Retro Charlotte

Retro Fallout Shelter, 1961

“Mr. and Mrs. Bill Simmons and daughter Ginger.” 1961
“Mr. and Mrs. Bill Simmons and daughter Ginger.” 1961 The Charlotte Observer

Tensions were high during the Cold War and some Americans turned to fallout shelters in case of nuclear war. (1960 Civil Defense filmstrip here.) Here’s the story of one enterprising sales rep and his family.

Sunk in the ground in Pinebrook Farms 17 miles out of Charlotte in Union County, manufacturers rep Bill Simmons and family show off the ‘COMPLETE’ sales model. - Charlotte News, October 30, 1961

The story:

It could take over from cabins at the river.

It may be the successor to cottages at the beach.

For just $2,400 you can have an underground den/party room/fallout shelter/office with carpeting, piped-in hi-fi music, foam rubber sofas and a private powder room.

The pilot model had a humble beginning as a 6,000 gallon gas storage tank usually found under gas station pumps.

It is placed horizontally in the ground with a foot of concrete on the bottom to keep it down. Something that looks like a submarine escape hatch is on top and a straight-down ladder is the entrance. Mrs. Simmons calls the shelter a “gopher hole.”

There’s a hook for toothbrushes in the chemical toilet, a flashlight hook on the ceiling (the flashlights come with the shelter for use if the electricity and emergency battery power supply fail), pots and pans, a hotplate, a radio, phone, a package of games and cards, a water storage tank in case the pump fails, a carpeted (wall-to-wall!) floor and a potted plant.

An electric pump handles the air, with a hand arrangement for emergency use.

Four beds hang from the walls. The top bunks fold to become sofa backs, with foam-rubber cushioning.

In between is a coffee table and a Currier and Ives print on the wall.

The tank provides about 100 square feet of space, big enough for eight person if four stay awake while four sleep, as Civil Defense officials suggest.

It’s big enough to allow a couple to stretch out and watch a portable television set. No stooping to walk is required.

A gas mask is supplied, as are tools and a protective robe for forays outside when there is fallout in the area.

Now, the Simmons do have one problem apparently unsolved. Their huge bull mastiff, Honey Pup, would be out of place with eight persons, luxury or not.

A dog shelter isn’t provided -- yet. - Dick Rigby, Staff Writer