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La Crosse County Historical Society discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

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Object Name Map
Catalog Number 2014.fic.135
Summary Map of "Community Shelter Locations La Crosse County" stored within a manilla envelope labeled, "La Crosse County Community Shelter Plan." Pictured on the cover of the manilla envelope is a small map of La Crosse county and the townships within it. A fallout shelter and civil defense logo are at the bottom of the envelope.
On one side of the paper inside the envelope is a large picture of La Crosse county that shows where shelter service areas are located. On the same side of the paper, there is also a large close up map of "community shelter locations La Crosse urban area." The other side of the paper has detailed instructions from the county board chairman and the county civil defense director on how to survive an attack.
Collection LCHS Map Collection
Published Date c. 1971
Search Terms Map
Community Shelter
Featured in Things that Matter
Relation Show Related Records...
Notes Featured in Things that Matter

“A major emergency affecting a large number of people may occur anytime and anywhere. It may be a peacetime disaster such as a tornado, flood, fire, blizzard or earthquake. It could be an enemy attack on the United States. … If you and your family take action as recommended in this plan, you will have maximum chances for survival.”

So began the “La Crosse Community Shelter Plan,” an instruction manual and map mailed to each household and business in La Crosse, Bangor, West Salem, Holmen and Onalaska in 1971.

As tensions between the United States and Soviet Union mounted in the 1950s, the Department of Defense began coordinating “civil defense” initiatives, designed to drill Americans in the arts of survival and recovery during and after a nuclear attack.

If you attended school between about 1952 and 1970, there’s a good chance you watched Bert the Turtle “duck and cover” when he saw the flash of a nuclear bomb. The same Federal Civil Defense Administration that brought you Bert the Turtle also helped coordinate local civil defense plans, such as the one here.

The instructions assured city residents that “an enemy attack on the United States probably would be preceded by a period of international tension or crisis,” so the three- to five-minute siren — similar to our tornado sirens now — most likely would not take anyone by surprise.

Once you heard it, you were to move calmly but quickly to the nearest fallout shelter. “Fallout” was the government’s term for the radioactive particles that would fall back to earth after the initial blast. The goal was to get as much stone, brick and cement between you and the fallout as possible.

If you found yourself in the city of La Crosse when nuclear war started, you could choose from 140 fallout shelters around town — mostly churches, schools and government buildings. If you got caught downtown, you could shelter in St. Joseph the Workman Cathedral, the former La Crosse Tribune building at the corner of Fourth and Cass streets, or the Rivoli, among others. The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (then Wisconsin State University) had no fewer than 23 shelters around campus.

But as fans of “Shaun of the Dead” will know, the best place to ride out an apocalypse is a pub. Fortunately, many of La Crosse’s breweries also had fallout shelters, including five at G. Heileman Brewing Co. alone."

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune.
Title: La Crosse plan included 140 fall-out shelters
Author: Caroline Morris
Publish Date: April 25, 2015