Growing up Nuclear

April 2000

In 1958, an enterprising builder named Jack Hoerner began the construction of Arvada’s Allendale Heights. The 15 “Titan” home sites, each with its own built-in A-bomb haven, still stand near the intersection of Lewis Court and Allendale Drive. The Bomb was on everyone’s mind, and Hoerner wrung full sales potential out of it. At the opening of the subdivision on Aug. 23, 1959, Colorado Gov. Steve McNichols, Denver Mayor Dick Atterton, Arvada Mayor Gail Gilbert, and 2,000 or so of the curious toured our future home. A soon-to-be-retired Army major – who, according to the Aug. 17, 1959, issue of Time magazine, “once studied radiation effects” – snapped up the house immediately. All the houses sold quickly, but Hoerner’s dream of providing nuclear families with security from the nuclear threat did not. Other contractors quickly surrounded Hoerner’s dream development with similar cookie-cutter developments. But none of them had built-in bomb shelters.

My nuclear family migrated to Denver from a small Midwestern town in 1967, arriving well before John Denver and a decent Broncos team. The retired major sold the home to us that summer. We lived in the golden age of suburban life, a sweet dream of material fulfillment realized. All the postwar promises seemed to be coming true for our parents and ourselves; we were surrounded by and steeped in abundance, convenience, and safety. There were “Welcome Wagon” ladies back then. But I don’t remember the ladies mentioning Rocky Flats, which was located eight-and-a-half miles northwest of us and would become infinitely more dangerous to us than any threat of nuclear attack.