From the Archives: Underground smog shelter

ESCAPE’ ROUTE--Bill Bounds at the entrance of spiral staircase leading to his smog-alert chamber at
June, 1971: Bill Bounds at the entrance of spiral staircase leading to his smog escape chamber at his Palos Verdes Peninsula home.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

Looking to escape Southern California smog, Bill Bounds went underground. In an Oct. 27, 1971, Los Angeles Times article, Charles Hillinger explained:

Manhattan Beach inventor Bill Bounds has built a three-room, fully furnished underground escape chamber.

He did not erect it because he fears an atomic blast.

He built it to escape the smog.

“It’s no laughing matter,” insisted the inventor of the first automatic cartridge camera. “I’m deadly serious.

“Did you ever think the day would come when children wouldn’t be able to play outside because of smog?

“Well, that day is here. And smog keeps getting progressively worse.”

Bounds’ smog-alert chamber is reached by a spiral staircase winding 20 feet into the ground in a well-like shaft.

It is one of the unusual features of a Palos Verdes Peninsula home he and members of his family have been building for five years. …

Bounds, a high school dropout, invented the Fotson, the first automatic cartridge camera. …

Bounds works full time as president of a small Manhattan Beach company, Williams Bounds, Ltd. currently in production with his latest invention — a combination salt shaker and pepper grinder.

More than a million of the novelty items have been sold. …


The Fotron camera was discontinued in 1971. An April 25, 1971, Times article reported of two class-action lawsuits against the manufacturer.

Today, Torrance based Williams Bounds Ltd., continues to sell a variety of kitchen equipment.

No additional information could be found regarding Bounds’ smog shelter, whose benefits, in Hillinger’s article, its builder extolled, “It’s a quiet retreat, restful, a great place to escape to — smog or no smog.”

See more from the Los Angeles Times archives here