Watkins Glen, NY-- The Cold War lives on deep in the bowels of Watkins Glen Middle School.
Two nuclear fallout shelters from the early 1960s were recently discovered in the basement of the 84-year-old, three-story brick building. They're stocked with dozens of boxes and tins of food and medical supplies for survival from radioactive fallout. The shelters are relics from an era when Americans feared a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union was imminent.
Maggie Field, Watkins Glen High School library media specialist, was among the first to see the shelters and is leading the charge to preserve their contents.
"Everything was still there to my amazement. Loving history and being an educator and wanting to share it with the classroom teachers, I decided we need to get this stuff up and save it before the district sells the building," Field said.
The middle school on Decatur Street will close after the upcoming school year and students will move to the elementary and high school campus a few blocks away. A developer plans to convert the 1929 school building into senior housing.
"When Maggie (Field) told me she found all this stuff from the Cold War era in a fallout shelter, I was extremely excited because it gives me a chance to use real stuff in the classroom with the kids," said Kelsey Wood, a history teacher at Watkins Glen High School. "It suddenly gives a real meaning to it rather than just reading words in a textbook. They get to touch it and see it and understand what it was like."
Bill Kennedy, director of the Schuyler County Emergency Management Office, said he was unaware of the middle school shelters. "The fact that they still have stockpiles in them is surprising," Kennedy said, adding he has never come across records of fallout shelters in the county in the 10 years he has been with the office.