For those who could afford them, fallout shelters were below-ground backyard sanctuaries designed to protect the family from radioactive fallout following a nuclear exchange.
Chief V. Paul Leddy and State Civil Defense Director William Schatzman are pictured inside the fence at this 1961 fallout shelter display at the Hamden Plaza. Fire Marshal Albert Purce (back to the camera) is seen in the foreground. The fire officer on the right appears to be Chief Thomas Collins of the New Haven Fire Department.
Four weeks after this photo was taken, the Soviet Union tested a 58 megaton hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere, which only escalated the fears of an already worried populace. Fortunately, the questionable efficacy of fallout shelters was never put to the test in a real wartime situation. But we came very close one year later in what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a very scary time, indeed.
A year earlier, then-CD Director Leddy, inspects another fallout shelter (CLICK to enlarge)
Hamden Civil Defense in 1960 Future Fire Chief Concerned About Public Apathy
The article below, published in the New Haven Journal-Courier, Thursday, August 4, 1960, provided an interesting and somewhat scary Cold War snapshot of the local plans to address civil defense and public safety following an nuclear attack. Batt. Chief V. Paul Leddy, Hamden Civil Defense Director, candidly expressed his own concern for what he saw as public apathy - a concern that some may see as having changed little in 50 years.
New Haven Journal-Courier, Thursday, August 4, 1960 (Donated by G. Donald Steele)
Hamden's Civil Defense Fire Auxiliary
During the opening years of the Cold War, the Town of Hamden established a Civil Defense Fire Auxiliary, consisting of civilian volunteers as well as many members of Hamden's several active volunteer companies. Hamden's spare 1930 Maxim 600 GPM pumper, housed at Station 5, served as the Auxiliary's apparatus.
Fire Marshal Al Purce, who was also Civil Defense Director, appointed Batt. Chief Paul Leddy to head the unit.
The article below appeared in the March 6, 1955 edition of The New Haven Sunday Register. The two photos below the article show one of the Auxiliary's first training sessions. They appeared in the Register about two months later.
Batt. Chief V. Paul Leddy training CD Fire Auxiliary members in drafting operations on the unit's 1930 Maxim 600 GPM pumper. The volunteer firefighter next to Leddy is Merton (Bill) McAvoy, who was a longtime member of Co. 5. (Michael Kurtz photo)
(Photograph by Michael Kurtz)
From The New Haven Sunday Register, May 8, 1955: "Handling a high pressure hose line may look easy for by-standers but these members of Hamden's new Fire Auxiliary found out the hard way at a practice session last week that it takes teamwork, strength, and experience to make sure the stream of water goes where it will do the most good. Volunteers handling the hose line, left to right, are Ben Feinn, Merton McAvoy, and John Tramontano. Giving the neophyte firefighters instructions in the rear are Battalion Chief [Paul] Leddy and Fred Clarke."
The Heart Fund
Over the years, members of the Civil Defense Fire Auxiliary donated their time and effort during the month of February to assist with the annual Heart Fund Drive. Below are two Register articles that appeared about three years apart.
From The New Haven Evening Register, Friday, February 10, 1956
February 20, 1958 - The 1930 Maxim pumper, now the department's spare housed at Mt. Carmel, was once again the backdrop for career and volunteer firefighters who contributed their time to the annual Hamden Heart Fund Drive. Francis "Chalky" Leddy and Charlie Esposito served as career members for 40 years and 30 years respectively. Bill Scott was also a Hamden career firefighter for a time in the 1960s.
This photo appeared in The New Haven Evening Register in January 1959