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?

Read the rest of this entry »


Miami Fallout Shelter 1951


Happy Friday everyone!

Today’s shelter comes to us from… 1951 Miami!

In this pic, the lovely couple lounges around their fab fallout shelter with their dog children. Like you do. Between the mounted fish, Florida Floral daybeds and the faux bay window, I could definitely think of worse places to hide from the falling sky. It’s all sorts of vacationy. I mean I’m pretty sure I’ve stayed in similar looking hotel rooms on the Gulf Coast. Now. In present times.

Special shout out to the white with gold sparkles Formica. Because of course that’s what they have.



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!


The main branch of the New Orleans Public Library is a Mid Century wonder. This may not be obvious on the first floor or wandering the stacks, but I promise it is! That being said, the Mid Century vibe is strongest in the non-public areas, and HOLY COW is it strong. Like walking out onto the set of Mad Men strong.

I started my visit to the library in Administration, which is just off the third floor lobby through an interior sliding-glass door. Save the gum-chomping, iPhone slinging receptionist, I felt like I’d landed smack in the middle of the Sterling Cooper office without the sexy shenanigans and booze. Or maybe not; this is New Orleans after all.

Anyway. Read the rest of this entry »


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!


government approved fallout shelter1981

Happy Friday!

This week’s fallout shelter comes to us from across the pond. This 1981 photo shows a lovely wellies-clad lass reclining in a fairly serious looking “government approved” nuclear shelter. She has plenty of early-Eighties pantry staples to snack on, and is even holding a tin of probably Spotted Dick (that’s all British people eat, right?). She also seems ready to go all Showcase Showdown on that door handle.

I found this snap and a bunch of other cool shots at (I know, right?!) Most of the images in the slide-show are straight-up normal, non-nuclear bunkers, but they’re still neat to look at. And the people all look so jolly.

Check out the bunker slide show!

Cheerio and all that!



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (yep, that one) has an FAQ page for nuclear blasts. Now. In 2014. This seems…misplaced? I mean, I can see how radiation sickness could fall under the CDC’s umbrella, but this page answers questions like, “Would an airplane crash in a nuclear power plant have the same effect as a nuclear blast?” (Spoiler Alert: No.) as well as radiation sickness (ARS for those in the know)-specific questions.

Regardless of the odd placement, the page provides a surprisingly easy-to-understand, thorough introduction to nuclear blasts and aftermath, and also answers some pretty good questions to boot.

Take a look!


Family Fallout Shelter 1960

Well isn’t this a swell snap!

I love dioramas and this is basically a life-sized one of a fallout shelter (!), which you all know by now are one of my favorite things in the world. Let’s take a look at what’s going on here.

The shelter itself is mostly constructed, leaving a tear-away (can you do that with bricks?) corner section and the roof mostly off for easy interior viewing. The interior is, I hope, partially stocked with canned goods, a cot, possibly a table, and…David! Is David part of the display? Is David a real boy? Is David animatronic like the witches and townspeople at the Witch Dungeon “Museum” in Salem? David’s clothes are pretty weird for 1960, and he’s the only one around, and what’s up with that expression and posture? Is David a real boy?

Regardless of David’s humanness, we also have some great signs of the Civil Defense and other sort, one of them even advertising “FALLOUT SHELTER, Constructed Free!” All in all this is a great fallout shelter display. I would love, love, love to visit a display like this.

Also, I’d pinch David to see if he were real.

Happy Friday!




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.