The Victory over Japan that ended World War II was announced August 15, 1945. I was just a couple of weeks shy of my 9th birthday but I remember the war vividly and remember V J Day. The war was part of our everyday lives…friends and neighbors going to war, some getting killed, rationing, black-outs, and horrible news broadcasts as the major battles were fought. Many people have shared their memories of those days so I’ll leave you to ponder their accounts. I’ll just share a few of the things that I remember about V J Day and the way things were.
We had supper with my Grandpa and Grandma Thomas at their house at 315 Walnut Street in Augusta. It was just a few blocks so Mom, Dad, Sylvia, and I had walked. There were some out-of-town relatives there but I don’t remember who they were. After supper, we kids were out on the front porch when the noise started up. We could hear car horns and people yelling and cheering and really carrying on. One of the adults came out and told us that the war with Japan was over and the boys would be coming home. Everyone was excited and we started yelling too.
My Dad came out of the house with a box of wooden kitchen matches and a pair of pliers. He said “We don’t have any fireworks but you kids can make some noise with these.” He then showed us how a kitchen match can make as much noise as a cap gun. If you recall, the tip, the striking part of the match, is a different color than the body. You line up the pliers in the same plane as the match stick and grasp the tip of the match with the pliers. While gently applying pressure you start to turn the pliers as if uncorking a bottle and the tip of the match will separate from the body. Maintaining a firm grip on the pliers, you strike the jaw of the pliers on the sidewalk and that causes the explosion. Pretty neat and as I said, it’s at least as loud as a cap gun. We kids took turns with the pliers until the entire box of matches was gone.
By this time it was dark and we could hear more noise coming from State Street which was a block over including a band that was playing full blast. Dad and Mom came out of the house and got us and we walked over to State Street and went up a block to the corner of 5th and State. The sidewalks were packed. The street was jammed too with cars, trucks, and tractors. One of the flat-bed trucks was carrying the Augusta High School Pep Band. I used to remember the names of all the band guys but now can only recall Corky Smith who played the drums. State Street was the main street in our town and was paved in brick. It ran north and south for maybe 1 ½ to 2 miles. The north end was on high ground and after maybe a half mile you came to High Street where it started going downhill and continued to slope all the way to the end. If you were going to “drag main street” you would drive up to High Street, make a U-turn, then cruise all the way south to 4th Street where you would make another U-turn and head back to High Street. Driving this mindless track used to occupy the kids for hours. High Street was in a residential area that continued south to 7th Street. The business district or “downtown” part of State Street went from 7th to 3rd St. On V J Day, all these cars, trucks, and tractors were making a big loop from High St. to 4th and back and making noise all the way.
That’s all a 9 year old kid can remember…the crowds, the noise, the joy, and the relief that the war was over.
October 11, 2014