Bunkers, Nuke Missiles, and Cub Scouts

In this title, I dropped in Cub Scouts to set the period. That would make me 9 years old at the time. We lived in Pacific Manor (now called Pacifica) south of Frisco on the coast, along State Highway 1 (with what was called the Devil’s Elbow as a notorious turn along the coast highway).

One summer, when many activities for children were run out of the school (closed, of course, but some things open on an informal basis), I had a dream. I had read in the back of a book (or comic) about the American Legion (or perhaps the Veterans of Foreign Wars) who set up drill teams for kids. Pacific Manor had no such group, but Sharp Park nearby did.

I set my mission to go there, and join one if they supported this activity. That was a walk of at least a mile. This was about the radius limit of my wanders then. I set out there, but I was distracted (as there were many distractions) along the way.

I hiked up a hill to cut over it to Sharp Park. I understood the lay of the land and how the highway would be the longer walk because it skirted around the hill I could walk over. Pretty good logic and planning at that age.

Experience proved painful as I wandered into thistles that grew in that rough patch of ground up behind our community. This caused me to readjust my plans, and path. This, in turn, led me to a curious construction that was clearly abandoned.

From a distance, it looked like a house sized lid for Mom’s pressure cooker. That is, it was a flat, metal dome set into concrete on the side of the hill overlooking the ocean. Smacking a rock against this lid revealed the metal was probably thicker than the rock in my hand. At the bottom of this great lid, there was a horizontal slit set into it half-way around its circumference.

Within that slit, was curved slab of metal, as thick as the lid, that moved up and down like an eyelid over an eye, or the visor of an ancient warrior’s helmet. However, moving that visor was not easy. But this didn’t stop me or my friends when I returned to present them with this new fort for our boy’s club. Our peeks through the slot revealed a cavernous circular room with a curious center post. However peeks were our limit of examination because that lid, if it closed with its great weight not properly balanced, would trap anyone who was inside at the time. (Same problem with discarded old refrigerators at the time.)

Together, we were able to block this lid open (it turned on pins just like that visor of the ancient helmet), crawl through the opening (roughly one foot high); and explore the barren interior. On the walls, there were ship silhouettes. Nothing dated those posters. There were no flags marking the nationality of any of the shapes (I was fairly well familiar with such things).

We didn’t hike any further up the hill because of fences put up for a military site set on Milagra Ridge. If we had, we would have found ourselves in one of the perimeter defenses for San Francisco, a Nike Missile site (nuclear armed by my 10th birthday) half a mile from my home’s back yard.

If I had been a few years older, I could have appreciated how that tied into the air raid siren test they held every month. This siren sat on its own high tower in the neighborhood. This was also a time in our history where jets still broke the sound barrier overhead (a daily to 4 times weekly occurrence). Coverage of Duck and Cover Drills at school might bear mention later.

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