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Brother-in-law shows up with vintage Geiger Counter

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

My semi-eccentric brother-in-law, Harold, came to visit recently and brought us a present – a Geiger Counter.

It’s from the 1960s and one that Civil Defense stored in Arizona somewhere just in case the Russians decided to nuke the desert. Apparently they put some of them up for sale, and there was quite a bit of competition to get them, but he snagged a couple.

“What made you bring us this?” I asked. “The Cold War is over, sort of.”

He lives a few miles from a nuclear power plant. He knew we have one next to us in Matagorda County. “If those things go up in smoke, you’ll need this,” he said. The counter could measure if, and how much radiation we pick up, should there be a release.

That actually makes a lot of sense.

I worked in Bay City when the South Texas Nuclear Project Electric Generating Station (also known as STNP) was being constructed, and the local paper, The Bay City Tribune, was in full support of the project. And why not? It brought millions of dollars into the area.

The publisher at one time handed out “We Support the STNP” signs that we were encouraged to stick on our cars. I passed. Being a reporter, I didn’t think that was appropriate.

Not that I didn’t support it, but whatever I did or didn’t, I kept to myself, being a journalist, and one who just finished school and traveled a long way to get his first job.

I never had any problems with the publisher, and this was not a stumbling block. Nobody in the newsroom took the sign. But, the paper survived from advertising by local businesses, and it was understandable that those businesses liked the additional people shopping in town.

Years later, I toured the plant as a Houston Chronicle reporter and was very impressed. I was in a small group, and we were allowed everywhere, even in one of the reactor buildings that was inactive at the time.

“You could have used one of these back then,” Harold said. “Who knows what you picked up there.”
The place was sealed tight, I replied. We had gadgets on us measuring the radiation, but there wasn’t any. They were not going to irradiate a bunch of writers. That would be bad publicity, I joked.
The security impressed me the most, though. Even back then, pre-911, it took quite a while to get inside. I’d bet it’s even tighter these days

So, I now have my vintage, mint-condition Geiger Counter, complete with a pen-like device that measures radiation wherever you go. The pen is then positioned inside a base unit that measures how much radiation it has picked up.

Leave it to brother-in-law to show up with the perfect gift.

“Look at this circuit board. It’s like new,” he said as he showed me at length how to use it. If I missed anything, I can always refer to the detailed instruction booklet that came with the gadgets, also in perfect condition.

He installed the battery, set the Gigert Countert and moved it all around in front of us, one by one. We all passed – no needle movement. We are officially free of harmful radiation.

He knew that I’m a sucker for vintage stuff like this. The Geiger Counter is now stored in an undisclosed location, to be taken out only when someone who might be interested in such gadgets comes to visit.
Or, if something goes boom.