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.

12 thoughts on “Nostalgia

  1. My first clue that things may not stay the same was finding Howard Ruff’s book, How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years, which came out in 1978. I had read a little fiction with TEOTWAWKI plots, but nothing serious. His suggestions about food storage hit home with me, having gone thru some starvation times during unemployment.
    His scenarios haven’t come to pass, but there is still time! And always having food & tp on hand is a comfort. 🙂

  2. The first TEOTWAWKI book I read was probably The Stand, way back before I knew what ‘prepping’ was. Before even getting the idea of ‘prepping’, reading Heinlein convinced me to believe in the idea of Self-Reliance, which lends itself to branching out to the preparing for the worst side of things.

    As far as easy ordering…had a box o’ life-straws and space blankets waiting on the porch for me today when I got home.

  3. Oh come on. Ahern wasn’t THAT bad.

    I mean, other than somehow managing to nail bad guys with a CAR15 fired from the same hand that was on the throttle to his motorcycle….

    And who among us did not believe that absolutely every fight would involve every round available and have to come down to the Sting Boot Knife.

    Available at CRKT knives these days, and still a respectable little little blade…;-)

  4. Thinking about the ads in old SOF and ASG made me think of Fat Phil and Pistolero. I miss those. One of my brothers still has copies of all or almost all of the issues.

  5. Ahhh, BQ. First order from them was back in 1982.

    Catalogs – go to the Post Office and buy some post cards and then sit down with a magazine and ‘send off’ for catalogs. Still have some old Lancer Militaria catalogs; the old Belgian stuff was really cool.

  6. Tappan on Survival and Survival Guns
    The column he did for Guns and Ammo really set me on this path.
    And “Lucifer’s Hammer”, that was a big one for me.
    Another book I still have is “Bad Times Primer” by C.G. Cobb. From 1981.
    Hard to find and a bit dated like Mel’s books but interesting enough with still useful info.

    • “C.G. Cobb’s amazing adventures in his backyard…”

      And who can forget the highly prolific Dr. Bruce Clayton? Or “Ragnar Benson?”

  7. Brigade Quartermaster, U.S. Calvary, Parallax, Sierra Post Supply, Cutlery Shoppe, Survival Inc. (I oughta be in their will, I spent so much money at 435 Alondra address) – yup, eager customer of all. All of their moustached models (even the women! :^) had G.I. WWII camoflauge and an Australian ‘Digger’ hat . . .

    Survivalism branched off into Bushcraft, the ‘know more – carry less’ mentality. Gun porn was much simpler then, we have more scope mounts – infra red – stock options then we know what to do with now. Don’t even get started with knives (it ain’t nothing if it don’t have Benchmade or at least Zero Tolerance stamped on it somewhere :^)

  8. Ah, yes – it was Lucifer’s Hammer that had me thinking about bolt holes if nothing else. I hadn’t much money so it was all about using my former punk city girl skills to survive. Now? I just buy what you tell us to. 🙂 Seriously, you DO keep us aware of the good stuff at a good price! (But I think it would be/was harder to find fellow German Dungeon Porn fans…)

  9. If you want a good laugh, look up on youtube Ahern’s Survivalist series on audio. It’s not bad, but after about 3 books listening to the different characters – Rourke is just a know it all jerk.
    I remember the old days of survivalism, 80’s era – Survive magazine, the original Survival Guide, the Y2k newsgroups…there is a magazine out today called Prepper and Shooter that is very like the old school Survive and Survival Guide of yesteryear. Yes, today’s “preppers” do have it a lot easier with all the technology and do dads at their fingertips, but it will also be their downfall because they are relying too much on it. I constantly get the question, “where’s your tablet/Iphone, how do you recharge your batteries, why don’t you carry a small solar panel in your bugout bag, why does your bob only weigh 30lbs when mine is nearly 70lbs?”

  10. Duncan Longs ‘Apocalyps Tomorrow’ is an interesting trip down memory lane written by a guy who was heavily involved in the 80’s survivalist scene. I’m not sure if it is in print anymore but worth looking for on flea bay.

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