This Is Your Life- The Atomic Age

Hiroshima Hits Home Atomic Age

Conceived as I was in the warm afterglow of the Hydrogen bomb it was also in the dark shadow cast by Godzilla that radioactive mutated monster of mass destruction. Together they would send a collective shiver down my cold war spine.

On a hot summer morning on August 6, 70 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 very plane that dropped the bomb.

Talk about a bombshell.

 May 11, 1955

vintage picture1950s family watching TV

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.”

 Hiroshima Hits Home

Hiroshima Hits Home

Hiroshima Hits the Suburbs

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.

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.

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

collage Doomsday Clock and Reverand Tanimoto

Tick Tock (L) Doomsday Clock (R) Reverand Tanimoto

A strange ticking noise was heard, as the familiar theme music faded way… 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.


 “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 …


Vintage Magazine Cover illustration Atom Bomb explodes NYC 1950

The cover of the August 5. 1950 issue of Colliers with the headline “Hiroshima USA:Can Anything Be Done About It?” featured an illustration by Chesley Bonestell imagining Manhattan following an atomic attack

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.

This is Your Life Atomic Bomb

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 Tomorrow for Who is the Surprise Guest?  This Is Your Life Atomic Age Pt II


© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. I almost let this day pass by without thinking of the event that changed the world. Last year, inspired by Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”, I published a post on the bombing called “The Thing They Carried”. I should have reposted it today but didn’t. Maybe next year. Here’s the link if you care to read it:


  2. Pingback: This is Your Life- The Atomic Age PtII | Envisioning The American Dream

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