Tuesday, April 6, 2010

PS 179 and the Atomic Bomb

I remember the sound that came from the square loudspeaker
above my kindergarten classroom at PS 179. It always made
a strange sound, something like a cow mooing, except much
longer and higher pitched.

“Ok children, get under your desks
and put your hands over your heads,
and keep your eyes closed”.

Mrs. Steining was my kindergarten teacher at PS 179 on Avenue C
in the Kensington section of Brooklyn. She wore eyeglasses and
always seemed to have the same black dress on all the time.
She had the loveliest of smiles and was quite kind to us all.

But whenever the loudspeaker made that sound and she
told us to get under our desks and close our eyes, her smile
would quickly disappear from her face. Replaced instead by
a look of futile depression.

"Quickly now, quickly".

We would all scramble to get under our desks, at the same time
our teacher would pull down the shades and turn off the lights.

The classroom always seemed extremely dark at this point,
almost like the Beverly before the movie started.

I would just sit there frozen with my eyes closed, waiting
for something to happen. But just like every other time,
nothing did. Only silence, followed by more silence.

Again the loudspeaker on the wall above the
classroom made it’s strange “mooing” sound.

At that point I would open my eyes, usually greeted
by the old dried gum stuck to the bottom of my desk.

“Ok, children, everyone get up now, the drill is over".

Mrs. Steining would then walk over to the windows and
pull up the large dark green shades. The light of the morning
sun once again filled the classroom. The parachute jump and
Coney Island suddenly appeared for me to see along with the
Ditmas Avenue stop of the elevated F-train.

“flick, flick, flick” went the light switches,
as our classroom suddenly came back to life.

Yes, these were the early 60’s and the Cold War was in full swing.
Welcome to school children, and have a nice day.

Ron Lopez


lornagrl said...

I'm younger than you are but I remember those drills too. They were called "Civil Defense Drills" and they used to scare me too. At first, they had us dive under the desks, and then when I was in 5th grade or so (around 1978) they figured out that we would probably be killed by the flying glass, so we went out in the hall.

Elliot James said...

I remember those PS 179 drills in 1961-63 and even then I remember thinking, "Hiding under my desk is going to save me from an atomic explosion? Are these people crazy?"

Marshal said...

When I went to 179(1959-1966) they used to call them Shelter drills. And somehow, they made sense to us kids.