If it's 1954, it must be "Duck and Cover."
Actually, not everyone ducked and covered. My wife, whose family lived outside Washington, D.C., at the time, vividly remembers the duck and cover exercises. Her school sent home letters to parents asking if, in the event of an atomic attack, they wish their child sent home or wanted them to stay at the school. Paranoia -- perhaps justified -- ruled. On the other hand, I was living on a small farm twenty-five miles outside of Boston and we had none of that. Yes, there were the occasional duck and cover PSAs on television, but why pay attention to that when Hopalong Cassidy was on?
The fifties were not as placid as many people think. The threat of an atomic attack was real, or, at least, widely perceived.
The time was right for this now-quaint episode of The Motorola Television Hour, which aired this episode on May 18, 1954. Based on Judith Merril's 1950 novel Shadow on the Hearth, "Atomic Attack was written by David Davidson, a veteran of 1950s television anthology shows. Ralph Nelson (Lilies of the Field, Charley, Requiem for a Heavyweight) directed.
"Atomic Attack" centers on a family that lives fifty miles outside New York City. The father has gone to work in the city when the bomb falls. There is a bunch of Civil Defense propaganda (CD authorities were technical advisers on the show) and a sense of hurriedness on the one-set stage, but it basically centers on how such an attack would affect a typical suburban family.
Phyllis Thaxter (Ma Kent in 1978's Superman) stars as Gladys Mitchell, the mother. Patricia (Patsy) Bruder (best known for her long-running role on As the Worlds Turns) plays the somewhat annoying teenage daughter. Eight-year-old Patty McCormack (The Bad Seed) plays the younger daughter. Also in the cast are Robert Keith, a young Walter Matthau, Audrey Christie, William Kemp, Elizabeth Ross, Daniel Reed, and Virginia Gary. John Daly lent his voice as the Conelrad announcer.
Journey back sixty-four years to an America of optimism and fear.