Decades have passed since the cold war between the two most powerful nations has ended but the yellow and black sign hanging in some of the old church buildings still rings the war siren in our ears and reminds us of terror that a nuclear war could have caused. These signs were used to mark the way to the nuclear fallout shelters created for millions of innocent citizens to take refuge in case one of the two atomic powers decides to wipe out the other.
While serving as a logistics officer with Army Corp of Engineers, Mr. Blakeley never thought he would be remembered as a creator of the iconic sign. Not very famous for his graphic designing, Blakeley was clueless as to how to make one when he was first asked to.
“Whatever we developed,” Blakeley said, “it would have to be usable in downtown New York City, Manhattan when all the lights are out, and people are on the street and don’t know where to go.”
As opposed to the idea of “duck and cover” in case of a nuclear fallout, President John F. Kennedy came up with this idea of creating more protected war shelter zones for citizens. This had to be done for the citizens’ safety.
The design Mr. Blakeley submitted was inspired by Clarence P. Hornung’s “Handbook of Designs and Devices,” and his preliminary sketch included a family three moving towards a fallout shelter. Little did he know that this iconic symbol would be tied to his image forever.
While his children were young, Blakeley told Conelrad Adjacent, “we’d go down the street, and one of the kids would say, ‘Hey, Dad, there’s one of your signs.’ But you know, other than that it’s just like many of the other things that happen in life. It’s just one of those routine things. I don’t know if I’ve ever had an occasion to tell anybody that I was involved in it because I don’t think it’s ever been high on my priorities.”
According to his daughter, Blakeley was planning on covering his backyard with the signs but then he let go of the idea, letting his apple trees to grow there instead.
RIP Robert Blakeley. May the world never has to create these signs again.