Archive for the ‘Atomic Pop’ Category

Today’s fallout shelter looks like it couldn’t protect squat. I mean, I’ve seen Lego creations that could probably do better.


That being said, the construction of this shelter looks like something I could handle! Which if I’m being honest, the only reason I want to buy a house with a yard, is so that I can construct a shelter. (For funsies, not for tinfoil hat, “prepper” reasons.)

Let’s step away from the shelter’s probably dubious protection ability, and turn instead to the occupants. First of all, Dad looks like he got caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. What were you doing in there, “Dad,” if that’s even your real name? Is that your real family? Or is that the secret one you have in Waukegan? Okay, okay–maybe they are your real family. Is that your Betty Page-ish wife? Or is she the hot babysitter, or passerby you whisked away to your fallout shelter when the siren screamed. Because she sure looks close in age to the oldest son. Oh your first wife Marian died, and she’s your new wife? Okay, maybe that’s true. But didn’t the police think her death was “suspicious?” No? My bad. Anyway, Betty Page there sure is a looker. I really dig her style. Glasses and great bangs. But poor her! You saddle her with the care of the four munchkins, I’m guessing, and she’s probably even the shelter builder. Am I getting close, “Dad”? Oh she takes plenty of ‘ludes to deal with the kid sitch, huh? She better pack plenty of those when all of you head for that metal can shelter, you’ve got there. Packed like sardines, amirite?!

Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out, “Dad.”

If you’re interested in more photos like this one, head over to the Wisconsin Historical Society, and take a gander and this and other fallout shelter-ish material. I have to say, I love the tone of the page, which is kind of, “we’re all going to die, or at least are better off doing so, but we better make the public hopeful so they’ll let us spend more money on nukes.” Or I think so anyway.

Until next time!



It’s once again Fallout Shelter Friday! This week’s shelter isn’t a fallout shelter at all, but Art!

Pink (Art) Fallout Shelter Doors

In 2009 the Canadian art collective, Instant Coffee created the Disco Fallout Shelter installation for the Toronto Sculpture Garden. The installation was on display from May 6 through September 15, 2009, and man I wish I’d seen it live rather than via the 1997ish, super low-tech website on which it currently resides. (Or maybe the retroness of the site is part of the exhibit? You never know with art!)

Anyway, the installation consisted of the above-ground portions (mainly the door and ventilator duct) of a 1950s fallout shelter, all blinged-out in Pepto pink and a disco-ballified satellite dish. Visitors wound their way through the installation by way of a yellow brick road, terminating at a locked (pink!) shelter door, through which party music is heard. So, what was behind the locked door? Well, the exhibit answers that for us, thanks to a video screen housed in the ventilator duct.

The ventilator duct provided a glimpse into the (supposed) goings on of the shelter. Shelter residents could be seen “playing records, eating spaghetti, dancing, reading, sleeping and just hanging out in the tight confines…of the shelter.” Of course this was all make-believe, with the collective members making up the residents and prerecording the whole shindig.

Ventilator Video Screen

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Today’s shelter is not for people, or cows as we’ve seen here, but dolls!

I mean, dolls are creepy anyway, but throw in a fallout shelter made just for them?

Dollhouse Fallout Shelter

This shelter was part of the 1962 (Cuban Missile Crisis, anyone?) Marx Metal Dollhouse, sold by Sears. It is a prime example of nuclear coloring everything during the Cold War.

Read/Look at more pics of  the dollhouse shelter here.

Howdy friends! Today we’re going to take a listen to the great old-timey cowboy/folk ballad, OLD MAN ATOM (Talking Atomic Blues). This song is totally in my wheelhouse, but unlike most things in my wheelhouse, it just fell into my lap. A couple of Sundays ago I was listening to Old Time Country and Bluegrass with Hazel the Delta Rambler on WWOZ, which if you like bluegrass even in the slightest, you should check out. (Also, WWOZ streams on the web, for those of you out of broadcast range.) This particular episode featured Banned Songs in honor of Banned Books Week. Hazel played quite a few gems, as always, but none shone quite so shiny as OLD MAN ATOM.

OLD MAN ATOM is an anti-nuke song. And when the song first came out, we were so solidly on the nuclear bandwagon, that it caused quite a stir–blacklistings, bannings, all sorts of fun!

Vern Parlow was a newspaperman who penned the song in 1945. It took a bit to percolate, but when the song finally hit the airwaves in 1950, it was a big hit; I mean several different versions by several different artists in several months’ span. But link most things that come in with a bang, the song’s popularity burned hot and fast and met an abrupt end when it was pulled from distribution by Cold War crazies, because if you weren’t with us (The Bomb) you were against us (The Commies).

So why was this song so…bad?


Miss Atomic Energy 1948


Sure, I just posted this to Twitter, but it was so good, and related to the blog that I had to post it here too.

For those of you who don’t know, every Friday I post a photo of a vintage beauty queen, usually from a festival, usually doing or wearing something ridiculous. They’re so (usually) silly that you can’t help but smile. I use the tag #FridayQueens if you want to check ’em out.

Anyway, today I posted Miss Atomic Energy, 1948. I’ve posted Miss Atomic Bomb, and other war-ish atomic beauty queens in the past (and wrote a piece for Mental Floss about them), but this is the first Atoms for Peace atomic energy queen I’ve come across.

That atomic energy bolt–amirite?!


So you’re getting married. Congratulations!

Where are you going on your honeymoon? Niagra Falls? A safari? Grand European tour? A…fallout shelter?


Although it may not seem like the ideal place to start a life of wedded bliss, in 1959, Maria and Melvin Mininson began their bliss doing just that–spending their honeymoon in a fallout shelter.

Now why on earth did they do that? Well, turns out the couple entered a radio contest/publicity stunt sponsored by Bomb Shelters, Inc., (because of course it was). Contest winners would spend two weeks in a fallout shelter, and if they made it, they’d get an actual honeymoon in a tropical local. And the Mininsons did great! They made it through the contest like champs, save a couple of uses of the first aid kid, thanks to some can-opener carnage that befell Marvin’s hand.

Fallout Shelter Dinner

Psst! I wrote a longer, prettier article about the fallout shelter honeymoon among other things in the Apocalypse issue of Lucky Peach. It’s paper only, so you’ll have to go old school and find a copy!

Happy Atom Smashing!



Make 7-Up Yours! Do you guys remember that ad campaign, it will remain one of my favorites for all time. So good!

Anyway, today’s fallout shelter is thanks to a 7up ad in Chuck West’s Fallout Shelter Handbook, which is almost impossible to find, as it’s out of print. (And if you happen to have a copy, I will pay you semi-handsomely for it.)

The advertisement features some sunny looking young folks playing pool in the basement-turned fallout shelter. According to the ad, 7up can fix what ails me if what ails me is laughing myself thirsty. Does this happen? Is it a thing? Maybe I better watch it on the laughing front.

The fallout shelter is more of a fun center, with its pool table, fireplace (with andirons!) and some fish art. The only hints that this is actually a place to ride out the apocalypse are the serious hinges and weirdly placed handle on the vault-ish door. Sneaky designers!

Have a 7up and enjoy your Friday, everyone!



Okay. I know this isn’t a bikini, but it’s an M-Fing MUSHROOM CLOUD SWIMSUIT. I trust you’ll forgive. It’s truly the bee’s knees. I swear I’m going to make myself an atomic blast swimsuit (and matching tiara, because, duh!) and/or a Miss Atomic Bomb getup to wear for Mardi Gras one year. Swear.

Anyway, today we’re learning about…bikinis! What’s so atomic about bikinis? Well I’m glad you asked.

If you’re interested in things atomic, even in the slightest, you probably know that the atomic testing was done at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. In total, 23 nuclear devices were detonated by the United States, at seven different test sites on (at?) the atoll between 1946 and 1958. The tests were of the atmospheric (in the air, usually on a tower) and underwater variety.

Operation Crossroads was the first test series at the Bikini Atoll, and was only the second test ever, following the Trinity Test in July of 1946, as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were actual war-time detonations. So the second test.

Operation Crossroads wound-up with two detonations total: the Able test detonated the bomb Gilda, named for the popular Rita Hayworth film, and the Baker test which detonated the Helen of Bikini bomb. Originally a third test was planned for Operation Crossroads, but was cancelled mostly because of heavy fallout and contamination from radioactive sea spray from the Baker test. The contamination was so bad that the navy was unable to decontaminate most of the ships used in the test, and the Atomic Energy Commission even called Baker, “the world’s first nuclear disaster.” Ouch.

Anywho. The world watched as America Kool-Aid Manned its way deeper into the Atomic Age. Two watchers in particular were designer Jaques Helm and mechanical engineer Louis Réard. The story goes that both men separately decided to popularize a two-piece swimsuit, sometime around 1946. No word on why an engineer was bothering with swimsuit design, but hey.

During the early years of the Atomic Age the world became increasingly ensconced in all things space and atomic. So it was only natural that Jaques Helm would name his version of the two-piece swimsuit, atome, (atom) after the smallest chunk of matter. This name not only reflected the suit’s minimal coverage, it also carried the stamp of the Atomic Age. This is just swell.

Apparently not to be outdone, Louis Réard named his version of the two-piece bikini, after, yep, the atomic tests at the Bikini Atoll. Because “like the [atomic] bomb, the bikini is small and devastating.” Yeah. He went there.

There are many, many quotes connecting the atomic testing at the Bikini Atoll to Réard’s swimsuit. Here are some of my favorites:

Viewers of the bikini were “blown away” by the look.

The bikini swimsuit was supposed to cause the same earth-shattering reaction among those who viewed it, and was inspired by the rising mushroom clouds of the atomic bomb.

The sight of the first woman in the minimal two-piece was as explosive as the detonation of the atomic bomb by the U.S. at Bikini Island in the Marshall Isles, hence the naming of the bikini.

And with that, I’ve probably ruined bikinis for you.




There’s that particular type of laundry commercial involving a single swatch of pale fabric, usually in the form of a youngster’s t-shirt, sullied by stains of every sort. The commercial showcases some magical preparation (Tide), which when applied to the sullied shirt, removes all traces of the stains, and leaves the swatch sparkling. Little Timmy will certainly be the hit of the Little League game now!

Before-and-after commercials are one of my very favorite forms, and strike a similar note as the “We’ve secretly replaced Jane’s fancy-pants coffee with Folgers crystals,” and Billy Mays’ booming about Oxy-Clean.

This proof is in the pudding type of advertisement is nothing new. In fact this great 1950s commercial for Dorothy Gray Salon (pronounced sa-LON) Cold Cream uses this approach, in a pretty peculiar way.

The commercial begins with Pack-a-Day-Margaret greeting “Busy You!” explaining that you’re in and out doors all day, and where on earth are you going to find the time to clean your face of all the dust and dirt and makeup that have stuck to your face? Well, you’re going to use Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream to clean it in a jiffy.

But, we don’t have to take the announcer lady’s word that Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream will do this for us. Instead, we’re introduced to a model, whom I’ll call Barb. Barb’s face is covered in dust that has been made “just radioactive enough to register on a Geiger counter.” Wait—what? Yep—you read that right, radioactive (but just). They covered poor Barb’s face in radioactive dust just to prove the merits of a silly old cold cream.

The Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream’s deradiationizing (?) capabilities are put up against “cleansing creams and complexion soaps,” and according to the announcer lady, “the Geiger counter proves that Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream cleanses up to 2 ½ times more thoroughly than any soap or other cleansing cream tested!” I guess this means that the Geiger counter beeped at a slower pace when Barb’s radioactive dust covered face was covered with a layer of Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream than other goop? Maybe it’s acting more as shielding, did you think of that announcer lady? And maybe we shouldn’t have purposely put radioactive dirt on a lady’s face? Call me crazy, but this seems like kind of a bad idea.

Disappointingly, we don’t get to see any of the actual “tests.” I was really hoping for some face-washing action here. All in all, I’d say they jumped on the radioactive bandwagon, without any real reason, other than trying to be one of the cool kids by somehow linking their dippy cold cream to something atomic.

Now if Dorothy Gray Salon Cold Cream contained some uranium, we’d really be on to something.




Kids playing shuffle-board, dad chillaxin’, and ma tending an ahead-of-its-time rooftop garden. Oh! and we have Pebbles the dog up with ma as well.

This is indeed an ATTRACTIVE ADDITION.

No word on what the shelter’s interior looks like, but if it’s anything like the outside, I’d love to ride out the apocalypse with the Bartholows. Seem like a fun bunch.

Happy Atom Smashing!




PS – Where’s the barnyard?