An 11-year-old’s memories of May 8 |

An 11-year-old’s memories of May 8

In 1945, I was 11 years old and lived in New Jersey. Owing to my status as her eldest son, that spring my mother took me with her on a train trip to attend the funeral of her uncle in West Virginia, where we stayed with relatives on a farm. The way of life there was very different than mine in a seaboard factory town. I remember dusty country lanes, clouds of winking fireflies at dusk, boisterous family dinners with stacks of food and the quiet gloom around the deceased in the funeral parlor.

After about a week it was time to go home again, and our train from Charleston, W. Va., took us to Chicago, where we needed to change trains and had a few hours’ wait. As our train pulled into Dearborn Station in Chicago, we arrived into a scene of mass pandemonium. Throngs of celebrating people were everywhere, screaming in delight, hugging each other, shaking hands with strangers, and patting each other on the back. We soon learned that victory in Europe had just been announced, and everywhere the mood was one of extraordinarily expressive jubilation. We left the station to go for a walk in the streets of Chicago, and it was the same everywhere. Traffic was at a standstill, horns were honking, paper flying, and crowds of people thronged the streets and sidewalks, everyone celebrating and greeting each other in an orgy of gratitude and release. After a while, the celebration gradually subsided, and we made our way back to the station to await our train.

The rest of the trip had a glow of good feeling around it. The awful war was nearing an end. I was not going to see military service after all. At least not until the Korean War …

Ed Buryn

Nevada City

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