V-J Day in Cincinnati -1945

In August of 1945, I was 12 years old, enjoying the last month of vacation before entering the 8th grade at old Highland School in the East End neighborhood of Cincinnati.

I was obsessed with the Cincinnati Reds who were just terrible that year, but I followed them on the radio, listening to Waite Hoyt’s expert calls interspersed with his stories about the 1927 Yankees where he had been a star pitcher and teammate of Babe Ruth.

V-E Day (the end of the war in Europe) had occurred in May and everyone was hoping and praying for the end of the war in Japan.  I remember seeing pictures in magazines of how things would be once the war was over.  I was particularly impressed with a picture of a candy store display that actually had chocolate bars along with the Chuckles gum drops, taffy and hard candy we were used to seeing throughout the war.

My father showed me a picture of an early television set in one of his radio magazines and promised that soon we would have one of those contraptions in our house where we could watch all kinds of shows, movies and sporting events.  It seemed like all the good things would never happen, but then on August 14, 1945, we got the radio announcement and the headlines in the Cincinnati Post – the war was over!

After supper, it seemed like we ought to do something to celebrate.  My parents weren’t big on celebrations or crowds, but my father thought it would be appropriate to ride into downtown Cincinnati and see what was going on.

My father had a succession of cars throughout the war, patching them up and trying to get them to last the duration.  The one we had in August of 1945 was a coupe with a rumble seat, rare even in those wartime days.

My parents got into the coupe and my sister and I got into the rumble seat.  We drove to downtown Cincinnati and the hub of the city around Fountain Square.  The night of V-J Day was absolute bedlam with people crowding the streets, hanging out of windows, cruising around in their cars wasting valuable rationed gasoline, and screaming at the top of their lungs.   This seemed to be a purely spontaneous celebration – no speeches, no politicians, no music – and when we came rolling down the street in our aged car with the rumble seat, we immediately got everybody’s attention.  At least, here was something to watch – not a parade or band – but something different to see.  Even with all the old automobiles in use during the war, rumble seats were a novelty.  My sister and I smiled, waved and enjoyed the attention.

My sister and I – 1945

Then we made our way out of town and back home to hopes of a bright tomorrow with the return of three uncles who had been on various battlefronts for almost 4 years.

Soon, chocolate bars began appearing in the display case of Schreck’s delicatessen on the corner of our street, and the uncles were all back with their families.

In a few years my father built one of the first television sets in the city (extremely primitive with a tiny postcard sized picture).  The war was finally over.

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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

16 thoughts on “V-J Day in Cincinnati -1945”

  1. What a great story Lillian, I remember the day also. We lived in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, my dad took me downtown and there were lot of people in the streets, everyone was so excited and yelling. They were selling newspapers and calling Extra,Extra——–Dad bought one and said that I should keep it. Dad worked for the Akron Beacon Journal for many years. I never knew what happened to that newspaper. It would be great to have it now. On a sad note my mother had just passed away that June 17th, I was 10 yrs old.

    1. Thank you for sharing your V-J Day memories with me. I don’t believe I knew you were from Ohio originally. So sad to know that you lost your mother when you were both so young. Lillian

  2. It was so wonderful to read your post about VJ Day my parents were in their 20’s and my dad was a Marine who fought in the Pacific Theater and then was stationed in Japan after the war was over. I remember hearing all the great stories about the war from both of them. My mother had 3 brothers stationed in different places one was in Burma and another in the Fiji Islands I have pictures of him in a grass skirt. My mother said it was a wonder her hand didn’t fall off from all the letter writitng she did.

    1. Thanks so much for your note about your family. Yes, everyone, even the kids, did a lot of letter writing and we got a lot of letters in return. I still have some of the uncles’ letters that my mother had saved. And the pictures, like the ones of your uncle in the grass skirt, are treasures. Lillian

  3. My memories begin with the next war, Korea, but I loved reading your experience of the day.

    We were so satisfied with so little in the way of entertainment then, weren’t we? I remember the first color tv I saw belonged to my cousin. It had colored overlays that we put over the screen! Our first tv was also small, but not quite as small as yours, and not built by my dad. I remember that in small town West Texas, there wasn’t a lot to watch. LOL

  4. Wonderful story, Lillian, and it brought back memories of how my Dad and I celebrated V-J day. Dad was a newspaper man, had ink in his veins, and worked for the Akron Beacon Journal. My mother had passed away just two months before on June 17th, so he took me down to the downtown area of Cuyahoga Falls, there were people everywhere, no cars just excited people yelling, blowing horns, and celebrating. Someone was selling newspapers and was shouting “Extra, Extra, Extra” and Dad said we should buy a paper which he did. Don’t know what happened to that paper but I certainly remember that night. I was ten and going into the 6th grade the next month.

  5. I enjoyed this story – we don’t hear much of what people did when they heard of the end of the war only of the big celebrations. Glad your uncles all made it home safely. Everyone pitched in and did their part – whether they liked it or not. I would like to think this generation would also pitch in and succeed during a time like that – but I doubt it, how sad is that?

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