On a hot summer morning on August 6, some 67 years ago, the first Atomic Bomb blasted over Hiroshima ushering us into the Atomic Age.
In that great American tradition of forgive and forget, only ten years later in May of 1955, television audiences from coast to coast watching a popular TV program “This is Your Life”, witnessed first hand as a surprised survivor of Hiroshima nervously shook hands with the co pilot of the plane that dropped the bomb.
Talk about a bombshell.
May 11, 1955
Some things never change
As the mother of a newborn, my harried Mom had very little free time.
Wednesday nights were the one hour of relaxation for her all week, so along with 40 million other TV viewers my exhausted Mother looked forward to watching “This is your Life.”
The catchy gimmick of this long running show which began its life on radio was that the amiable host Ralph Edwards would surprise Mr. or Mrs. Average American by informing them they were on national television. Guests were surprised with a presentation of their past life in the form of a narrative read by Edwards and reminisces by relatives and friends. For that extra zip the same stunt could be pulled on celebrities too.
A perpetually smiling Edwards would reveal the subject’s life story with the assistance of a huge leather-bound This is Your Life scrapbook.
The absolute highlight of the show was the appearance of the “mystery guest” and the water works would begin giving credence to the shows nickname as the “weepiest show on TV”.
Tears For Fears
Now with the dishes washed, laundry folded, and baby bottles sterilizing in the electric sterilizer patiently awaiting refill of tomorrow’s formula, Mom could sit back, relax and give me my evening feeding.
Mom warmed up the bottle and warmed up the TV.
Turning on the television, the set made the usual warming up noises.
With the skill of a safe cracker, Mom delicately adjusted the large knobs on the mammoth mahogany encased set- one for the snowy picture and the flip-flopping rollover, another for the sound.
Shaking the baby bottle, the milk felt pleasantly warm on Moms wrist, and I drank it, sighing in satisfaction.
She settled in with a soothing cigarette in one hand, my bottle in the other, and a box of tissues at the ready, just as the music for “This is Your Life” began.
According to the TV Guide tonight’s episode featured Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
We May have a little Surprise for You
A strange ticking noise was heard, as the familiar theme music faded way…. TICK.. .TICK… TICK….
Clutching a leather book, the congenial host, Ralph Edwards, beamed as he turned to the camera looking straight out at us, and said:
“Good Evening ladies and gentleman and welcome to This is Your Life. The ticking you hear in the background is a clock counting off the seconds to eight fifteen in the morning, August 6 1945”… TICK… TICK… TICK …
My attention shifted from the bottle to the loud, regular, heart- beat- like sound, so familiar, so personal a sound …TICK… TICK… TICK… Mom tried to get me to resume drinking but I was fixated by the reassuring sound…. TICK… TICK …TICK ….
“And seated here with me”, Edwards continued “is a gentleman whose life was changed by the last tick of the clock as it reached 8:15. Good evening sir”, Edwards said turning to the gentleman, smiling as graciously as a maitre de, “Would you tell us your name?”.. TICK… TICK… TICK… TICK… TICK……
“Kiyoshi Tanimoto: answered the somewhat confused looking Asian gentleman, unsure of why he was there…. TICK… TICK… TICK… TICK… TICK…
“And where is your home” Edwards asked, as kindly as Santa Claus might ask a boy what he wants for Xmas.
…TICK… TICK… TICK… TICK…TICK
“Hiroshima Japan”, the Japanese fellow answered, looking extremely uncomfortable, as small beads of perspiration appeared on his perplexed countenance.
“And where,” our hospitable host innocently inquired, “were you on August 6, 1945 at 8:15 in the morning?”
Poor Reverend Tanimoto had no chance to answer.
The ticking grew LOUDER and LOUDER, and I began to cry, scared by the sound, now less familiar and more frightening …
TICK… TICK… TICK….
As my screams became louder Mom picked me up and walked me around when suddenly there was an uproar coming from the TV set with the sound of kettle drums… BOOM… BOOM… BOOM…….KABOOMMM…….. and I let out a piercing cry …………………………………
“This is Hiroshima” Ralph Edwards said.
Mom’s gentle rocking presence was dwarfed by a phallic-looking-mushroom shaped cloud that grew on our TV screen and I was as fixated by that image as I was by the sounds.
“…and in that fateful second on August 6, 1945 a new concept of life and death was given its baptism”, Edwards concluded solemnly.
And at that moment I was baptized in a pool of fear that would be my constant companion for the rest of my life.
A mushroom cloud would hang over my dreams haunting my future.
More surprises would be in store for Reverend Tanimoto…stay tuned for Part II Who Was that Mystery Guest?
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