Saturday, May 03, 2014

Miss Atomic Bomb did not exist -- but she could have

Hubba hubba! Alas, this Miss Atomic Bomb never really existed. She has a neat story though at
Ground zero, baby!

That phrase would look good on a T-shirt. Mushroom cloud in background. "Welcome to Cheyenne" logo on there somewhere.

Cheyenne is ground zero should the Russkis ever get tired of harassing Ukrainian grandmothers and get back to their Cold War role of harassing humankind. Laramie County has loads of Minuteman IIIs, baby. And despite the fact that some nuke officers heads rolled over recent cheating improprieties (did you see last Sunday's "60 Minutes" piece about our local missile ranch?), armed missiles still dwell on our prairie, ready for launch.

F.E. Warren AFB went nuclear in 1958. Several generations of Cheyenne residents have been hatched since then. Which begs the question: why aren't there more signs of The Nuclear Age in our fair city? We have the base, sure, and there's an impressive array of missiles flanking the main entrance. And Missile Drive snakes its way a short distance through town. But where are the Atomic Cafes and the Nuclear Sushi Bars? If I was starting a craft brewery, I would call it Nuke Brews or Atomic Brewing. I'd name my beers after Cold War icons -- Red Scare Ale, Fail-Safe IPA, Pershing Porter. Our motto: "Glow-in-the-dark goodness."

There is an Atomic Advertising listed in the Yellow Pages. And we have the venerable Atlas Theatre downtown, as well as the Atlas Motel  (not so venerable), Atlas Towing and Atlas Van Lines. Thing is, those places named Atlas may have the same namesake of Atlas the rocket -- the great god Atlas of Greek mythology, the Titan who held up the world. Titan -- another great name for a missile. 

If NYC can have a big-ass Atlas statue, why can't we?
What other towns can claim ground zero honors? Minot, N.D., and Great Falls, Mont. That's good -- we can all be the three points of a Rocky Mountain Nuke Tour. T-shirts all around. We are getting a state park at a former nuke control center north of town. That's a start.

Nukes are no joke, you might say. But the dark humor tradition demands that we turn mutually assured destruction (MAD, like the magazine) into 21st century kitsch.

The Cold War years were 1947-1991. That's a 44-year span, a couple generations worth of humans living under the threat of nuclear annihilation. There's some history to preserve there, many memories.Consider that Cheyenne was established as a railroad camp in 1867 and Wyoming became a state in 1890. The Cold War era represents 30 percent of the time the city's existed and 35 percent -- more than one-third -- of the time we've been a state. If I just consider my time on earth, two-thirds of my life was spent as a noncombatant but a very real target of the Cold War. I don't want a medal. I just want that time to be remembered for what it was.

For the military, the Cold War went from September 1945 -- the month after the end of the hot war -- to Dec. 26, 1991. The Cold War Veterans of America are lobbying Congress to make May 1 a Cold War Remembrance Day. I suppose it's no coincidence that May 1 was once a national holiday in the Soviet Union. My father was on occupation duty in Germany through the end of 1945, which makes him a Cold War veteran. Korea and Vietnam and even Gulf War I military are Cold War veterans -- those first two would never have happened without without the paranoid fever engendered by the commie menace. Veterans also want to build a monument to the Cold War -- lest we forget. Millions of Americans have been born since the end of 1991 -- my daughter, for one -- and they have nary a clue about the Cold War. They have the residue of their own wars to deal with.

We need to remember the Cold War right here in Cheyenne. I would love to see Cold War-themed public art. Not boring old representational bronzes. Let's use some imagination, as much creativity as went into Mutually Assured Destruction and the fail-safe device and "peacekeepers" and bomb shelters and "Dr. Strangelove" and Red Scares and "Star Wars" defense systems and blacklists and Richard Nixon and the domino theory and the Miss Atomic Bomb pageant and all the rest. It's a mother lode of material. Let's use it before it's forgotten -- or whitewashed. 

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