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Cold War artifacts sought

Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH — The Clinton County Historical Museum is in search of Cold War artifacts for its upcoming exhibition, "Mutually Assured Destruction," which opens in June on Museum Day.

The exhibit title references a military strategem employed by the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1940s to 1990s to prevent nuclear annihilation.

Historical Museum Director/Curator Carol Blakeslee-Collin wants to speak to B-47, B-52 and FB-111A flyboys as well as secure a 1980s Plattsburgh phone book.

"There were four pages of instructions of what to do in case of an attack warning, replete with maps of evacuation routes and a list of what to take with you," she said. "You should take extra socks, a crowbar and a will. The Civil Defense person, James P. O'Connor, said 'Our plan is to get as far away as you can and hope for the best.'"

The Federal Emergency Management Agency cited Plattsburgh as having one of the best evacuation plans in the country.

"Of course, they helped them do it."

Blakeslee-Collin is also in search of mid-century photographs that depict the shortage of housing, crowded streets and beach.

"That's when one-way streets in Plattsburgh came about because of all the traffic."

She's also on the hunt for vintage photographs of the shopping mall built on the north side of Route 3 in Plattsburgh.

"That's when a lot of car dealers sprang up around the base. I need to talk to the dealers themselves. We're going to have some audio interviews in the exhibit."

The museum received an exhibit grant from the Association of Air Force Missileers.

"We have a number of artifacts from the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron from Major Charles Kaczor, who lives in Connecticut. He's in his mid-80s. There's another critical person, Jeffrey Stephens. He lives in Morton, Il. He called me one day. We had some microfilm from Kaczor that had been declassified. He (Stephens) wanted it transcribed."

The data included a report of what happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"This piqued my interest as a journalist," Blakeslee-Collin said. "The Atlas (Missile) sites weren't all finished at the time of the crisis. People don't know what it is, don't remember it and what Plattsburgh was like at the time."

"The three-prong exhibit examines the military, gives a picture of the Cold War with a timeline from (Winston) Churchill's Iron Curtain speech to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and what was happening in Plattsburgh," she continued. "Six thousand military personnel landed in Plattsburgh. That was huge in a town of 20,000."

There were 12 Atlas Missile sites in a 50-mile radius of Plattsburgh.

"That's a fascinating part of the Cold War story," Blakeslee-Collin said. "They began to build them in the middle of that year, 1960. A couple were finished during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They rushed to bring the others to alert. All were officially inspected. They were obsolete by 1965. They left as quickly as they came."

Peru resident Lynn Wilke has loaned food from his fallout shelter.

"He could hear the planes 24 hours a day revving on the runways. They were on 24-hour alert."

Blakeslee-Collin received medical equipment from Troy.

"We have a huge list of artifacts. There's a bomb at PARC. I'm trying to get Bruce Steadman to loan it to us. I have a Geiger counter. I need one of those watches that glow in the dark with radium in it. It makes a Geiger counter work. We need something hands-on. We thought that would be great for kids."

The exhibit includes Home & Garden magazine pictures depicting the ideal fallout shelter as well as a family communication plan. From the protesters, there will anti-nuclear war literature from a Plattsburgh-based peace group.

"We have the video 'Duck and Cover,'" Blakeslee-Collin said. "We're going to show that."

E-mail Robin Caudell at:


WHAT: Artifacts needed for "Mutually Assured Destruction," a Cold War exhibit.

WHEN: Opens June 5.

PHONE: Carol Blakeslee-Collin at 561-0340

E-MAIL: director@


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