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Des Moines sirens as described by Bill Bryson

Thu Mar 16, 2023 5:28 pm


I found an interesting little description of the H.O.R Super Sirex Model 15 that was at one point active in Des Moines, Iowa.

So, this comes from the book which is satisfyingly named 'The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid' by the author Bill Bryson. The book details his childhood in Iowa during the 1950s - 70s. Obviously, this means that a lot of the events in the book take place during the Cold War. Bryson at one point describes the effect that the war had on him (which was minimal), and he writes about the nuclear attack drills that were carried out at his school.
Once a month we had a civil defence drill at school. A siren would sound - a special urgent siren that denoted that this was not a fire drill or storm alert but a nuclear attack
- Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Page 216

Notice how it says 'a special urgent siren'. This means that the siren he was hearing was not a common model, further proved when he compares it to other siren uses. This could mean that he is referring to Des Moines' H.O.R Super Sirex Model 15! It doesn't necessarily contain any new information, but it is still interesting that this writer was hearing the H.O.R and differentiating it from other sirens.

This isn't the only time Bryson has referred to sirens in his works, however. He also refers to how when a homemade bomb accidentally exploded in a house, multiple alarms went off:
Automatic alarms sounded all over the city, and the ceiling sprinklers came on in at least two office buildings. A community air raid siren was briefly activated, though whether by accident or as a precaution was never established
- Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Page 351

He also briefly mentioned tornado sirens in his book 'The Lost Continent : Tales from Small Town America', describing how tourists react to them. However, I could not find the exact quote in the book so you will just have to take my word for it.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little writeup :)
If you haven't read the books already, I would seriously recommend doing so*. I couldn't breathe from laughing so hard!
Bill Bryson's books are usually of the travel-writing genre, but 'The Thunderbolt Kid' is an autobiography.


*Bill Bryson's books often contain strong language and potentially offensive themes. This is usually done to be comical, and the books are mostly contemporary also. Both the author and I do NOT agree with some of the themes mentioned in the books. Read at your own risk.
A British siren enthusiast. Previously lived at the furthest point from any sirens before co-discovering one very close to where he is located. Also features a great discomfort referring to themselves in third-person.

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