Federal Civil Defense Administration
Ex-Cell-O Corporation (Pure-Pak Division)
In 1915, Ohio native John Van Wormer created Pure-Pak, the first
paper milk carton, and developed the concept into a profitable company. In 1934, Pure-Pak became a division of the
Ex-Cell-O Corporation, a Detroit based automobile equipment manufacturer which specialized
in tool and die machines. By 1956, the Pure-Pak
division was rolling out millions of disposable milk cartons daily. In December of that year, Ex-Cell-O teamed
with the Federal Civil Defense Administration to release Crisis, a short film
highlighting how they, and others in the dairy industry, were providing a very unique
contribution to the nations civil defense efforts. Hosted by famed war correspondent, author,
and broadcaster Bob Considine, Crisis tells the story of how dairymen improvised
a solution to water shortages brought about by Hurricane Dianes devastating
landfall across the Northeastern United States. Considine, who covered the storm and subsequent flooding first hand, speaks with authority on the subject.
Although Crisis deals primarily with damage from floodwaters, Considine reminds the audience early on that an enemy attack using atomic weapons could cause similar destruction. He relates his experience as a reporter during the nuclear testing of Operation Crossroads as a mushroom cloud lights up the screen. Citizens must be prepared for all eventualities, natural or man-made, as Hurricane Diane showed in August of 1955. As Considine explains, Diane first made landfall with little fanfare, a weak disturbance which many expected to sputter out over the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. Instead, the storm curved inland over New England and brought torrential rains and surging waters. Crisis captures well some of the more devastating scenes. A magnesium factory in Connecticut, inundated with water, detonates in a fiery chemical reaction. Whole neighborhoods in Southern New York and New Jersey are swept away. Particularly hard hit is Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where all drinking water sources have been contaminated. Army water purification units are quickly overwhelmed and the residents of Stroudsburg and surrounding areas have no water.
Recognizing a population in desperate need, innovative dairymen began packaging potable water in paper milk cartons. Once the vital liquid was properly sealed, Pure-Pak and others shipped the water to flood stricken areas up and down the East Coast. As Considine explains, civil defense officials were quick to note how an industry voluntarily used its resources and existing infrastructure to provide a solution to a dire situation. The film demonstrates how the F.C.D.A. and dairy executives are planning for future emergencies. In the event peacetime disaster or enemy atomic attack disrupts a region's drinking water, local dairy plants will begin distributing it in specially marked containers marked with the blue "CD" logo. Crisis, unlike the majority of civil defense films from the 1950's, was not deemed obsolete when federal agencies made protection from fallout radiation their priority. Interested parties could still rent or purchase 16mm copies of the film until well into the 1960's and the advice it offers was still considered valuable.
Crisis may be viewed in its entirety HERE.