Intl. Notebook Mar 17 2015
HARD NUKE LIFE
Annie was a big hit in the desert long before the Broadway musical came along.


In the photo above, department store manager Hillman Lee checks out a group of battered mannequins he had helped the U.S. government use in a nuclear test. The mannequins were placed inside House No. 1 at the Nevada Proving Grounds and subjected to the blast effects of the sixteen-kiloton shot codenamed Annie, which was part of Operation Upshot-Knothole. The images below show up on all sorts of websites identified with all sorts of tests, but these come from the Nevada Department of Energy website and are identified there as the actual House No. 1 that wasblown to smithereens along with Hillman’s mannequins (those may seem in strangely good shape to you, but keep in mind that fiberglass melts at about 37,000°F, whereas human flesh burns at about 120°F and melts shortly thereafter).

For an interesting indication of the bizarro world some people lived in during the nuclear 1950s, consider this quote from Hillman concerning the use of mannequins (which, by the way, he dressed differently as a tribute to American individuality and choice): “The outcome of this test is unpredictable, but the results of the evaluation may be a powerful factor in deciding fashion trends in the years to come.” That’s right—he thought he could learn from the test how to make nuclear blast-resistant clothes, market them, and make money selling them. Kind of makes you wonder whether humans are simply destined to fail on this planet, doesn’t it? Nuclear test Annie occurred at 5:20 a.m. today in 1953. 

Note: We got an e-mail, and the question was whether the mannequin photo was really made after the test, or before. If the photo were larger you'd be able to see that the mannequins are, in fact, a bit battered. Of course, that raises the question of whether they're radioactive. Being the morbid guys we are, we did check historical records on Hillman Lee to see if maybe he developed health problems, but there's nothing on him. Presumably he made a fortune on his nuke resistant garments and retired to a life of quiet but comfortable obscurity. Or not.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 23
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, dies of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
March 22
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals of the Cold War.
March 21
1963—Alcatraz Closes
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
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