One of the scariest things that ever happened to me took place on Love Avenue Extension in Tifton. Our family had just moved out to that location after having spent my earlier years living with my Grandfather and Grandmother Golden in their home on Central Avenue. Those were the war years. But after Dad came home from the Navy, we moved out on Love Avenue Extension.
I was about five years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan. Even though we didn't have twenty four hour a day news outlets as we do today, it was BIG news. The newspapers were our main source of information about the deadly explosions that ended WWII. I remember seeing the horrid photos in the newspaper. People hovered around any copy of the paper they could get looking at the suffering of the Japanese people who lived in those cities. Radio news also informed us of the event and its aftermath. It was horrible and what it accomplished was that it instilled in my five year old mind the idea that it could happen to any of us at any time. It was a fearful time for me. I could just imagine that an atomic bomb would be dropped on us and my whole family and all my friends would die or look like the pictures I had seen in the newspaper and in the theater of my mind.
During those days children could play just about anywhere in the neighborhood and their parents would not have to worry about them. The parents of our friends would discipline us if we got out of hand at their house. It was an agreement that parents in those days had. One day I was playing about two blocks up the dirt street as was Love Avenue Extension at the time. My friend and I were having a wonderful time just playing kids games. As I remember, we were playing "chase" at the time. Suddenly, I noticed a strange sound coming from above. It sounded like a motor but not like any one I had ever heard. It got closer and closer to us so I looked up through the boughs of the tall Georgia pines and saw something I had never seen before. It was the biggest thing I had ever seen! This big silver thing was moving slowly, and in my child's mind, I thought that it found us and that it was hovering just overhead. Actually it was moving very slowly. I ran out into the street to get a better look with no pines in the way and what I saw frightened me almost to death. It was big....it was silver...it was shaped like a bomb....it had found us!!....and we were all about to die just as those poor people in Japan had died! It was the Atomic Bomb right there in Tifton and right above me! It was travelling parallel to the street making its way right toward my house and, I was sure, it was going to destroy Tifton and the whole world as we knew it. I turned and ran toward my house which was one block away. Could I make it? Would anything save me? I ran in the house shouting to the top of my lungs: "It's the Atomic Bomb!,...it's the Atomic Bomb!!!"
There it was just over my house purring along. It had me! Nowhere to go! Live was over! My mother ran to the door to see what I was so terrified about and when she saw what it was she told me: "Bill, that's not a bomb."
"That's a blimp."
"It won't hurt you; everything is o.k." I had never seen a blimp before. I had no idea what it was except that I was certain that it was the Atomic Bomb and my mother, my daddy, me and my little sister were doomed! Boy, was I ever relieved to learn what it really was and that it wasn't going to explode and devastate life. For days everyone had a good laugh at my expense about the Atomic Bomb. I think my mother told the story to at least a hundred people in the next week's time. They would laugh loudly, tousle my hair (which I didn't like even at age 5), and then they would explain to me again what a blimp is. By that time I was an expert on blimps and didn't want to hear the story again.
Today, every time I see a blimp hovering high over a football game, I think of the time that, as a five year old boy, I saw my first one and was certain, beyond reasonable doubt, that it was the Atomic Bomb.
William F. Harrell