Friday, May 09, 2008

Early Remembrances

Yesterday, the 8th of May, was the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe - VE Day - in 1945. I was about a month and a half shy of my 6th birthday then and was thinking that I had no recollection of VE Day but do have memories of other events that particular year. Below you'll see some of my earliest recollections.

Even though I do not remember anything about VE day, I do remember an event a month earlier - the death of President Roosevelt. In the afternoon of April 12, 1945 I was playing (probably cowboys) with my neighbor friend, Fred Neary, behind Porter's garage on Flint Street in Rochester. The houses on the north side of Flint Street backed up to the houses on the south side of Hawley Street. As Fred an I were playing, a woman came to the back door of her house on Hawley Street and called out to her husband who was working in their garden. She said, "Dear, the President has died." This didn't seem very much to me or to her husband as he never looked up from his gardening and said, "I don't give a shit!" Obviously a Republican! To this day the scene is a vivid as that day in 1945.

Even if I do not remember VE Day, I do recall VJ Day in August the same year. My family was on vacation with my Aunt Mae (my father's sister) and Uncle Eddie O'Brien. We had a cottage on Lake Ontario at Braddocks Bay. When the news broke that the Japanese had surrendered it seemed that all hell broke loose. Every car was blowing their horn and the Braddocks Bay Volunteer Fire Department engines drove back and forth along the beach with the siren going. There may have been fireworks but that's just a guess. I do know that my father, aunt and uncle drove to downtown Rochester to join in the festivities. According to my father, every downtown street was jammed with revelers.

What do I recall before 1945? I do recall a terrible snow storm in the winter of 1944. It seemed that the snow on Flint Street was about ten feet tall. (Alright, maybe not ten feet but I was only five years old so it was pretty high.) The snow had been plowed on the street and piled along the side but in some places only one car could pass. There were quite a few cars parked on the street at the Neary's house (three houses away from us) so it was difficult driving up the street. (From some reason on Flint Street going west to Genesee Street was going "up the street" and going east to Jefferson Street was going "down the street.") I was playing in a snow pile in front of our house and a car stopped and asked what was going on with all the cars parked on the street. I informed him that, "It's Freddy Neary's grandpa. He's deader than a doornail!" That was probably the first time that I knew of a person dying and where I got the phrase, "deader than a doornail," I have no idea.

For many years i had thought that my earliest memory was when I less than a year old. I had a very vivid memory of sitting on the bed with my maternal grandfather, Frederick Maloney. I know that I was less than a year old because I was born in June 1939 and my grandfather died in March 1940. Quite a memory I had! Well, maybe not that good a memory. In the 1980's or so I was at my sister's place in Henrietta and my Aunt Kay (my mother's sister) was also there with some old photos. One of the photos was one of me sitting on the bed with my Grandfather Fred Maloney! Obviously I had seen that photo after I had grown up and remembered it as a real event rather that seeing a photo!

The memory is a wonderful thing. Sometimes It even invents memories!