school air raid drillDuck and Cover

Are there baby boomers that don’t remember fire drills with fondness? It was a grand game. At Pershing school, my best-friend Ricky intercepted memos from his assistant principal mother -  out of the blue (ha! ha!) the alarm sounds, jump up and scramble in line, jostle and giggle, fast march shuffle-to-Buffalo and goof off as veteran teachers pull seniority and send newbies to scour the buildings for fainters and smokers in the boy’s room.

Here was a bonus recess dropped in your lap that could be milked for an hour. Settling down from the excitement generated a spray of phony questions: Could we have stayed and watched the real fire or do we have to go home? How much do firemen make? Do you need a college degree? Teachers fell for the same tired routine year after year. We asked ourselves: what’s the worst that could happen if there were a real fire? The school burns down. Big wow. Everyone is evacuated. We’d use trailers for six months. Life goes on.

Bert the ducking turtleContrast that with the dreaded baby boomer apocalypse drill – forget Ricky’s connection – out of the blue a nasty horn blast penetrates your skin; spines rattle. We hunker down under desks, banging our heads and holding fetal positions for at least two minutes while teachers recite The Lord’s Prayer or lead the National Anthem. Miss Naddlehoffer grinded her dentures to My Darling Clementine.

A jarring all-clear ends the torture. We emerge with scraped knees and charley horses and immediately began class. Too ghastly to contemplate, teachers don’t solicit questions and all youthful curiosity has been squelched. Should there be a real atom bomb? What’s the worst that could happen? Utter destruction. If you’re not dead, you’d wish you were. No more family. No more friends. Life doesn’t go on. No wonder we descended into the doldrums after an air raid drill.

Our national leader, General Bert the Turtle, barked his marching orders:

Duck under your desk and sit still.

Place your head between your legs.

Cover your head with your hands.

We added a final instruction: Kiss your ass goodbye.


Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

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