The Atomic Age in Lititz

By on August 22, 2018

The year 1950 was an interesting time in our nation’s history. Truman was in office, the Cold War was still in full force, and only one year prior, the Soviets would test an atom bomb for the first time. Air raid drills were also commonplace in schools across the nation.

For all of the reasons above and more, the term “Atomic Age” would grow in popularity. Many people were on edge, and the television set, fairly new at the time, would revolutionize how people received information. Add to that the sci-fi movie craze which began to sweep the nation and begged the question of uncertainty: ‘What’s up there’?

A few years later, fallout shelters were built and readied with food, water, and comfortable beds all over the country. This trend would continue for many years. In 1958, the threat of an atomic war prompted a local farmer to convert a 10,000 gallon fuel tank to a bomb shelter. The 21 foot by 89 foot bunker­once it was cleaned and a floor installed­was big enough for his whole family. One piece of equipment inside even included a filter “to keep out radioactive dust.”

During the early 1960s, A local resident of Rome Road in Lititz was granted a permit to construct a fallout shelter for a cost of $150. On Main Street, there were two fallout shelters­one was behind Spacht’s Furniture store, and the other was situated behind the former location of the Hershey Apartments. A third location was rumored, beneath a bank a few blocks away. Meanwhile, in the basement of a local Lititz church, a room was readied with Geiger counters and supply barrels. In 1962, even students at Linden Hall got into the act, constructing a fallout shelter in a remodeled cubbyhole in the basement.

In October 1950, the Lititz Community Show took place on the streets of our downtown. It was also the year that the new Memorial Fountain was installed at the square (left). Five months prior to this event, UFO’s were reported to be spotted over the night sky above Lititz.

The room contained a Geiger counter, teen magazines, food, cots, and a transistor radio. Eight total students entered a drawing, with two students being picked to spend 48 hours in the room.
What may seem a bit silly by today’s standards really was a scary and serious time for many citizens all across the United States. A series of unexplained sightings in the sky during the 50’s would also make news throughout Lititz, and would be on the lips of many concerned citizens of our town.

In May of 1950, “Flying saucers were seen here Wed. Night.” graced the front cover of the newspaper. Apparently, residents of the south end of town witnessed something unexplained in the sky. One of the first residents to notice was John Hershey, who saw it first-hand from the window of his East Third Avenue home. Hershey stated that they were flying saucers, and seemed to be large in size, even from a considerable distance away. He also reported that the UFOs swept through the skies at a 20-degree angle. Almost all of them traveled from west to east, and once in awhile, one would came hurtling westward, he said.

“Everyone who saw the ‘flying saucers’ agreed that they are no natural phenomenon but are a man-made device of some sort,” Hershey stated. “All of us saw enough of them to be certain that it was not an optical illusion.”

“Flying Saucers Thought Sighted Near Rothsville” was another local Lititz headline during early May of 1954. This time, three unusual objects were reported in the sky about 10:30 p.m. the previous week. Local resident Daniel Good went on recond to say that he saw a “round circle of light, bigger than a star” pass over his home heading north to south. When he lost sight of the unexplained object, a second, similar “UFO” had made the same arc in the sky, as well as a third. He further stated that the objects moved fast, but he couldn’t decipher if they made a sound.

Then in October, 1957, a Lititz housewife reported seeing a flying saucer around 6 p.m. A resident of South Broad Street, she said her attention was first drawn to a disc-shaped white object which had a tail and appeared in the north sky. The following day, she said that she heard of a woman in Lancaster who also saw something in the sky around noon, and that the shape hovered over downtown Lancaster for about two minutes. She also described it as white disc-like object with a tail. Several other reports of unidentified flying objects were recorded all over the county that week.

After a few years, the UFO craze more or less died down across the nation. While ocassional objects are still reported in the sky from time to time, these days, it doesn’t nearly present the fear and panic people had during that very interesting part of our nation’s history.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at or 717-721-4423. 

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