A Closer Look At Some Not-So-Happy Days

Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows: Part 17

A Closer Look At Some Not-So-Happy Days

This is Part 17 of a blog series titled “Donald Trump’s Strangest Bedfellows.”
Although each entry in the series has some information and commentary
that can be of interest “standing alone,” each builds on
information, concepts, and commentary introduced in earlier entries in the series,
and thus it is most effective to read the material sequentially from the beginning.

Click here to go to the first entry in the series, Part 1

 

joe1

Russian Atomic Bomb Test: “Joe-1”

russianbomb1949

Headlines: September 23, 1949

“Now that Russia has the atomic bomb,
the world is in an armament race driving us to destruction.”

Billy Graham, Los Angeles Crusade, September/October 1949

Headlines about the explosion of the first Russian atomic bomb reached the American public on September 23, 1949. Fortuitously, Billy Graham started the first big Crusade of his career just two days later, in Los Angeles, California.

1949billycrus2

1949billycrus1

Billy lost no time in appropriating the Russian menace into his Crusade sermons. If some unconverted folks in his audience had been carelessly thinking they had plenty of time in life to “get right with the Lord,” he made sure they understood that their time for dilly-dallying had been cut short. The world might go up in smoke any time now.

Economic Fears

As noted in earlier entries in this blog series, Corporate America had been organizing efforts since the 1930s to somehow mesh their own interests with the interests of religion in America. By 1949 they had been attempting for close to two decades to convince pastors across the nation, and evangelists like Billy, to promote to their flocks the notion that totally unfettered Capitalism was the Bible Way of economics. And that Capitalism and Christianity hand in hand were the key elements to true American Patriotism. They had long been trying to press this point by continual attacks on the New Deal programs and policies that had been instituted by Franklin Roosevelt.

Billy Graham had been an easy target to convince, and he had absorbed the Corporate message practically into his pores. One London newspaper dubbed him “The Big Business Evangelist” in the 1950s. Billy regularly renounced any government restrictions or interference in economic affairs as being “socialism.”

There was just one problem with this emphasis on the New Deal in October 1949. The Bomb. Russia Had The Bomb! And while Crusade audiences might have been expected to be intrigued by rants against government programs that smelled of “creeping socialism,” who had time to care about socialism when the specter of nuclear annihilation hovered over America once Russia Had The Bomb?

Most people born in the 1970s or later have a very dim idea of just HOW pervasive and intense concern was about The Bomb in the 1950s and early 1960s. It’s not something you hear much about in nostalgia regarding those allegedly Happy Days. Richie Cunningham and The Fonz never talked about the bomb.

richiefonz

Danny and Sandy and their friends in the Grease movie never sat around discussing the bomb.

grease

Andy and Barney and Gomer never fretted over The Bomb in Mayberry.

mayberry

Yes, if you believed the nostalgia promoted on-screen about the 50s and early 60s, you’d never know The Bomb existed.

But it did. As you will see from this plaintive teen love ballad of that era.

“Fallout Shelter”

Singer: Billy Chambers    Composer: Bobby Braddock
Year: 1962

Lyrics:

Mom and Dad and I were getting ready for the game
I couldn’t play tonight, you know, my leg’s still kinda lame
And then I heard my mother call out our Savior’s name
I looked to the east and the sky was filled with flames

Then Dad said don’t worry, we don’t have to be scared
We’ve got our new fallout shelter waitin’ for us there
When I told Dad I’d go get you, he said don’t you dare
There’s no room for your girl, son, that just wouldn’t be fair

Refrain:
I’d rather die with you than live without you
And I hope that you feel the same.

Then I thought of all the happy times that we had spent together
And the way we pledged our love to each other forever
Could I be there in that shelter with you out here
Rather than hold you in my arms? No, my darlin’, never

Old Uncle Ben, everybody’s friend, sits in there with his gun
The streets are all deserted now, did you see those people run?
You hold my hand, I understand the sickness has begun
And if we live or if we die our hearts will beat as one.

Refrain:
I’d rather die with you than live without you
And I hope that you feel the same.

 

A while back I discovered a website called “Atomic Platters” that features Nuclear Bomb-themed music from the Cold War era, with history and commentary about the items featured.

atomicplatters

Here’s what that Atomic Platters site had to say about Fallout Shelter by Billy Chambers. (There were other songs by the same name.)

Pop culture historians and music scholars have long noted that the so-called teenage ‘death’ songs of the late 1950s and early 1960s (1959’s Teen Angel, 1960’s Tell Laura I Love Her, 1962’s Patches, etc.) were, in effect, allegorical Bomb songs. These dire, yet catchy songs about train accidents, car wrecks and double suicides channeled the atomic angst of America’s youth into mainstream hit singles.

The unforgettable 1962 release Fallout Shelter takes a more direct approach in conveying the fears of teenagers everywhere over nuclear annihilation. Its melodramatic storyline of a boy who wants to share his family’s shelter with his girlfriend and his father’s intervention is a perfect blending of elements from the overt and the allegorical/subtle Bomb song.

And with the tune’s lyrics about radiation sickness and fire-filled skies some might argue that the subtle route would have been the more profitable one. But then this particular non-charting record was written by a 21-year-old man who was more obsessed with impending hydrogen doom then he was in cracking the Top 40.

However, Bobby Braddock, the songwriter and producer of Fallout Shelter, admitted in an interview that drugs may have exacerbated his World War III mania: “To be very candid, I was a musician going through serious psychological problems due to an overdose of speed [amphetamine] at the time and I was quite paranoid; I had tried to talk my parents into having a fallout shelter built—I remember we went to a place that built them and looked at their model.”

A secondary, non-amphetamine induced inspiration for his song, according to Braddock, was a 1961 episode of the ‘The Twilight Zone’ (The Shelter) in which a false attack alert throws a small community into chaos with a neighbor’s shelter becoming a flashpoint of mob violence.

Not familiar with that classic T-Zone episode? Here’s a brief overview of the plot.

The Shelter

Season 3, episode 68, aired 9/29/61

It is a typical evening in a typical suburban community. At the residence of physician Bill Stockton, he enjoys a birthday party being thrown for him by his wife Grace and their son Paul. Also at the party are Jerry Harlowe, Bill’s brother-in-law; Frank Henderson and Marty Weiss, Bill and Jerry’s former roommates; and the wives and children of Jerry, Frank and Marty. Bill is well-known and liked by this gathering; he attended the State University with Marty, Frank and Jerry. Moreover, Bill has repeatedly administered to the health and well being of each one of said guests, and/or delivered their children. Everyone is especially friendly and jovial, even when mention is made of Bill’s late-night work on a fallout shelter which he has built in his basement. Suddenly, a Civil Defense (CONELRAD) announcement overheard by young Paul, is made that unidentified objects have been detected heading for the United States. In these times, everybody knows what that means: nuclear attack.

As panic ensues, the doctor locks himself and his family into his shelter.

twi1

The same gathering of friends becomes hysterical and now wants to occupy the shelter. All of the previous cordiality is now replaced with soaring desperation; pent-up hostility, searing racism and other suppressed emotions boil to the surface. Stockton offers his basement to the guests, but the shelter itself has sufficient air, provisions and space for only three people (the Stocktons themselves). The once-friendly neighbors don’t accept this; they break down the shelter door with an improvised battering ram.

twi2

Just then, a final Civil Defense broadcast announces that the objects have been identified as harmless satellites and that no danger is present. The neighbors apologize for their behavior; yet Stockton wonders if they have not destroyed each other – and themselves – without a bomb.

twi3

This theme of violence and shelters didn’t show up just in drama and popular music:

Gun Thy Neighbor

Following President John F. Kennedy’s Berlin crisis speech on July 25, 1961 that featured prominent and alarming references to nuclear war and civil defense, the topic of shelter morality entered the national discussion. Indeed, Time magazine published a remarkable article entitled “Gun Thy Neighbor” in its August 18, 1961 edition that reflected hard-line attitudes on shelter defense. One quote in the story came from an unnamed Chicago suburbanite:

“When I get my shelter finished, I’m going to mount a machine gun at the hatch to keep neighbors out if the bomb falls. I’m deadly serious about this. If the stupid American public will not do what they have to to save themselves, I’m not going to run the risk of not being able to use the shelter I’ve taken the trouble to provide to save my own family.”

The Time article concludes with quotes from a gaggle of religious representatives (two Lutherans, an Episcopalian, a Methodist, a Catholic and a Baptist) opining on the morality of shelter defense. With one exception, pacifism was the standard line coming from these holy men.

However, a few weeks later, another holy man weighed in with an opposing viewpoint on the pages of the Jesuit magazine, America (National Catholic Weekly Review). In fact, Father L.C. McHugh’s opinion piece (“Ethics at the Shelter Doorway,” America, September 30, 1961) cites the Time article as his impetus for writing.

1961mchugh

Father McHugh took particular exception to the following quote in the Time story from the Reverend Hugh Saussy of the Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Georgia: “If someone wanted to use the shelter, then you yourself should get out and let him use it. That’s not what would happen, but that’s the strict Christian application.”

Father McHugh belittles the moralist argument against defending one’s shelter in his piece and asserts that “unjust aggressors” should be “repelled by whatever means will effectively deter their assault.” Ironically, the editors of the magazine sought to soften the priest’s uncompromising position on shelter defense by offering this ridiculous and baseless line in the accompanying writer’s biography: “Our guess is that Fr. McHugh would be the first to step aside from his own shelter door, yielding space to his neighbor.”

(I’m suspicious those editors were mistaken. Have a listen to a short clip from Father McHugh from back then…who, if he were still alive, would no doubt be very enthusiastic about the rise of “Stand Your Ground” laws in the land…)

 

Coincidentally, the night before the publication date of Father McHugh’s controversial article, the CBS television network broadcast the famous episode of The Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling entitled “The Shelter.” This harrowing story about a homeowner locking his frenzied neighbors out of his shelter after an announced UFO sighting crystallized the shelter debate better than a thousand dueling op-ed pieces. And, in true Serling fashion, it is the behavior of the whole human race, not just the shelter owner and his neighbors, that wind up looking bad.

Father McHugh’s article spurred the shelter debate further and various newspaper articles commented on his unlikely position. In a September 27, 1961 New York Times piece by John Wicklein the paper called upon Rabbi Herbert Brichto, a professor of the Bible at the Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion for an opinion the America magazine article. Rabbi Brichto responded that “…preparation for an atomic war, such as building fall-out shelters, is immoral. The moral thing is not to prepare for survival of a fraction of the human race, but to put all our efforts into avoiding such a catastrophe.”

And Time magazine re-entered the fray in their October 20, 1961 issue by quoting a rebuttal to McHugh’s position from Washington, D.C.-based Episcopal Bishop Angus Dun: “I do not see how any Christian conscience can condone a policy which puts a supreme emphasis on saving your own skin without regard to the plight of your neighbor. Justice, mercy and brotherly love do not cease to operate, even in the final apocalypse.”

So well publicized was Father McHugh’s article that even Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy referenced the priest in an internal White House policy discussion on the issue of private versus public shelters. In Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s JFK administration memoir, A Thousand Days (Houghton Mifflin, 1965, page 749), RFK is quoted as saying in a forlorn voice, “There’s no problem here — we can just station Father McHugh with a machine gun at every shelter.”

According to Schlesinger and other sources, it was during the McHugh-inflamed controversy that President Kennedy opted for shifting the administration’s support toward public shelters. Private shelters were never outright discouraged, but it was in late 1961 that the first iconic yellow and black National Fallout Shelter Signs started appearing on public buildings. The debate was effectively over.

 sheltersign

Since little tots of five and six and seven years old weren’t likely to be either watching Twilight Zone on TV or listening to Teen Death Songs on the radio, you might think they were spared from noticing the gradually increasing angst over The Bomb that started with Russia setting off Joe-1 in 1949.

You would think wrong. The Authorities just “came at” America’s youngest set a bit differently with Atomic concerns.

If you grew up in the 1950s, you’d be well familiar with lots of cartoon characters, from the cartoon shorts at the theater that preceded the movies. There would be Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and many more.

looney

And, in fact, your own grandchildren would be likely familiar with these same exact characters. There are seldom any Looney Tunes shorts being played before movies these days, but the Looney crowd has made their fortune on TV and in feature films in recent decades.

But if you are a Baby Boomer “Child of the 50s,” like me (I was born in 1946), there is one cartoon character you may remember, that neither your children nor grandchildren have ever heard of. He had a very short heyday—only one “starring role.” He was Bert the Turtle.

bertposter

No, Bert didn’t star on the big screen. Nor on TV. He starred in a 1952 film (and related comic book) that was instead played on 16mm projectors in classrooms all across America, teaching little kids what to do if they were faced with a nuclear attack by America’s enemies on our own turf.

bertvarietyad

bertfilmad

In the film, Bert, an anthropomorphic turtle who walks on his hind legs, is harassed by a cheerful, naughty monkey who keeps trying to catch Bert out of his shell and explode a firecracker right in his face.  But Bert keeps spotting the danger in time. As soon as he does, he “ducks” by dropping down to all fours, and then “covers” by pulling his head and legs into his shell. And Bert’s urgent admonition to the kiddies watching is to “Duck and Cover” themselves if they see the flash of a nuclear bomb, or hear a siren warning one is coming. If you want to take the time, you can see in Bert in action in his 10 minute film, still available on Youtube.

 

Bert was part of an effort by the Federal Government to provide “emergency preparedness” information to the public as part of the Civil Defense program spawned by the US-Russia arms race. Under this program, the average American, from Kindergartener to Senior Citizen, was encouraged to take an active part in dealing with the Threat of Nuclear War. Kids were taught that their main responsibility for preparation was to learn to duck and cover. If they were at school when an attack came, they were to Duck under their desks, and Cover their heads.

kidsunderdesks

As you can see in the picture below, some younger students didn’t quite “get it” without a lot of practice.

kidnotunderdesk

There was one other thing some could do to be even more prepared. I didn’t know about this until a few years ago when I was sorting through the belongings of my late mother in law after her death. She was a packrat who kept just about every scrap of paper that entered her house, and a whole lot more. In among the boxes of clutter I found the following little gem.

geodogtag

This was the card that came with my husband George’s dog tag.  No, he was never in the armed forces. And besides, at the time this card was issued by his grade school in Lansing, Michigan, he was likely only 8 years old or so.

Instead, these were dog tags issued by many schools around the country in the early-to-mid-1950s to all students. The tag bore their name, year of birth, blood type and Rh blood factor, a “religious code,” and an “individual identification number” issued to them by the company providing these tags. The tags were to be worn ALL THE TIME by the children on a chain around their neck, just like Army personnel. And for the same purpose as men on active duty overseas in war zones … identification of an injured or dead body! If the Big Bomb went off and ducking and covering didn’t work, rescue workers would be able to identify the injured student and know what blood type to give, or if the child was closer to Ground Zero, searchers days or weeks later could identify the charred remains. (And know what kind of religious funeral to give the body.)

There were lots of other little daily life hints that kept the nuclear threat before the public, from tots to senior citizens.

For instance, starting in 1953, the AM station dial on every radio produced in America (including vehicle radios) had odd little triangle marks—just after the number 6 and the number 12. Like these…

conelrad3

conelrad2

conelrad4

conelrad5

conelrad1

Early in the “Cold War”, there was concern that enemy bombers could simply home in on American cities by tuning in to specific broadcast radio and television transmitters. At the time, certain 50 kilowatt AM broadcast stations were still clear channel, the only stations in the nation at night on specific frequencies.

The 1951 solution to the problem was called Conelrad which stood for CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiation. Conelrad was “devised to provide radio communications in a national emergency while denying enemy bombers the use of radio beams as an aid in finding targets. This is accomplished by having television and FM stations cease their regular transmissions and selected AM stations to go to either 640 or 1240 KHz.”

In an alert, with broadcast stations transmitting only on either 640 or 1240 KHz, no directional aid would be available to an enemy bomber. Emergency information for the public would be broadcast on those frequencies.

Radios beginning with model year 1953 are marked with little CD triangles at 640 and 1240 on the AM broadcast dial. The CD stood for Civil Defense or Conelrad.

conelrad

(Conelrad was phased out in 1963, replaced by the Emergency Broadcast system.)

Through most of the 1950s, the advice on “duck and cover,” although admitted privately by experts to be very unlikely to provide any real survival benefits in the event of an actual nuclear attack, was drummed into the heads of many school children across the country. The reason? It was part of a goal of the federal government to provide what was described privately among the authorities as “emotion management” to the populace.  It gave children the illusion that there really was something tangible they could do to help themselves in a nuclear attack. And the continual practice sessions for ducking and covering gave them a focus for nervous emotional energy. Thus feelings of anxiety and panic would be minimized.

At first very little was done to help find “things to do” for adults in a similar vein. Although individual “family bomb shelters” were mentioned early on, few people in the early 1950s took the suggestion seriously. But once both the US and Russia had successfully tested thermonuclear H-bombs in the Megaton range, and were obviously planning on continuing their Cold War arms race, the mood changed. In fall 1961, President John Kennedy focused the attention of the entire nation on the idea of Fallout Shelters.

Kennedy on Civil Defense (1961)

In a September letter published in Life magazine, Kennedy advised readers on survival tips. The article entitled “You Could Be Among the 97% to Survive If You Follow Advice in These Pages” was an unrealistic assessment of the likelihood of survival. Kennedy’s science advisers informed him that his analysis would provide false hope, but Kennedy insisted that as long as some were saved, it was worth it.

HE SAID…

“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be inhabitable. Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”

Despite the unlikely success of the program, Kennedy urged governors to take civil defense seriously and instructed the Pentagon to create a pamphlet discussing the steps to take for survival. In its draft form, its suggestions — just like Kennedy’s article — were unrealistic. Even more troubling, only the affluent were able to build fallout shelters, and newspapers reported on the buildup of weapons among New Jersey and California suburbanites who were preparing to fend off nearby city dwellers from using their shelters.

shelter

Kennedy gave a national speech on the same topic in October, 1961, and only weeks later it became obvious that he needed to be taken seriously.

tsarbomba

1961headlinehbomb

On 10/30/61 the Russians tested the largest nuclear bomb ever exploded (including to this day!), a monster H-bomb nicknamed Tsar Bomba. It exploded with 50 Megatons of force (3,000 times as strong as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima)—and it could have released 100 megatons, but the Russians chose to “power down” the impact before detonating it. (The largest US bomb ever exploded was Castle Bravo, in 1954, with a force of only 15 Megatons.) The mushroom cloud from the Tsar Bomba reached 40 miles high, the flash from the blast could be seen 620 miles away, and the force of the explosion broke window panes farther than 500 miles from the test site where it was detonated.

In the shadow of such an apocalyptic weapon, it didn’t take long for shelter construction to become widespread.

When bomb shelters were all the rage

Civil defense officials talked confidently of group shelters for 50 million people, but in the new suburban communities the nervous were taking survival into their own hands. Bomb shelters costing from $100 to as much as $5,000 for an underground suite with phone and toilet were selling like hotcakes.

Wall Street investors said the bomb shelter business could gross up to $20 billion in the coming years (if there would be coming years).

Survival stores around the nation sold air blowers, filters, flashlights, fallout protection suits, first aid kits and water. General Foods and General Mills sold dry-packaged meals as underground rations.

Families with well stocked shelters lived with the fear that after a nuclear attack they’d be invaded by an army of friends and neighbors who neglected to build bunkers of their own. Many ordered contractors to construct their shelters in the dead of night so nosey neighbors wouldn’t see. One owner assured his neighbor that the bomb shelter he was building was really a wine cellar.

Civil defense films assured the public that simple precautions like walled-off basement corners stocked with two weeks rations and a radio tuned to Conelrad, the new emergency network, would help them survive a nuclear attack. But the government warned that a shoddy homemade shelter could broil its occupants “to a crisp” or squeeze them “like grapefruit.”

magazines

… Major airlines, Detroit automakers, IBM, the phone company and Wall Street planned employee shelters. The Federal Reserve designated banks for postwar check cashing, and a farmer in Iowa built a fallout shelter for 200 cows.

…  A year later, the Cuban Missile Crisis would shove the world to the brink for 13 agonizing days. Newspaper headlines blared warnings of impending annihilation. “Highest Urgency, Kennedy Reports,” “Invasion Possible, Air, Sea and Ground Forces Ordered Out for Maneuvers,” they cried.

But the bomb never dropped.

The world heaved a sigh of relief as the Soviets backed off. And as the immediate peril of nuclear holocaust began to fade, Americans began to accept that fallout shelters probably did little to protect them from nuclear disaster. The backyard bomb shelters became wine cellars, fruit cellars, or just quietly filled up with water.

Government officials acknowledge that over the last several decades they have quietly been discarding nearly a half-century of old foodstuffs and other supplies stocked for survivors of a nuclear war. The olive green canisters of water and food rations stamped with official civil defense markings have been discarded, donated or sold off.

Experts can’t agree on how well these shelters would protect occupants from radiation but they can agree that there were other problems to worry about. Most shelters didn’t have sufficient air-handling devices. Body heat alone could significantly raise the temperature during the two weeks people were told to remain in their bunkers after a blast. Many people could end up dying, not from radiation poisoning, but from old-fashioned heat exhaustion or suffocation.  (Fifties History)

Even the toy-makers of America were in on the “emotion management” movement…check out this 1962 doll house with its very own bomb shelter nestled under the family deck. It came complete with “supplies” painted on the walls, and little plastic cots and other accessories to make it feel just like home.

dollhouse

The theory seemed to be that getting to PLAY “surviving nuclear holocaust” brought the idea down to an emotionally manageable level.

The craze for fallout shelters eventually faded, but before it did, one record company found a way to make some money off the paranoia.

ifthebombfallsrecord

If the Bomb Falls: A Recorded Guide to Survival

 

[ 1961, TOPS Records ]

Released shortly after JFK’s Civil Defense appeal to America in the pages of LIFE magazine, this chilling spoken word LP was issued complete with a bonus insert manual on how to construct a “Family Fallout Shelter.”

SIDE ONE, “What to Do In Case of Nuclear Attack,” opens with a CONELRAD alert signal and is followed by the no-nonsense narration of David Wiley: “The threat of nuclear warfare is a threat to all of us. How can we live with this threat? Our best life insurance may be summed up in four words: Be Alert, Stay Alert. This will take some doing on your part. It will take ingenuity, it will take fervor, it will take the desire to survive. And it need not take a lot of money. All you’ll need is shelter and common sense.”

SIDE TWO, “Supplies Needed for Survival,” offers a litany of items required to wait out World War III: “…cups, napkins, matches, pocket knife, battery-powered radio and extra batteries, human waste can, recreational and spiritual supplies, a bible, books, cards and games…

And here’s where some of the “adult emotion management” came in. For this LP included the following advice:

By all means provide some tranquilizers to ease the strain and monotony of life in a shelter. A bottle of 100 should be adequate for a family of four. Tranquilizers are not a narcotic and are not habit forming. Ask a doctor for his recommendation.”

Although it seems the record company wasn’t quite clear on the concept … for they also added to the angst with some of the ominous wording on the LP. You can download some brief clips at these links:

You’ll Die!!

Just Terror

Tranquilizers

Yes, given the tenor of the times, it would certainly have been understandable that many religious preachers and evangelists of this period would have used the anxiety over Russia attacking America with The Bomb as a “tool of evangelism.” That is what I assumed for a long time.

I assumed wrong.

Oh, I am sure that some fellows did indeed use the specter of a nuclear holocaust as a prod in their preaching at times, especially whenever some big news hit the headlines, like the explosion of the Russian H-bomb. But in my recent research I was startled to discover that a significant proportion of what has seemed in hindsight to be religious fervor of that time, affected by the role of Russia in the Cold War, wasn’t really as a result of fear of Russia’s  bombs.

It was related to Russia, indeed. But not to their bombs. For you see, the Corporate Backers of the move to connect Christianity to corporate interests, to identify True Christian Patriotism with Small Government and Unfettered Capitalism, evidently could not find a way to weave nuclear fears into their plans. So they found a different way to use Russia.

I found that the underpinnings of their efforts show most clearly in a quote from teen-heart-throb singer Pat Boone, in a speech he gave in 1961 (the same year he had a big hit with the novelty song “Speedy Gonzales”.) He obviously had more on his mind some of the time than April Love.

patboonespeedy

 

I would rather see my four daughters blown to heaven in an atomic blast
than caught in the hell of a Communist United States.

And Pat wasn’t speaking of a United States “subjugated through war” by the Russians, part of a Russian Empire led by a Russian totalitarian dictator. You’ll notice he doesn’t even mention Russia by name at all. For, you see, the corporate leaders of America weren’t concerned about the Russian military, or even Russian Communism.

Pat was speaking at a 1961 Anti-Communism convention in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena before a standing-room only crowd of 16,000. The sessions were broadcast on TV to an estimated audience of 3 million.

He and the other speakers at that convention(including Hollywood luminaries such as Roy Rogers and Ronald Reagan)—and their corporate sponsors—were concerned about a “home grown revolution” in the United States that would lead to an American Communist nation. And they managed during that era to so inflame the fears and attitudes of much of “evangelical America” regarding this topic that the fallout (to use a Cold War term…) has continued to this day.

The rallying cry that brought evangelical Americans into the “right wing politics” fold back in the 1950s and early 1960s had nothing to do with the modern outcry against legalized abortion and gay rights. Those issues weren’t a factor in American life in that era. Roe v Wade didn’t legalize abortion until 1973. And gays were almost all still “in the closet” during that era, when even the federal government had a policy of firing any employees who were discovered to be gay.

The rallying cry that brought Religion and Politics together in that era was against what huge numbers of Evangelicals were led to believe was an imminent threat of American democracy being destroyed by an American communist movement.

Now mind you, I was aware of the anti-Communist furor leading up to the Army-McCarthy hearings in the early 1950s. But I must admit I have been very naïve…thinking that this faded with the condemnation of McCarthy by a Senate vote in 1954. I guess I’m not the only one who has been naïve, though. The History Channel website has an overview of the McCarthy Red Scare era, which includes this comment…

“The climate of fear and repression linked to the Red Scare finally began to ease by the late 1950s.”

I have found that this might have been true in some circles in America. But in Evangelical circles and among the politicians and corporate backers who were ready to feed the paranoia of anti-Communist rhetoric to  those religious folks, the climate was just heating up in 1960!

The rallying cry and rhetoric was ultimately wildly successful, and nurtured a relationship that has lasted to the present between many…if not most… Evangelicals, Right Wing politicians, and corporate capitalist interests. A relationship that ultimately played a large part in electing a most decidedly Un-Evangelical man as president in 2016.

More about this coming soon in the next installment of this series:

Threading Our Way Through History

But before you go…here’s a moment of levity to clear your palate of the grimness of the Cold War…

coldwarreenactors

This entry was posted in 1950s, cold war, religion and politics, russia, Trump presidency and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Closer Look At Some Not-So-Happy Days

  1. Ian Shears says:

    I well-remember Tsar Bomba being on the headlines of our Sunday Newspaper and my mother, for the first and only time, asking my father what this meant with REAL fear in her voice. I was shocked to hear my mother in such a lather.

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