By Joe O’Connor/Posted at;http://nationalpost.com/ –
At 10,000-square-feet, the scope of Ark Two is staggering. There is a brig, mortuary, dentist’s chair, decontamination room and a box marked ‘radiation suits’
September was a cruel month for Bruce Beach and his wife, Jean. Somebody stole the chainsaws out of their garage, and rats gnawed their way into the bags of wheat they had stored out back of the house. Then they had a small fire and a flood and, worst of all, the rats — now fattened on wheat — invaded their home on a quiet stretch of road in the village of Horning’s Mills, about two hours northwest of Toronto.
“There was a rat right there,” Beach says, gesturing at the top of the fridge. “He was staring at me, and our cat, Ginger, was staring at him.”
Fires, floods, thieves, rodents: The elderly couple has survived all manner of calamity in recent weeks, except for the one disaster they have actually been preparing for over the past 50 years — a nuclear war. Beach is the founder of Ark Two, a privately owned, 10,000-square-foot nuclear fallout shelter, sunk beneath several metres of concrete and soil on a 12.5 acre parcel of land near his home. And, yes, the 83-year-old is accustomed to being dismissed as a “kook.”
But maybe he’s onto something.
The Atomic Doomsday clock, which counts down to a hypothetical midnight of nuclear catastrophe, is currently set at two and a half minutes to 12 a.m. — the closest we’ve been since 1953. This week, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said this is “the most uncertain moment in international relations since the end of the Second World War.” None of which is lost on Beach, who believes “now more than ever,” people need to be thinking about their options in the event of a war instead of frittering time away on their smartphones.
Beach, mind you, is choosy about who gets into his shelter. To gain access to the facility on an unseasonably warm October afternoon, three National Post staffers first had to chop and stack firewood at Beach’s home. Once satisfied, he promised us the “two-dollar,” as opposed to the “25-cent” tour.
Beach, who has the wild white beard of a bible prophet, is originally from Winfield, Kansas. His father owned a grocery store and his mother worked in the courthouse. He was an only child and a target for bullies, chiefly a kid named John Dunn, whom Beach reluctantly agreed to fight in elementary school, declaring after he had won that he would never fight again.
And he hasn’t. He was always more interested in survival, anyway.
Beach was living in Chicago and working as a general contractor and electrical engineer around the time that President John F. Kennedy was advising Americans to stock up on canned goods and build backyard bomb shelters. He figured a better approach to ride out the coming nuclear war was to abandon the city entirely. So he moved to Canada in 1970.
Beach eventually settled in the village where Jean was born. Now 90 and practically deaf, though sharp, she responded quickly when asked why she fell in love with her husband.
“I’ve often asked myself that question,” she said, laughing. “I almost married another guy but my Dad broke it up, and I am glad he did. Bruce takes care of me — and I take care of him.”