The House in the Middle (1954)

In 1954, this handy-dandy Civil Defense Administration short film gave Americans a quick and easy way to protect themselves from an Atomic blast. Yes, it is can be done, and a lot easier than you would think, at least according to the pin heads that made this film. In the test three homes are set up next to each other, the ones on the left and right, as you can image, are in trouble while the house in the middle is a survivor.

So what is the answer, what is the magic bullet to surviving an atomic blast? Well, it seems to be keeping your house clean and free of clutter. Get rid of trash, old newspapers and magazines that have been hanging around the house, as well as other untidiness. Outside get rid of dried leaves, mow your grass and paint your house for God sake! The house that is neglected will suffer the consequences when the bomb hits!  And just in case you think they were kidding, they show you  couple of tests taken out in the Nevada Proving Ground where men are men and paint is a really strong hard shell of protection. Yes, we see an atomic blast on these three sample homes and the two on the left and right are blown to kingdom come, along presumably with the families inside, while the house in the middle is still standing only slightly charred.

The lesson here is to get rid of your trash and other junk if you do not want your home to be a tinder box ready to be torched. If you keep your home fresh with a nice paint job and tidy inside you will survive.  They also recommend your organize your neighborhood. Get the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to clean up the neighborhood planting new fresh trees to replace the dried up flammable ones.    

Even more strange is that the film was produced by the National Clean up – Paint up – Fix up Bureau with the cooperation of the Civil Defense Administration. They must have had a strong lobby to get the CDA to have produced this piece of atomic propaganda. I have no idea if this National Clean up etc. was a government organization or private but what it is hard to believe is anyone took this stuff seriously even in 1954. Mow your lawn to save yourself from an atomic blast.  

The folks at Saturday Night Live could take this short film verbatim and turn it into a classic skit. Of course maybe in ’54 mowing your grass was the best the government had to offer as protection from the bomb, just like after  9/11 all the government was able to tell us was to buy duct tape and go shopping.  

Here is the film…watch…and then for God sake go clean your house!

8 comments on “The House in the Middle (1954)

  1. Jem says:

    Great stuff, just wonderful. How else to treat such nonsense but with scathing wit? If it had been made a decade later, I’d figure they were all sitting around smoking joints as they laughed and cranked this out. But in the mid-fifties, who knows? Maybe a couple of cases of Rheingold!


    • John Greco says:

      Whenever you see something like this it really make you wonder how naive people were to take this stuff seriously, but then again in school back in the fifties and sixties they use to tell us to get under your desk in case of an attack.


  2. Judy says:

    Unbelievable! I also find it very hard to believe anyone took this stuff seriously – though the whole tone of the film is deadly serious.


    • John Greco says:

      The Coffee Messiah in his comment mentions “Duck and Cover”, a famous U.S. Gov’t Civil Defense film that teached young school students how to duck under their desk in case of a nuclear attack. I can remember having to line up against a wall in the hallway of the school (away from the windows I guess) crouch down and cover your head! And you could never talk during these drills which I could never figure out why. (lol)


  3. I remember “duck and cover” and wondered at an early age, how this made any sense. When I saw the book, before the film: Atomic Cafe and saw all those poor people in the street burned up, well, mentally, case solved about doing any of this to save your life.

    But the crazies are still out there (re: idiot pastor) which I hope a swell of folks protest.



    • John Greco says:


      Crazy stuff for sure, as I mentioned to Judy I remembered doing these practice test where we use to go into the school hall. lean against a wall and duck down and cover.

      Yeah, this pastor is a screw or two loose.


  4. Sam Juliano says:

    I do remember this John, and as Judy says it’s hard to imagine people taking this stuff seriously. Hysteria was a fabric of society in those days, as rational thinking often gave way to emotions.

    That pastor? What a sicko.


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