Last week we discussed the La Crosse area’s proliferation of fallout shelters in 1971. Local civil defense officials designed a plan in which every citizen could reach a shelter within 30 minutes in case of nuclear threat. But after the doors were shut, then what? What would it be like to live in a church basement with several dozen people for a week or two?
The “La Crosse Community Shelter Plan,” mailed to every resident and business in the La Crosse area in 1971, recommended that people bring a bare minimum of supplies to the shelter: prescription medications, a flashlight, and an extra change of clothing, for example. The shelters themselves were supposed to be stocked with those items that come in handy during an apocalypse, such as food, water, “radiological instruments,” and the SK IV Sanitation Kit.
The SK IV Sanitation Kit was distributed by the Department of Defense, and contained 1 can opener, 80 cups and lids, 1 pair plastic gloves, 1 can waterless hand cleaner, 1 can odorless chemicals, 1 plastic toilet liner, 10 rolls of toilet paper, 60 sanitary napkins, and 1 toilet seat. Once opened and emptied of its contents, the cardboard barrel became a toilet with the addition of the plastic liner and the toilet seat pictured above. These supplies were supposed to be adequate for 50 people for 1 to 2 weeks, but one wonders just how long a single cardboard toilet would have held up. Nuclear waste, indeed.
This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on May 2, 2015.