Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Walking by the Travis County Courthouse the other day and spotted a half rusted old school Civil Defense sign nailed above the limestone door. It reminded me that way back when, Austin almost prided itself in believing that it was high on the Soviet target list(whether true or not)--not so much because of the Capitol, but because Bergstrom AFB had a runway long enough to accomodate rerouted B-52s. (As an aside, I remember when I was a kid, my father told me that his tiny hometown of Hearne also had an emergency airfield that could serve bomber planes. Never believed him until he took me out to the outskirts of town and sure enough, there was a decrepit long ass flat surface of concrete that had to be half a mile long with shoots of grass making its way through cracks and absolutely nothing else around it).

Anyway, this past paranoid age can be seen in Target Austin, a local film in the This is Not a Test tradition that chronicles the possibility of a nuclear attack on the city and the need not to lose your head (hat tip to Atomic Hygiene). Walk calmly to the fallout shelter in your backyard. What’s that? You don’t have a shelter? Well . . .

For lifetime Austinites, this precious film has the added distinction of being narrated by Richard “Cactus” Pryor, a longtime radio fixture in town, one of the many Austin cronies who had his brief day in the sun during LBJ’s presidency.

Interestingly, Austin still has a Civil Defense Battalion, which you can join here if you are so inclined. I would, but there doesn't seem to be much denouncing of your neighbors involved, nor do you receive one of those cool old white metal pith helmets like this one:

Besides, they appear more concerned with things like floods and hurricanes, which don't have the same thrill for me as a strategic exchange with the Communists. On the other hand, you do apparently get a patch, which is nice:
--and also currently available on eBay for about 3 bucks.

1 comment:

Christopher Brown said...

Paul, we need to start our own chapter. STAND BY FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS...