For more than a decade after they moved into their house in Neenah, Wisconsin, the Zwick family knew they had a Cold War bunker in their backyard.
It was not until 2010 that anyone thought to open the heavy steel hatch, climb down the ladder and explore the 8-foot-by-10-foot chamber that the home’s previous owner had built to protect his family from a nuclear attack.
Floating in five feet of water that had seeped into the bunker were sealed U.S. Army boxes, packed with all of the supplies a family would need to survive two weeks underground.
Preserved: The previous owner of the shelter packed away candies, raisins, Hershey’s syrup and other sweets – likely as treats to get through the long weeks underground
Stretched for time? Watch the video below:
Locked up: The family clear away the bushes the had grown over the cover of the shelter and unlocked the chain that secured the doors closed
‘We assumed it was just this empty space,’ homeowner Carol Hollar-Zwick told the Appleton Post-Crescent.
The boxes, old military ammunition crates, contained markings that suggested there might be explosives inside, so the family called the local branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Agents opened the crates to find… Hawaiian Punch.
‘It was all of what you would expect to find in a 1960s fallout shelter. It was food, clothing, medical supplies, tools, flashlights, batteries – items that you would want to have in a shelter if you planned to live there for two weeks.’
Everything remained remarkably well-preserved, thanks to the airtight containers the supplies were kept in.
The family donated all of the items to the Neenah Historical Society, which has curated an exhibit about the Cold War and the fear of the Soviets using ‘the bomb.’
Down, down, town: The muddy ladder leading to the bunker reveals that the underground shelter has endured years of flooding
The rusted military supply boxes preserved the contents remarkably well
Even these paper towels were freshly sealed after 50 years
‘It’s interesting that you can open up something and find 1960 inside of it,’ Mrs Hollar-Zwick told the Post-Crescent.
The home’s previous owner was Frank Pansch, a local surgeon, built the shelter in 1960 – two years before the Cuban Missile Crisis had Americans across the country digging their own ‘fallout shelters’ in their backyards.
The idea of a fallout shelter was not to protect from a nuclear blast, but rather from the radiation that would likely contaminate the surrounding area.
It’s unknown what fallout the late Dr Pansch was expecting in Neenah. The small Wisconsin city is 100 miles from Milwaukee and nearly 200 from Chicago – the population centers that might have been targeted by the Soviets.
Supplies: Candles, a garden hose and a funnel were dozens of items that were stashed in the bunker
It’s unknown why the past owner decided he needed to store a phone directory in his fallout shelter
Note from the editor: Considering the fact that the Phone book is packed in with more toilet paper, I don’t think they were planning on using it to call anybody….
What do you think?