Author photo

By Susan Wiggins
Mayor Pro Tempore 

Golden Queen Mine Shelter

A Page of History


I was born in 1950. Now you can all figure out my age! I declare this to emphasize that I grew up during the Cold War after World War II.

Because I lived in Mojave with a Marine Base next to me, until 1958, and our close proximity to Edwards Air Force Base (a major flight test facility), children my age in elementary school lived in constant fear that we would all be wiped out by an atomic bomb dropped near us.

As children we had no real understanding of how real that threat could be. We had regular atom bomb drills – ducking under our desks (as if that could save us) – while being traumatized by comments on the news that it was only a matter of time until we were all vaporized into nothingness.

I actually remember lying in bed at night and wondering just when it would happen. I never mentioned this to my parents because at that time in my life that was just not done.

I remembered all those fears this week when I found an article my mother Marion Deaver had written in September of 1961 concerning the creation of bomb shelters in the Golden Queen Mine south of Mojave. Similar shelters were created elsewhere, including Tropico Gold Mine, west of Rosamond.

A meeting was scheduled to take place at the Mojave Elementary School Auditorium to discuss the idea at a civil defense meeting to be chaired by Edwin Koch, local realtor, who had somehow been appointed as Mojave Civil Defense Chairman. Scheduled to address the group was Maj. Thomas H. Kirk, emergency plans officer at Edwards AFB.

The group that met was going to begin a collection of water storage containers, which would be placed in mines, such as the Golden Queen, south of Mojave.

The Golden Queen was deemed to be able to house 5,000 refugees. A survey made by the Mojave Marine Base, when it was still in Mojave, had been deemed capable of being used for such a shelter. The mine had over 19 miles of tunnels at the 600 foot level, with 50 miles of connecting tunnels.

At the 200 foot level, the mine was said to have two miles of usable tunnel, with one 50 by 50 foot room.

The Marine Base survey estimated 25 million cubic feet of air was available without ventilation for 5,000 people to be able to remain inside for 70 hours without air change.

The mine was equipped at that time with water and other supplies.

Tropico Mine was also equipped and included water, food stores, and cots in case of a disaster.

None of this preparation did anything to allay my fears as a child. I was sure that we would never be able to make it to the mine in time and be able to survive until all of the radioactive fallout had cleared out.

Local residents did not relish the idea of Los Angeles residents rushing to the East Kern area to survive such an attack. According to my brother, Bill Deaver, some older residents suggested meeting the LA residents at Avenue A (the county line) with shotguns to protect the local resources.

As it turned out, no atomic bombs were dropped by Russia or anyone else and we never had to worry about seeking shelter anywhere.

As I grew older our worries changed to our friends going to Vietnam and now about attacks from the Middle East and maybe North Korea. But as I reach my "golden years" fears of death are lessened.

In fact sometimes as times just get worse I yell, "Jesus, take me now!"


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