The Cold War ended many decades ago, but at Salt Lake Community College South City Campus, a small reminder of it still remains.
A small black and yellow sign, which indicates a fallout shelter can be found in the basement, still hangs in the east hallway on the first floor. Despite the sign, there really is no place for students and faculty to take cover from nuclear fallout.
“The space existed when the college took [South High School] over in 1989, but it was repurposed shortly thereafter,” says SLCC facilities manager Bob Lund. “[The basement] is now used as a commendation mechanical equipment area.”
During the 1950s and 1960s, fallout shelters were created in public buildings as the Federal Civil Defense Administration and citizens everywhere prepared for the unimaginable – an all-out nuclear war and ensuing radioactive fallout. Workers at South High, which was built in 1931, likely converted the basement into a fallout shelter sometime after World War II.
It is unknown to Lund how long the shelter was maintained after it was decommissioned. As is often the case with old shelters, and the threat of nuclear annihilation diminished, more fallout shelters were dismantled.
Utah was not left out of the Cold War. During the 1950s there were occurrences of fallout from nuclear testing in Nevada being blown into St. George and other parts of Southern Utah. A test called “Dirty Harry” resulted in dangerously high radiation levels over St. George, according to the Utah Division of State History.
In Northern Utah, Hill Air Force Base and Dugway Proving Ground were likely targets for Soviet missiles.
South High School was far from the only facility to establish a fallout shelter. Old yellow and black signs telling of a nearby fallout shelter can still be seen throughout Salt Lake City and the older parts of the valley, indoors and out. From the Masonic temple in the Avenues, to the Utah Capitol building, and the YWCA on Broadway, the remnants of old shelters remain, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Today, most civilian shelters are no longer in use.
So, if students find themselves at South City Campus and see the flash, don’t bother looking for a shelter in the old basement. It’s just a bunch of equipment down there.