What Good is an Atom if you can’t Laugh at It?

There is a story told around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Eastern Washington State. Hanford was the site were much of the plutonium used in America’s Cold War Arsenal, the Fat Man bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, and the first nuclear device tested at the Trinity, New Mexico. After the end of the Second World War, when some of the information about the Manhattan Project became public, a local Benton County Farmer casually drove up to the gate of the Hanford Reservation. The confused Guard walked up to the dirty pickup truck. The farmer asked the young man if they had any extra plutonium lying around. He had cleared some oak trees, and he could use some help to blow up the stumps!

The character that Bob Hope played in the NBC documentary series The Quick and the Dead was an Everyman who was trying to understand the wonders and dangers of the dawning Atomic Age. Producer Fred Friendly had his work cut out to make such a complicated subject understandable.

For the average American, the only things that they could be sure of about Atomic Power was that it was:

  1. Very Expensive
  2. Full of Complicated Secrets
  3. Somehow it had the potential to wipe out all life on the planet, it was in the hands of our enemy as well as our own.

Archie the Bartender at Duffy’s Tavern, in the episode broadcast on Dec 21, 1951, wants to do his part. His good, if disreputable, friend comes to him with a proposition. It is well known that the Atom has been split, but here in the friend’s box are the two halves of that Atom!

Fibber McGee and Molly does their part as well. In the Friday night broadcast, Aug 13, 1954, Fibber spies a Geiger Counter in the store window. After Molly realizes that it isn’t really for counting Geigers, the clerk explains that the Counter is used to locate Uranium Ore, which the Government will pay a big bonus for if any is found, in addition to what the ore is worth. The dollar signs immediately begin to stack up in Fibber’s head, as a plot is hatched to find his fortune in the desert near Moab Utah.

Enjoy this episode from 1954 and laugh with Fibber as the antic ensue when he buys a Geiger counter:

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