I was seated at the dinner table with my dad, sister and two brothers having lunch when the news came over the radio. I happened to be on furlough at the time. I recall that I had a sense of relief rather than joy. I also realized for the first time that all of us had just spent three of the best years of our lives in the service. Years that we could never get back. Sixty years, and I still regret the loss of those years.
I was almost 16 on August 15, 1945. My best friend Carole and I had summer jobs at a large insurance company in Newark, New Jersey. We had been sent home early from work when the announcement came that the war was over. Later talking over our joy together, we began wondering what we could do to make the day a forever memory. Throwing bits of paper out the fourth floor window at work, planning to attend church in the evening and then walking to our small hometown center afterwards didn't fit our memorable requirements.
I do not recall whose suggestion it was. But when we decided to smoke our first cigarette together, it was easy to find and borrow two and a book of matches from Carole's mother's supply. We knew we had to attempt this bit of wickedness in privacy behind their garage.
Innocents that we both were, it took us forever to discover how to light them, and then coughing along with each hesitant drag, we convinced ourselves this feat was quite exemplary.