Joan Dorsey
Contributing columnist
This could start like a fairy tale. Once upon a time. But the older you get, they start with “I remember.”
A lot of us, here in town, are baby boomers. We were born in the 50’s after WWII. We lived the good life. House, (maybe picket fence), only one working parent. We played outside till dark. Rode bikes on our streets in Gardner.
Life was good.
We also were brought up during the Cold War. For those of you not familiar, The Cold War was a long period of tension between the democracies of the Western World and the communist countries of Eastern Europe.
The west was led by the United States, and Eastern Europe was led by the Soviet Union. These two countries became known as superpowers. Although the two superpowers never officially declared war on each other, they fought indirectly in proxy wars, the arms race and the space race. I looked this up on line, not in the set of Encyclopedia’s that every house used to have.
One of the things we were taught in school during The Cold War was to duck and cover. We would have drills for this and for tornadoes.
The duck and cover drill was to be used in case of nuclear attack. This is what ducking and covering consisted of ”dropping immediately and covering exposed skin provide[s] protection against blast and thermal effects … Immediately drop face down. Close eyes. Protect exposed skin from heat by putting hands and arms under or near the body. Remain face down until the blast wave passes, and debris stops falling. Stay calm, check for injury.”
It may seem unlikely, here in little old Kansas, that we would fall victim to nuclear attack. But we prepared anyway.
One of the better, unspoken, secrets was just south of Gardner off of Gardner road. We were the location of one of the five Nike Missile bases in Kansas. The offices, buildings and control center were and are just past I-35 on Gardner road. Mica Marriott wrote about the Nike Base in a story for The Gardner New back in 2008. You can find the story on line. It has a lot of interesting information. This part of the base was sold to the USD 231 school system. The first classes were in 1970, and it was Nike Middle School for many years.
So, we grew up in the shadow of missiles just south of town. Easily armed with war heads, if we needed to help defend our country.
I don’t recall my parents having sleepless nights over these being so close by – or even mentioning them. After all we also had a Naval Air base just to the east. We had jet planes taking off and landing here all the time.
So back when I was young and foolish, I knew someone who had a set of keys to the actual silo the missiles were stored in.
The missiles were long gone, and the underground silos were slowly filling with water. Men and equipment had long since been removed. The silos were located a little further down the road, behind a rusty gate with a padlock. You can see satellite pictures of the area on the internet.
So being adventuresome, and somewhat curious, we went to see the only working silo left. It was a large area, probably the size of a basketball court, only it was metal. Hinged and could open in the center. The post sticking out of the ground with some buttons on it were the clue to its purpose.
The giant doors opened, and a huge metal lift made its way slowly to the surface.
We took a car down on that lift. It was scary and damp and cold. I remember the sound of the big metal cover doors clanging shut. I was hoping there would be no power failure, because I have a thing about enclosed spaces.
Neither of the people I went into the silo with are alive, so I can’t check the facts, and my memory could be wrong.
The area where the silos are located is now private property. I would not suggest you go looking for them. I am sure they are all full of water, and the power has long since been shut down.
I understand today’s kids have so many things in this big old world that could threaten their existence.
They do not, however live under the circumstances we lived under.
I also hope my kids never did some of the things I did when I was younger.
Or at least I never hear about them.