The first control center Cold War bunker opened in 1958 in Wheaton

If the Soviet Union had unleashed nuclear weapons on the United States, perhaps the country would have gotten up and running again from a bunker in Wheaton, Illinois:

A Cold War bunker in Wheaton — hailed as America’s first Nuclear Age Civil Defense control center — is scheduled to be razed in the coming months, taking with it some of the last pieces of evidence of the tense geopolitical standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The $500,000 bomb shelter, built inconspicuously underneath a one-story highway office on DuPage County’s government campus, was constructed to house up to 60 civil defense workers to keep operations running for weeks post-atomic blast.

Its ribbon-cutting was held almost exactly a year after the USSR launched Sputnik, the man-made satellite that orbited the earth in October 1957 and heightened fears of a Soviet attack on U.S. soil. It was also a time when schoolchildren practiced “duck and cover” drills to protect themselves from nuclear explosions and women’s home magazines included tips for furnishing bomb shelters…

An entrance can be sealed off in the event of a blast and the bunker features a ceiling of 36-inch-thick reinforced concrete and 18-inch cinder block walls. Moving from room to room, I found decontamination showers, a “war room” of sorts designed for tracking Soviet attacks and a secure landline, which at one point could have connected workers to the White House.

It would be interesting to consider how the leaders of DuPage County – quite conservative politically in the decades after World War II and open to suburban growth – might have responded uniquely to the use of nuclear weapons. If the major centers of the United States were knocked out, could the county officials from suburban Chicago be counted on to get the country on the right track?

Great quotes in homeownership #1: Owning a home keeps Americans from Communism

In a recent conversation with a college friend, we talked about how keeping up with a home takes a lot of time. This reminded me of a quote from William Levitt, a member of the famous family who built the Levittowns:

He [William Levitt] was a prime facilitator of the American Dream in its cold war formulation. “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist,” he once said. “He has too much to do.”

So the key to fighting the Cold War through homeownership was not about owning private property; it was about keeping men (and women?) busy taking care of their homes so they can’t get involved in causes like communism.

The trick is that people have to want to and be able to put the time, effort, and money into homes that they buy. Starting mainly in the 1960s, Americans were given new options for homeownership that didn’t require as much work: townhomes and condos. (Contrary to the typical interchanging of the two terms, these two types of units are actually different: in a townhome, the homeowners own the land while condo owners do not.) The associations in these developments take care of much of the outdoor work leaving the homeowners to tackle the interior.

In addition to Baby Boomers who are retiring and downsizing to homes that will require less work, I would guess that many in the younger generation want homeownership without all the work.