Being born in 1957 I got to experience the Joys of the Cold War. Yes, when I was in grade school we actually had cursory drills for nuclear disaster. It involved going downstairs to the gymnasium as I recall.
So when looking into the history of the Wolf caves I was tickled to see a few references to these anxious days. Odd how the existential fears of one era become the humor of another.
Tom Curtis, the proprietor of the boat tours and trout fishing inside the now flooded Wolf brewery caves, had a bit of a sideline....
According to a book called Minnesota Underground:
"In the 1950's the caves were designated a fallout shelter, and schoolchildren would run to them during drills. A fireplace in the caves may date from this period."
Well that would explain this:
It sure looks like a modern addition, and must have been fitted to one of the ventilation holes in the roof of the cave. For some reason there is still some firewood in place.
Of course "Cave Man" Curtis had flooded most of the cave for his tourist boats, so the fallout shelter section must have been here:
The fireplace is in the middle of the far wall.
I found another reference to the fallout shelter matter in a book called Minnesota Marvels: Roadside Attractions in the Land of Lakes. Curtis is said to have equipped the caves with emergency rations and advertised them as the safest place in town. Presumably speaking in jest and long after the fact he is supposed to have said:
"If it hadn't cost so much overtime I'd have hired a couple of Russian pilots to drop a few test bombs to prove my point."
Entrepreneurial gall of that magnitude deserves some recognition. But the history of the Curtis caves as a refuge from nuclear Armageddon has been lost to time....unless this army surplus box still contains a few moldy K rations.