Duck and Cover

While there was no earthly reason for Joseph Stalin and his Red Communist Soviet Russians to be interested in Stone’s Tavern, our county school board decided that we would be ground zero when the bombing started.

When the USSR developed an atomic weapon in 1949, it seemed an east versus west stand-off was inevitable. The U.S. put its propaganda machines into high gear, while out of public view, both diplomatic and military options prepared for the possibilities. At that time, World War II, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki were fixed in the collective memory, the unimaginable become real.

The first “Duck and Cover” film for U.S. school children was made in 1951. Over the next years of tension, saber-rattling, and nose-to-nose nuclear stand-off there would be many films, pamphlets, and posters emphasizing Finding Shelter, Staying Low and Lying Flat, and Duck and Cover.

Neither my fictional Stone’s Tavern nor the very real towns and villages in Rappahannock County could offer anything in the way of bomb shelters. Shelters were well-marked and well-stocked in places like Washington D.C. or New York City, not in Jefferson or little Washington, Virginia.

Duck and Cover drills were taught, preached, proclaimed because there was nothing else to allay our fears.

Every municipality had a civil defense committee or agency. For the school children in Stone’s Tavern that committee’s coordinator was Mr. Thompson. While I don’t remember real names, certainly Rappahannock County had a civil defense office with diligent, caring, and conscientious people who offered hope of survival, even in something as unlikely as Duck and Cover.

Thanks again, Mr. Thompson.


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