The Bomb Shelter In My Grandfather’s Hotel

My grandfather Livingston, (your servant being named Charles Livingston McCain), was a self-made man. He left home when he was sixteen with a lot of ambition, a winning personality, unbreakable honesty, and a twenty dollar gold piece his mother gave him; all the money she had. Grandfather went to Charleston and enlisted in the 4th South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers and went to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War.

After his return he began his business career in Orangeburg and over time he acquired various businesses, one of them being the Hotel Eutaw. In the 1920s he and a group of local businessmen built the hotel and overtime he ended up owning the whole thing. Even in my childhood there were still billboards on the outskirts of town which said, “Hotel Eutaw. It’s Fireproof!”

I imagine that burning up in a hotel fire was a big concern in the 1920s and 1930s and he stuck with that advertising slogan until he died and the hotel was closed down and sold. However, it was built of heavy stone and brick, like buildings of that era, and the basement made a perfect “fallout shelter” and so it became.

I used to sneak down there and look around. How was this shelter equipped? It wasn’t. There were some empty plastic barrels with the Civil Defense logo on them. Theoretically, these would be filled with water before the big one dropped. At the time the barrels were filled with water, the shelter would have been stocked with that really disgusting US government yellow cheese. Should we have spent our last days in the basement of the Eutaw Hotel before dying of radiation poisoning, we would have survived on water from not-very-clean plastic barrels and US government cheese. Not a heroic ending.

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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: http://charlesmccain.com/

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