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Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This thought came into my mind on Saturday evening as I began thinking about our road trip to see our grand daughter. We made it as far as Brandon, and after a discussion with our son in Calgary made the disappointing choice that the prudent decision was to return home.
The fear of travelling reminded me of times in our household hastening back to the late 1950s. NORAD had arranged a tour to newspapers showing off their ability to handle any Cold War nuclear attack from Russia. To demonstrate preparedness, the US government flew my father to Duluth to watch fighter jets scramble to attack any foreign bombers. They then travelled on to Grand Forks and Minot North Dakota to visually see where B-52 bombers and missile silos were located and finally flown north to the DEW lines that controlled the radar scanning the north before returning to Duluth. On his return we talked about his trip and what he had learned.
The Cold War faced us every day. Schools ran drills to duck under your desk. At Robert Moore we were told where to hide in the basement should there be a nuclear attack. Nuclear shelters were built in back yards or added to basements and stocked with supplies to last several weeks. We were fearful.
Television consisted of three channels and it was expected that they would be knocked off the air in any war. The October 1962 Cuban missile crisis had everyone watching every news program for the latest information. We were sure that war was imminent. Today we have around the clock news bringing us the latest developments.
Around the dinner table all of this was discussed by our family. How would we survive an attack? Where should we build a bomb shelter? What would we do in a shelter? The family discussions removed our fears.
Our children are told that schools are safe places. Yet today the Alberta government has closed schools for the remainder of the year. Universities and colleges have cancelled classes and in the United States college students are being ordered out of dorms. The message tells us that schools are no longer safe places. Parents are told not to come in to work but to work from home. It is a mixed message filled with fear.
In the fifties our household was filled with games, puzzles and books. And my wonderful parents pointed out that we didn’t need a bomb shelter. Our community was not important to attack. Checkers, Chess, Monopoly, Stock Ticker, Snakes and Ladders and card games would occupy our time. The books on shelves could be reread. As we talked our fears were relieved. We realized that filling our time would not be difficult.
Times were different then, than today. Most mothers didn’t work out of the house. If schools were closed along with community facilities, they were the caregivers. Today with schools closing and municipal facilities shutting their doors, families are facing new challenges of how to care for their children for the next several months.
The traditional family supper where everyone sits down over a meal and talks about what happened in their day may be reborn. Board games may have a renaissance. Maybe we can slow our hectic lives down and find time to relax and appreciate this new time together.
The fears today of catching and dying from a virus are no different than those who experienced the Cold War 60 years ago. There remains a silver lining. . . The ability to talk about our fears and the value of sharing those fears around a dinner table with family.

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