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VJ Day


I had meant to post this three days ago, but I lost track of the calendar. That seems to be happening a lot these days.

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My mother was born in 1940, and lived the first few years of her life with her family in Boston. They moved out to Winthrop when she was four to find some better air in hopes of improving her and her older sister’s health. It worked. My grandfather ran the Good Will Neighborhood House in East Boston, a place for immigrants to get help with government documents, find a job, and for babysitting while they were at work. It also served as a social center for the mostly-Italian immigrants who settled in the neighborhood.

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Along with his work at the Good Will House, my grandfather served in the Coast Guard during the war, and patrolled the Boston Harbor and offshore to protect the fishermen from German U-boats. My mother said the fishermen would often give my grandfather a large codfish wrapped in paper, a welcome addition of protein to their wartime rations.

When I was cleaning off a bookshelf last month, I found this letter folded carefully in an old book titled The St. Nicholas Anthologies. The book was published in 1948 and had belonged to my grandfather. The letter describes the scene in Boston when the end of the war was announced. It is addressed to his mother, my great-grandmother. I think it is a remarkable time capsule, especially as it is dated August 15, 1945, which became known as Victory over Japan Day, the day on which the Japanese government formerly surrendered (VE Day, Victory in Europe, was May 8, 1945).

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The Second World War was over.

Illustration for article titled VJ Day
Photo: Tim Shaffer
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The St. Nicholas Anthology was a collection of short stories that were first published in St. Nicholas Magazine, a monthly children’s magazine that was first published in 1873. The oldest story in the collection dates back to 1891. A second anthology, with a green cover, was published in 1950's. My mother remembers the book fondly, and often read it as a child.

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Illustration for article titled VJ Day
Photo: Tim Shaffer
Illustration for article titled VJ Day
Photo: Tim Shaffer

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