Socialist Paradise

Short excerpt from my memoir about growing up in Cold War Oak Ridge, Tennessee  




That's me, standing in front of the old East Village house.  My dad's new 1954 Chevy is parked behind me.


Coddled, we were.  All of our needs, and most of our wants, were satisfied by the monolithic federal bureacracy.  

Our government cottages were pleasantly spacious, set amongst the towering oaks of Black Oak Ridge, many with panoramic views of the Cumberland Mountains. 

Our egalitarian neighborhoods were bordered by lush greenbelts where we children swung on wild grape vines, dabbled and waded in shallow creeks, stacked logs and rocks into forts and shelters, and generally played in our own private childish world, unsupervised by over cautious adults. 

While our fathers labored unseen behind the gates of the bomb factories on the vast federal reservation, our mothers spent their days tidying up their nearly identical government cottages and preparing meals of Campbell's soup casseroles, Jello instant pudding and limp canned vegetables.  

Many of our mothers smoked and listened to soap operas through much of the day:  Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow and The Guiding Light.  There were, of course, mid morning coffee klatches with friendly neighbors and more than a few martinis and glasses of wine with the same friendly little groups of housewives in the late afternoons.  

Federal dollars flowed seemingly without limit.  No expense was spared in fostering our sense of wholesome wellbeing.  Oak Ridge Public Schools were equal or superior to any private school in the U.S.  Our little burg of 30,000 citizens was a cultural oasis, with its own symphony, ballet, theater, library, parks and public tennis courts. 

The irony is that Cold War Oak Ridgers lived in a socialist paradise, even as our continued reason for existence was churning out thousands of nuclear bombs, ostensibly to keep the free world free and stop the spread of godless Soviet socialism.

The immense irony of our federally subsidized, socialist way of life was, I suspect, lost on most.  

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