When I was a grade school student at St. Henry’s in Cleveland, we received a weekly newsletter reporting on the news of the world. Most particularly, we learned how the Communists who had recently taken over Eastern Europe were persecuting Catholics and suppressing the God-given rights of the people. At no time were we ever told that Hungary and several other of the Russian satellites fought on the German side in World War Two. And now the communists were threatening us! Several times a year, we had to do drills instructing us what to do in case of a nuclear attack. If you don’t already know, this 1951 video will explain it all to you:
(Those school desks were marvelous at protecting students from radiation and falling debris.)
At home, several times a year my mother put together bundles of used clothing she got from church sales to send to our friends and relatives in Hungary. After she’d accumulated about twenty or thirty pounds, she would wrap them in sturdy white cloth and write the address directly on the cloth with indelible ink. Then off it would go. With luck, the jackbooted thugs that worked for the Budapest Post Office would let selected items be delivered to the addressees. The rest, of course, was a perquisite for Communist Party apparatchiks.
Things came to a head during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. When, after a few days of freedom, the Russian tanks rolled into Hungary and re-established Soviet rule, our family was appalled. Naturally we did what we could to help some of the refugees that made it across the line before the axe fell. (As it turned out, they were not nice people. How could that be? After all, they were Hungarians.)
Somehow, we made it through those dangerous years. We listened to the Civil Defense alarms that sounded a test on Fridays at noon. And we tuned in to Conelrad at 640 and 1240 on our radio dial. There was so much else, too, bad we licked Communism in the end. Or did we?