1960 Fallout Shelter Found Fully Stocked

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After 10 years of living in their home, the Zwick family cracked open the fallout shelter out back and found it fully stocked!

After living in their home for 10 years, a Wisconsin family was surprised to find an 8′ x 10′ fallout shelter in their backyard—even more surprising is that it was fully stocked! Ken and Carol Zwick cracked open the shelter for the first time in 2010, revealing $1,200 worth of emergency supplies stored by the home’s previous owners who were prepping for the Cold War.

Inside the Shelter

The Zwick family donated the supplies to the Neenah Historical Society (NHS) in the spring of 2012. According to the NHS website, the purpose of this society is to “collect, preserve, and share the stories of [their] community.”

We reached out to NHS Executive Director, Jane Lang, to learn a little more. We were curious about the types of preparedness supplies the people who stocked this fallout shelter considered to be important to their survival 50 years ago.

Although 5 feet of water seeped into the shelter during its 50 years of life, the Zwick family found many of the supplies still intact. Foodstuffs and treats like Tang, Corn Flakes, and Butterscotch Bits were found among other supplies such as toilet paper, paper towels, candles, clothing, bedding, tools, flashlights, and batteries (most of which were surprisingly still in good condition).

But the previous owner didn’t stop there. Other supplies like a radio, an alarm clock, an axe, a funnel, and a phone book filled the water-tight, metal military boxes the Zwicks discovered. These World War II army surplus cases no doubt helped preserve the condition of the family’s emergency supplies.

Emergency preparedness items from the 1960 fallout shelter as displayed at the Neenah Historical Society

Items in your emergency supplies can range from the basics of food and water to items such as an alarm clock to help an emergency seem less like a crisis and more like daily life. One great item the previous owners added to their shelter was the phone book. Having a list of emergency phone numbers/emergency contacts is a great idea (as long as you keep it updated).

According to Lang, one of the neatest items found in the shelter was a Geiger counter in perfect condition (still inside its box with the manual) and a “Banshee” radiation detector with its receipt. “It was fascinating to look at the contents of the shelter and see what people in 1960 were told to put into their family fallout shelters,” Lang stated.

The Exhibit

The NHS exhibit, “Take Cover, Neenah: Backyard Family Fallout Shelters in Cold War America” replicated the shelter found in the Zwick’s backyard. “I wanted visitors to be able to feel like they were back in the ‘60s, sitting in their own living rooms, and then leaving to take cover in their backyard shelter…so that people could get a true sense of that confinement,” Lang said.

Lang went on to explain that in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, emergency preparation was greatly encouraged. As many visitors have toured the replicated fallout shelter and its supplies (1,500 in May and early June 2013 alone), they’ve wondered aloud whether we are “more or less safe [today] than we were during the Cold War.”

Although in certain areas many people aren’t as concerned about war as natural disasters, unemployment, or other emergencies, emergency preparedness is still essential. After all, Lang put it perfectly: “Human beings have always been and will always be concerned with family safety and security.”

Currently the exhibit is closed for the winter, but will re-open in late April. The exhibit will close for good in late July this year. If you are in the area, stop by to check it out.

If You Go:

Cost:                            Free

Location:                  343 Smith Street, Neenah, WI 54956

For more information about the exhibit and when you can visit, feel free to call the Neenah Historical Society at 920-729-0244


A few of you have requested more photos of the fallout shelter found in Wisconsin so we found some for you! Below are photographs we found on the Internet of the Zwick family uncovering the shelter.

Carol Zwick uncovers a 1960s fallout shelter in her backyard

Courtesy of Daily News

The fallout shelter behind the Zwick family's home

Courtesy of Daily News

Descending into the fallout shelter found in 2010

Courtesy of Huffington Post

Inside the 1960s fallout shelter found in a Wisconsin backyard

Courtesy of the Daily News

Stored water found in a 50 year old fallout shelter

Courtesy of Daily News

Foodstuff supplies stocked in a fallout shelter 50 years ago.

Courtesy of Huffington Post



Interview with Ms. Jane Lang, Exec. Director of the Neenah Historical Society



6 Responses

  • In the early 80s, a local community center was evacuated when an emergency medical center was discovered during renovations. It seems that it had several canisters of ether, which had crystallized over the years and became explosive.

  • DEAR Emergency Ess. I Personal know of four in Miami/ South FL area One IS side be side a 1960s swimming pool but with a one inch lead layer lid the entrance was from the kitchen under the concrete patio is this same size as the pool it has been renewed supplies since Nov 1963 every year enough food water medical for start was for four family members to eight people the swimming pool had a wooden and steal cover that still can be rolled over it so it was used as for water supply for the extra persons There is an wide band Radio that is in perfect order made in 1959 that is still there …in Some years it has been opened up and laugh at… While this last few years it is no longer laugh at THE OLD FOOD Is exchanged with newer and a large party is had to honor JFK Death and Some wondered when they could have a party for Castro’s Death but not any more …

  • Why is the museum going to close the exhibit on July 1st? By so doing, are they betraying the donor’s trust in them to preserve the memory?

    • Sandy,
      I am not sure why the exhibit will close on July 1st. Usually at museums they have a featured exhibit that does not stay at the museum for an indefinite amount of time. Here is the contact information for the Neenah Historical Society. Their email address is Neenahhistoricalsociety@gmail.com They are the ones hosting the exhibit, so they could probably explain to you why the exhibit is leaving July 1st.

  • That phone book was packed in with the toilet paper. Having lived in the era of outhouses, I’m not sure emergency contact numbers were what they had in mind. 🙂

  • In this town where I live, when the wife and I were looking at houses for sale, one we went into had a corrugated steel ceiling in the basement with 4" of concrete on top of it. House built mid to late 50’s….many of them here in town….they were designed as bomb shelters. We are just 100 miles from a shipping port that was a main target during the cold war.

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