A 21st Century Resource Center

The Mercer County Holocaust-Genocide Resource Center is located on the West Windsor, NJ, campus of Mercer County Community College. We are dedicated to providing the most current resources on Holocaust and genocide education for the 21st Century classroom. Learn more about us at

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is Your Life

The nifty fifties.

Today's history students are given the impression that a mere five years after the Holocaust ended a new era dawned in America; an era defined by big turquoise cars, lavish suburban living, and some guy that everyone liked named Ike.  Nothing solidifies this imaginary picture of the past more than the television shows made popular by baby boomers the nation over. 

Each week, Ralph Edwards - a chummy, average sort of guy you'd imagine meeting at your dad's company picnic - would walk through a live studio audience filled with people giggling over the chance at  their 15 minutes of fame on postwar America's greatest invention: the television.  They didn't have to perform derranged site gags or call a friend for a cue to win five grand; they just had to be willing to step on stage, sit in a puffy chair, and have their life story shared on live TV. 

Mind you, these were the days before Jerry Springer.  The fine folks at NBC actually wanted you to keep your dirty laundry at home in your hampers, thank you very much.  After all, the Nifty Fifties had a reputation to maintain.  The politics may have been cold, but everything was calm and peaceful and it was going to stay that way.  Just ask Hanna Bloch Kohner, Mr. Edwards's guest on the May 27, 1953, episode of This Is Your Life:

I once read that the 1950s were so seemingly perfect because the parents of the baby boomer generation had grown up in the Great Depression and lived through the horrors of World War II.  Naturally, they wanted the world to be a perfect place for their children.  Mrs. Kohner's biography aired at 10 pm, late enough so that the kiddies were in bed, but early enough to ensure that the survivors of depression and war would remember that to strive for perfection one must never forget how horrible an imperfect world can be.

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