Monday, April 20, 2009

Thoughts of the Cuban Missile Crisis

My early childhood memories are tinted by the cold war . When I was in kindergarten, the Cuban Missile Crisis took place. My father went to the lumber yard and ordered cement, sand and a load of cinderblocks. Everyone in the family was carrying cinderblocks to the basement. I remember the smell of wet cement, of feeling big and helpful as I took the half blocks to the basement. My mother explained what the alert signal would sound like and how we should come running home if it was heard.

The bomb shelter sat unused for years. I used to go in with a flashlight and read some of the books and newspapers we had stored there. It was a bit like a time capsule. It was so dark with the lights out that there was no difference between opening and closing your eyes. The door to the bomb shelter was wooden. In light of subsequently published information, it sounds like the shelter would not have been much good against a nuclear attack. My father eventually turned the bomb shelter into a dark room.

I wonder what Russian children had to remind them of World War Two. For me, the Cold War was a distant ominous rumble. For Soviet children, it was sharp and real. In some areas, neighbourhood landmarks figured in wartime events. Parents had vivid and sometimes awful stories. I once worked for a man in a fruit store who looked pained when he observed me throwing away a half rotten onion. He picked it from the garbage, trimmed it and put it in a box to take home. He later told me something I had already sensed from his actions. He had watched his parents die of starvation. Although life in America had been kind to him, his wartime experiences still shaped the way he felt on a daily basis.

I always wondered what Soviet children were told about America. Today, I found an entertaining little cartoon made by the Soviets in 1963 at the height of the Cold War. It was funny and well done. I am happy to present it at the top of this posting for the benefit of my readers. The first 24 seconds of the video clip are blank, so please be patient. Sphere: Related Content


therapydoc said...

Hi, I found this at Israel forum and was immediately taken by your voice. I love that description, no difference between being in the dark and closing your eyes. What a great metaphor, too.

Magdeburger Joe said...

Thank you for the compliment. It was not until you pointed it out that I realised the value of that experience as a metaphor. One of the pleasures of writing is the things you say that you do not hear yourself. Interesting comment. Thank You