- Associated Press - Saturday, August 8, 2015

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - While looking for the shutoff valve for a broken water pipe a week ago Sunday, downtown developer Mike Coe found a stockpile of survival rations from the early 1960s.

Hefty metal canisters were stacked up in a shelter in the basement of the building on the corner of Sixth and Trade streets.

Some of the canisters - dated that they had been packed in June and July 1963 - contained “Civil Defense Carbohydrate Supplements” from the Bonomo Candy Division of Gold Medal Candy Corp. in Brooklyn.

“We had one busted open - it’s candy, multicolored candy,” Coe said. “It looked like horse pills.”

They were stacked alongside other canisters of “Civil Defense All Purpose Survival Biscuits” made by Southern Biscuit Co. of Richmond. Coe described the contents as looking like hardtack, a type of cracker that was a survival ration in the absence of perishable food, commonly during military campaigns.

In a 2014 article in the Winston-Salem Journal, writer Paul Garber said of the biscuits, “they were a durable ration that people who tasted them compared to graham crackers.”

Coe disposed of rations that had been damaged, though he still has stacks of the canisters in a storage room in the building, along with empty water canisters dated 1962.

The shelter area is well-secured in the brick-and-concrete basement, with the storage area adjacent to a room now holding heating and ventilation equipment behind a reinforced metal door.

Bomb shelters were common in the 1950s and 1960s during the height of the Cold War, with 49 such shelters in downtown Winston-Salem. One of the largest was the Central Library. There were also shelters built in residents’ basements and backyards.

According to local historian Fam Brownlee, during the early part of the Cold War, Winston-Salem was considered a high-value target, in part because Western Electric made part of the guidance system for the Nike missile and also “because soldiers cannot fight without cigarettes.”

Interest in the shelters waned as the population moved largely out of downtown and into suburban areas. By 1978, Garber wrote, the city sold off the last of its then-17-year-old survival biscuits, which ended up becoming cattle feed. “The next several years saw the movement to decommission what was left of the city’s shelters, removing the supplies that many once thought would be their salvation.”

The building at the corner of Sixth and Trade was erected in 1923, according to the book “Winston-Salem’s Architectural Heritage,” and was originally a Sunday school annex. It was later the home of the Winston-Salem Barber School and various businesses. A map from 1962, about the time the Civil Defense provisions are dated, shows the building holding the barber school along with a coin and hobby shop, a shoe repair business and Corbin Restaurant, with Haverty Furniture around the Liberty Street side.

Coe closed on the building in April and is now converting it into an indoor mall called Trade Street Market, which will include a cigar store, a barber shop, a clothing store and a UPS Store, and restaurants including the already-open Rusty Bumper Ice Cream Shop, Mexican and Thai buffet restaurants and a planned expansion of Pulliam’s hot dog stand.


Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, https://www.journalnow.com

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