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YELLOW PAGES – PHILADELPHIA FALLOUT SHELTERS

With the rise of the Internet and online telephone directories, the heavy-bound, hardcopy and usually gigantic Yellow Pages is an all but forgotten symbol of the last century. The Yellow Pages still exists, but it is no longer the indispensable tool it once was. Indeed, these days it is not unusual to witness a neighbor promptly dump the freshly delivered telephone directories from the doorstep directly into the recycling bin.

As we move towards an exclusively digital culture one wonders whether at some point in the near future we will be one massive Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) away from losing the artifacts of our recent history. No such risk exists with the Cold War because the records and artifacts from this period are all delightfully analog.

CONELRAD recently scanned these Fallout Shelter business entries from the April 1962 edition of the Philadelphia Yellow Pages. It is a remarkable snapshot of just how prevalent shelter-mania was in the months following President John F. Kennedy’s Berlin Crisis speech on July 25, 1961.

Over thirty entries can be found for all types of shelters on pages 391 and 392 of this edition of the Yellow Pages (the "fallout shelter" entry is sandwiched between the business headings of “Fabrics” and “Fans”). One savvy missile-age entrepreneur named his business “A Atomic Shelters” in order to be at the head of the alphabetical pack (take that “Allied Shelters”!). Other shelter hucksters took out eye-catching—and no doubt expensive—graphic ads to catch the eye of the Yellow Pages reader.

It is fascinating to read the taglines, dubious endorsements and hedge-speak contained in these ads:

“Almost absolute protection against fallout radiation”

“If you want to survive fallout, call Tuner 7-9514”

“Nuclear Attack? Protect Your Family Now!”

“Will increase your chances of survival by 4,000 per cent”

“You Can Be Prepared If A Bomb Falls!”

“Civil Defense Approved”

“Exceeds Civil Defense Requirements”

“Engineered and tested to withstand immense pressures…”

“Builders of adequate shielding against radiation hazards…”

It is interesting to note that some shelter companies tried to appeal to both the private shelter customer and potential community shelter buyer. Inclusion of community shelter construction options no doubt arose from the shelter morality debate of 1961.

More than ten years after the shelter craze of the early 1960s, the character of the shady shelter salesman was lampooned by Ronnie Schell (as “Ernie”) in the Happy Days episode “Be the First on Your Block” (airdate: May 7, 1974). In the episode, Ernie the slick shelter huckster, convinces patriarch Howard Cunningham to sign on for his product. All is well until teenager Richie Cunningham's pals—including the Fonz—find out about his family's planned survival hideaway. Everyone learns a life lesson during Howard's practice civil defense drill when too many friends show up and crowd into the space in the backyard marked for shelter construction. To the chagrin of Ernie, Howard cancels his bomb shelter order. Another commission lost to morality.
YELLOW PAGES – PHILADELPHIA FALLOUT SHELTERS
Philadelphia Yellow Pages
February 1962

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