By Ralph D’Agostino, Special to the Independent
On a perfect August afternoon in 1945, my friends and I from West Everett headed for the “beach” on the banks of the Malden River. We crossed the Boston and Maine railroad tracks that separated our neighborhood from the mudflats and marshland which lead to the “beach”. This was the first year we were considered ‘old’ enough by the older boys to join them at this summer sanctuary, where only the sun hung over our nakedness as we swam in the murky stillness of fresh water from the north and salt water from the Mystic River. We swam naked to hide the evidence of wet and oil-stained bathing trunks from our parents.
The older boys provided protective supervision. Rumors were that they boys invited girls when it got dark, lit fires, and toasted marshmallows. Probably false, but it did whet our appetite and arouse our imagination. “Marshmallows in the marsh”, too good to be true. Yet, we had a sense of gratitude and tradition for all the boys, past and present, who created the narrow, trodden path cutting through the tall, unruly grass and shrubs of the marshland.
Where were some of the boys now, I wondered, on that August day? Probably North Africa, Midway, Guam? Yes, we knew a war was going on, though it hardly seemed to affect our daily lives, astonishingly as it sounds, for we saw the headlines, newsreels, and movies that revealed the horrors and suffering throughout the war-torn regions of the world. Yes, we knew we were very, very fortunate to be Americans.
On the walk back to Everett Street, we heard talk that the President was going on the radio that evening. My young mind had trouble with the fact that President Roosevelt had died, and I bore a confused resentment toward Harry Truman, so I told my friends I wasn’t going to listen to the new President, and after dinner I was going to hang out at our “corner.”
The stretch of sidewalk on Main Street from Everett Street to Prescott Street was in the shade, except for two narrow shafts of early evening sunlight from the alleys that bordered the three-decker (present day site of the Orsogna Plaza). My friends and I were hanging out with some older boys, drinking sodas that we bought at Fasciani’s at the corner of Main Street and Everett Street. The sidewalk was getting fairly crowded, for news had gotten out that Japan was going to surrender, when a familiar truck parked in front of the three-decker. Mr. Manganaro, a local plasterer, got out of the truck and told those of us nearby to stick around while he visited his parents who occupied the third floor of the three-decker. Shortly he returned and said, “The war is over and we are going to let everybody in Everett know it. So, jump on the truck, kids. Yeah, you young ones too.”
So up we climbed on the open truck, about 12 of us, standing up on the plaster-stained deck, some lucky to hang on the rickety rail slats. Off we went, hootin’ and honkin’ our way across the streets of our hometown. In short order we had cars, trucks, and people behind us creating a parade of sorts, a display of “pride of country” that may never be surpassed. When we got back to Main Street, the crowd began to disperse. It appeared that everyone wanted to hear what President Truman had to say, me included. Someone asked out loud, “So what’s goin’ to happen now?”
An old man standing in front of Driscoll’s hardware store answered, “The boys will be back home soon. Make way for them.”
And we did. August 14, 1945 will forever be known as V-J DAY, Victory over Japan!