Thursday, September 1, 2016

The First VJ Day

(Originally published in Hobbie$, Etc., September 1995)

      This is a mild September day in 1945, but sirens are screaming. Mother stands bent over with one ear near the cloth-covered speaker in the base of the more-pretty-than-useful radio. She frantically spins the dial, searching through the static for a legible announcement, or warning, or explanation -- to tell us if we are to do anything.

      I listen, terrified while exciting pictures of newsreels of blockbuster bombs falling from planes flash through my mind. Are we being bombed? Maybe the target is the nearby airfield -- maybe my school! I love my school, my friends, my teacher . . . Heaven forbid that it should be my school about to explode into dust and rubble!

       Suddenly, Mama stands upright, then bracing her hand on the curved and polished wood of the waist-high console, she beams, "Oh! Thank God, Girls, thank God! What we've all been longing for has happened -- the War is over! Oh! Thank God! I wonder if your Daddy has heard yet. I must call Mother. Now your Uncle Jackie can come home!"

      "Is the War really, really-truly over, Mama? Can we tell Billy?"

      "Tell the world, Girls, tell the world!" Mother heads for the phone planning to get her call in before all the lines are jammed, and declares aloud that she hopes she gets a good operator she likes so they can discuss this wondrous news while waiting for the call to grandmother to reach all the way to Missouri.

      Gleefully, we girls, my two sisters and I, run out to the green, grassy, front yard. Here comes Billy, shouting our news -- he always knows everything first! I grab his hand, and we join hands with my sisters, the four of us skipping in a circle in the bright sunshine, chanting, "The War is over! The War is over, and tomorrow we get our bicycles!"

      We had saved our allowances, for the most part, fed by the promise that when the war was over we should have our money all ready for the dreamed- about-bicycles. I knew what my bike would be -- a powder blue girl's Schwinn!

      I had already named this dream. I, who had outgrown dolls and naming them, had a tom-boy's idea of what this bike would mean in my life. The "Blue Devil" was going to be mine because God (who my mother was still thanking, her voice flowing through the open window) had seen fit to end the War!

      The guys, Billy and the others, all came to play in our yard -- where Daddy Jack had built pipe-iron swing sets with trampolines and trapeze bars and strong swings with chain supports right next to the ten foot square sandpile furnished with sand from the dunes east of town. These boys would have to let me now. Yes, the guys would have to let me join their gang once I had my own bike.

      (Editor's note: They didn't.)

      I blush now to remember that V-J Day, the second of September, 1945, and the selfishness of childhood desires.

      I can still feel the heart-in-the-throat emotion evoked partially by relief that we were not being bombed, but mainly by the misunderstanding that factories could immediately produce and deliver our long anticipated bikes.

      But by the time the plants re-tooled from the manufacture of war supplies and were once more building and selling bicycles, I had shed my tomboy stage, and looked on boys from a far different perspective. I still cherished my powder blue Schwinn, but used it to ride to a girl chum's house to discuss serious subjects like when would we be allowed to start dating, or shaving our legs, etc. ©September 19, 1995 Mary E. Adair

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