On July 25th, 1961, John Kennedy, addressed the American public about the Berlin crisis and included a statement that in the near future they would get information on steps to take to protect their families “in case of attack.” In the wake of that speech, a series of Civil Defense programs were launched that, in time, reached our small college town.
Even though, as one early flyer noted that it was not likely, “that Piedmont North Carolina will be a primary target area,” local citizens took care to develop appropriate plans. Under the direction of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Office of Civil Defense, the town and college began establishing committees in 1961, including the Committee on Radiological Defense, Town of Davidson Civil Defense Committee and the Davidson College Fallout Preparedness Committee. It no doubt helped, that one person served as the Deputy Director of Civil Defense for the town and chaired the college’s Fallout Preparedness committee.
Under the guidance of Sam Maloney, the groups began to gather information and prepare shelters. One report contained a listing of commercially prepared rations that could provide minimal survival requirements for 14 days.
In the fall of 1963, the student newspaper gave civil defense activities front page space and reported that, “Evidence of their work may be observed in the form of the Civil Defense emblems which dot the exteriors and interiors of many of the college buildings.”
In 1965, Davidson, town and college, won an award–the first given to a “community where a college has provided leadership and shelter space.” Davidson was recognized for providing shelter spaces for more than 100% of the community. Shelter space sufficient for 5458 people had been designated and stocked with rations and medical kits. All this space was on the college campus.
Additional plans were made to evacuate the local elementary school with faculty homes in the new neighborhood designated to hold specific grades. I’ve heard reports that later home owners found stashes of rations still neatly stacked in basements.
Happily for all of us, none of the rations were ever needed and only ice storms have caused the only emergency housing needs on campus.