With the coming of another Memorial Day, this column is dedicated to those who served in an armed conflict on foreign soil. The decision of the Japanese to quit World War II brought out a full complement of East Rochesterians to celebrate as never before. At that time, President Harry Truman’s news release that the war had officially ended was the signal for action.
Parading automobiles, shouting citizens, cowbells, honking horns and the toning of church bells signaled the end of a second world war in 25 years. Crowds lined the sidewalks and grouped on street corners, congratulating each other on the good news. “The war is over, the war is over” was a single phrase on everybody’s lips.
The village contained many signs and billboards during this time. The main one was a large sign on the empty lot across from the Fire Hall, now occupied by the Parkside Manor building. It contained a list of all the people in the village who were in the services during the duration of the war from 1941-45. Almost all the storefronts in the village had some sort of a reminder of the war. Two popular posters were “Buy War Bonds” and “Loose Lips Sink Ships” but many others were also evident. A large receptacle was placed near the tunnel under the railroad tracks on the end of Main Street for scrap aluminum to be melted down to build airplanes. Victory Gardens were in almost every vacant lot and backyard in the village.
In the 1944 high school yearbook, a very good summary of the way the war affected our schools was written by English teacher Gertrude Fraser.
She wrote “East Rochester High School graduates are serving in the Armed Forces of the United States and Canada on every battlefield of the war. We have erected on the walls of the main hall of the high school building a roster in their honor. A special bulletin board has also been set up for photographs, letters, news items and souvenirs from those who are serving our country. The collection of newspapers, nylon stockings, and books, and good warm clothing for refugees. The Junior Red Cross has been highly commended for the fine work they have done in making toys, scrapbooks and clothing for children.”
The school’s proudest achievement was the purchase of war bonds and stamps. In two years, the students and faculty raised $13,000. The goal was to raise $15,000, which is the price of a Fairchild “Cornell” Trainer airplane.
Unfortunately, the time of celebration was short lived, as less than five years there was another war.