Fallout Shelter Provides Cold-War History Lesson

Article excerpt

To give his students a feel for the cold war, Hartford Public High School teacher Robert Abate is taking them on a short field trip:to the long-neglected fallout shelter in the school's basement.

There, red emergency phones, gas masks, charts for tracking casualties and a guide for "rebuilding civilization" are giving students a chilling lesson on the terrors of living under the threat of nuclear holocaust.

"When I teach them about the cold war, they don't feel it," Mr. Abate says. He wants to convert part of the shelter, built to house 2,500 and act as a city command post, into a museum. His history class, the student council, and the honor society are working to preserve the cold-war artifacts.

In two small rooms on either side of the cafeteria are crude bathrooms that would have served shelter residents. Piled high in storage boxes in one bathroom are dozens of unused green sleeping bags and dusty cartons of medicine and water water purification tablets, dated December 1962.

Old desks and computers stored in a long corridor have replaced water drums and metal containers of crackers once kept for emergency rations. But there are still gas masks, and charts for listing the injured and next of kin.

"My first reaction was, 'Why all this?"' says junior Josh Powell. "It must have been ... serious for them to take these precautions. …