Still, it beat the duck-and-cover strategyStill, it beat the duck-and-cover strategyDavid JonesJones, D.

​​Sixty years ago, the Cold War had Americans looking down, as in underground. Fearing nuclear fallout from Russian atomic bombs, some Americans put their survival hopes in belowground shelters. Shelters ranged from basic backyard models to elaborate homes with every amenity possible. Some were partially buried. Some were much deeper.  

When I saw that ​a 1960s fallout shelter is for sale in Las Vegas for $18 million, I had to learn more.

My sister owned one of the basic models. It came with a used Fort Worth home she purchased in 1970. The house was discounted because of the shelter's large aboveground concrete dome. Although the dome was covered in soil, nothing would grow over it, and it dominated the backyard. An air vent pipe accentuated the mound.

A metal, ground-level door was the entrance to the Fort Worth shelter (see photo). Although the door had a spring, my sister said it was too heavy for her to open. She describes the entry stairs as “very steep." The shelter slept six in bunk beds, three on each side of a single room. She said it reminded her of a submarine berth like those shown in World War II movies, except hers had a slightly wider aisle.

Her basic model had a water-purification system. The portable toilet was in a separate, enclosed area. The kitchen consisted of a food pantry and a can opener. A generator provided electricity. Air was filtered.

My sister said her shelter was more useful as a storm shelter. There was consolation knowing her family had a place of refuge should a Texas tornado come their way. Furthermore, the large dirt mound offered the best place in the neighborhood for kids to play king of the hill.

The Las Vegas model on the market today is more than a shelter in time of need. It's a 2,316-sf, five-bedroom, six-bath home with a swimming pool (and waterfall), sauna, and chef's kitchen. It has 500 feet of floor-to-ceiling city and mountain murals and lighting that simulates daytime, dusk, and dawn. Read all about the Las Vegas underground bomb shelter house here.​

Just for the record, not many Americans had fallout shelters. A survey at the time showed 67 percent of people thought a family shelter was too expensive. According to gizmodo.com, only 1.4 percent of Americans had a fallout shelter in 1962.

​Apparently, the fear of what the neighbors would​​​​ think of a fallout shelter outweighed the fear of what the Russians would do. Nearly 60 percent of Americans surveyed said that if the Russians attacked, defending the shelter from neighbors would be the biggest concern.



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