With the rise of the Internet and competing online telephone directories, the heavy-bound, hardcopy and usually gigantic Yellow Pages is an all but forgotten symbol of the last century. The Yellow Pages directory still exists, but it is no longer the indispensable tool it once was. Indeed, these days it is not unusual to witness a neighbor promptly dump the freshly delivered telephone directories from the doorstep directly into the recycling bin.
As we move toward an exclusively digital culture, one wonders whether, at some point in the future, we will be one massive Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) away from losing the artifacts of our recent history. No such risk exists with the Cold War because the records and artifacts are all delightfully analog.
CONELRAD recently scanned these Fallout Shelter business entries from the April 1962 edition of the Philadelphia Yellow Pages. It is a remarkable snapshot of just how prevalent shelter-mania was in the months following President John F. Kennedy’s Berlin Crisis speech on July 25, 1961.
Over thirty entries can be found for all types of shelters on pages 391 and 392, conveniently situated between “Fabrics” and “Fans.” One savvy missile-age entrepreneur named his business “A Atomic Shelters” in order to be at the head of the alphabetical pack (take that “Allied Shelters”!). Other shelter hucksters took out eye-catching—and no doubt expensive—graphic ads to catch the eye of the panicky Yellow Pages reader.
It is fascinating to read the taglines, dubious endorsements and hedge-speak contained in these ads:
“Almost absolute protection against fallout radiation”
“If you want to survive fallout, call Tuner 7-9514”
“Nuclear Attack? Protect Your Family Now!”
“Will increase your chances of survival by 4,000 per cent”
“You Can Be Prepared If A Bomb Falls!”
“Civil Defense Approved”
“Exceeds Civil Defense Requirements”
“Engineered and tested to withstand immense pressures…”
“Builders of adequate shielding against radiation hazards…”
It is also interesting to note that some shelter companies tried to appeal to both the private shelter customer and potential community shelter buyer. Inclusion of community shelter construction options no doubt arose from the shelter morality debate of 1961.
Of course, almost overnight, nearly all of these companies vanished from the pages of the directory. After the apocalyptic scares of the early sixties, many of the opportunistic entrepreneurs moved on from the survival fad and returned their advertising dollars to their primary businesses: swimming pools and concrete. The Yellow Pages preserve this hard-to-believe period with a unique clarity.