This is a (slightly) edited transcription of a letter written from my grandmother, Sade Prendergast Duntemann, to her son, Frank W. Duntemann, who was my father and stationed in North Africa at the end of the War. She began it on August 14, 1945, and completed it the next day, V-J Day. It speaks for itself. Note that my grandmother was speaking privately to her son, about relatives and people in the neighborhood, so don't expect complete and total sense. (Who could, on that almost unimaginable day?) Just listen, and see if V-J Day becomes a little more real.
Chicago, Illinois Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1945
Well, we sure nuff have chewed our nails off and I don't mean maybe. This morning at 6:30 we heard that Japan had signed our papers and they were here and this news came thru Switzerland. Pops and Sis were off together this morning because Pops is opening the bank vaults this week because the officers have to take a turn for a week about once a year and this week is Pops' turn and so he takes the 7:30 train in the morning with Sis this week. They went off this morning thinking the war would be over before they got downtown, but all day long there has been the craziest stuff over the radio. One minute they would announce that this would be V-J day and in the next five minutes that it would be all off. I ran and called Sis and Pops every half hour and each time I had something different to say, one time that it was all over and the next minute that it wasn't. When they started announcing that Switzerland denied that they had received anything from Japan, I gave up and said to hell with it and I shut the damn thing off. I was listening to the celebrations that had been going on all over the country. In New York from two o'clock on they were going crazy in the streets; they said there were girls without shoes and others in nightgowns and fellas in pajamas and they were practically torn off and all that kind of stuff.
In San Fran I heard there was a big liquor store broken into and 50,000 bottles of liquor were stolen and practically everybody in San Fran was stewed and all the soldiers and sailors and police were as bad for they weren't doing a thing but saying it was coming to the fellas and all that kind of stuff. I just called Sis an hour ago and she said they had word through someone that the papers had arrived in Washington and people were starting to go nuts then. They are screeching over the radio now and saying it won't be long till Truman tells the world the good news. He is going to declare tomorrow a holiday and so, baby, if I ain't able to write tomorrow it's because I am going to be stewed, going on a li'l ol' tootand I am bawling right now. Things are getting more excitable every minute, how I wish you were here, but you will be soon, babe. I hope you get out of that hellhole where you have been so long, and Toots what a day when you call me telling me you are in the Good Ol' USA. I can't wait. I will celebrate more than ever then and we will have V-J day all over again, for that will be my V-J day and I don't mean maybe. Oh, for the day when you and Willie Mark can come home. And not only Willie Mark but Willie Duntemann your dog, boy, I will eat Willie up if you ain't eaten him first those days you were not getting any food.
Sis said when I was taIking with her on the phone that they were starting to throw paper out of the windows downtown and it looked like people were going wild. They have a right to, because we people here in Chicago have been very quiet while other places have been celebrating.
Wednesday - V-J Day * OH HAPPY DAY
Well, that was as far as I got yesterday, because the world went wild. I figured that I would get supper then after I wrote that much, and then write again later on. I never got to it. I got a swell supper of cold corned beef, for we had hot corned beef the night before, so I went out in the garden and picked seven swell ears of corn, and we had cake and whathaveyou. Pops and Sis came home and we sat down to a feast. We were expecting the good news momentarily, and so before we got through with the meal, the good news came over the radio as we were seated at the table on the back porch. The screeching started on the radio and the announcer was practically crying, we could hear people screaming and then all the church bells in the city started to ring, the fire sirens started to blow, horns in cars started to blow, we heard cannon crackers that people resurrected from someplace, guns were shot off, and this continued for hours. People were screaming, crying, hollering, people were running hither and thither, and so I started to cry, Sis started to cry, and believe it or not, but Pops started to cry, and the three of us sat at the table and bawled our eyes out. We hurried and got thru with the dishes, and everybody out in front was screeching and hollering and everybody was running into everybody else's house, everybody was inviting the other fellow in for a drink and there was confusion and commotion everywhere.
Everybody was wondering and asking, "Oh, where is my boy tonight and what is he doing and does he know about all this?" We were told last Sunday in church that in case V-J day was here that we would have Holy Hour that night, so Sis and I went and the church was packed and Holy Hour was really beautiful. Father Terlecke gave the sermon and he talked of our boys who had given their lives and our other boys who have given so much of their lives. We had singing and Solemn Benediction and Ma Malone and Alice sat back of us and everybody in the church was crying and laughing. Hysteria was everywhere.
On the way back from church I invited the Malones to come over and that we were going to celebrate, but she said she couldn't because the Sheridans were coming over so I told her to bring them along and so they all came, Ma and Pa Malone, Ma and Pa Sheridan, and Alice and Lizzie Ainsbury, and so the drinks started to flow freely here. Poor Pa Malone was drinking a shot and a beer for a washdown and after he had about fifteen of those, he and I started to sing. He was telling me that he never was much of a singer, but he would do the best he could. Ma Malone was telling Pops that they had to hire a detective to watch Mike and me cause we were seen more than once up in the liquor store on Clark street where they sell beer and drinks too. (I don't know whether I told you or not but two different tines that I went there for beer I found Mike there drinking his shot and beer.) They stayed until twelve o'clock and I wanted to make coffee for I had swell homemade bread and corned beef, but they wouldn't stay because the two Malone kids were minding the baby and the Sheridan kids were still out on the street and so they had to help Pa Malone down the stairs. A grand time was had by all, and we heard all over again what a fine bunch the Bums are and how we will all celebrate when you all come home. Mike praised me to the sky and said that if anyone ever did their bit I did, writing to the Bums like I did, and it was his wish that never would any of them ever forget me. Pa Malone said he knew that a couple of them didn't appreciate it, but that he also knew from the bottom of his heart that the rest did, and that they would always love me as long as I live for what I did for them in keeping up their spirits during the dark days of the war.
Well, Lizzie Ainsbury didn't have a leg either and so we went to bed at nearly one. Pops didn't want to drink too much for he had to report at work today because strange as it seems, the whole city is closed but for the banks and there is some law which says they cannot close and so besides that he had to open the vaults this week too. Everyplace in the city in closed and will remain closed tomorrow too. There was a two-day holiday declared and we will get another when the final papers are signed.
Today is the Feast of the Assumption and we went to nine o'clock Mass, and everybody couldn't wipe the smile off their mugs. Everybody was there with the humors.
Now the next thing: When will you come home, baby, and when will Bill Mark get home? Sal expects Sonny next week, and of course he may have to go across but what of it, if the war is over and there is no shooting?
Today I am expecting the Marks, and we are all going to devour that grand roast of beef that Bill Kelly gave us last week. I froze it and saved it and we will eat until it sticks out of our long yellow bellies.
Tonight is Irish night, the night of the big Irish picnic at 4200 N. Western, and so we are all going (but Pops, of course he can't because of the bank) and there'll be goofy dancing and singing.
They say that downtown the people went wild, and you could not get through any of the streets as you will see by looking at the newspaper picture I am enclosing. What do you think of it? [Note: The picture mentioned has been lost.]
Sis is yelling to tell you the good news: We just heard over the radio to tear up our gas coupons, they are no good from today on. Gas rationing is lifted and from today on we can drive to Kernenyok and back and need not worry about gasain't that grand? Heating oil for our furnace is also lifted today so we won't have to freeze our arses either. Well, babe the next best thing: When do you guys get home? This is all for today, so until next time (Oh, my poor head) what a hangover -