Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cold War survival kits discovered

Tamiko Lowery / Opelika-Auburn News
April 23, 2007

A local church stairwell kept Cold War secrets of survival under lock and key for 40 years.

Construction workers at First Baptist Church of Opelika, 301 S. Eighth St., recently unlocked historic secrets during the church’s renovation project.

"We’re still in shock," said Ken Adams, director of building maintenance at FBCO. "We were just amazed to find old stuff like that. All the medical kits were still intact. There were crackers, too, and one of the guys tried one, but said it was stale. So we threw the crackers out."

While the food didn’t fare well over time, the Cold War survival kits did. The historical treasures found at the church have since been given to the Museum of East Alabama, located at 121 S. Ninth St., for display Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

"The medical kits were dated in the ‘60s," said Glenn Buxton, executive director of the Museum of East Alabama.

"This morning, we were given a 17 and a half-gallon metal barrel. We’re pleased to have this piece of local history," he said Friday.

Local history means something to retired Lt. Col. Albert Killian, who has been a member of First Baptist Church of Opelika since 1941. He says that he, along with others, got a charge out of finding fall-out shelter items popular in the 1960s housed in a holy place.

"I thought, ‘How about that,’ " Killian said. "There was an emergency toilet made out of a tin container that had toilet paper and a disposable chemical bag."

While it was not uncommon for churches to serve as Cold War bomb shelters for the U.S. Department of Civil Defense, he says, recent church findings are a surprise - especially since the items have been well preserved.

"It’s a leftover from an era past when the threat of a nuclear explosion was upon us," Killian said.