Today is February 6...
On this day in 1959 – just a short drive from here, over at Cape Canaveral, Florida, the first successful test firing of a Titan intercontinental ballistic missile was accomplished. Some of you may have been there. I could have been (technically speaking) but I was not. I was in Cheswick PA and if I am not mistaken, was at that time not yet old enough to go to kindergarten. But what happened in Florida on that day connects with one of my early elementary school memories, which I think were called air raid drills.
The theory, back in those days of the Cold War, was that if children climbed under their desks (you know those stoutly built bits of plastic and aluminium) and held their clasped little hands over the backs of their necks, that they would be prepared for whatever attack might be hurling in their direction from a forigen power (AKA the U.S.S.R.).
Doesn't it make you feel safe thinking of it?
We seemed to do these drills with some regularity, dutiful youngsters that we were. I cannot remember when they stopped, but perhaps it was when our family moved to San Diego and the rules for those schools were different than back in Allegheny County.
Fire drills, yes. Air raid drills, no longer.
The idea of being prepared for this or that disaster is not a bad one. We make hurricane kits every year here in Florida, for instance. And I suppose that if some sort of missile had struck, say Uniontown or New Castle, but not immediately overhead, the protection a child's school desk provided might have been better than nothing.
Still and all, it always felt strange, doing those drills. And it always felt ever so much better to come out from under the desk and get back to learning.