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Christmas, 2018 - Remembering Cuba, 1962

Updated on December 26, 2018
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Theresa Ast, PhD in Modern European History, has taught at Reinhardt University for 25 years. "Confronting the Holocaust" @ AMAZON Books.


October 1962

I know it is Christmas, but I am reminded of October 1962, of Nikita Kruschev, Cold War nuclear tensions, the Cuban Missile Crisis

I remember October 1962 vividly, the fear and the horror. We were living in Georgia; I was only eight years old and Mrs. Cloer watched us four children (Marek/5, Sylvia/4, Gregory/3) while our parents worked. Daddy was managing a gas station, but still in the Air Force Reserves.

As Soviet threats escalated and President Kennedy responded to recently discovered nuclear weapons sites in Cuba, my father was immediately recalled to active duty at Dobbins AFB, where my mother worked in an office.


Saying Good Bye

Daddy swung by the house on Chert Street to pick up his uniform and give Mrs. Cloer some instructions. He hugged and kissed us and left. Mrs. Cloer began gathering up blankets and quilts, filling empty plastic milk jugs with water and putting them by the back door. I was terribly curious and pestered her with numerous questions (of course she was worrying about her own children - in high school at the time - as well as us).

Not sure exactly how she explained it, but she said something to the effect that, "If anything goes wrong, I am going to take all of you children and the blankets and water and we will go sit in the crawl space under the house until your Daddy comes home to get us."


A Child's Response

I was indignant and defiant - I had seen where the lawn mower was stored under the house. The crawl space was dark, dank and there were spiders in there. With my hands on my hips, I informed her that she could take the other "children" down there if she wanted, but I would be staying inside the house and I would be just fine by myself - plenty of books to read. She just looked at me for a few seconds then ran to the bathroom, where I am quite sure she cried - fearful for us, for her children, for the world as we knew it....

Later in the week, I heard television news broadcasts, enough to sort of understand what had been at stake. Seems strange now to think that an eight year old could understand anything at all, but the geo-political tensions of the time made us informed beyond our years.


Bomb Drills in Elementary Schools

From the first grade on, my classmates and I practiced both fire drills and bomb drills (kneel under your desk and cover your head with your arms) several times a year. We heard about a family who was building a bomb shelter in their backyard - we weren't. Bomb shelters were very expensive - most people didn't have one.

After Kruschev recalled the ships carrying the missiles, my father gave up his Standard Oil gas station and re-enlisted in the Air Force. By March 1963 he had received transfer orders and we moved to Sewart AFB, Tennessee - then Greece, California, the Phillipines, North Carolina, and England.

The trajectory and experiences of our family's life were forever changed by the weapons buildup and Nikita Kruschev's threats in 1962, now almost 60 years ago.

I wish you security, love, blessings, peace - this and all Christmas seasons. Selah.


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