Our Friend Of The Blog who runs Self-Sufficient mountain Living has a nice post up about the old days of survivalism and some of the cool books that came out then.
To me, the ‘Golden Age’ of survivalism (when it was actually called ‘survivalism’) was the days of the Cuban Missle Crisis and the years before that…back when the Red Menace was just a Tu-95 away from starting WW3. After that, I suppose there was the ‘Silver Age’ of survivalism which would be the late 70’s and early 80’s. Thats the era I got interested in that sort of thing. Of course, at the time I was a mere gunless 13-year-old, but I eagerly devoured every book I could get my hands on. Stuff like Alas Babylon, A Canticle For Liebowitz, Warday. and, of course, the now-embarassingly-bad works of Ahern.
But, once in a while, I stumbled across some stuff that was not ‘entertainment’ but more of a ‘how to’. See, back then we didn’t have the intarwebs to deliver hard-to-find books. Amazon was still an adjective describing women over six-feet tall, and if it wasn’t in the Brooklyn Public Library (or any of it’s branches) I wasn’t going to have access to it. (And, honestly, what 13-year-old walks into a book store and really expects them to have something as oddball as Kearny’s Nuclear War Survival Skills or Tappan On Survival?)
In fact, it really wasnt until much later that I actually became aware of these books and was able to finally read them. Prior to the advent of the internet, my only exposure to any resource of any kind on this subject was American Survival Guide (back when it was in it’s non-neutered guns-on-the-cover format) and, to a lesser degree, Soldier Of Fortune. Both those magazines had plenty of advertising that made me aware of books and products I wasn’t aware of. It was probably through them I got into ordering things from the old Brigade Quartermaster catalog. (BQ, by the by, has apparently changed hands.) Back in those days you wrote to a company and asked for a catalog, then you waited, the catalog arrived and you filled out the order form, you got a postal money order, mailed it off and waited. And waited. And eventually, your little survival geegaw showed up in the mail. Nowadays..heck, I can be in the bathroom and still order a case of ammo off my phone in less time than it used to take to fill out an order form and stuff it in an envelope.
For folks who have only recently (in the last ten years or so) gotten into ‘prepping’, this all sounds strange but its true…there really was a time when you were pretty much relegated into the same dark corners of the bookstore as German dungeon porn. In the mid 1980’s and pretty much into the very early 90’s you really had virtually no avenue for meeting like-minded individuals and sharing ideas except for classified adverts in SOF or ASG. Nowadays, of course, its a different story…there are numerous forums, newsgroups (remember those?), and probably even a few mailing lists still out there. The survivalist community, such as it is, is more aware of itself than it ever used to be. In the old days you could very reasonably think that you were the only person with your particular interest…after all, you never ran into anyone else doing the same things you were, right? But now with the internet I can see that there are plenty of people, some very close by, who have the same concerns and interests as me. (And this is a good thing, in terms of making one feel less like a wierdo, but, lets be honest, survivalists tend to play it pretty close to the vest…so even if you’re aware of a larger group of people who think like you, that doesn’t necessarily mean youre going to take any steps to meet them. We’re a rather individualist lot.)
Today’s survivalists really have it easy. Cool gear, easy to order, acceptance by the mainstream, etc, etc. Why, I practically feel like some sort of survivalist hipster some days with my old Brigade Quartermaster neck gaiter, old Gerber Mk II, and ALICE pouches.