A little cheesecake with that A-Bomb

Juli Kearns Cinema, Hanford Declassified 2 Comments


A Little Cheesecake with that A-Bomb, Declassified, 2005 tinted photo
Film poster held by Jean Nelson, from the “Hanford Historical Photo Declassification Project”.

Read the introduction to the Remixing the Hanford Declassified Project paintings

Don’t miss this vital film! “You can beat the A-bomb.” Free showings. Columbia High School, Feb. 19 thru 22. Get tickets for yourself and family from your supervisor today.

That’s what the promo reads. The woman smiling makes one feel hopeful about the bomb, and the movie’s title makes nuclear arms seem as manageable as a bad stain set in the porcelain of a sink.

One shake of cleanser and some elbow grease should do the job!

A review at PicPal’s reads:

You Can Beat the A-Bomb (b&w) is an amazing piece of atomic propoganda that basically says a nuclear attack may be a tad inconvenient but it’s nothing to get too upset over. Just close the windows, hide under some furniture, stay inside for about an hour, then start to clean up. It also contains some hilarious what if? scenes in which Mom unplugs the iron before taking shelter. Dad, however, is the big know-it-all who can spout off a credible sounding yet suspect answer to any nukie question thrown his way. For example, when his kids ask, Can we catch radiation from you, Daddy? Daddy answers, No, I’m keeping it all to myself! as he scrubs the fallout off with a quick soap lather! And remember, if you get radiation poisoning, lie down and rest.

As a child, I likely saw You Can Beat the A-Bomb, which the convenience of the internet has made available for your viewing pleasure.


I also likely saw Duck and Cover, in which children are exhorted to keep in mind at all times the FLASH that will clue them in to unannounced atomic warfare. Keep it on mind as you walk to school, as you play at school, never let the knowledge go, so that when the moment comes you’ll reflexively dive under your nearest schoolmate. If you’re out on your bike and no schoolmate is available as a shield, pull your coat over your head to save yourself from the bomb’s knack for delivering a scorching sunburn (the film doesn’t mention you better be wearing a light-reflecting coat) and wait for your nearest Civil Defense worker to tap you on the shoulder when all’s safe. Eluding harm is just about that simple.

Which it was not, and watching the propaganda it’s clear that the film existed not to save your hide with sticks-and-stones era measures, but to dedicate Citizens John Jr. and Sally to a lifetime of fear and trembling.

H.o.p., my seven-year-old son, saw Duck and Cover tonight. He came in as I was watching it and was immediately attracted by the Bert the Turtle whose security is his shell out of which he is reluctant to emerge. H.o.p. didn’t say a word until the end. Just stood silent by my side, watching. No fidgeting, no playing with anything else.

We may laugh about these films now, but that’s some captivating and thus effective piece of child-targeted propaganda.

By the way, Jean Nelson, where is your badge and dosimeter?

In the picture of Jean Nelson, out the window, it seems a desert duststorm may be blowing. There appear to be dark streaks of mold staining the wall beneath the window. On the desk, which was likely Jean’s, is a coffee cup beside a thermos. That thermos and the inviting smile on Jean Nelson’s face make the room seem almost as cozy as Jean Nelson appears confident that she can beat the A-bomb. One’s home would be as secure from radiation as Jean’s office from the sandstorm’s dust that would copiously leach through the window, but at least radiation was no-muss no-fuss invisible!

There were no worries as long as one paid no attention to the dosimeter.

1953 300 AREA LABS - PENCILS AND BADGES, RADIATION SIGNS
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0027334”
Accession Number N1D0027334
Document Number 8027-1-NEG-E
Alternate Document Number 8027-1-NEG
Title Description 300 AREA LABS – PENCILS AND BADGES, RADIATION SIGNS
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 07-Dec-1953
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

1955 PLASTIC BELTS FOR BADGES AND PENCILS AT 300 AREA
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0042894”
Accession Number N1D0042894
Document Number 12347-NEG
Alternate Document Number 12347-NEG
Title Description PLASTIC BELTS FOR BADGES AND PENCILS AT 300 AREA
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s) 300 AREA,HANFORD SITE,PLASTIC BELTS FOR BADGES AND PENCILS
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 07-Feb-1955
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

One wonders how Jean got stuck with the duty of cheesecaking this sham of a comforter.

Or rather than a promo was the poster a cynical comment on the film by Jean and the photographer and was never intended for use, just a photo on the tag end of a nearly used-up roll of film?

That I’d even for a second entertain that utterly implausible possibility betrays only my own desperate reach for sub-context.

We were targets

All Boomers will remember the terror of the atom bomb dropping at any time. In Richland, plutonium being its excuse for existing, that fear was a little more focused than in a place like Get Yer Beef Here, Texas. 80% of the jobs in the Tri-City area of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick were dependent on Hanford, directly or indirectly. A bright face was put on plutonium and at one time a Nuclear Industrial Park with up to 50 reactors was being talked about as a good idea. But the regular air-raid drills reinforced the knowledge you were part of something kind of Dicey special, not Disney special, and I imagine was a little reflected in the following child’s bike safety poster.


Child’s bike safety poster, from the “Hanford Historical Photo Declassification Project”.

That’ll do something to a kid’s psyche, being raised as a living bull’s eye. The safety poster’s subject is bike safety, but the enemy car is framed as a missile shot out of a Cold War cannon.

We thought the Cold War would never end. Fear would be eternal as the U.S. of A’s supposedly eternally established and ordained-by-god borders. There was no other way. The end of America would be apocalypse for everyone, no other world on the far side, only an empty horizon.

Bad bombs were always launched by another power. At some point the Uptown Theater showed a movie called And A Voice Shall Be Heard, produced by “The March of Time” and presented by General Electric. A poster for it reads, “See how Syracuse NY intends to fight back against the A-Bomb.” What that means is that the bad A-Bombs belonged to someone else, while America owned all the good A-Bombs that only served for defense.

The government spends a fair amount of time telling today’s children they’re targets. In the 1950s and 1960s, the dread was a retina-scorching flash on the horizon followed by a mushroom cloud billowing in the sky. Today the threat is any time, any where, by any one. The person seated next to you on the bus might have been a cold war spy, a commie infiltrator in the 50s and 60s, but they weren’t going to blow you up, their job being to gather intelligence. Today, the person seated next to you, the envelope in your mail box, the knapsack on the train may be instead the carrier of certain and immediate death. The intention of the message, that every person on the street is suspect, is to no purpose but to instill fear, not to train in safety measures, as duck and cover was just as absurd as today’s duct tape and plastic. The general populace has been manipulated to be at odds, one against the other.

We were trained for the rigors of life on Mars

Was your town ready? Was Richland ready?

The population was reassured that the Civil Defense in Richland and N. Richland was organized and ready with a public education program, control center, buildings for best shelter protection, equipment, manpower, and a beefy warning system.

1952, Hanford Civil Defense Display at the Uptown Theater
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0042145”
Accession Number N1D0042145
Document Number 4079-1-NEG-B
Alternate Document Number 4079-1-NEG
Title Description CIVIL DEFENSE DISPLAY IN UPTOWN THEATER LOBBY
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 24-May-1952
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

If you didn’t have full body protection against The Bomb, hopefully you would have a hard hat and canned goods and a shovel of sand. The below display shows “Items Recommended for Every Richland Home” included tomato juice, Spam, formula, a battery radio, a can opener and first aid kit. One’s local grocery would “soon be able to quote you prices and take your order for canned water.”

We ate a good deal of Spam in Richland but I think that’s because my dad liked Spam and it was easy to fix.

I liked Spam, too. Pan-grilled Spam was a treat.

Civil Defense Display at Uptown Theater
DDRS Record Details for Record Accession Number
“N1D0036118”
Accession Number N1D0036118
Document Number 2186-1-NEG-B
Alternate Document Number 2186-1-NEG
Title Description CIVIL DEFENSE DISPLAY – UPTOWN THEATER LOBBY
Number of Pages 1
Key Word(s)
Author(s)
Company(s)
Document Date 04-Dec-2001
Public Availability Date 14-Feb-2002

The government spends a fair amount of time telling today’s children they’re targets. In the 1950s and 1960s, the dread was a retina-scorching flash on the horizon followed by a mushroom cloud billowing in the sky. Today the threat is any time, any where. The person seated next to you on the bus might have been a cold war spy, a commie infiltrator in the 50s and 60s. Today, the person seated next to you, the envelope in your mail box, the knapsack on the train may be instead the carrier of certain and immediate death. The intention of the message, as during the Cold War, could be nothing but to instill fear, not to train in safety measures, as duck and cover was just as absurd as today’s duct tape and plastic.

Comments 2

  1. where is the “columbia high school” bomb shelter located,and does it still exist and if so does it lead to carmichael middle school? i am wrighting a report on the rumer about the bomb shelter and it would be nice to have someone to get the RIGHT answer!

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