END OF WORLD WAR II

BY: Dolores Gomez, Brisbane historian, brischic@sonic.net

My dad and uncle fixed up a little “shack” for Grandma Maude on Trinity road in Brisbane. There was a picture of President Roosevelt with American Flags draped around it on her wall. She loved America and was a staunch patriot. I was shocked right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, grandma hung Japanese in effigy out of her front window! She also got rid of her little “made in Japan” ceramic items that were scattered around the house for decoration. Grandma Maude was feisty and very opinionated.
My father too, loved and respected this country. On V-J Day, the long struggle to end World War II was here and my father was determined to go to join the gathering crowds on Market Street. Under my mother’s strong protest, my sister and I jumped into his car, a grey 1936 Chevrolet, for the drive to San Francisco. I am forever grateful he took us to this historic event.
We would experience the excitement and celebration of the end of a horrible part of world history on that day. I saw so many citizens and service men and women with faces of joy and tears. It was a scene of complete wild chaos; a happy hysteria of screaming participants that greeted us right before the Emporium at fifth and Market.
The street was totally teeming and jammed with revelers of all ages and great mobs of service men and women. It was difficult to move in the packed cheering crowd. Civilians wore service men’s hats cocked on their heads and service men wore civilian hats. Some danced with naked mannequins taken from the broken windows of Grayson’s Clothing store and other department stores. Pieces and large chunks of glass littered the sidewalk, making it difficult to walk. Oddly, no one appeared to pay any attention to the dangerous glass!
Street cars, dead in their tracks, were crawling with people inside, outside, standing on top and hanging from the cow catchers. Some waving flags, trying to get a good glimpse of the celebration they’d been longing for and stunned to believe it was finally here. It was obvious some already had too much to drink; bottles in hand and drunk with happiness. The crowd was roaring with delight, hugging and kissing strangers.
My sister, twelve and I was fourteen, stayed close to my father as we could have been easily separated in the crush of the mob. Our young eyes were wide with astonishment seeing the reaction of the end of a horrible war that caused so many years of heartache, sadness and death. To me these folks were just letting off steam, relieved the long war had finally ended; there would be no more killing and finally some peace in our land and hearts.
It meant I didn’t have to be afraid of the wailing air raid sirens, being in a dark house; not having to save aluminum cans, and grease. Women wouldn’t have to paint their bare legs; they could wear silk stockings again! There would be no need to stuff cardboard into my shoes with holes; I could have a new pair of shoes, and no more ration stamps. Citizens would have meat, butter and “Rosie the Riveter” women could stay home and care for their families.
The small banners that displayed gold and blue stars for family service people hanging in windows could come down. Some would never return, but others would return home again. No more gas sticker on our car window, we could take a ride if we chose. The most delicious thought for me was NO MORE WAR! We came back to Brisbane after a couple of hours just observing such giddy joy.
I am thankful I can still remember that day in August 1945 with clarity. I just wish I could say it was the end of all war!