Air Raid Drills In the 4th Grade

“Duck and Cover” has become the punch line of the Cold War since it both expresses the naiveté of American society about nuclear war as well as describes an activity which lots of us practiced in school.

In 1964, some paranoid freak in the bureaucracy of the Orangeburg County Schools District # Nine, which encompassed my incredibly insignificant hometown, decided we elementary school students should practice air raid drills. And we were in the 4th grade at Sheridan Elementary School in Orangeburg. I’m not joking. It seemed farcical to us even then.

Thinking back on those years, there seemed many adults who believed world communism in the person of the Soviet Union was about to take over South Carolina, probably by force, and attacking Orangeburg would be a priority. It bears pointing out that when I was a lad, Orangeburg County had less than 50,000 people and the town had less than 8,000 people.

There was nothing important in Orangeburg; the only industry being textile factories and a plant which made manual typewriters — not a key item in the prosecution of thermo-nuclear war. In fact, the only significant event which ever happened in Orangeburg was the burning of the town by Union troops in February of 1865.

But paranoia is a useful emotion to foster in people, as we can see from the paranoid society we live in now, since it allows all sorts of mischief to be made by the authorities. In South Carolina in those years, in an attempt to preserve segregation, the civil rights movement and communism were welded together as one ideology. Hence, to be in favor of human equality was to be a Communist. And since Communists wanted to overthrow the government of the United States…you can see where this goes.

Today it is even worse for in this age of Terrorism and Paranoia, everyone is guilty until proven innocent. Not exactly a recipe for a stable and happy civil society.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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