Pawpaw and the Bunker
I had a great, long, honest conversation with my grandpa - I call him Pawpaw - while I was driving through Florida today. He’s in his mid-80s and lives in Conroe, Texas. In many ways, I feel like I’m just getting to know him. Every time we talk on the phone, we end by saying we both hope we’ll see each other soon. But we both know it’s unlikely to happen. I hate that I live so far away from him. I can tell he feels alone and tired. I’m afraid I can count the number of moments I’ll see him again on one hand.
In June, just before I moved to New York, I visited him. We hopped in the car and he showed me what had changed in the town since I’d last visited. “There is a new CVS Pharmacy here, look!” he said. “We got a new shopping center here, look!"
On the way back home, he said, “did you see that sign we passed?” No, I hadn’t. “It’s a historical landmarker,” he said. He then told me about the former nuclear bunker built by Chang Kai Shek's nephew hidden in the suburbs of Conroe.
We turned the car around and visited. It’s true.
In addition to the concrete building above ground, which houses four machine gun turrets, there was a 40,000 square foot nuclear bunker below. The bunker was designed to protect 350 adults for up to three months, and was a totally self-contained structure with it’s own diesel generators, multi-chamber chemical/biological/radiation air filtration system, two water wells, decontamination showers, jail cells, and a full surgical suite.
You enter the bunker through one of two tiny pagodas:
There was a trailer park next to the bunker’s grounds. A group of teenagers in suits and dresses were running around outside. “I guess it’s prom night tonight,” said my grandpa.