Meridian Star

Local News

November 15, 2011

Crackers from 1960s found in hotel basement

MERIDIAN —     In October 1962, the world almost ended as we know it.

    The Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation among the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States and is generally regarded as the moment in which the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict.

    Bomb shelters, fallout bunkers and other measures were taken all across the country. School children went through drills at their schools to try and remain safe if a nuclear explosion occurred nearby. Many people took it upon themselves to build their own private bunkers for their families. In the cities, basements and other fortified areas were designated as fallout shelters.

    On Monday, more evidence of the mood of a nation and the people of Meridian was uncovered in the basement of the Meridian Hotel. The hotel has been under demolition for more than a week and now that the top parts have been swept away, workers there have found containers of survival crackers in the basement, a sure sign that at one time the basement was designated as a fallout shelter.

    "We don't have any records as to where all the shelters were located," said Tim Miller, interim chief administrative officer for the City of Meridian and the director of the Meridian Department of Homeland Security. "The threat of nuclear war was very possible at that time so the discovery doesn't surprise me. I find it real interesting."

    The tin containers are about one-foot in diameter and two feet tall. The date on the containers reads 1963.

    "The Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh on everyone's minds and just about anything that had a basement was converted to a shelter of some kind," says Ward Calhoun, director of the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History in downtown Meridian. "No way now to know for sure but most of the shelters had the yellow and black signs on them telling people this was a shelter they could trust."

    As for the 48-year-old crackers, Miller says he wouldn't advise eating them.

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