Across the nation, Americans struggled with the decision to rely on public shelters or build private shelters. Many fearful Americans opted to build their own shelters. Here are a few anecdotes typifying contemporary American shelter sentiment:
- In August 1961, Time Magazine cited a Gallup poll indicating that nine million families had stored food away for an emergency and three million had altered their home to provide some sort of protection.[i]
- California home builder Richard Doremus offered bomb shelter options in a new development in the San Fernando Valley in 1961. Twenty out of twenty-six buyers bought the shelter option.
- A Chicago suburbanite threatened to affix a gun to his private shelter as he was worried that his less-prepared neighbors would attempt to seek refuge at his home.
- A Las Vegas civil defense organizer suggested a 5000-man militia would be necessary to ward off refugees from California heading into Nevada in the event of nuclear attack.
- After Kennedy championed the effort to establish community shelters, home shelter manufacturers quickly saw a sharp decline in sales. “All this blah-blah-blah about a $30 shelter or a $300 shelter and about private and community shelters,” lamented a shelter manufacturer. “People got so confused they didn’t know what was right and they still don’t.”[iv]
[i] “Civil Defense: One in Five Getting Ready,” Time Magazine, Aug 25, 1961, accessed October 6, 2010,
[ii] “Modern Times: Built-In Bomb Shelters,” Time Magainze, March 24, 1961, accessed October 6, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,827725,00.html.
[iii] “Religion: Gun Thy Neighbor,” Time Magazine, August 18, 1961, accessed October 6, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,872694,00.html.
[iv] “Civil Defense: Boom to Bust,” Time Magazine, May 18, 1962, accessed October 6, 2010,