A tiny concrete building nestles in the trees in the centre of downtown Lone Butte. Known as the Diefenbunker, it serves as a forgotten reminder of the Cold War era.
Constructed between 1959 and 1961 under the direction of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker as a nuclear fall-out shelter, many of the locals have no idea it exists.
A sign on the front door states that “in the event of a nuclear war between the United States of America and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, the resident postmaster would have a place to live during the crisis.”
The actual purpose behind the bunker was to supply the resident postmaster, at that time Margaret Alice Singleton, with a radio and Geiger counter. Once a day she was to put on protective gear and venture outside to take readings of the air quality and report back to Ottawa.
Once the air was declared safe, local residents would be notified it was safe to come home. “From where, I do not know,” Singleton’s sign states.
Unlike the Diefenbunker in Ottawa, these small bunkers were very basic in nature. The inside of the building is dark, cold and depressing. The idea of being shut up in it for any length of time is unsettling, said Lone Butte Historical Association (LBHA) member Gayle Jones.
“It would have been quite terrible,” Jones said.
“Like a tomb,” agreed LBHA member Chris Schmidt.
A short hallway leads to the doorway to the living area. There is no door but two slots on opposite sides of the opening suggest a rod, possibly with a curtain hung there at one time.
A single bed, radio and heater are the main pieces of furniture in the room. There isn’t room for much else. “We have embellished things, like what we figured it would look like,” said Jones. “We don’t really know.”
There is little information on the bunker itself, how it was built, who built it and what year. The building was an empty shell when the LBHA took over its maintenance along with the Alice Singleton Heritage House.
Unlike the Diefenbunker, the Heritage House has a long and colourful history.
When the Red Cross purchased the building they added on to the original log house, building a three-bedroom Red Cross Outpost Hospital. The additions were built with a hospital in mind as can be seen in the extra-wide interior doors built to fit a full-size hospital bed. The hospital opened on Sept. 25, 1948 with Registered Nurse A.D.Mansell in charge. Before its doors closed in early 1959 several other nurses would serve the communities health care needs.
The post office and bunker were built after Singleton’s parents, Wilfred and Edith Ledger, purchased the property in 1960. The post office moved to this location in the same year and remained there until Singleton retired in 1978.