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Good After The Last Drop

March 2024
1min read

A COLD DRINK FROM THE COLD WAR


These days there’s nothing more old-fashioned than a fallout shelter. It’s not, unfortunately, that the threat of a nuclear attack seems so out-dated; it’s the idea that you’d want to survive one. Still, for those who are pessimistic enough to expect a nuclear war to occur and optimistic enough to plan on sticking around afterward, shelter building has come back into vogue in the past year.

It’s easy to furnish a fallout shelter at your local supermarket, where dried food, fuel, and medical and sanitary supplies are all readily available. Imported bottled water will help the Martha Stewart set face Armageddon in style, while MREs or other military rations may leave you less reluctant to depart this life, should it come to that. Survivalists with a sense of history, however, will want to stock their postapocalyptic hideaways with genuine, original Cold War provisions, and Chalet Suzanne, a hotel and restaurant in Lake Wales, Florida, will be happy to help sticklers create that authentic Kennedy-era feel.

In 1962, in response to the Cuban missile crisis, the hotel’s owners canned several thousand cases of sterile Florida well water under contract to a Tampa firm. The water bore the brand name NASK, for Nuclear Attack Survival Kit, and a few dozen cases still remain. Cans may be purchased for $16.95 apiece (10 percent extra west of the Mississippi) through the hotel’s Web site, www.chaletsuzanne.com . Each can comes with a certificate of authenticity. A dollar from every purchase goes to the Cold War Museum ( www.coldwar.org ), which is run by Francis Gary Powers, Jr., son of the downed U-2 pilot. (Another good online source for fallout-shelter history is www.civildefensemuseum.com .)

Most original shelter chow has long since deteriorated to the point of uselessness. The sole exception is what was called “carbohydrate supplement” (candy), which remains edible in many cases, though it may contain a dye that has been found to cause cancer. But no human could possibly eat the crumbling, moldy crackers, wafers, and biscuits that once stocked fallout shelters across the nation. Many of the huge drums of water have become contaminated as well, but NASK, with its extra-thick interior coating and rugged metal packaging that makes it “impervious to nuclear fallout” (according to the label), is said to remain as potable as it was on the day it was canned. Better yet, it will last indefinitely, which means that if the world manages to muddle through its latest set of crises, authentic period water will someday be available for tomorrow’s Cold War re-enactors.

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