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 seemed into the bunker were sealed U.S. Army boxed packed with all of the supplies a family would need to survive two weeks underground.
‘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.’
‘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.