January 13, 2012

MID-CENTURIA : Evelyn Ackerman Mosaics


Iconic mosaic works of the period. Design duo Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman were prolific artisans who virtually defined Mid-Century Modern home decor. Taking inspiration from Charles and Ray Eames, the husband and wife team decided to go into business themselves. Without a doubt, Evelyn's mosaics are her best known pieces.

My walls suddenly seem so neglected.

January 8, 2012

The Incredibles snazzy living area. I want it . . . . with the Zanuso chair to boot!

January 7, 2012

You and the Atom

It has been over 65 years since the harnessing of the Atom. What have we learned in that time? Have we proven ourselves that we are worthy to hold such power, or have we just been sheer lucky that we didn't unleash a monster run amock? On the flipside, the promised wonders of the Atom haven't exactly come to pass as originally envisioned either.

The Nagasaki bomb, Fat Man
“Considering how likely we all are to be blown to pieces by it within the next five years, the atomic bomb has not roused so much discussion as might have been expected.”

So begins George Orwell’s essay . . .

You And The Atomic Bomb (1945)

Two bombs had just been dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the world had witnessed their power. Let us continue with an abbreviated version of his essay . . .
“The newspapers have published numerous diagrams, not very helpful to the average man, of protons and neutrons doing their stuff, and there has been much reiteration of the useless statement that the bomb "ought to be put under international control." But curiously little has been said, at any rate in print, about the question that is of most urgent interest to all of us, namely: "How difficult are these things to manufacture?"

Such information as we--that is, the big public--possess on this subject has come to us in a rather indirect way, apropos of President Truman's decision not to hand over certain secrets to the USSR. Some months ago, when the bomb was still only a rumour, there was a widespread belief that splitting the atom was merely a problem for the physicists, and that when they had solved it a new and devastating weapon would be within reach of almost everybody. (At any moment, so the rumour went, some lonely lunatic in a laboratory might blow civilisation to smithereens, as easily as touching off a firework.)

Had that been true, the whole trend of history would have been abruptly altered. The distinction between great states and small states would have been wiped out, and the power of the State over the individual would have been greatly weakened. However, it appears from President Truman's remarks, and various comments that have been made on them, that the bomb is fantastically expensive and that its manufacture demands an enormous industrial effort, such as only three or four countries in the world are capable of making. This point is of cardinal importance, because it may mean that the discovery of the atomic bomb, so far from reversing history, will simply intensify the trends which have been apparent for a dozen years past.

It is a commonplace that the history of civilisation is largely the history of weapons. In particular, the connection between the discovery of gunpowder and the overthrow of feudalism by the bourgeoisie has been pointed out over and over again. And though I have no doubt exceptions can be brought forward, I think the following rule would be found generally true: that ages in which the dominant weapon is expensive or difficult to make will tend to be ages of despotism, whereas when the dominant weapon is cheap and simple, the common people have a chance. Thus, for example, tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon--so long as there is no answer to it--gives claws to the weak.

From various symptoms one can infer that the Russians do not yet possess the secret of making the atomic bomb; on the other hand, the consensus of opinion seems to be that they will possess it within a few years. So we have before us the prospect of two or three monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds, dividing the world between them. It has been rather hastily assumed that this means bigger and bloodier wars, and perhaps an actual end to the machine civilisation. But suppose--and really this the likeliest development--that the surviving great nations make a tacit agreement never to use the atomic bomb against one another? Suppose they only use it, or the threat of it, against people who are unable to retaliate? In that case we are back where we were before, the only difference being that power is concentrated in still fewer hands and that the outlook for subject peoples and oppressed classes is still more hopeless.

We were once told that the aeroplane had "abolished frontiers"; actually it is only since the aeroplane became a serious weapon that frontiers have become definitely impassable. The radio was once expected to promote international understanding and co-operation; it has turned out to be a means of insulating one nation from another. The atomic bomb may complete the process by robbing the exploited classes and peoples of all power to revolt, and at the same time putting the possessors of the bomb on a basis of military equality. Unable to conquer one another, they are likely to continue ruling the world between them, and it is difficult to see how the balance can be upset except by slow and unpredictable demographic changes.

For forty or fifty years past, Mr. H.G. Wells and others have been warning us that man is in danger of destroying himself with his own weapons, leaving the ants or some other gregarious species to take over. Anyone who has seen the ruined cities of Germany will find this notion at least thinkable. Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James Burnham's theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications--that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of "cold war" with its neighbors.

Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state. If, as seems to be the case, it is a rare and costly object as difficult to produce as a battleship, it is likelier to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a "peace that is no peace."

Civil Defense paper with Dummy Headlines, Photo:1953

And now . . .

Man Recalls Day A Nuclear Bomb Fell On His Yard.
MARS BLUFF - Once or twice a year, folks call up Walter Gregg to talk about the time in 1958 when the Air Force dropped a nuclear bomb on his yard. (read more...)

... romantic shelter
Romantic Fallout Shelter, Photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, err, Ground Zero . . .

Duck & Cover

Teachers in selected cities were encouraged to conduct air raid drills where they would suddenly yell, "Drop!" and students were expected to kneel down under their desks with their hands clutched around their heads and necks. Some schools even distributed metal "dog tags," like those worn by World War II soldiers, so that the bodies of students could be identified after an attack. (read more...)

Watching an A-Bomb

There are very few people who have seen an atomic bomb explode – or who would want to. But in 1955, several Nebraskans who were among the 5,800 civilian and military witnesses to an atomic test blast. The civilians were there by choice, while most of the military observers had been ordered there. The experiment was known as Operation Cue. (read more...)

Planting Fields of ICBMs

In farm fields all across rural America during the late 50s and 60s, the U.S. Air Force was planting a new crop -- Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs, tipped with nuclear warheads. (read more...)

A Fallout Shelter for Cows

Human beings weren't the only species selected to survive a nuclear attack in Nebraska. In 1963, Roberts Dairy Company, outside of Omaha, conducted a two-week survival test for 35 cows, one bull and two student cowhands. (read more...)

And so, we have reached the end of our broadcast. Be Smart, be Safe, be Alert my friends . . . . . . and Beware of even the slightest possibility of ginormous mutant ants.

I would like to acknowledge the invaluable resources of
livinghistoryfarm.org / Living at Ground Zero
James Vaughan / x-ray delta one
visit his blog - atomic-annhilation.blogspot.com/

You m
ay also want to visit
Civil Defense Museum.org

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January 6, 2012

Atomic Sex Symbols

1952 ... YB - 60 bomber
1952 - YB - 60 bomber, photo: courtesy of James Vaughan/x-ray delta one

The strategic bomber! The YB-60 Bomber was something of a less successful precursor of the iconic Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, but still - what an outstanding shot!! Both aircraft were long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bombers, forever associated with the Cold War.

1954 - Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas
1954 - Miss Atomic Test, Las Vegas Photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

Ummm... errr... uh, as you can see, this particular atom bomb test was, umm... hugely successful *cough*

The Red Phone at Strategic Air Command, head-quartered near Omaha, Nebraska, alerts nuclear bomber and missile crews in event of war. The individual buttons light as bases respond.

A 1955 Convair ad proclaiming the Nation's protective military defense:
"All over America these days the blast of supersonic flight is shattering the old familiar sounds of city and countryside. At U.S. Air Force bases strategically located near key cities our Airmen maintain their round the clock vigil, ready to take off on a moment's notice in jet aircraft like Convair's F-102A all-weather interceptor. Every flight has only one purpose - your personal protection!"

In stark contrast - did you know a nuclear bomber went down on U.S. soil? This photo shows the MK 39 nuclear bomb retrieved after the 24 January 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash. The weapon's parachute deployed, resulting in a soft landing and the weapon being recovered intact.

The YB-49 Flying Wing - at the time it promised to be the symbolic next big step in the future of aviation. It was simply an idea too far ahead of its time to become the ultimate jet-powered strategic bomber of the Atomic Age. It took another age, the Computer Age, to help the flying wing concept to finally obtain it's goal.

Men On Guard! The Unicorn Book of 1953

No self-respecting fighter jet pilot would be caught in front of the camera without the latest advancement in military issue pressure suit - now available with figure flattering two-way stretch!

And that ultimate symbol of the Cold War, the looming Mushroom Cloud, circa 1953.

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(Sorry for the delay in posting - Technical difficulties have NO respect for deadlines!)

January 5, 2012

Fall Out Shelters are "In"

... backyard entrance to fallout shelter
photo: courtesy of James Vaughan/x-ray delta one

Here we are in American Suburbia. The kids are playing outside in the backyard with smiling Mother looking on. She knows that if the imminent threat of atomic annihilation should rear its ugly head, she has peace of mind thanks to good ol' American ingenuity - the family fall out shelter! She's ready to survive any menace.

No, no, no... that is not what we mean by surviving the nuclear menace! Let's try this again...

photo: U.S. Governement photography

Here we go! Now this is what your ideal fallout shelter would have looked like as envisioned in the early 1950's. It may not have quite the same appeal, but ummm... that's Life. In here, protected from the airborn effects of an atomic blast you would live with your family. Once you had your shelter structure completed and stocked, you could rest with some peace of mind. The family "foxhole" was much more convenient, practical and reliable than trying to reach a public shelter in times of emergency.

An example of a public fallout shelter as depicted on the January 1962 cover of LIFE magazine.

The public shelter. Crowded, no privacy, and probably has only one working bathroom on a good day. And wouldn't you know it? That nosey neighbor lady from down the corner is here to indulge you with her non-stop company for the next several weeks, prattling on about begonias and her gall-stone operation.

The Mrs: "Henry! I told you we should have built our own family shelter instead of wasting your time down at the pool hall, you lazy lummox!"
Hubby: "Yes Dear."

1962 ... high-rise shelter
A swanky high-rise shelter; photo: courtesy of James Vaughan/x-ray delta one

A very stylin' backyard shelter as portrayed by the publishers of Fawcett Books.

The family fallout shelter would usually have been built by the home owner as sort of a do it yourself project, and the whole concept of "do-it-yourself" was quite the popular thing to do in those days.

The Family Fallout Shelter @ nebraskastudies.org states that according to civil defense authorities, a concrete block basement shelter could be built as a do-it-yourself project for $150 to $200. Exactly how much protection they actually afforded was an open question — one that, thankfully, no one has had to test.... yet.

... prefab fallout shelter!
Pre-fab shelter; Photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

In fact, if you had the money or were simply a lazy lummox like poor Henry, you could even order a pre-fabricated fall out shelter. Just dig the trench and in she goes!

Pre-fab shelter; photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

It was recommended that people stay in the shelter full time for at least 14 days after a nuclear blast. Families with children were advised to stock their shelter with recreational materials to break the monotony. Monopoly games were popular. Other suggested items included playing cards and diaries to keep a record of one's stay.

"all the comforts of home"
Photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

Be equipped, be organized and be prepared. Life in the fall out shelter was basically approached like you would a long family camp out, only you were isolated underground and you wouldn't be roasting marshmallows.

1963 ... survival plan!
Photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

What would you do? Do you have a plan? What would you do if you were committing to protect you and your family with dead-certainty that atomic warfare was eminent?

1961- fallout shelter #2
Photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

And hopefully, when the all's-clear is given, and it's time to open that hatchway
... there will be a mid-century modern world to return to.

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January 4, 2012

The Uranium Rush is On!

uranium prospector atlas tires 1953
Photo: courtesy of James Vaughan / x-ray delta one

Let's do a little prospecting! After decades of being considered as a waste product of vanadium mining, worthy of nothing more than a tossing in the scrap piles, Uranium ore suddenly came into demand as a key element for nuclear weaponry. 

Photo: courtesy of gair_dunlop

In 1949, the rush was on. The U.S. Government launched the first federally-sponsored mineral rush in history. The Colorado Plateau, more specifically the Four Corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all meet), was swarmed by prospectors in the greatest ore search since the gold fever days of the wild west.

All prepackaged and ready to go. Here's a vintage do-it-yourself prospecting kit - not for finding little trinkets of gold but for highly valuable Uranium ore! Ideally, you'd probably want a little more than this novelty kit has to offer. But hands down, a reliable Geiger counter or radiation detector was an absolute must. Anything else you could use was already available for cheap as war surplus.

In 1949 the boom was roaring! Any one able-bodied enough and daring enough to head out west with a Geiger counter in hand and dreams of riches in their head was prospecting for atomic age riches. See blog.Modern.Mechanix.com for oodles more articles of the Great Uranium Boom.

And what of all this uranium ore? What did it have to do with the threat of of atomic fallout on Mr. Everyman and Mrs. Everywoman? The unquenchable hunger for uranium ore was for the sole purpose of producing nuclear warheads, which were aimed right between the eyes of those who were also aiming their atomic arsenals at us. Without getting into the politics of it all, quite simply and against all the odds, the mad stalemate obviously stood.

So, its been a long day's work of sweating under the desert sun and getting rich from your haul of ore. Who wouldn't want to settle down after the night's dinner, relax by the glow of your cook stove and enjoy a lively round of the "Uranium Rush" board game? Maybe you could give your pack-mule companion a head start just to make things fair.

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January 3, 2012

Everything the Junior Atomic Scientist Could Want

"Hey Mom! Can I have my very own atomic science laboratory and play with alpha particles in my bedroom? I promise to use it on the dog like last time" Maybe, but it looks like no good can come out of atomic power being put in to the lap of this child. But that's just what happened back in the 1950's thanks to the genius's at A. C. Gilbert Company.

I'm not sure if Mother is completely buying the whole "harmless" line, but I bet Dad can't wait to get it away from Junior's hands!

And here it is, the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab - highly sought after and covetted by Dad and Junior alike. A.C. Gilbert Co. sold this kit from 1950-51, for $49.50 (kind of steep for a toy set!) which included the following highly scientific components:
  • U-239 Geiger-Mueller radiation counter
  • Electroscope - to measure radioactivity of different substances
  • Spinthariscope - to watch "live" radioactive disintegration
  • Wilson Cloud Chamber - to see paths of electrons & alpha particles at 12,000 mps
  • Three very low-level radioactive sources - Alpha, Beta, Gamma
  • Four samples of Uranium-bearing ores
  • Nuclear Spheres - used to build models of molecules
  • The book "Prospecting for Uranium"
  • The "Gilbert Atomic Energy Manual"
  • The comic book "Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom"
  • Three "Winchester" Batteries - size "C"
Geesh! What a mouthful. Just repeating the names of some of these components is guaranteed to boost your I.Q. by 10%! My brother didn't have the Atomic Lab kit, but he did have a Gilbert chemistry set that included the 'spinthariscope' for viewing radioactive decay. When this kit finally was passed down to me I remember treating the scope with extreme caution. I was smart enough at an early age to know that radioactivity wasn't a plaything to be taken lightly!

And if Junior should ever get bored with his alpha particles, he could always go out and do some urnaium prospecting, to build up his atomic pile.

Science so simple that even Dagwood can teach you how to split the atom. I wonder how many U.S. nuclear physicists today got their start by reading this material?

There's that "harmless" word again.... and Mother still isn't buying it. "Absolutely not, Jimmy! I've just gotten these floors scrubbed and the laundry all put away. I will not have you messing-up this home with any radioactive fallout."

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