The village of Deposit, which is split between Delaware and Broome counties, had about 2,000 residents back in May 1957. On Sunday, May 5, the village almost doubled in population. The visitors were expected, although the theme of their arrival was a bit sobering. It was for a mass evacuation of nearby Binghamton residents, as a history-making exercise in civil defense.
It was called “Evac-12,” as 1,448 men, women and children departed Binghamton’s 12th Ward, on the city’s east side. The Binghamton Press reported, “Future planning for America’s survival against the H-bomb will hinge on the success or failure of the test. It will be the first mass evacuation test of such magnitude in the nation.”
Some of Oneonta and Otsego County were observers and participants in the exercise. An Oneonta Star reporter was present, as were James Georgeson, then a state civil defense field representative and future Oneonta mayor; Bert Lowe of Schenevus; Otsego County civil defense director; and Oneonta city cvil defense Director John Eggleston.
An air raid siren sounded in Binghamton at 1:15 p.m., and residents knew what they had to do, as about a year of planning, training and testing had been invested for this survival exercise. Civil defense wardens arrived and controlled the evacuation.
At 1:30, the first of about 500 people emulating panic left their homes and climbed into about 120 automobiles. Others weren’t displaying panic, as planned, got into automobiles, and all began their 28-mile trip along state Route 17. Nearly 110 people boarded an Erie-Lackawanna passenger train, which served as a traveling hospital for patients. School buses were also deployed. Had this been a real attack, Deposit would’ve been expected to handle upward of 10,500 people.
According to the Star, when people arrived in Deposit, “The modern high school served as general headquarters, where medical treatment, food and other services were available.” To add some realism to the arrival, those not “injured or dead” were directed by civil defense wardens to many homes that had opened their doors to the evacuees.