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Hi, this is Melanne Verveer and this is Kim Mazzarelli and we're co-hosts of Senecas Conversations on Power and Purpose, brought to you by the Seneca Women Podcast Network and I Heart Radio.
We're launching a brand new season of this podcast, which brings you fascinating conversations with leaders like two time gold medalist, author and activist Abby Wambach and actor, producer and entrepreneur Justin Baldoni, among many others. Listen to Senecas conversations on power and purpose on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome to Step, you should know a production of NPR Radio's HowStuffWorks. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Kabui Clark, there's Charles W.
Bambam Bryant of, in theory, Radioactive Roland Boy. And this is stuff you should know and you still got it after all these years.
You still got it?
Yep. Hey, I think before we get going, we should talk very briefly about our audio book. Oh, yeah.
Because this week in real time, we are each recording our respective parts for the audio book. And first of all, we just want to tell everyone there's going to be an audiobook version.
Yeah, spoiler of stuff you should know, Colin and mostly incomplete guide to very interesting things and still an incomplete compendium of mostly interesting things.
Yes. So we're trying to push that out as a, you know, get both is what I say. But if you're into audio books, we're doing one. But also I just want to make sure people know what they're getting. And I put this on the stuff you should know. Ami page, they're not getting twenty seven new podcast episodes.
No. And they should know that because our podcast is Unscripted Conversation, an audio book is us reading an audio book and rather than just weirdly trading lines, reading from a script which would I think that would dash a lot of people's image of what we do. Yeah, we are each reading chapters and I think they're going to mix in some stuff here and there. But yeah, I mean, it's going to be great and fun, but it's not podcast episodes.
We don't get to just fart around and make jokes like we got to read our book we had.
Oh man, we will be kept in line if we try to fart around and make jokes, that would not be good. There's this whole time is money, even though since you're yelling, sometimes crying, it's a real stressful situation, everybody.
How did that go for yesterday? Did you enjoy yourself? I just told you there's a lot of yelling and crying and it's very stressful. Yeah, it was fun.
It was it reminded me a lot of recording the end of the world. Yeah. You know, I wrote those and then I read them. Right. So it was very similar to that, except a lot less heavy.
Yeah. I was slightly nervous at first for some reason after talking for 12 years, probably just because you weren't there. But then it was like, you know, it was fine.
Did Fleet the director calm you make you feel better? Yeah. I mean, you know, I got I got in my groove. I felt pretty, pretty comfy by the end of it. Yeah.
So, I mean, it has it is fun. It's definitely a lot of extra work this week, but it's kind of cool. You know, at the end we're going to have a bona fide audio book.
That's right. And a bona fide book that you can preorder now. And we're also working on getting that preorder gift available to the UK and Australia and other parts of the world because we had different publishers there. It's not like we were trying to exclude everyone.
No, no. But we are moving heaven, earth to get it done. And yeah, if you're in the US and Canada and you preorder, if you haven't gotten your poster yet or not, you're going to get your preorder gift eventually. That's right.
Wow. So for the fifteen seventeen people who stuck around prepared to learn about fallout shelters, because that's ultimately what we're here to talk about today.
That's right. Actually, before that, I have to say one more thing. OK, uh, I posted that squirrel attack video on my Instagram, you know, that we talked about on the episode. Yeah. Because people kept asking and so I put it up. I'm at Chuck the podcast. Or if you want to see a squirrel go berserk and literally fly through the air and hit me in the leg, then you can you can see that.
And it's been like fifteen thousand times now.
One of these days, I hope you'll fess up to what you did to provoke that squirrel.
I mean, the whole thing's there. You see me exit my house. So.
Yeah, but I mean, we didn't know, like what happened like half hour before, you know, they've been ongoing for the last week.
Yeah, that's true. That's true. Yeah. No back story.
So now I think we're going to talk about fallout shelters because Chuck, your house has a basement, but it's exposed on one side to the outdoors. It's not a ground basement as far as I know. And hopefully I'm not divulging too much information about your house. So, so weird fans will be able to find it and show up.
Well, actually, you know, one side of it is exposed to the world, but the other side is, you know, ten feet of earth and red clay, like it could have been a great fallout shelter had it not been for that one side.
Sure. But there are things you could do or could have done. I think we should use past tense here, because the need for a fallout shelter as far as a nuclear war goes is vanishingly remote these days. Yeah, I like to think I don't think we're getting any fear mongering.
No, I agree. But there are a few things you could have done or could do to build the fallout shelter with that that that good side, I guess. And we're going to talk about that today. But mainly what we're talking about, the fallout shelters, there's almost kind of like this examination of the world's psyche during the Cold War to where as the nuclear arsenals of the Soviet Union in the United States started to build up in step with one another.
And we were suddenly in a nuclear arms race where just ten years before, there were no such thing as nuclear weapons. People started to realize, like, oh, man, if one of these goes off near me, I'm in big trouble. And they started, look. Going around to the government to say, hey, what should I do? And at first the government is like, Mm, you know, figure it out yourself. And then eventually the government kind of got a little more involved.
And before you know it, we had a national fallout shelter program. As feeble and terrible as it was, at least we had one. Yeah.
What's really funny is when you read up on this stuff and you learn that President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, that is, ask Congress for 100 hundred million dollars to build public fallout shelters. Right. That is such an adorable number. Now, that would build like 10 fallout shelters these days.
Yeah, like, that's maybe that's like the amount of money that would take to get like a motorcade to the Capitol. Right. From the White House, basically, you know.
Yeah. But it was a real threat back then. And I can't remember what episode it may have been. Nuclear radiation. We did one on the disaster in Japan. Yeah, we've done a couple on this. But I know that I told the story of my father, like having us sort of do 20 percent of a fallout shelter when I was 10 or 12 years old after the movie the day after and on television. Yeah, I remember that.
I mean, you know, as my brother and I are taking out digging out buckets of dirt and carrying him out in the woods and dumping them for probably three or four weekends, and then we stopped. So you guys were 20 percent covered if something happened.
Yeah. I mean we could have. Yeah, it was pretty gross.
So was it akin to this this this shelter that we're going to go over at the end? Was it like that? Well, I mean, it eventually could have been, which is to say a, you know, kind of a concrete room underground surrounded by Earth.
Oh, yeah. No, I'm saying like the kind where it's like you dig a trench and put some wood, pulled it.
This is part of my basement. Like my dad had a workshop. And on the interior wall of the workshop, he knocked down the cinder block wall and we just started digging.
Oh, wow. Which I'm sure with you for safety, the foundation of this.
Right? He's like, yeah, it's probably not load-Bearing. Yeah, exactly.
But yeah, there was definitely a point in time, especially during the height of the Cold War, where it was like, this is this is really in danger here. The world was just kind of walking around, just twitching and shaking at the idea of this. Part of the problem was not just the idea that a bomb was going to go off and just blow cities apart, because apparently there was this one of the nuclear deterrent theories, the game theories that that people kind of operated under said, no, you know what?
If we ever engage in nuclear war, we're we're just going to be attacking military installations side to side. And so we don't really have to worry about that for people in New York or D.C. or, you know, Atlanta, wherever any of the major metropolitan cities, we have to worry about those cities getting leveled. But there's going to be a huge problem for the people living there because there's such a thing as radioactive fallout. It's not just the bomb that gets you, it's the fallout afterward.
Yeah, I mean, if you're talking about a nuclear bomb, a nuclear warhead depends on what kind. You know, back then it was it was different than it is now. But let's say a one megaton H bomb back in the day would completely wipe out everything within about two miles from where it hit. Yeah.
And I know I said we weren't going to fearmonger, Chuck, but I found out that there is a bomb in the U.S. arsenal called the B 83, which is one point two megatons, and it can be carried around very easily by the B2 bomber.
So those exist. So to Miles, everything is gone. And this is from the blast in a person, if you're like five miles away from that bomb site, you're going to get hit with third degree burns. Yeah, just from that blast. Yeah.
You're going to be hit in life. So the blast is going to be bad enough. And again, yet just for people miles away could be burned to death, incinerated, vaporized. Just all sorts of terrible stuff. But if you're living outside of that blast zone, you got problems in the radioactivity that's going to be generated by it, because when those bombs explode, they release a lot of radioactive particles of different varieties. And those things go up in the air and they get kind of carried around and stirred up in the atmosphere.
But a lot of them are heavy enough that they come back down in basically around the area in a larger area around the bombs epicenter.
Yeah. And we should probably just go over some of these different types of radiation, some of it you might recognize from various Incredible Hulk comic books. All right. But you've got your alpha particles, your beta particles, you've got gamma rays, you've got neutrons.
The gamma rays is what got Hulk, right? I think so. Right. Yeah, I'm pretty sure because. Cameras are green and Hoak was green. That's right. I think that's near this sweet, sweet purple pants come out of it for sure. So the alpha and beta particles, they are not great, but they are easily stopped is probably the best way to say it.
Yeah. So here's the thing. Like everything I tried to read about this is like they would go to great lengths to be like, well, this one isn't isn't like that much of a problem. This one's way worse. And then finally they throw up their hands, be like, actually all of this is going to be one big giant cluster because depending on the different type of radioactive particle, there's different situations where they're way worse than the other one.
Like a gamma ray is really bad because it can go clear through several inches of lead right into you on the other side of the lid through your body. And then everything it comes in contact with, say, all of your cells and tissues and bones and all that stuff. It really screws them up genetically. And you can develop cancer and radiation sickness and all that. That's pretty bad. But then you've got alpha particles where they can be stopped by a piece of paper.
They can't even make it through your skin. But they could get all over like crops in the water and we drink and eat them. And then they cause all sorts of all sorts of problems inside of you, too. So there's really no good radioactive particle as far as a fallout from a nuclear bomb is concerned.
Yeah, not at all. So don't you know if you read up on this stuff and I said, oh, a piece of paper, a little bit of plastic, you can stop beta particles and alpha particles. Just think about the air. You're breathing the water, you're drinking, the dimmeys, you're growing.
You're if you want to get traditional, it's all very dangerous. Yeah. Don't just be like us. Make a paper suit out of newspapers and maybe a little paper dry corner and hide out in newspapers.
I'll be fine. But like you said, when this bomb hits, that mushroom cloud goes up. Everything's all mixed together. And as the wind blows, these little I think John Fuller, our old pal, wrote this one a long time ago, right? Yeah. For HowStuffWorks. But John Fuller, he said there are lots of little they act like little tiny missiles basically that are just going off all over the place.
Yeah, that was the neutrons, right? I yeah. I think the neutrons specific, he called the missiles, but they kind of all are. Yeah they are.
They're super high energy and gamma rays. Like I said, they can pass right through you. Neutrons are a problem in the relative immediate blast area because they're very heavy. So they don't go nearly as far as they like gamma rays or x rays or alpha particles, beta particles. But they they all do damage in their own unique special snowflake way.
Yeah. And it's also I mean, this stuff is being carried around by the wind, but the actual particles that you're seeing is is actually earth that is now enriched with this stuff that is puffed up from that crater where Earth used to be, I guess.
Right. And so knowing all this like this was this is like why people started to be like, oh, OK, maybe we should start building fallout shelters to to live in or inhabit for, you know, the immediate period after this this nuclear attack to give us the chance to survive and hopefully, you know, make it a few weeks and then things will die down. Everybody forgotten about the whole nuclear holocaust and we can come back out and restart civilization.
That was the really honestly, if you get down to it, the thinking behind fallout shelters in the United States in the 60s and late 50s.
I mean, should we take a break there and talk about these things? I think some more, yeah. All right. We'll be right back, everyone.
All of us in America have a duty to vote, don't boo vote voting may be the cornerstone of our democracy, but the reality of how voting works in America and who gets to do it is not as fair or clear cut as we like to tell ourselves.
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So, Chuck, I think since we've got one act under our belt, we need to start the second act by telling everybody they can preorder our book.
Hey, I took some vitamins. You know, I've been taking vitamins as much as I can. Oh, yeah. And I've got this multivitamin, you know, like the worst of vitamin can taste. I've got that horrible vitamin tastes just stuck in the back of my throat because it got stuck there for a half of a millisecond before it washed down. And it just left this terrible taste of vitamin coating back there. And it's driving me batty.
How how is your health with the vitamins? Can you tell the difference? No, none. How's your how's your urine?
It's bright yellow, which makes me just feel like such a chump, especially after our vitamin supplements. Oh right. Didn't we say like we pay most of it out. Yeah. There's good ones for sure.
And I like to think I'm taking good ones, but I just know that there's no telling right now, like I'm using injectables now pretty much inaudible vitamins.
So fallout shelters. It's funny here and I'm glad John put it this way because it really makes a lot of sense. If you think about an SPF for sunscreen, it's the same exact way with the fallout shelter, you have a PDF, a protection factor. And that is just very simply a representative of being in a fallout shelter or just being out in the open. Right. And FEMA put out a pamphlet called Standards for Fallout Shelters, and they said you need a PDF of 40 at least that.
Yeah, if you want to, you know, and that that puts you down to about 2.5 percent of the radiation, which I heard that number. And I thought that was too much.
Yeah, no, I think what you're really shooting for is something like three hundred, that kind of thing. And they're saying like a minimum of 40 or else just you might as well just go lay out in the in the radioactivity. Right. For all the protection you're going to get another way to look at that PDF numbers that it's the denominator in the fraction of the radioactive exposure that you get compared to being outside of the shelter. So for 40 would mean that you get one fortieth.
I'm more of a fraction guy than a decimal dude.
Yeah. How about you? You like decimals or fractions more?
I don't like either one, but I think for our next live show in twenty twenty two, you should wear a shirt that says Fractioned Guy and I'll have one that says decimal do. OK, that'll be our new to our outfit. Fair enough. And you keep your mouth printed on a button down shirt of course.
OK, that's because nothing looks better than good silk screening on a button down Oxford. Maybe by the time we go on tour again, this horrible vitamin taste will be out of my mouth.
Maybe so. Um, so with fallout shelters, there's a couple of kinds if you're going back to the 1960s that people were talking about, and that is the public one and then the private one that you just build at your house like we kind of didn't do. I went down a bit of a rabbit hole. It's and this is B right up your alley. You probably did.
This rabbit hole is pretty safe, I bet. Yeah, it depends on how deep, I guess. Yeah. But if you start Googling 60s fallout shelters. Oh and I did. Oh boy. It's just a treasure trove of articles and pictures. I saw one of these people in Woodland Hills, a suburb of L.A., but or part of Greater Los Angeles, bought a house not too long ago, a few years ago. And they found a.
Did you see this one? No, I saw some in Milwaukee this well, I saw that Milwaukee article, too.
That was great. But they found a 15 foot down under the Earth fallout shelter. Wow. It was fully stocked, like it was like a time capsule from nineteen sixty one.
And Brendan Fraser and Christopher Walken were living in.
I can't remember who the mom was. Do you remember how I didn't see that.
Oh you didn't know it was cute movie. Yeah. Is that Encino Man. No, no, no. This is blast from the past. Oh OK. That was great too because the weasels in it. Oh Ozzy. Yeah. Pauly Shore. Yeah I know that is agisted.
Pauly Shore, Shaun Austin and Brendan Sean Astin, whatever.
That guy's rich enough. He doesn't care what I say. So I was looking at all these 1961 period products and just like getting tingly feelings in my body because they were perfectly preserved for the most part like faded and stuff. But there was a can like a coffee can, but it said multi-purpose food meals for millions. And so I was like, I got to find out what this is. And it turns out that Meals for Millions was a nonprofit from way back then.
That is now international now. Now it's it's it's transformed into another name these days, I think freedom for. Hunger is the new name. OK, but these two guys, Clifford Clinton and Dr. Henry Borsuk, took on this task of Borsuk, was a biochemist at Caltech, and they took on this project of trying to find the best food to feed, like the cheapest, absolute, most bare bones thing you could put in a package to feed the hungry.
Right. And that's what they came up with. Was this stuff in a can and it is 68 percent diff added soy gretz, plus dehydrated potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, leeks, parsley and spices fortified with vitamins and minerals. And it all comes in a can and you boil it up and eat it. And it was something like two cents per serving. Wow. And it was a really ingenious idea. But this became, I think, kind of a popular thing for fallout shelters, because you can start cans and cans of this like the most bare bones, caloric sort of healthy thing.
You could get meals for millions. That's pretty great. I did not expect it to actually be as healthy as what you just listed off. Yeah, I would love to taste some of it.
Well, multiprocessor Woodland Hills, I know.
Well, just call it food. What do you mean multipurpose food? Pomade as well.
Maybe one with a food that I ran across that was pretty popular, especially among government funded fallout shelters.
Was this kind of like wheat cracker that was made from bulgur wheat? And apparently they were inspired by some crackers that were found in Egyptian tombs that were still edible after a couple thousand years. So they're like, oh, that'd be perfect for fallout shelters. So they kind of recreated those tasteless.
Edible. Yeah, multipurpose. Apparently you could shave with them, too.
You might. Good. Milwaukie article is pretty cool though. Yeah. I think it said that at the time there were like three thousand plus personal shelters in the city of Milwaukee alone. Yeah.
The thing is it's like that's, that's probably a pretty good number. The thing is, there's no official numbers for the fallout shelters that were built around the the Cold War because there were a lot of public or private ones, but there also public ones, too. So let's keep talking about the private ones first, because if we're going to follow the historical timeline, which I'm in favor of around, I think the late 1950s, I think it was 1957 in the Eisenhower administration, there was a report that's now called the Gaither Report, and it basically said, here's everything we figured out about a nuclear war.
The cities are toast. People are going to die en masse. We have no place to put them for them to shelter in. And everybody's in a lot of trouble if there is a nuclear war. So really, the best thing we need to focus on is to prevent a nuclear war from happening. Well, that leaked out and people said, well, what are we going to do? And this is when the government was like, I don't know, don't you build some some shelters and leave us alone?
And so people started doing that and it became like a huge craze. And so shelters in places like that home in Woodland Hills or that one in Milwaukee that are still around today, in some cases, that became like a big deal, like like adding like a really nice swimming pool or adding like a rec room or something like that. People turn to follow shelters and they started building them like crazy.
Yeah. And from that Milwaukee, I think it was in Milwaukee, was the name of the website. But from what they said was they were being marketed as sort of multipurpose rec rooms that in case the the air goes down, it's conveniently, you know, lined with concrete. Right. And you could just sort of easily convert it. And I guess you would have some stuff stashed there in either a closet or in bins or something. And when you're not using it, you know, when there's no nuclear disaster, you're just using it as sort of a playroom or something.
Yeah, there were some decorator's show in Chicago in the late 50s, I think. And they build this thing as the living or the family room of tomorrow. Yeah, it was exactly what you described. It was like a normal functioning family room, but it just happened to be in the basement in like a foot thick concrete encased under the dirt.
Yeah, I remember seeing when I was a kid, my brother and I did lots of sort of I mean, I guess it was an urban exploring, but trespassing, suburban exploring. And I remember a couple of distinct times that we saw vent pipes just coming out of the earth in the forest, and we never saw any entryway or anything like that. But that had to be some sort of fallout shelter, I think. Yeah, probably.
I mean, we were near homes, but not like in the yard we'd come across. A couple of them in our various expeditions, OK, like, you know, just a clearly event pipe just coming out of the woodland forest floor.
Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly what it was. I hope, you know. Well, we didn't dig around. If not, have you ever seen that Hugh Jackman movie where his wife is kidnapped prisoners? Yeah, man, that was really good. Yeah, I mean, really good. Yeah.
Great movie. So that's what's his face is doing. The new Dean movie didn't even near. Oh, well, there you go, that's why it was so good. Yeah, he's he's a master. I'm sorry, Jack. I just I can't not correct you. His name is Dennis. Dennis.
I'm sorry. Okay. I've mispronounced it. So I was kidding. Anyway, there was the private fallout shelter trend that just blew up and became a thing. And then in 1961, President Kennedy sent a letter out. I'm sure it went out to more than just this. But if you were a Life magazine subscriber, which was pretty substantial back in nineteen sixty one in the September 15th edition, you got a letter from President Kennedy basically saying like, hey, you know, this whole possibility of nuclear war thing, well, we've decided we're going to do something about it.
We the government, and we're going to start what's called the National Fallout Shelter survey. And this is what the survey basically what we're going to do is send out government officials and they're going to look at buildings all around the country and identify sites that have the potential of serving as a fallout shelter. And everyone says, well, that's great. So like a fallout shelter. So if, like, a nuclear bomb goes off over our city, we're going to be safe.
It's like, no, yeah, don't be ridiculous. That would cost a lot of money. No, this is going to protect you. If if from radioactive fallout, you'll have to survive the blast. But this will this will hopefully protect you from the fallout afterward.
Yeah. And, you know, we kind of laugh about that. But, I mean, there's no way they could have built enough, like adequate shelters to protect all Americans from the blast.
No, I mean, there was a lot of Americans apparently they did look at it at first and they could have pretended to two hundred billion in in nineteen sixty one dollars another. Cute. No, actually, they were like, oh, no, that's we can't do that. We don't have that kind of money. So it was like you said, I think a hundred and one hundred and ninety million is what they ended up spending on it, which to me seems like a lot of money to send out some people to look at buildings and decide what was a fallout shelter and what wasn't.
Yeah, you know, what's really funny is when you look at what people did around the world, what countries did around the world and how it so jibes with how those countries are still today. So the US did what we did. The Soviets said that they built a big, extensive system and they had an advanced cooling system and all these filters protecting against everything and provisions food and water forever.
And, you know, this is this is the press release they put out basically. Who knows what really happened.
Yeah, because I found that unlike Russia, so great dotcom or whatever. I mean, it was it was like an urban exploration of like an abandoned shelter. But, you know, was this just like the biggest one? How many were like that? Supposedly the Soviets boasted of a system that could protect most most of their citizens from the blast.
All right. So that makes sense. Sweden built sixty five thousand, which covered about seventy percent of the population. That's for the other thirty percent. Switzerland built enough shelters for everybody. OK, God bless them. The UK said, you know what? We're going to build enough for our military, our government and the royal family. Yeah. You know, everyone else. And then Australia said, OK, well, we'll take a pass. We're not going to build any because no one's going to mess with us down here.
Yeah, they're like everybody's right on the beach.
Everyone knows we're fine. The rest of the world's gone up in flames.
I think you're probably right. I mean, they were. They were, and especially back then, enough off the map or off the path of of the threat that they didn't even need to sweat it. Yeah. They're like, hey, what's all the all the ruckus up there? Yeah. So but so the U.S. said, OK, we've got to do something. Let's at least build these fallout shelters that are going to protect people from radioactivity. And so they started building these well, I shouldn't say building.
They started going on to private property or public buildings and saying, hey, you got a really nice basement here. Yeah. Can you take down the human skins? It clean it up a little bit. We're going to put some Bulgar wheat biscuits in here. We're going to put in some multi-purpose food. Don't ask and we're going to turn this place, a new fallout shelter. And on their way out, they would slap a sign, very iconic sign, which is black circle with three inverted triangles, all pointing toward the center that designated a fallout shelter.
And they did this in yellow in the event of a like a blackout during a nuclear war or something so that you could easily see it.
Yeah, pretty cool. The company, 3M made these for about a penny each, and they made about 400000 of these signs. And they would stock these things with, you know, like medical first aid kits, some water drums. Yeah, those crackers that you talked about, that if you add water could probably double up as like cement patch.
Yeah, I guess, but I think people would wrestle you to the ground if you tried to use the water for anything but drinking after, you know, in the event of this. Sure. I mean, that's one thing we didn't mention. If you go to build your own fallout shelter, you know, you should have some food. But water obviously is far more important. We talked about that a lot about how long the human body can go without food and water.
You got to have a lot of water.
I think I would stock it up with some of that. Mike's mighty good ramen.
Sure course. Which, by the way, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that they actually sent us a coupon code for stuff you should know listeners. Oh, yeah, this is not an ad.
But they we talk about that, Robin, so much. They said, you know what? I tell everyone stuff you should know 20. We'll get them 20 percent off ramen if they want to order some.
Very nice to write the number 20 or write out 20, the number 20 after stuff you should know.
So to zero. Yeah. And you can stock up your own fallout shelter. You can eat that stuff for lunch, then take a lot of room, good calories.
It's multipurpose food. You got to eat some water for it though. Right. But I mean, hey. Or you could collectively spit in it I guess, and heat that up.
You're going to get that water anyway, though, you know, because you're going to drink the juice. That's true.
So back to the public shelters. They had these pretty well stocked. They said there was an actual booklet in there that said if you want a toilet seat out of a chair and put a bucket under it and there's your toilet.
And so in that pamphlet came out, in particular, the American citizenry said, like, for real, this is what our tax dollars are doing. This is what we're getting from our government. Cut a cut a hole in the seat of a chair and put a bucket under there. That's your advice for the nuclear war that you're half responsible for having us live under the threat of.
Right. They said we're not socialists. You take care of yourself. Yeah. So the thing is, is like people would people would. Right. People would read newspapers or people would like watch the news or whatever, and they would be getting one channel of information that was saying, like, yeah, here's what this you know, what a one megaton bomb could possibly do to you. If this blew up over New York City, this is what would happen.
And people would say, well, what's the point of having these fallout shelters? Because if a bomb goes off over New York City, all of those fallout shelters are going to be totally obliterated. There's no point for them and the government in doing something like trying to at least lift some finger, make people feel less anxious, actually had the opposite effect because it drew a lot of attention and focus to the need for fallout shelters, while at the same time reinforcing the idea that these fallout shelters weren't going to be worth anything for anybody unless maybe you lived in Topeka or somewhere where there wasn't what's known as a key target that you might actually survive in a fallout shelter that was well stocked and had few enough people.
It could work. But for most Americans, especially ones in major cities, you're going to be in bad shape. And the fallout shelter program really kind of pointed that out. All right.
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So before we broke, you said something about unless you live in Topeka, then Kansas, have silos or no military, as I was saying, and I was like, yeah, I'm glad you said so.
At least they'll save us the emails, OK, because that, you know, we didn't mention. But, you know, we talked about game theory earlier about how the reasoning was, you don't need to worry if you're in a big city because there aren't military bases there. Right. But you know that it sort of goes the way of that war goes once anything goes wrong. So if one bomb from the opposition, from the enemy goes to somewhere it isn't supposed to go, then all bets are off basically.
Yeah. And then it's just bomb away.
I also want to give a shout out to Robert Klara from History Dotcom, who wrote Nuclear fallout shelters were never going to work, who wrote a pretty great article about how this whole program was kind of doomed from the start. He says it all ill conceived, you know, but not only was it ill conceived, they were also like poorly stocked. Some of these things that were designated followed shelters, never got their supplies. Water drums were leaking and then others worked really well.
So well, in fact, that there's one they found at the Oyster Adams Bilingual School in D.C., which is a school still functioning today, part of D.C. public schools. But there is a fallout shelter that's like a a time capsule, basically, that has all of the original provisions in it just frozen in time still.
Wow. Really neat house in California.
Yeah, basically. Except this was one of the the designated public fallout shelters, but below a school. Yeah. I think. Didn't they try to build them to house at least 50 people. Mm hmm. And I think they had they recommended for the personal ones that they be at least six and a half feet tall. Yeah. And that was one of the things that sort of would have been the toughest, I think, about fallout. Shelters are so many of them were very had very low ceilings.
Obviously, there's no windows. I mean, it's bunker life is is tough going. And they recommended two weeks and which is nuts to me. Like, there's no way I'm poking my head out after two weeks just to see if it's how things are going up there. Right.
I mean, like there was some logic and reasoning to that two weeks in that there's that you would have exceeded the half life of a lot of the radio nuclides that are not enough created. But yeah, there's plenty that would still be around. Yes, it was it was never, never going to work like Robert Klara put it.
No. And I think that was sort of the idea of what you were talking about with the public being so disheartened and feeling helpless about our civil defense was like, this is the general public. And they didn't think it seemed like a good plan.
But it makes me wonder, though, is that a good thing? Like, it sucks to have that kind of mental anxiety that we all collectively had during the Cold War, especially at the height of this stuff like in the 60s.
Yeah, but I think it might have actually been good because then the public was aware of just how dangerous things were and would prevent a kind of cavalier attitude toward nuclear war because they knew what was at stake and what was at stake were their very lives.
Maybe. I mean, and maybe that's a bottom up, sort of like a groundswell of public thought makes its way up into the into government. And, you know, I mean, I guess we'll never know how close we ever got.
I mean, I don't think we've ever done one on the nuclear the Cuban missile crisis, have we not? I don't think specifically. But, you know, we've been on the brink in a in a way that history has recognized. But I'm curious how close it's been in times that we never even knew about.
You know, there's one guy who's celebrated every year. I can't remember what the day is, but it's basically like save the world. They wear this one Soviet, I guess a missile commander basically had a few minutes. I was being told by his computers and all of his underlings that the US had launched a massive strike and that, you know, it was up to him to to call in order this counterstrike or call the people who would order the counter strike.
And he sweated it out. He said that he just didn't believe that the Americans would have launched an unprovoked all out nuclear strike like he was being shown. And he stayed his hand and literally saved the world from a nuclear war like single handedly. And the scary thing is, Chuck, is that has happened more than once.
Yeah, I'm sure. Yeah. It's funny that, like, we're basically the last generation that grew up with any knowledge of the threat of nuclear war like this. Yeah. Like we sort of experience the tail end of the Cold War. Perfect generation. Yeah. But it's hard to. And the the friendly. Our podcast, which is one of my favorites, the war movie podcast that our buddies Ben Harrison and Adam Vranica and Jon Rodrik do their younger Roderick's, you know, a few years older than me, Waled, so way older than you.
But John kind of drives his point home a lot about like it's really hard to put into words what that does to a set of generations when we're all sort of living under this, you know, very real threat that we could all die the worst possible death and, you know, not like, oh, you kids have got it made or anything like that. But it's a different sort of mindset, you know?
Yeah, I mean, it definitely is. And it definitely affects you from from every stage of your life, you know?
I mean, it went away by the time we were in college. But, you know, I remember my early years, obviously, we were digging a fallout shelter. It was it was a big threat in movies and TV. Reinforce that every day.
Yeah. So if you wanted to build a fallout shelter, we have to say there was a time in addition to designating fallout shelters, by the way, if you find one of those old fallout shelter signs, hang on to it. You can pretty much take it. And unless there's a close watching Groundskeeper Willie type who takes care of that building, nobody's probably going to notice it's gone. Yeah, and the US government has no idea how many are out there because they never kept track of the fallout shelters.
There was no registry or anything.
Yeah, I mean, they shouldn't started shutting these down in the early 70s, officially started giving away the food since some of it to organizations in Africa and Bangladesh. And then those signs started, I think, in the mid 70s, started pulling those signs out. And I think finally, just three years ago in twenty seventeen, they they said that they said that they got the last of the signs out of New York City. Right. Which and I don't think we mentioned it's hysterical that they built these fallout shelters in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Right. As if that would you know, that would lead to being buried being or. Right.
So so if you if you if you did want to make a fallout shelter, there's there was a pamphlet put out by Oak Ridge National Laboratory where they basically hired boys.
Yeah. They they had a sideline in studying nuclear disaster. Survival. What, like you couldn't tell with their beards, you know. Right. But this pamphlet basically was the result of Oakridge hiring a bunch of families, a regular old American families and saying a nuclear war is happening right now. Go build a fallout shelter. Here's your instructions and then seeing how easy it could be done and then adjusting the instructions and so on and so forth until they finally got to this pamphlet.
And the pamphlet basically came up with this really good fallout shelter where you just basically dug a trench in the ground that was several feet deep, covered it with wood poles, covered the wood poles with something like cloth, the old bed sheet, something like that, put dirt on it, put shower curtains, something waterproof, and then put more dirt on that. And they actually figured out that this particular fallout shelter had like a protection factor of like 300.
Really? Yeah. That it would also survive a blast that most houses would not survive now because you're you're just basically hunker down in the earth and it would it would work for you if you wanted to. And they said that it can be done. They used the example that to non-athletic college age girls did it in thirty six hours. That was that was how they were selling. We got a couple of girl couch potatoes. Right. Look at them.
Wow. Yeah, I would when I was reading about that I was, I figured you'd get maybe a twenty out of that. A twenty.
What do you mean for know. One three hundredth. Wow. Yeah. So there you go. Thank you. Oakridge boys. Giddy up on paper.
And since Chuck said that, everybody, it's time for listener mail.
All right. I'm going to call this a series of apologies to Australia.
Oh, boy. Yeah, I know what this is about. So before we get into the email, I do think we should address this, that we've had some ads running in Australia only that had been no good. And these aren't ads that we knew about. These aren't ads that we read. We have a separate company in Australia that's doing that for us. And everything is under review now, right now, because we don't want these ads out there.
So, yeah, it's a it's a new relationship and we're kind of figuring each other out. That's right. But we do want to say that none of these ads were our decision. If you're out there and your interest is piqued and you're like, oh, my gosh, what are they talking about? I'll never know. They were you know, they were ads for like mining companies and stuff like. That, among other things, not super as type stuff.
That's right, and we wanted to address it head on, but also we wanted to address our own foibles in the Billabong's terminology that we were talking about in the wetlands episode. Just shameful, man. It is. And this is something we should know, even though we are not Australians, but we use the term Aborigines very sort of willy nilly. And that is a this is an email from Tanita, she said. And the episode in Wetlands used a number of terms talking about Billabong's that were not correct terminology.
The term Aborigines is considered outdated and offensive as it groups all indigenous groups into one term and has connotations of colonial Australia. Some of the current terms and correct terms for traditional owners of Australia include Aboriginal people, Indigenous First Nations people. And this is something that, you know, we just should have known.
So, yeah, plus, I mean, it applies to more than just the native people of Australia, too, you know. So, of course. Yeah. And we got a bunch of emails from people that said, if you really want to do right by these people, you need to research the exact people that you're talking about, like the Palawa people from Tasmania where she's from, or the island people from the area around Armidale, where she lives now.
And we didn't do that. And she said there were two hundred and fifty different languages in Australia before invasion. Only one hundred and twenty are now spoken. Billabong, in fact, comes from the where a jury language from central New South Wales and is now a common Australian English term. And that is from Tanita and many others.
Thank you so much for taking it easy on us tonight. That was very nice. Super Australian of you as well. Just laid back and nice and not at all like chest poky. So we appreciate that.
That's right. And, you know, if you're in the United States and you're not quite sure what even this means, it basically be like just saying Africa as a lump all term for like any tribe in Africa and the culture and the language that is very specific to that region. Right. And we're not hip to that. No.
So thanks again. Who was the Tanita? Yeah. OK, thanks again, Tanita. Thanks again Australia for taking such good care of us over there. We appreciate you guys and thanks to everybody who listens to stuff you should know. And if you want to get in touch with us for any reason, no matter where you live in the world, no matter what language you speak, you can send us an email to stuff, podcasts and I heart radio dotcom.
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