Duck and Cover Days (ms)

I remember my time in Catholic school only vaguely perhaps because it was so short. The school was okay and I suppose the education was too even though I did not stick around to find out.

As I recall there was a philosophical difference between the nun who taught first grade and my mother. The stumbling block came because my natural inclination was to write with my left hand. It wasn’t a conscious decision but rather one of feeling that using my left hand to pick up a pencil and then use it was the natural thing to do. Too bad the good sister and I could not agree on that matter.

When in first grade, and it doesn’t matter the school, there are moments of terror, sadness, panic, loneliness and mistakes sometimes all at once. So it was with me. As we practiced the rudiments of writing the nun in charge of first and second grade (we were in the same room which has its advantages I might add) patrolled the aisles. She had the ability to move silently despite the heavy black robes and rosary beads. If one were caught writing left-handed a twelve inch wood ruler came down on the offending hand. It was a reminder that I was using the wrong hand, at least in her mind, and that I needed to change over to the right. At the end of the school year there was a parting of the ways and I moved across the street to public school where I spent the rest of my school days.

My Catholic school adventures came to mind because of a simple conversation I was having with a friend about the 1950’s wherein this all took place. It was the time when the Cold War was beginning to heat up. The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD for short (and I can’t possibly think of a better acronym for it) became popular. Simply stated it came down to, “We have more nuclear weapons than you do and they are bigger plus we have a fail-safe means of delivery so even if you blow us up be assured we’ll get the last bomb in.” Thank goodness no one ever tested the idea but if they did the mantra across America would be “Duck and Cover.”

This approach lectured school kids who saw the flash of a nuclear blast to dive under their desks and cover their eyes and heads while assuming the fetal position. Adults could do the same if behind a wall, for example. The logic was that the flash signaled only the start of destruction. Windows would blow out soon after the flying glass then shredding those who ran to see what happened. So hiding beneath a desk was better than nothing though not by much. We practiced it often assured by those in authority that it would save lives in a nuclear attack. Well, maybe so but it’s one of those things I am glad we never tested. My first year of education was eventful enough.

–Mike Stevens

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~ by admin on May 1, 2011.

One Response to “Duck and Cover Days (ms)”

  1. I was born left handed and I am still left handed except for writing. I attended St. Casimir’s Parachiol school in Shenandoah which was staffed by the Bernadine Nuns. I think that I never enjoyed writing with my right hand but watch me swing a hammer cracking coal out by the coal shanty.

    Alfred S. Kielbasa

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