Oklahoma Historical Society Takes Possession of Elk City Cold War-era Items

November 12, 2020

By News Director Jared Atha

SWOSU-Sayre History Professor Landry Brewer recently helped Elk City, City Manager Tom Ivester transfer some of the city’s decades-old Cold War Civil Defense supplies to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Brewer and Ivester met Jeff Briley, who is deputy director of the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City, at the Elk City Municipal Airport, site of the city’s Civil Defense storage facility. Inside were dozens of Cold War-era supplies that had been in storage since after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Cold War’s end in the early 1990s.

Brewer said Ivester was wanting to clear out the building, but knew the significance of the items being stored. That’s when he contacted Brewer.

Brewer said Briley, along with Ivester all met at the airport and were able to determine which items had historical significance, and which items didn’t.

A history professor at SWOSU’s campus in Sayre, Brewer had toured the civil defense storage facility when researching Oklahoma Cold War Civil Defense for his book Cold War Oklahoma. He even incorporated pictures of and information about some of the items in storage.

According to Brewer, the federal government began supplying municipalities like Elk City with fallout shelter supplies in the early 1960s at the height of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, when the risk of nuclear war was greatest.

Fallout shelters that met federal criteria had a federal fallout shelter sign placed on the outside and were stocked inside with water barrels, food, medical equipment and medicine. Brewer detailed what items Briley took.

According to Brewer, these may have been among the city’s Civil Defense sirens that sounded a false alarm during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Fearing that a nuclear attack was imminent, the false alarm sent frantic parents to Elk City’s schools to pick up their children.

Briley said that Elk City’s Civil Defense items will eventually be prominent in an exhibit interpreting Oklahoma’s Cold War role.

SWOSU Press Release Contributed to this story.