Friday, June 03, 2011

Arco: Retro Atomic Cool

Arco, Idaho, proudly proclaims its part in "Atoms For Peace," an experimental program that, on July 17, 1955, made it "the first town in the free world" to have its lights powered by "electrical energy developed from the atom." This is not the area's only claim to atomic fame -- nearby the world's first nuclear power plant (and first breeder reactor) sits, waiting in retro 1950-neoSteamPunk fashion for visitors to marvel at its ability to harness the atom for good.

Still basking in its Chain Reaction Glory Days, the Arco area boasts the Atomic Lube (auto sales and repair), the Atomic Motor Raceway, and Pickle's Place, home of both the Atomic Burger (it was really good!) and the non-atomic Green Chair where everyone can play a game of "I'm Edith Ann."

The city park proudly displays the sail from the "Devil Boat," a nuclear submarine whose reactor was made here. The parking area signs state, "Submariner Parking Only -- All Others Will Be Torpedoed." An old, faded sign next to a fenced in area informs visitors that the fenced area represents a 1/4 scale football field, and how, "by the year 2000, all the (nuclear) waste generated since the beginning of the commercial nuclear power industry would cover a single football field to the depth of about 10 feet." An 11-plus-year old display aimed to soothe the nerves of the pre-millennium nuclear-phobic public.
Arco is also home to "Number Hill" -- where each graduating class since 1920 has painted the year they graduated on the hill. Our waitress this morning told us that it takes "a few days" of painting over the numbers to get them to show up. She didn't say how they hang on the hill to do the painting, but she did say that, to the best of her knowledge, no one has died doing it.
Arco has seen better days. Abandoned buildings dot the landscape, along with rusting RVs and untended yards. A lovely mural on this empty building is still bright despite the shattered windows and shattered dreams of the owner.
Optimistically and ironically, the mural says, "Arco Welcomes You. Our Past Complements our Future."

They do seem to be intertwined.

Next blog: Visiting the Atomic Reactor


Sharon Del Rosario said...

What an interesting place! I'd never heard of it, so thanks for the virtual visit. Don needs that submariner sign! Can you bring it with you?

Don said...

How ironic, I put that submarine in commission back in 1970. The USS Hawkbill, in Vallejo, CA. Hope you guys can catch up with us, we are having a ball!