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Christmas, 2018 - Remembering Cuba, 1962

Updated on December 26, 2018
phdast7 profile image

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

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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.


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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."

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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.

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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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    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Cynthia - a Georgia lady, how nice to meet you. My work responsibilities have eased off after several years and I hope to visit HP more than once or twice a year. :)

      I never realized the level off ear that many young people lived with. After the Cuban Missile Crisis we lived on Air Force bases and there were fences around the base perimeter and check points or gates to get on or off base, so I felt very safe. Years later I realized bases might well have been high on the soviet target list.

      I can see where living in the mountains might have provided some sense of security. But how awful to have such strong reactions to hearing sirens for so long. :( Thank you for taking time to read and for your comments. Much appreciated. Blessings.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Glad you found it. I hadn't seen it in years and years. And I had no idea that there were people who questioned the veracity of the event. Interesting. I should not be surprised though, the further we get chronologically from WW II and the Holocaust, the more people seem to question what happened and make excuses for National Socialists. Very disturbing. Take care.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hello - good to hear from you. I have been away from HP for so long (working with the MFA program in creative writing as well as teaching my assigned history courses, I wasn't sure who would still be active at HP. I think you are right, kids often do understand more than we adults realize. Kruschev's shoe incident was certainly memorable, but I don't think I was aware of it until a few years later.

      I do think there is a lot of posturing and strutting and threatening by some leaders (I will never get over the electoral college electing Trump when the popular vote was 3 million in her favor - not that she was perfect, but...)

      Many of us, individuals and countries, do seem to have lost all sense of what true leadership is all about and we make foolish, foolish choices. As you so aptly put it, many have lost their Honor and Spirit.

      Late Merry Christmas to you to and I hope for many blessings in the New Year. :)

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I found "the video" on Youtube with the "shoe incident" (I think because some people questioned if that ever happened): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4JhyHz3M5U

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "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" - Kids do understand things. They might not get all the intricacies but they get the overall picture. I was ten when the Romanian Revolution took place in '89 and I understood then that things would never be the same.

      "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 never did any of that. We were just fed the Soviet propaganda daily. That's about it.

      "The trajectory and experiences of our family's life were forever changed by the weapons buildup and Nikita Kruschev's threats in 1962" - What about the Kruschev "shoe" incident at the UN? That's memorable, haha!

      Fun times. Haha!! Not really but in restrospect, it wasn't much crazier that what is happening nowadays. I personally do not think anyone was going to use nuclear weapons, just as nobody will use nuclear weapons nowadays. It's just postering. These "leaders" we have are not suicidal. They also do not lead armies as leaders would in medieval times. The modern times have weakened leaders and we, the common people forgot what real leaders look like.

      I'm stuck honoring my late Kings and Princes like Vlad Tepes, Mihai Viteazul (Mihai the Brave), Vasile Ursu Nicola, Ioan Oarga, Marcu Giurgiu, etc. For all of them, I have to go back at least a few hundred years. For many of us, we've lost our Honor and our Spirit.

      Thank You for this piece of writing. I wish all is well on your end and that You had a joyful Christmas. All the very best for the year to come - cheers!

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      2 years ago from Georgia

      If you are of a certain age, the cold war, Cuban Missile Crisis and those drills have a prominent place in our memories. I don't know if any of us can adequately explain just how frightful a moment in time that it was. I hated to get caught walking home from school during a drill (and our town had them quite a few times or at least it seemed liked that.) There was really nothing you could do then. My consulation was that we were in the mountains of Virginia and pretty far from where anything might happen (or so my parents assured me). It took a long time for me to get over hearing a fire siren go off and not have an immediate reaction to it.

      Good article. Take care.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      It is crazy that any of us thought getting under a desk would help...but it also human nature to need to preserve hope and some semblance of autonomy...we needed to feel like we could do something. Like you I had no idea how close we were to the end, probably not until I was in graduate history classes in my thirties. Trying to slow down a bit, hoping to stop by HP occasionally. Blessings to you and your family and the lovely and productive world you have created for yourself. :)

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Eric - It is amazing to think how crazy the world was that we lived through - crazy now too, but in other ways. It is good to see your smiling face. For 3+ years I have been involved in the MFA - Creative Writing program at the university where I work. Way too busy for way too long. I am trying to change gears and slow down a bit - retirement is 3-5 years ahead. I hope to have time to drop in on HP more often. Hoping that all is well with you and yours. Blessings!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I can laugh now about the bomb drills back then,as if they would save us at all. :) Back then, at that age, the realization just didn't hit home, how close we all were to the end. I, too, remember it clearly.

      Happy New Year my friend!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Brought back a memories. Lucky for me all basically happy ones.

      Here is one for ya to grasp. They were doing bomb testings up near the Four Corners I think and the wind blew the fallout over to where I lived. We are called downwinders. Hundreds got contaminated. Certain cancers are covered.So while I was under that desk I was getting nuked anyway.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thank you kindly, LJ Scott.

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      LJ Scott 

      2 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      Beautifully written...

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