My mother made preparation for disaster, first during the Cold War, then on and on she fretted, certain that America faced national destruction. She must have pictured an apocalypse with an aftermath something like Planet of the Apes.
Now it makes me smile to remember her hyper-vigilance, the way her face flushed and her eyes widened when she discussed with me our evacuation plans—where to meet, what to do and where we would go—to a mine owned by her friend, Reba.
Oro Amigo, “Friend of Gold,” a walk-in mine not too far from Las Vegas, NV, would house a small colony of intelligent survivors who had prepared well in advance for the coming calamity. In 1960, when I was still in elementary school, we took a yellow, 40-gallon barrel filled with supplies and left it there. We never went back.
From a letter dated November 30, 1975, my mom wrote to her sister, Joyce, still making plans to escape what to her seemed imminent:
“I would like us to find a hideaway somewhere, where we can be together when things get so bad we will have to hide to survive. It won’t be long now. If the economy of NYC can collapse, the U.S. won’t be far behind. The only thing the ______ can think to do about it is to raise taxes, which is why things are as they are in the first place. We are going to have total anarchy … It has already reached the point where you can hardly survive without a S.S. number. It won’t be long before we are required to have a passport to travel from state to state. The political climate is very, very bad now. Unless the people of this country demand a return to our original form of government, soon, it will be too late. I expect that we will be in a war soon, and then the government will invoke ‘emergency powers’ or laws, which means total control over everyone and everything. I am very worried about many things. …
You can take my advice or laugh, as you please. Forget about TV’s and electrical appliances. Buy what you’ll need when we return to the Dark Ages, and be prepared to fight to keep it, cause you will have to. It will be necessary to hide. We will need some dogs, too. I suggest a Shepherd/Collie cross.
We wouldn’t need all these things if we wanted to live like the Indians used to live. But we want to make the transition gradually. I think the last things we would miss the most are salt and toilet paper. How in the hell did the Indians live without toilet paper? …
[For those inclined to build a fortress, here's the list of supplies copied from my mom's letter.]
*Salt (table & preserving) + 25 boxes should last you 5 years
Sugar (about 60 lbs. per year x5, 300 lbs) stored in cans or jars
Medicines—anything you can get, alcohol, cotton, tape, bandages
Vitamins—as much as you can afford
*Seed—Corn, beans, etc. (very important)
Canned good—milk, juices, meats, etc. (beer?)
Hard Candies stored in cans or jars
Fabrics & thread (needles, denim, wool & cotton)
Guns, knives, shells (knife sharpener)
Socks (wool) extra shoes, rain wear
Rolls of plastic sheeting
Iron pots, the larger the better
Kitchen matches (50 boxes)
Flashlights & batteries
Cig. Lighters, fluid, flints
Kerosene lamps, wicks, kerosene
Axes (have several) Tools & utensils
Rope—buy the best—long
Shovels, hoes, rakes
Shoes, boots, (as many as possible)
Heavy duty clothes
*Toilet Paper—Gobs, tons
Kotex, hand cream, razor & blades
Towels, etc., dishes (of course)
Canned Tobacco & roller, papers
Paper, pens, pencils, children’s school workbooks, crayons, paints
And etc. etc.
You can probably think of many things I can’t.”
Mom said, “I am very worried about many things.” And that makes me sad. Because today many people are worried about many things, and often the proposed solutions to problems make as much sense as a survival kit stuck in a gold mine.
My mother was a very smart lady but she lived in fear. Her reasons for being afraid were often valid, but I watched her suffer more from what she feared would come upon her as the troubles that actually did occur.
Fear is contagious and I know what it is to be afflicted. These personal recollections balance my own perspective of human history.
Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space at the same time.