Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

9/20/10

The idea behind The Compound




In the late 70’s, early 80’s, I was in junior high. The world was a different place than it is now; a safer place, for the most part, with the absence of many of today’s fears. But one that seemed to loom over our heads was our lousy relationship with the USSR, as it was called then. Supposedly the President of the United States walked around with the codes to set off our stash of nuclear weapons in case the USSR aimed their weapons at us. And my school had drills for just such an event.






Knowing what we know now about the actual result of a nuclear explosion, it seems silly that, when our fire alarm rang, we all headed downstairs to the smelly wrestling room and crouched crowded together, waiting for the bell to ring again, signaling an all-clear. Some kids laughed, of course, until our teachers told them to be quiet and take it seriously. After all, nuclear war was a real possibility. (Not that we would survive an attack in that wrestling room.)
I was a very imaginative child and no one ever had to tell me to take it seriously. I did. I had nightmares about a nuclear war, and wondered what would happen if an attack did happen while we were at school. I wondered how long we’d have to stay down there in the wrestling room, and if I would end up with my friends, and what would happen to my parents, who were at home with no fallout shelter.
For the most part, the imminent danger of a nuclear attack has passed, although it stays in the back of my mind. Which is probably what led me to write The Compound. I did want to find out what happened in that fallout shelter. And although the one I created is much fancier, and better smelling, our wrestling room fallout shelter is still there in my mind, and probably always will be.

5 comments:

Christy said...

I remember crouching under our desks during these drills. We were all clueless.

I agree that an underground space captures the imagine. My best friend and I held secrent agent meetings underground. We pulled up a trap door in one of her closets and after shining flashlights on our spy ID cards and whispering the password, we climbed down and huddled in the small dirt chasm to conduct our important spy business. Yes, your compound is MUCH fancier!

betsy woods said...

Steph,
When I was little, the neighborhood kids and I built an underground tunnel in an empty field. Truly, we dug it out, covered it with scrap wood and put dirt on top. My own sons enjoyed a laundry shoot when they were young. Friend over, hide and seek, and they would disappear from upstairs to downstairs and never get caught.

Stephanie said...

I know, what is it about the underground that spurs the imagination?

Edie said...

Stephanie,
I'm enough older than you that I remember the Cuban missile crisis back in the early 60s, and I was living in Miami, FL. There was a lot of fear then, but not much "underground" space for building fallout shelters when you're already at sea level. It's interesting to see how those childhood experiences and memories show up later in our writing lives.

Lauren said...

Stephanie, your underground space in The Compound is quite civilized compared to the London Underground where thousands of people did have to go to hide from bombs, not yet as powerful as a nuclear bomb. But what I found even more evil than a bomb in your story was the father!!!