Under threat of a nuclear attack in the 1950s, Preston Hollow residents were poised to find safety at the Churchill Way Presbyterian Church — now the Cooper Aerobics Center — where one of Dallas County’s many fallout shelters was located.
Fallout shelters stocked with food and survival supplies existed across the city, from East Dallas’ Bryan Adams High School to Baylor University Medical Center to the Casa Linda Shopping Center.
Besides Churchill Way Presbyterian Church, Preston Hollow neighbors could seek protection underneath the Preston Doctors Center on Westchester Drive.
“Emergency management has existed in crude form in Dallas since the 1870s, but it wasn’t until the Cold War era — 1954 to be exact — when the nation was gripped with fear of another World War, that the Dallas City Council established the City-County Civil Defense and Disaster Commission,” Dallas archivist John Slate wrote for the Advocate last year. “In response to the threat of nuclear attack, the commission built emergency shelters all over Dallas.”
Today, most have been deactivated following disuse and the diminished threat of nuclear war.
“The City of Dallas still has an Emergency preparedness team in the city’s Office of Emergency Management, which works before, during and after emergencies to minimize impacts on the community,” Slate notes. “Their work coordinates with other departments in government, the private sector and community stakeholders to advocate for planning, response, recovery and mitigation following any sort of disaster.”
As they dismantled the community fallout shelter plan, it’s hard not to wonder if civic leaders imagined world peace might have been achieved by the year 2017.
Bombs, war and nuclear arms at the forefront of today’s news, not to mention the setting off of 156 tornado sirens late last Friday night, might have folks thinking about their old community shelter plans, which you can explore further on the Civil Defense Museum website. (There you can see more maps and images and take a more in-depth look at shelters around our neighborhood and city, the city’s disaster plan and a civil defense timeline.)
Geek out on shelter model sets, polarized light display boxes, royal artillery, posters, books and survival kits and tools you could still use today, as necessary.
Here’s more about the guy, Eric Green, who curated the Civil Defense Museum collection.
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