I was 11 years old when I learned that World War II was over. My family lived on a small poultry farm on the outskirts of town, in Santa Ana, California, the county seat of Orange County. At least four miles separated us from the center of town, those miles covered in lima bean fields, orange groves and berry farms.
I remember that it was the Feast of Assumption and we had been to Mass that morning. Then the quiet of a warm summer afternoon was broken by the distant sounds of church bells, car horns, sirens, the startling whistle at the packing house; my first reaction to this strange combination of sounds was confusion. Neighbors were few and far between on Edinger Road, where we lived, and my parents and I couldn't imagine what on earth was happening to cause all the noise. Instinctively, we walked toward the road, where I had spent so much time the past few years waving to the soldiers who were part of the daily traffic of Army convoys that made their way to and from the Santa Ana Army Air Base. But today it was a different type of convoy. We could hear the approach of cars with horns honking, and then we saw people hanging out the windows of the cars shouting, "The war is over, the war is over!" We waved, jumped up and down, and shouted back at the people in the cars. What wonderful news! What a great day!