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Cold War school plans

A Page of History

In my last column I discussed how the Golden Queen Mine was designated to be used as a bomb shelter in the event of a nuclear attack in 1961.

I found an article my mother Marion Deaver had saved again from 1961 discussing evacuation plans for the Tehachapi Unified School District. The November article outlined how students were "currently undergoing extensive indoctrination on survival procedures."

The District Superintendent Dr. Boyd Lehman wanted the staff and students to be prepared in case of "atomic attack or threat of such an attack."

Dr. Lehman said that a complete Civil Defense program had been established in the district and the children were being drilled in classroom and evacuation procedures.

Students were trained on what to do in case of a "Red Alert" which meant an attack was imminent.

This is the part that used to freak me out. I attended elementary school in Mojave, but schools near military facilities everywhere were required to practice for such an attack.

I remember we were taught, as were Tehachapi students, that when the alarm sounded, it was very serious. I know that some of the boys made fun of the whole thing, but not me!

If students were outside, they were directed to go into the buildings to the safe prearranged places, away from glass areas. Curtains were to be drawn and everyone had to "duck and cover".

If there was a flash in the sky and children were on the playground they were directed to hit the ground and pull sweaters and jackets over their heads, place their arms over their heads and not to look in the direction of the flash – which would be to the east where Edwards AFB was located.

In the case of a "yellow alert", which meant an attack was coming, students in Tehachapi were assigned assembly areas, with teachers in each area. School buses were to pick up students at each of the schools and deliver them to neighborhoods.

Parents were to be notified which bus their children would ride and where they would be dropped off. Parents had to tell the schools in writing who would pick up their children in case of an imminent attack.

Dr. Lehman explained that the school would be conducting a practice yellow alert where children get on the buses but be returned back to the schools. He planned for a school-community drill in which parents would be notified in advance and children would all be bused to their neighborhoods.

I remember we went through such a drill with the buses in Mojave. I lived across the street from the school, so I walked home, wondering if I would get there before I was vaporized by the big flash in the sky!

I never shared my fears with my parents. If I had, I know my mother would have told me to relax and not worry.

Times have changed. Our children no longer participate in drills in case of nuclear attack. They still practice fire drills, bus evacuation drills for other reasons, earthquake drills and, sadly, active shooter drills.

Teachers and students are now taught to shelter in place, and get down in their classrooms away from windows and with the doors locked.

Administrators review their campuses and study how to make them safer places of learning, with locked gates and, in some places, security cameras.

When I was 11, I was scared we would get blown up by nuclear attack. My grandchildren don't lie awake at night and worry about active shooters, but still practice all the drills, from earthquakes to active shooters.

I don't worry about getting nuked anymore, but I do sometimes lie awake at night and pray that we will never see an active shooter in any of our schools.

But, if we do, I know our schools and law enforcement have been trained, drilled, and are ready.