Nuke Corpus Christi!
Well almost. In the land before Al Gore 'invented' the internet while filming Love Story or whatever that line of crap was, and well before facebook when we still had to call operator to make a call on telephone land line, and get patched thru to numbers like PB-3408, you had the Cuban Missile Crisis. Corpus Christi WAS a "target city" due to the naval bases. Seriously. A bomb would be about only thing that could make Ocean Drive actually FLAT again, ha ha. Ok, here is actual DECLASSIFIED list of Cuban & Soviet targets from 1962. Primary: Bergstrom AFB (Austin), Brooks AFB (San Antonio), Carswell AFB (SAC bombers, Fort Worth), Dyess AFB (SAC bombers, Abilene), Goodfellow AFB (San Angelo), Kelly-Lackland AFB (San Antonio), Laredo AFB, Laughlin AFB (Del Rio), Randolf AFB (Universal City), Reese AFB (Lubbock), Sheppard AFB (Wichita Falls), Webb AFB (Big Spring).
Secondary: Beeville, Corpus Christi, Fort Bliss (El Paso), Fort Hood (Killeen), Houston, Kingsville, Sherman-Dennison, Texarkana. Tertiary:
Alice, Beaumont, Brownsville, Bryan, Caddo Lake, Dallas, Freeport, Galveston, Harlington, Lake Jackson, Longview, McAllen, Midland, Odessa, Tyler, Waco. Hmmm.... Alice, Texas home of the fighting Coyotes. Yea, go ahead and nuke them, they used to beat W. B. Ray.
So no more Naval Relief Festival, no more fishin on Oso Pier, no more Sister Berchmann, and a bomb would have probably cause millions of dollars to improvements to my old crappy neighborhood at Port & Leopard. But more seriously, there was never a closer time than those 13 days when United States & Soviet Union, who had put missiles in Cuba, came to World War 3. I remember Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on table at UN a few years earlier, so this just didn't happen overnight.
Eventually everyone settled down, calmer heads prevailed, at least for that standoff and embargo, and backed off, no embargo of Cuba, missiles taken back home to Russia, but the 'Cold War' was still on. Yes, still a LOT of tension. So now I have your attention class, here we go.
At Corpus Christi Cathedral we practiced "nuke drills' whereas the big square woo horn on top of La Retama library a few blocks away, would go off.
And it WENT OFF, loud as hell, big yellow thing on edge of building, and spin slowly...wwwwooooooooooooooo siren. Could hear for miles and if wind right, could hear is a mile away where we lived on Antelope & Doss. But at school, we were taught "Duck & Cover!" so everyone hits the floor and hides under desk, cover head, butt in air. I'm guessing some people horrified, other laughing their ass off by now. Ha ha, what is this duck and cover nonsense? Well, there were television ads about "when the flash goes off it is nuclear bomb" and I guess Feds tried to put happy face on being vaporized, I can tell you I truly was scared as hell.
Here is a original Bert The Turtle "Duck & Cover" cartoon on youtube, old fogies will remember this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMnKNHNfznE
Imagine being a kid. We were told 'we would survive the blast' however, earlier footage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki said otherwise. I, along with other kids, were terrified would never see momma, poppa, brother Tommy or grandma Maria D Alcala at the old house, even dog Bootsy & all those cats people dropped off in middle of night. Would never see my friend Humberto Ramos, David Castro (yes the Flower people), and even some girls I "liked" who Hot Wheels, dirt and Super Balls were slightly more important then, I still 'liked' them. Yes one way street. But scared. We had electricity before Celia in 1970, so watched real news every night, old Walter Cronkite told it like it was nationally, Gene Looper & Walter Furley let us know what going on locally. Extremely scary to a child still trying to learn cursive writing, division problems and stay semi clean so potatoes didn't grow out from under my fingernails. (Yes, 1st grade nun Sister Alawishes told me that, SIGH). Hard to comprehend when you have math homework.
Funny thing if anything about this, is that it reminds me of a old bar joke.
What is the last thing a fly sees when he hits your windshield? His ass. Ok, playtime over. Even the nuns would get under desks. All the nuns and non nuns like Miss Francis had big, wooden, desks, besides nuclear bomb, these desks would survive hurricanes same time as earthquake and volcano if that happened at Cathedral. More so, these desks would survive rambunctious big classes of kids! The wooooo horn would usually last about 3 minutes. Then everyone come out, some kids more scared than others and everyone could have a potty break and for good reason. The teachers & nuns would try to sooth mood out. It was one thing with Cathedral woo horn going off for Fire Drill & everyone marched out, row by row, next to other classes in line, to get in middle of parking lot playground between school & church. It was a whole nother thing when the Air Raid woo horn went off. Because you didn't know what to expect, whether sometime fall from sky from far away and everything gone. Bert The Turtle said in cartoon everything would be ok. But most of us knew better so different mentality between the horns, one, you could probably live, other one, you toast.
Did you know the Corpus Christi Cathedral is a REAL Nuclear Bomb Shelter? In the foyer and basement it used to have those creepy triangle 'fallout shelter' signs. So you walk into church up stairs, Joseph statue one side, Mary on other, but above you, black and gold triangle signs letting you know in no simple terms Jesus won't protect you from Soviet nuclear bomb. Jesus would be hiding in basement with everyone else. I often wondered as a kid, what good 'duck and cover' would do anyways. You are toast. Not 10 cent Hasty Tasty toast slathered with 20 packets of butter and jelly, but now you head is protected from blast, but rest of body dust. Would Miss Francis or Sister Berchmann find my hidden pencils in upper reaches of seat in desk? I was one of TWO left handed kids in class, and "to teach us how to write RIGHT HANDED" the teachers would tape a pencil in out right hands. No BS. So I kept spare pencils for left hand hidden. I guess would have more important things to worry about if bomb fell.
Other places that had the "Fallout Shelter" triangle signs when I was a kid: Woolworths (at least could hide there & have free popcorn); Fedways (no more sliding down between the escalators, would be glowing hot!) W. T. Grants (nuke everything except the Hot Wheels toys. Ok, stay away from bicycles too), J.C. Penneys (rats, there goes whole 5th floor Christmas display and Santa too), all downtown, Center theater (c'mon send Godzilla over to destroy Moscow, he always destroying Tokyo!), next to it Center Building (full of ghosts), Lichtenstein's (getting nuked was ONLY way this poor, dirty kid would be able to get inside Tea Room); also Wilson Tower (nothing can flatten that building even meteor), 600 Building next door (no one would notice, or care, looks like big stop light), Driscoll Hotel next to it (now a bank, good!) and on Broadway, the old post office where I stole a pencil from blind old man. So LOTS of places to hide if "The Flash" happened.
I do not know when this duck and cover stuff stopped, nor do I know if Russian, much less Cuban children practiced same drills. I can't tell you if other schools did this. Over a period of several nights though, every plane I believe Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Kingsville and Beeville had was up in the air. Was a astonishing sight to those who saw it. Planes criss crossing every angle all night long, and at several altitudes! A whole bunch of us, kids, adults alike, were outside laying on the side hill of Interstate 37 (our front yard) looking up at all the activity, which was in layers, trainers lowest, higher up faster planes, then highest jets. All over place as far as could see, must have been hundreds of them. My dad, who was a WWII veteran, told me that 'Corpus Christi had been high on list of targets in case something broke out'. Wow.
Scary stuff for a kid. Those might have well been night hawk birds from Mister Bates yard next door all up there out to get me. If you have ever heard these low flying trainer planes, imagine hundreds of them, the sound, it stays with you forever.
I wondered what the Naval plane trainers would do, deflect to bombs? Those were unarmed.
Sort of like Aquaman but take away water and useless guy. Or think Robin hanging out with Batman. I could see the jets higher up trying to shoot down incoming ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) still, stuff going to fall somewhere and if it DID explode... if you didn't live thru this time, your parents or grandparents did. Hard for people now to realize what FEAR we lived in day in and out not knowing if wake up and everything gone, or just going about daily routine to work, school, picnic like in the video above, and BOOM! If you have never seen the Sarah Connor Nuclear scene from Terminator movie, this is it, only
2:42 minutes where she envisions herself with happy family no terminators, watch closely though, this scene kept me awake at nights.
PHOTOS: #1 this is a still of Terminator movie. And pretty much what all many of us kids thought would happen in reality when a nuclear bomb would fall, except happy, fun loving Bert The Turtle US Government cartoon made it look like just another day in park. Like Sarah is having!
Photo #2. I was about 5 when I first started really 'looking at' or 'noticing them' in Cathedral. INSIDE God's House of Worship ya'll. Next thing I knew started seeing them everywhere in buildings.
Photo #3 DUCK AND COVER! I wonder how many other school districts required this? At Cathedral the drills, like Pledge of Allegiance in school yard was mandatory. Fire Drills too. It is just the big woo horn not on school grounds mandated when we hid under desks.
Photo #4 Rare map of the Soviet buildup of missiles in Cuba. John F Kennedy was President of USA, Nikita Khrushchev of Soviet Union. Missiles were only 90 miles from Miami off coast, so no time to 'duck and cover' for Florida.
Photo #5 The big yellow square WOO horn siren on top of La Retama Library downtown Corpus Christi would spin and these would go off any time of day or night. It is just that during day, we would hide like chickens under desks for years. 2 blocks from Cathedral, but could be heard over to channel under bridge, and wind permitting, even in our old crappy hood. I believe there was another on top of Crossley elementary school and may have been scattered throughout city like tornado sirens are in places like Arkansas.
Photo #6 Yellow "Civil Defense Air Raid Horn" shown on top of La Retama Library in late 1960s. Just because 'Cuban Missile Crisis' over years before, threat REMAINED until fall of Soviet Union in 1980s.
Photo #7. Woolworth's downtown bus stop. Hmm. Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, green beans, roll and butter & refreshing Coca Cola in tall glass for $1.99 or GET VAPORIZED! Well, the poster for food looks great, uh, there is nuclear sign, oh look it is also Dollar Days Nikita, let shop now, no nuke today komrad. Inside this store was wall of J. F. Kennedy & Jesus and Elvis black velvet posters too to take home to Moscow. For those who remember the black velvet paintings up on wall of Elvis, Jesus and JFK, their eyes would follow you around store.