From “Duck and Cover” How I Learned to Live Life in The Fetal Position

Mid-20th century, when I was in elementary school (the 1960s, to be exact), we did not have school shootings, with students killing one another. Our main fear, in those days, was atomic war, when the Russians would drop the bomb, and within hours, maybe days, all that would remain of life on earth would be cockroaches.
With that in mind, some brilliant brain trust in the Office of Civil Defense devised a procedure for school children to follow in the event of what seemed to be that inevitable situation.
Part of the process involved the parents completing a card at the beginning of the school year. The form was basically a directive designating their desired disposal of their child should a natural (or unnatural) disaster require a sudden abortion to the regular school day.

As I recall, the available options on this sort of precursor to the living will were

* Child is to remain at school

* Child will be picked up from school

* Child is to get home the best way he/she can

I was already a latchkey kid, because Mom worked full time, and didn’t drive. So, every year, it was decided that when the air raids started, I should just head home, as usual. That was fine with me, as I definitely preferred to die with my family, rather than at school with a bunch of strangers, crayons, and No. 2 pencils. The other part of the process was appropriately called “Duck and Cover.” This involved crouching low under a desk or against the hall lockers, and covering the back of your neck with clasped hands. We had these drills at least monthly – definitely more often than we had traditional fire drills.

My point today, however, is not so much sentimental reminiscing about the good ol’ days of the Cold War, when most Baby Boomers didn’t think we would live to voting age. We certainly never dreamed of one day harking back, with warm nostalgia, to days of hunkering in the hallways, wondering if we would live to see another episode of Mister Ed.
No. Lately, I have pondered that position we assumed in those duck and cover drills. I believe it is pretty much a form of the fetal position. The huddling, cowering, covering, seeking protection as I see it are definitely variations on a theme.

I am currently in my own sort of cold war. Unlike the first one, “getting home the best way” is not even an option. And therein lies the problem. I have a mortgage, but, no home for my sweet collie and me. Unlike 50-plus years ago, I don’t even have a desk or locker to shield me.
This is not a position (literally or figuratively) I would ever have dreamed of being in at this juncture – for that matter, at any time in my life. A roof over my head, the proverbial place to hang my hat, a nest is something I have apparently always taken for granted. Never again!
I had long assumed I might someday pen a book about my Baby Boomer life, and perhaps title it “In Search of the Perfect Flip” (an allusion to the official hairstyle of my generation). I pray my autobiography won’t, instead, be “Life in the Fetal Position.”

Note: I was searching the internet for a royalty-free sketch of just the right fetal position for this piece. I didn’t want to pirate anyone’s art. However, while writing, I glanced down to see my precious collie – yes, pretty much in that sad pose. My loyal companion! As all who love dogs know, they channel our feelings.


About nancsue

Writer - Former newspaper columnist - lover of all things nostalgic, collies, music, and humor.
This entry was posted in 1960s, Baby Boomers, cultural history, Depression, dogs, Growing up, history, Humor, mid-centurians, mid-centurions, Nostalgia, retro, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to From “Duck and Cover” How I Learned to Live Life in The Fetal Position

  1. Steve Gandy says:

    I was at Reinhardt ! We would have got blown up together, that’s what buddies are for !

  2. It’s tragically funny how some things from the past resonate horribly with current situations. I can also relate to your reference to never imagining being without a safe-place/home, despite having a mortgage. Sometimes situations we never entertained come true, despite our best efforts. Have a great day. 🙂

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