Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Further Confessions of a Newspaperboy

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V-E Day prepared me for covering such news events as downtown fires, tumultuous strikes, Detroit riots and similar chaos during my later career as a newspaperman. The prime rule is: Keep Moving.

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Downtown North Bay became bedlam on Victory in Europe Day. We dodged army tanks, drunken soldiers and whooping civilians as we wiped our eyes of tears induced by the celebratory smoke bombs bursting endlessly all around. It was early afternoon on May 8, 1945  when the bells rang and we scrambled out of school. Someone – I think it was Clare Salidas who lived two houses away – was running and shouting about the war being over and hauling our ass downtown to sell the newspaper Extras that would carry the news.

It was the end of more than five years of headlines scoring the wins and losses of Allied troops (highlighting Canadians) versus Hitler’s hordes overseas. It meant husbands, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, relatives and neighbors no longer would be fed into the war machine.  It meant those in prisoners-of-war camps would be coming home. It meant we would no longer glimpse enemy prisoners of war — their uniform featured a denim jacket/smock with a large bright-red circle on the back — stretching their legs as the trains stopped at the CNR station en-route to camps out in the Prairies. It meant no more rationing. It meant time to party. As the end-of-war news tore through town, soldiers stationed at the local barracks spilled out in tanks and jeeps and, when they ran out of vehicles, ran out themselves. They chewed up the pavement rumbling up and down Main Street. I don’t recall any shots, blank or otherwise, being fired but the town was smothered by the smoke bombs popping everywhere.

All the stores closed. The staff and merchants joined the public party. My indelible first lesson was to keep moving in a crowd because you never know what turns it will take. I don’t recall if the Nugget gave us the papers that day but I had about at least a couple of dozen. I still had most of them when I got home even though I had sold them many times over.

Everyone was either drunk or acted like it. Soldiers, women, old men were all yelling, “Hey, kid, gimme a paper.” They’d flip a quarter or a dollar at me — a couple of different guys each tossed a $5 bill at me — and rarely took a paper. Soldiers and civilians alike tossed bottles of booze and beer at each other to share. Guys were climbing lampposts to try to see over the smoke. Gals were dancing in and around the moving vehicles.

The iconic sailor-kissing-a-girl on the streets of New York on V-J Day some three months later was rather tame compared with what went on during V-E day in downtown North Bay. For example, I saw one couple in kahki and swirling skirt enthusiastically making unabashed love in the front alcove of Fosdick’s Book Store. I don’t recall seeing any pictures of that. To a 10-year-old kid, all this was great fun.

It was well after dark when I dumped my papers and headed home. At the kitchen table, I counted my money. My usual tote was around to 50 cents. My V-E Day income was almost $45, which was more than my father made in a week as an Ontario Northland Railway section hand.

– 30 –

 

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 9, 2015 at 6:10 pm

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