When President John F. Kennedy championed civil defense during his dire July 25, 1961 Berlin crisis speech he could not have known that he had just unleashed a wave of atom age hucksterism the likes of which had not been seen before. Fly-by-night fallout shelter companies would soon be invoking Kennedy’s words of warning in a bid to sell shoddy shelters. The “shelter salesman as con man” became an almost instant cliché ripe for comedy. Indeed, in a July 31, 1963 installment of The Second City Revue on WNEW-TV, comedian Bob Dishy played a representative of the Acme Fallout Shelter Company training newcomer Paul Dooley. Dishy dutifully imparts all the underhanded tricks of the trade to the eager Dooley. Much later, in the May 7, 1974 episode of Happy Days entitled Be the First on Your Block, Ronnie Schell embodied the shady survival salesman.
Survive-All Shelters of Columbus, Ohio was a cut above the average quick buck disaster merchant. Indeed, they actually sought out and received the blessing of the Department of Defense on their shelter model before hawking it (the sales kit includes a DoD letter from Henry Lobitz, Jr., Director, Shelter Design and Construction Office, Shelter and Vulnerability Reduction). They also hired the local Mort Kridel Advertising Agency to put the polish on their apocalyptic product with a sales kit and radio spots (see below). CONELRAD was lucky enough to have found a complete kit that is a fascinating artifact.
The Kridel agency did a serviceable job with this slick package, but their commercial vision will never be confused with that of Doyle Dane Bernbach or even Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. It is basically a flip-card or low-tech PowerPoint presentation with lots of extras. In other words, the kit probably helped move some shelter product before Survive-All reverted back to its parent company, “Hollywood Pools, Inc.” (probably about a week after the Cuban Missile Crisis). Not much is known about the true longevity of the company or its success, so if anyone out there reading this has any insights, we would love to hear from you.
The minimalist cover of the Survive-All sales kit binder is an all green affair with the exception of a stark white arrow pointing downward to the company logo. Inside is a poorly proof-read message on company letterhead from the firm’s president Howard Shaw that we transcribe here in its entirety (skip to the bottom of the passage if you want to read about Nelson Rockefeller’s creepy habit of lurking outside movie theaters playing On the Beach):
INFORMATION FROM US TO YOU
According to Dr. Edward Teller, in his recent series of articles which were carried by the Columbus Dispatch, “the frequent prediction that radioactivity from a nuclear war would poison the earth and all forms of life is entirely false. He continues to state that we are just beginning to learn how to combat the effects of radiation, to remove it from food or water, or remove radioactivity from the body, and to devise antidotes.”
Dr. Teller who is considered one of the world’s most prominent nuclear physicist also explained that we the people must start now without delay to prepare for a possible nuclear attack. He feels that we must begin at the individual level with shelters in the home. The obvious reasons for his beliefs are we would provide safety for each member of each family, and secondly to be prepared will make any aggressor nation hesitant to attack.
What is it that we should protect ourselves from? The answer is radioactive fallout. The question then comes to mind, what is this silent killer and how does it work? Fallout are pieces of dust and debris which are made radioactive by nuclear explosion. When a hydrogen bomb is exploded near ground , thousands of these particles are sucked up to form a mushroom cloud which accompanies these explosions. Most of it is carried by wind for many miles to eventually settle to earth to pollute air you breathe and vital organs of the body.
In an article entitled, “Against the Silent Killer,” which appears in the July 20, 1959 edition of Time magazine, “U.S. will suffer the first blow in a nuclear war and the outcome depends on each individual surviving the first onslaught and launching a massive counterattack. Despite this urgent need not a single city in these United States has a realistic bomb shelter system. This alone could account for defeat and death, or survival.
Life magazine July ’59 reports, “that blast and heat would account for one-forth of the deaths and the other three-fourths would perish from the silent killer radioactive fallout.” The Air Force Rand Corp., estimates 90 million will be killed on the first attack if proper protection is not provided. Sixty-seven and one-half million of these people can be saved if we are protected.
Thus far the Civil Defense has spent nearly $500 million on studies, pamphlets, volunteers, overhead, etc. Yet the population, according to Time magazine, is relatively unprotected and quite ignorant as to what to do. Constructors and builders offer the excuse that the additional cost of shelters in homes and buildings would discourage buyers.
Regardless of political affiliations, credit should be given to Gov. N. A. Rockefeller of New York who ignored the advice of his friends and relatives to become the first elected official to publicly promote shelters. It could have meant political suicide but Gov. Rockefeller felt that this was a necessity if peace and safety were to be preserved. He proposed a motion enacted into law that all new homes and buildings be equipped with shelters and all existing homeowners also be compelled to build shelters. Too many politicians were afraid to back the proposal and it was defeated. Due to greater interest in these perilous times, more people are on the bandwagon and, according to the April 1960 issue of Vital Speeches Report, it may become law in New York before long. This may set a precedence but we cannot wait for the government to compel us to provide protection for our loved ones, nor can we expect our enemy to wait until we are ready before they attack. Now is the time to prepare.
What kind of shelters are considered adequate for a nuclear attack? This answer depends upon the megaton of the bombs which is governed by the size and, consequently, by the delivering method. We must, of course, plan for the worst. Exposure to fallout can be decreased by 1/10 merely by going into a basement. A properly built shelter can lower this exposure to 1/100 of the outside condition.
Various shelters are illustrated in different magazines and news articles varying in price from $300 to $2500. According to October 1960 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine, regardless of type of shelter it should contain the following: “solid 8” block which is comparable to 10” solid brick; 20” of earth or 30” of wood. These are each considered adequate shielding from fallout. Ten square feet of floor space per person is thought to be sufficient. Open entrance way with at least one right turn. For best ventilation a blower is considered essential with vent pipes and filters to cross ventilate the entire area.”
Other items and suggestions which are considered necessities include:
A device for detecting radiation since radiation cannot be detected by any of the senses.
Two weeks supply of food and water in proper containers.
Battery powered radio, preferably with outside antenna, essential in keeping in touch on Conelrad.
Regular electricity to be used when on.
Supply of sand bags to plug possible holes.
At least 8” space overhead between the shelter and joist.
Waste containers, although underground sewage is preferred.
The essence of an article called “A Spare Room Fallout Shelter,” in January 25, 1960 issue of Life magazine, elates that a shelter can have other purposes. A model room is now being shown in Chicago and will soon be displayed all over the country. “It is 8.5 x 12 and provides living space for a family of five. The lavatory and toilet facilities are in the one corner. Bunk beds can be converted into sofas by day. Cooking is done on an alcohol stove. If war never comes, children can claim it for a hideaway; father can use it for poker games, and mother can count on it as a guest room.” No longer do shelters need to look cold and frightening, but one must not forget the primary purpose of the shelter and we must begin now to prepare for what we prey will never happen.
Gov. Rockefeller related that he stood outside a movie house where “On the Beach” was playing and listened to conversations as people came out. Most of the attitudes were negative and people were saying there is “nothing we can do.” This is false; we can do something. If this dreadful day ever comes, you will be among those 90 million we spoke of earlier. Plan now to be one of the sixty-seven and one-half million who will survive and live to rebuild this country of ours to its original status.
Division of Survive-All Corporation
Howard Shaw, President
The standout contribution by the Kridel agency in pitching Survive-All Shelters, however, is a series of radio spots that are so strange they have to be heard to be believed.P.S. If you are afraid of the issue….you will be afraid to meet the crisis.
The first track embedded below, for example, opens with an explosion sound effect and a voiceover artist warning that “NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST IS POSSIBLE!” at which point a second voiceover artist steps in and says: “A shelter will offer you protection.” As the first voiceover artist returns to describe Survive-All’s “civil defense approved” and “economical, but priceless” product, weird science-fictiony sound effects play in the background.
In other spots, also embedded below, the name “Survive-All” is accompanied with ominous music and echo effect.
The Mort Kridel Agency may never have handled the Ford account, but they certainly knew how to sell civil defense with panache.
CONELRAD would like to thank The Evolution Control Committee (ECC) for use of the Survive-All radio spots and Dinosaur Gardens for posting the MP3’s for listening and download.