Jane Lang, a Neenah native and executive director of the Neenah Historical Society, was contacted by a fellow resident who told her that they possessed the contents of a 1960s era fallout shelter which was discovered in their backyard. When the shelter was opened, it had filled with groundwater. Fortunately, numerous items including a geiger counter, medication, hunting supplies, food and toilet paper were well preserved in water tight boxes.
These artifacts will be featured in a recreation of the fallout shelter in an exhibit titled “Take Cover, Neenah! Backyard Family Fallout Shelters in Cold War America” at the historical society during the months of May and June. The exhibit will be located in a garage in the Octagon House’s “backyard.”
Fallout shelters were built in response to the fear caused by the Cold War in the 1960s. In case of a nuclear attack, underground shelters of only 8 x 10 feet could sustain the lives of a family of six for several months.
In addition to the shelter, two rooms in the back of the Octagon House will provide a multimedia presentation of life during the Cold War. A vintage television is rigged to play the “Twilight Zone” episode on fallout shelters, and a vintage radio will play music of the era, as well as announcements on civil defense.
Much of the work done on the exhibit was volunteer based. Most notable were UW-Oshkosh history and theater professors Stephen Kercher and Roy Hoglund, respectively. Kercher oversaw an accurate historical recreation, and Hoglund designed the set. Lang hopes the exhibit is “engaging and theatrical.”
“The exhibit really brings up some interesting social questions,” Lang comments. What would you bring into your fallout shelter? What if you had a fallout shelter, but your neighbors did not? Answer these questions for yourself after walking through the exhibit this spring. Hours are Sundays 1–5pm and by appointment. Call Lang at 729-0244 or email [email protected] for more information.
—By Cameron Carrus