe with Russia's Prime Minister Khrushchev. A few nights ago, I watched a PBS presentation, The Man Who Saved The World. It seems a Russian submarine commander refused to go along with his comrades. It took three keys to program and fire a nuclear missile aboard the subs prowling the waters off the coast of Cuba. The commander spurned the idea. 

It would be many years before the truth concerning the sub’s nuclear capabilities were acknowledged by the Russians. Loaded for bear with atomic warheads the Russians were ready to do battle, while the oblivious American Navy threw depth charges trying to force the subs into submission. One missile would have taken out the U.S. Naval fleet poised in the Gulf. This act of war would have Kennedy launch atomic weapons pointed toward Russia and visa-verse. 

I admit I can't remember much. My poor memory necessitates my being a fiction writer. We lie. However, I do remember the "fall-out shelter" born in our shallow basement as fear melded my mother's heart. Each week a few cans and provisions were added to the larder in our cellar. A first aid kit, jugs of water, but what set our bomb-shelter apart, we had a Geiger counter. 

Purchased through a magazine offer, the 10" square box had a plastic hose running from one side with a metal wand supposedly used to detect radiation. The face of the box sported a V-shaped window. When the switch was on a red pointer flipped from one side and back, indicating the battery was good. No one knew exactly how to use it. Of course, there was no way to test, and if it didn't work, there was no getting your money back. For the longest time we weren't allowed to touch "the box". But as I got older, I remember sneaking down the cellar with friends, pointing the wand and making guttural sounds, going crazy with radiation beams wafting from the lone window, and falling down convulsively. Poor Mom.
I wonder how her fears affected a third grader, and then I remember my report card from 4th grade. It showed I gained 60 lbs. in one year. That's another whole kid.
Bun candy bars aside, I think it was the radiation.

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