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January 1951. Still the month to look back at the accomplishments of the previous year. This radio discussion series called “You And . . .” focused on different aspects of our society in 1951; where we were going, what were we doing and what did it all mean. In this episode (actually two: one from each day), the discussion is about the development of the Hydrogen Bomb and its testing during 1950. Called The Hell Bomb, it dwarfed the destructive power of the Atomic Bomb and truly brought about the contemplation that humanity was now very capable of ending all life as we knew it. And was the development of this bomb used as a deterrent to prevent future wars, or was this the natural progression of scientific experimenting. Was there any good to be had out of this development? It was almost impossible to tell. But this was how the future was shaping up in the 1950s.
Also, and almost as an antidote to the destructive power of the H-Bomb was the development of Antibiotics, most notably Terramycin, considered a wonder drug in the cure and prevention of a whole host of diseases and illnesses. There was a considerable amount of good and this second half of the program is given over to the positive aspects of Science – how, when used to heal, rather than destroy, it presented endless possibilities and imbued the 1950s with a sense of wonderment.
So, the 1950s presented a tapestry of extremes; life in the absolute best and the absolute worst. It showed what we were capable of doing and that humanity was capable of producing infinite good as well as terminal bad – it made for uneasy times and an uneasy gaze into the future. If anything, it presents the 1950s as a decade of great anxiety. That even though we were coming out of World War 2 and were stuck in the middle of the Korean War, it was still going to be a decade that presented a lot of issues and new complications we might not be entirely ready for. The social upheavals were just around the corner; everything from Rock n’ Roll to teen pregnancy and Civil rights. It was not an easy decade to be growing up in. And even though the discussions being presented on these two episodes of You And The World bordered on the humorous, the serious underpinnings couldn’t be avoided.
To get some idea of the complexities America and indeed the world and day-to-day life were facing, here are two episodes from You And . . .The World, from CBS Radio, hosted by Dwight Cook.