27 thoughts on “Civil Defense, 1956

  1. The 1956 Home Show at the Expo Center (called the P I in 56) March 24 thru April 1, 1956 had the first showing of CD Bomb Shelter made of reinforced concrete block. My parents had friends who built a new house in the early 1960’s and incorporated a bomb shelter into the basement.

  2. Today, there are no bomb shelters in Portland and there are no specific programs related to them in place.

    Oregon Office of Emergency Management Statewide Plan

    OEM says it does not have an inventory of suitable bomb shelter sites. In a statement, it says, ” Most public buildings identified as civil defense shelters during the Cold War were ill-suited for protections from thermal effects of a nuclear warhead.


  3. Apparently there was no shortage of tinsel in 1956.

    Imagine being the salesperson. I’m not sure “performed satisfactorily” in a nuclear test is good enough for me.

    And look at the poster inside the shelter of the happy family, their supplies and tools: shovel, ladder, and hammer, and perhaps a fire extinguisher, crowbar, and axe? I wonder which of the containers is the “commode”. A cinderblock box versus a hydrogen bomb, seems bizarre now but nuclear war was a realistic fear many of us grew up with.

    Sadly, here are the current leading causes of death for children and adolescents in the USA:

    My deepest condolences to anyone affected by this difficult data.

  4. My South Tabor house has a shelter. The house is 1930’s, its shelter excavated under the detached garage by my Uncle around 1960.
    After the Army he moved to Portland to work for telephone company. I bought the place in 2009.

  5. My neighbors across the street have one in their backyard where a garage should be. Not sure how they use it. It would make a fine wine cellar and tasting room.

  6. Oregonian March 24, 1956

    Shelter Draws Attention
    The bomb shelter, supplied by the Portland Home Builders for the local civil defense administration, attracted numerous visitors.
    This 8X12 steel reinforced concrete block structure designed for six to eight persons has undergone testing at Yucca Flats and, according to Capt. James A, Scott, assistant director of Portland’s civil defense, can withstand heat and radiation blasts when located three miles or farther from ground zero.

    6 to 8 people in a 96 sq. ft. shelter! I think somebody is opening the door early.

  7. I swear I can remember hearing the occasional, distant but distinct undulating siren sounds in the early sixties growing up in the west hills. A test of the system perhaps? They would repeat a few times. Am I just imagining this?

  8. Does anyone know what happened to the bomb shelter built for Portland city officials in the 1950s? Is it still around? It seems like it was a domed structure built somewhere out near Powell Butte in a remote location. My Dad wanted to see it but directions were rather vague as to its exact location. I seem to recall a newspaper picture.

  9. One of my friends in SW Portland had one in their basement. They had a whole bunch of kids. I always wondered how they would fit in that small room with one bunkbed.

  10. John: No you’re not imagining the siren. About once a month at noon an air raid siren would sound across the west hills. It would repeat a couple of times. It was a regular test of the system. I grew up near Hayhurst elementary school so I remember it well!

  11. John
    Portland had 7 air raid sirens that were tested each Monday at 12 noon for 30 seconds, but this was changed to once a month until the sirens were deactivated in 1963. No need for air raid sirens when a likely attack would be by ICBM by 1963.
    The sirens were located on tall steel towers with the exception of the downtown siren on the 15 story American Bank Building.

    American Bank building SW 6th & Morrison
    Fire Station NE 57th & Sandy
    SE 54th & Boise
    SE Milwaukie ave. & McLaughlin
    SW 32nd & Texas
    N Princeton st & John ave. (St Johns)
    I am not sure but I think there was one at the fire station on Interstate ave.

    In 1957 CBS TV broadcast a 30 min. show titled “A Day Called X” which is available on YouTube that shows a siren .

    I believe you are thinking of the “Kelly Butte Bunker” which was built into the east side of of Kelly Butte which has been abandon for several years and had the entrance sealed with tons of earth. You can Google the bunker and get lots of info, or checkout YouTube videos .

    The CBS broadcast in my comment to John also shows the bunker.

  12. That was the Kelly Butte Civil Defense Shelter. Opened in 56? and was eventually used as the 911 center. No longer in use.

  13. Pingback: Civil Defense, 1956 – Urban Fishing Pole Lifestyle

  14. When I was a chid in Portland they tested the air raid sirens every Friday at noon.

    My father, an engineer, was commissioned to design a home bomb shelter in those years. His design was cylindrical concrete sections that could be combined to produce any length you might want. I don’t know if any were built.

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