The Unboxing of Fallout Shelter Items – 56 Years Later

The very last donation of 2017 was given to SCHS by the Rahr Malting Company on December 21, 2017. It was exactly as if the we had received an early Christmas present. The donation consisted of five boxes, of both the small and large variety, and all that was written down on the paper was that they were civil defense supplies from 1962. Needless to say, it was very exciting opening and uncovering the items inside of these civil defense boxes. As it turns out, these boxes were like a Christmas gift to SCHS, just opened up fifty-six years after they were originally packaged. Although it may have felt like Christmas here at the museum, the items in these boxes were originally packed for a much darker and serious purpose: in the event that a fallout shelter was needed in the future.

The Rahr Corporation, established in 1847 in Michigan, has since expanded to several different locations, one of them happening to be on 1st Avenue West in Shakopee. The facility in Shakopee was built in 1937, and had been added onto in 1954, 1977, 1981, 1994, and 2016.1 The information that many may have forgotten, however, was that the Rahr Malting Company was designated as a fallout shelter in 1961-1962 for the citizens of Shakopee. The boxes that were donated to SCHS were chalk full of fallout shelter items, many of them having been undisturbed for more than fifty years.

Included in the items were lists for Medical Fallout Shelter Kit “A”, which was one of the smaller boxes that could treat 50-65 shelter occupants, and for Medical Fallout Shelter Kit “C”, which was one of the larger boxes that could treat 300-325 shelter occupants. Each list identifies the items and the quantity of each item. Kit “C” contained the exact same items as in Kit “A”, just in larger quantities due to the larger number of proposed occupants. Also included was a brochure titled Fallout Shelter Medical Kit Instructions, dated July 1962, as well as a thicker brochure titled Family Guide: Emergency Health Care, which detailed instructions on caring for individuals while in a fallout shelter. These lists and brochure can be viewed below.

The items that were packed in these boxes were medical supplies, which would be extremely necessary in the event of needing a fallout shelter. Any and all items that could fit were made to sit inside their own individual brown cardboard box, the name of the item written on the front of the box. Items included several different kinds of bandages, scissors, thermometers, tweezers, safety pins, isopropyl alcohol, surgical soap, toothache remedy, eye and nose drops, diarrhea medication, many different kinds of pills (sulfadiazine, penicillin, aspirin, cascara (a laxative)), as well as tins of baking soda, petroleum jelly, and bottles of table salt. Also included were small bottles of iodine pills that would have been used to treat water in fallout shelters. All of these items were necessities when living in a closed off fallout shelter, be it with either 50-65 people, or 300-325. These items were chosen and packed with care, ready to offer aid to those who were sick. Although many of these items were labeled as being packed and stored in 1962, we, unfortunately, don’t have information on which building on the Rahr Malting campus was to be used as the fallout shelter.

Nonetheless, these items are a museum’s treasure, and very much a look into the past when nuclear war felt very much like an imminent threat. These boxes stored in the Rahr Malting Company show that a very national fear was felt by everyone everywhere throughout the United States, even in small Shakopee, Minnesota.

Many of these items have not been viewed since the 1960s, so I am pleased to allow you a secondhand look at these fallout shelter items. Enjoy.

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All of the items unpacked from their boxes, gathered together by type of item.

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(https://www.rahr.com/rahr-malting-co/shakopee-malthouse)

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Harvesting Ice

Back in the days before refrigerators and freezers, harvesting ice was a major wintertime business in Scott County. In the month of January when the ice was “ripe,” men would go to work cutting blocks of it out of local lakes and the Minnesota River.

In the book As I Remember Scott County, Frances Brandl of Belle Plaine, whose brothers ran an ice harvesting business, details this process:

Cutting ice was a very hard, heavy job. First of all it was cold, very cold, during the month of January. At times it was also wet, should one slip and fall into the lake, which happened.

The ice was sawed with a long heavy saw with a wooden handle on one end. The ice blocks were sawed 18×36 inches. The depth varied with the winter. Blocks had to be sawed very straight on all sides or they would not pack tight in the ice houses. The ice was covered and packed tight with saw dust.

Farmers loaded ice onto horse-drawn sleds and hauled it back to their farms, while icemen went door-to-door in town selling blocks to families for their iceboxes. Harvested ice was also used by grocery stores, saloons, creameries, meat packers, and breweries. In fact, all of the breweries that existed in Scott County prior to Prohibition were located along the Minnesota River or another stream or creek to allow for easy access to ice, and the breweries all had ice storage facilities as well.

Ice harvested in the winter months was used throughout the spring and summer – the sawdust or straw it was packed in kept it from melting. In addition to preserving food, this ice made possible a favorite summertime treat: ice cream.

Below are photos from the SCHS’s collection of a 1905 ice harvest on the Minnesota River. These photos depict a complex operation that involved cutting blocks of ice by hand and then using a wooden pulley system and conveyor belt to move the ice. To find out more about ice harvesting and other fun local history topics, visit us in person or check out our collections online.

Ice harvesting on the Minnesota River at Shakopee
Ice harvesting on the Minnesota River at Shakopee. This photo shows a man holding a long wooden pole. Behind him is a wooden pulley system and conveyor belt used for moving blocks of ice.
Workmen cutting ice
Workmen cutting ice on the Minnesota River at Shakopee. They are standing on a wooden boardwalk placed over the frozen river.
Wooden pulley system and conveyor belt
Close-up of the wooden pulley system and conveyor belt used to move blocks of ice.
Pulley system and conveyor belt
Another view of the pulley system and conveyor belt. The ice visible in the foreground of the photo appears to have been scored.
Workmen cutting blocks of ice by hand
Men standing on the narrow wooden boardwalk cutting blocks of ice by hand.
Front side of wooden pulley system
The front side of the wooden pulley system and conveyor belt. The wooden pulley system is constructed along the shore of the river. The front side shows areas divided by vertically placed pieces of wood. Blocks of ice available for purchase are stacked within each stall. The image is looking down into one stall, which contains blocks of ice, five workers and a wooden conveyor belt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Scenes of Scott County: Winter Images from the LeRoy Lebens Collection

As a man who seemed to always have a camera on hand, LeRoy Lebens managed to catch great photos of life in Scott County, even in the cold depths of Minnesota winters. As we continue an inventorying of his collection here at the Scott County Historical Society, a number of his photos have stood out, showing the beauty and life of Scott County in winter. Despite our current frigid temperatures, I feel that these photos are a great way to celebrate winter. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Lebens Collection, please come visit us at the Scott County Historical Society.

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Shakopee House (Dangerfields) and Mill Pond
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Ducks on Mill Pond

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Lebens’ Home on Fifth Ave
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LeRoy Lebens shoveling his sidewalk after a blizzard
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Sometimes a bigger shovel is needed
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Train at Shakopee Depot 1950-1960
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Shakopee Depot 1950’s
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Jordan High School
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Rahr Malting
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Rahr Malting
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Aerial photo of West Shakopee