WEATHERFORD, OKLAHOMA — It isn’t ancient history.
The Cold War officially ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Southwestern OSU history professor Landry Brewer argues, “The 1950’s and 1960’s were the most frightening years.”
But he says the days of ‘duck and cover’ drills and fallout shelters can seem remote from our every day life because the people who lived it often fail to realize just how unique it was.
“What I’ve come across is this phenomenon,” he states, “that when you live through history you don’t realize that it was history. It’s just life. You’re just working and paying bills, and trying to raise a family.”
Brewer did hear stores from his father about what it was like to build the Atlas Missile sites that surrounded the Altus Air Force Base in the 1950’s.
“Huge structures,” he explained in 2017, “made of reinforced concrete and re-bar.”
A few years ago he set out to find remnants of those sites near Willow, Oklahoma and Granite, Oklahoma, among other places.
We tagged along too.
His fascination with the era came to include a University of Oklahoma professor named Maurice Halperin who became a spy for the Soviets in the 1940’s.
“He wound up fleeing the country,” says Brewer.
Walking around the Southwestern campus in Weatherford most people notice other much brighter and bolder signs than the faded one above the administration building door.
By 1964 there were eight buildings here with basements full of water, food, and medical supplies to be opened in case of nuclear attack.
Brewer says, “At a cost of $4,000.00 which would have held 2,000 people for the two-week confinement period.”
Most of the signs have disappeared, their meaning lost too except for a history professor who has a fascination with that not so recent time when we looked to the skies fearing something other than twisters.
“Cold War” by Landry Brewer is available through the Arcadia and History Press.