By Jane Anderson
August 15, 1945, the day World War II ended, was one of the most exciting days for me. I was nine years old and knew there would be changes in our lives—for the better. We had accepted the shortages during the war as a fact of life—everyone sacrificed; our sacrifices helped to support the troops.
We had ration books, limiting the amount of meat and sugar we could buy, the number of pairs of shoes we could purchase, the amount of gasoline Daddy could put in the car. We collected newspapers for paper drives, took jars of saved, strained cooking grease to the butcher for recycling into bullets. We forgot the taste of chocolate, marshmallows, chewing gum and butter. I’m sure for the adults there were more considerations that affected their lives. Mother was very careful with her hose. Silk ones were not available at any price. Parachutes were made from silk. Nylon hose were scarce “as hen’s teeth”. All the wartime shortages would end soon.
On that wonderful day of August 15, 1945, or V-J Day, I earned my own money at my first job! Stores throughout the city were closed. Very unusually, the drugstore my Daddy managed would be closed. However, Daddy, a pharmacist, had some prescriptions he needed to fill. He asked me to go with him to the drug store and sell the newspapers that would be delivered whether the store was closed or open. I could sell the San Antonio Express outside the store and keep the money. I jumped at the chance.
When we got to the store, Daddy helped me set up a wooden crate near the street corner and close to the bus stop. The crate held the stack of papers. He gave me a cigar box for the money, then retreated to the store to prepare the prescriptions.
The papers weren’t very thick, not like the Sunday editions, but the headlines were huge, across the top half of the front page: WAR’S OVER!
People were eager to get a souvenir of the war’s end and the papers sold. Car passengers leaned out and traded a nickel for one. Bus riders reached through the opened windows for a paper. People waiting for the bus bought one to read during their wait. As the stack of papers declined, the change grew in the cigar box. An hour or so passed and I was kept busy and enthusiastic, calling out, “War’s over; buy a paper here!”
Then Daddy came out, locking the store, and said it was time we went home. I didn’t want to quit my growing business with a number of papers left to sell. Daddy said, “Take the money from the cigar box and leave it on top of the crate. People will put their nickels in the box as they take a paper.”
I was very skeptical about anyone doing that. “We’ll check it later, but most people are about as honest as we expect them to be.” Daddy said assuredly.
That didn’t make sense to me and I counted the number of papers I was leaving and figured how much money should be in the box if all the papers were taken. Reluctantly, I got in the car, trying to pin down Daddy to the exact time we’d be checking on my business endeavor.
Mother didn’t allow us out of the house between noon and four o’clock during the hot, humid summer. I just knew it would be a long, boring afternoon. I couldn’t listen to the radio. It was nap time and I had to be quiet. Finally, I grabbed a Saturday Evening Post magazine. Sometimes it had interesting stories. Eventually the long hours passed, and it was time I set the table for supper. After eating, my parents announced we’d go downtown to join the crowds in celebrating war’s end, stopping first at the drug store.
When we got there, I leaped from the car and raced to the corner. I could see the crate was empty. When I picked up the cigar box, there was a satisfying heft to it. Inside were many coins. Some people had made change and left half dollars, a few quarters rolled about, and there were lots of dimes, nickels and pennies. How surprised I was!
I don’t remember how much money I made that day or what I did with it, but I did learn that, as Daddy had said, “Most people are just about as honest as you expect them to be.”
© 2018 Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson shares memories of her life from a time few have experienced or can even imagine. Through her stories we glimpse a time when Polio was a constant fear, segregation was the norm, and expectations of an airline flight attendant were cringe worthy. Writing mostly from her experiences of growing up in San Antonio, Texas, one can hear Southern conversation through her prose, feel a laid-back life style, and drink in the charm and grace of a family dealing with the highs and lows of life. In this particular story, Jane reflects back on a lesson learned of trusting people at a time when our world was fraught with evil.