CONELRAD: RADIO ACTIVE MUSTANG
This we believe is the Reevesville, South Carolina, town hall. It's one of our smaller small towns located in Dorchester County and about which we are little moved to write. Almost every hamlet has managed to insert itself into the footnotes of our history via some central web site which never heard of the place, but posts sentimental notations as if it had. We didn't bother looking it up.
What caught our eye was the decal, a triangle within a blue circle, on the window. The CD within the triangle stands for Civil Defense. If you were not old enough to drive the original Mustang then you may be puzzled by that term. Civil Defense was a sweeping program designed not to prevent, but react to a preemptive nuclear strike by the Soviet Union. We feared this attack more as a when rather than an if proposition and with considerable justification at the time. Included in these measures were bomb shelters, survival supplies and the famous "Duck and Cover" imperative in which school children would get under their desks when the bomb hit. We were to avert our eyes from the bomb's flash and remain covered until we got the all clear signal according the public service announcement. There were no further instructions.
No one with even the faintest understanding of nuclear war ever believed that any such measures would a block one Curie Unit much less save a single life. No responsible person sought to rob us of this fantasy because it was all we had. We children of the Cold War were protected from knowing the certainty of our annihilation as we were protected from most cruel and aberrant realities of our time.
The Civil Defense decal struck us as the most significant artifact in the town. That same logo survives in many classic automobiles. The AM radios in our kitchens, in our cars bore that same logo at the tuning positions of 640 and 1240 Kilohertz on the dial. They were the CONELRAD stations established just after 1950 to which we were to tune in the event of a national emergency. They were on the radios of the original Mustangs. A long ominous tone would sound in the middle of a Chuck Berry song then a stern voice would remind us that had this been an actual emergency (Atomic Bomb), we'd be directed to the CONELRAD stations. Had it been the bomb, we'd never have heard the end of "Johnny Be Good." We'd all be off the charts.
Ironically, we have today two positions on the AM radio not very far from the old CONELRAD frequencies to which we are to turn for information on traffic conditions, travel advisories, bumps in the road.