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November 12, 2012

Deposit became civil defense evacuation zone in 1957 test


“For instance,” the Star said, “a mother and father and their five lively, towheaded children moved into the three-bedroom home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Gruscavage and their two children.”

“Mrs. Gruscavage, wife of a driver for a dairy, greeted the tribe of Mr. and Mrs. George Frailey with a smile.”

The Press reported, “The acting governor of New York, a Democrat, set up emergency executive headquarters…in the home of the village attorney of Deposit, a Republican.”

“Arriving in Deposit like the other evacuees, Lt. Gov. George B. DeLuca, the state’s chief executive in the absence of Governor Averill Harriman, went to the home of J. Leland Rickard,” of Wheeler Street. The cellar became the headquarters, a shelter against assumed radioactive fallout.

For that day, this was all a rehearsal. As the day’s exercise wound down: “A hot meal of chicken and biscuits, coffee and doughnuts was served in the school to about 3,000 evacuees, civil defense personnel and observers. After eating, the evacuees set out for home.”

Raoul Archambault, executive assistant for the federal civil defense administration, said afterward the exercise would be “cited across the land as a demonstration of the type of thing that can be done. It refutes the talk of apathy to civil defense in America.”

The Rev. Vardell Swett, pastor of Binghamton’s East Side Congregational Church and civil defense chaplain, was on board the hospital train, and some of the passengers were children, likely on their first train ride.

Swett nodded his head toward some kids, glued to the window, staring at the green countryside and told a reporter, “Let’s pray that it’s always this wonderful, and never more serious than this, for them.”

Coming this weekend: Giving thanks for electric lights.

City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at

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