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‘So long mom, I’m off to drop the bomb’: Those were the days . . .
Titan II
The Titan II nuclear ICBM missile, shown in its silo, was 103 feet long and weighed 330,000 pounds.

The angst that supposedly Baby Boomers had that at any second incoming missiles could be arriving in 15 minutes was lost on me.

Yet, in the second grade we did the huddle-under-the-desk drill.

We were told to stay away the from windows.

You know the reason why.

The nuclear blast would blow out the windows.

The flash would blind you.

Did I mention Glen Edwards School was built in the late 1950s?

It had the current cutting edge in school design.

That meant there was one wall that was almost all windows from the sill to the ceiling.

The classroom windows faced north.

And just 24 miles slightly to the northeast was Beale Air Force Base.

Beale Air Force is what they call a primary target.

Lincoln in Placer County was a little ways outside of the kill zone per se.

Beale, at the time, was home to a Strategic Air Command wing of B-52 bombers armed with nuclear bombs.

There was another reason it would be high on the list of bombing targets.

It was also home to the world’s fastest and highest flying spy plane ever built, the SR-71 Blackbird recon spy plane.

Then there was the little detail of the Titan missile base silo just under two miles from our house.

Granted, by the time I was in the second grade, the missile site had been abandoned.

The 103-foot long, 10-foot in diameter, and  330,000-pound missile had been removed the same way it was put in place — by a massive truck that rolled through town.

I was too young at the time it was removed to see it.

The Titan was replaced with the Minute Man missile.

One couldn’t assume the Soviets had updated their primary target list.

Besides, Lincoln was pretty much toast anyway.

And it has more to do than just being in close proximity to Beale AFB.

Lincoln was also less than 30 miles from McClellan Air Force Base.

And 35 miles from Mather Air Force Base.

There was also the little matter of being 35 miles from the State Capitol, another primary target.

Then to top it off, the largest freight train marshaling yard at the time west of Mississippi operated by Southern Pacific Railroad was 10 miles for the south in Roseville.

Lincoln also happens to be downwind from all five of the last aforementioned likely targets.

Hiding under your desk with your head tucked between your knees was as futile as trying to fry an egg on a rock on the summit of Mt. Everest in the depth of winter.

There was, of course, designated fallout shelters in Lincoln.

But considering where the shelters were located, you’d almost be smarter to take your chances outside in the open.

That’s because the Civil Defense designated shelter was located at Gladding, McBean & Co.

The company was one of the few places left in the world that crafts terra cotta architectural facades.

But they also make roof tile and clay sewer pipe.

While there was a long firing kiln called “speed seal”, there is a cluster of a number of massive beehive-style kilns.

Sewer pipe — the big seller — has to be fired 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, the detonation point of a nuclear bomb blast is tens of millions of degrees.

That is in line with the interior temperature of the sun.

The kilns were rarely not in use.

And it takes days for them to cool down.

That said, the kilns were likely marginally better than a nuclear blast and fallout.

Then again, that wasn’t saying much.

There are people that look back and say those were scary times.

To be honest, they weren’t.

About the closest anything on an earth shattering scale connected with the non-stop vigilance guarding against nuclear attack was a series of sonic booms in rat-a-tat succession in January of 1966.

That’s the month the first SR-71 was delivered to Beale AFB.

Keep in mind there were only 21 million less Californians back then.

The initial days of the SR-71’s operation included a takeoff route from Beale AFB to the southwest that literally skirted the airspace above Lincoln.

A series of sonic booms that rattled every window in the school occurred one morning after a Blackbird took off.

An interesting irony is the fact Glen Edwards School was named after a 1936 Lincoln High graduate who went on to become a test pilot.

Edwards was recommended to be the first to pilot the Bell X-1 in the first attempt to beat the speed of sound.

Instead, a captain named Chuck Yeager got the assignment.

A few years later, Edwards was piloting an experiment aircraft known as the Northrop YB-49. It was an all-jet version of the then exotic flying wing bomber.

The craft broke apart during a test fight near Muroc Air Base in the Mojave Desert killing all five on board.

In 1949, Muroc was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in his honor.

That said, the takeoff route was short lived and operational speeds were greatly reduced on takeoffs.

The SR-71’s top speed was 2,100 mph. That compares to the earth’s circumference at the equator of 24,859 miles.

Shortly after the SR-71’a debut at Beale AFB, the operating procedures were changed.

They took off in a northeastern direction and were over Idaho in less than 15 minutes operating at reduced speeds.

None of this is to say that nuclear war wasn’t a concern.

It just wasn’t that big of a concern on a daily basis.

And it certainly wasn’t as all-consuming as many of today’s apocalypse-style concerns with politics and the environment that those on left and right as well equate as being as bad as a nuclear holocaust.

Yes, there were movies like “Dr. Strangelove.”

That were songs like “So Long, Mom, I’m off to drop the bomb, so don’t wait up for me . . .”

And there was the famous TV commercial Lyndon B. Johnson use to nuke Barry Goldwater’s presidential run that started with a little girl in a field picking flowers and ended with a mushroom cloud.

But large scale, non-stop anxiety from people likely to be toast in a nuclear attack and be able to watch a 330,000-pound rocket armed with a nuclear warhead lift off from their own backyard to start a 15 minute or so trip to the Soviet Union?


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at