Today (8-14) is the 69th Anniversary of the official end of World War II.
I remember that day vividly although I was not quite 4 years old. My Mother and I had just returned to Geary Oklahoma where my grandparents lived from her job as Hostess/Chief Cook on the 76 Cattle and Dude Ranch near Wilcox Arizona (I use the term near rather loosely since the ranch headquarters was some 45 miles from Wilcox but in the wilds of Arizona 45 miles is considered near). Mother heard the news on the radio and grabbed me up and said we’re going downtown to celebrate.
I was happy although I didn’t know exactly why nor did I know exactly what the word celebrate meant but it seemed like fun and it was. When we arrived at the center of town the celebration was already under way and the Mayor of Geary was speaking from a hastily erected podium in the center of the main drag to what was already a huge crowd (Geary at that time had about 1700 residents give or take a couple of hundred) and when he finished his speech someone took the mike and announced that there was to be a celebration dance and party at the area’s only dancehall six miles to the south of Geary on Route 6, Bell’s Tavern where we could all go and get our kicks along with some food and libation of our choice (kids sodas only of course).
Pretty much all of the adult population (that’s probably an hugely over estimation but remember I was only about 4 so it seemed like the whole world was there) except a few seniors proceeded make a mile long caravan down old number 8 towards the combination, dancehall, diner, filling station and bus stop on Route 66 Bell’s Tavern (which at that time was still on road maps). And it was a fun night that went on into the wee hours.
People kept coming in with food and drink and the dancehall which probably was used to maybe 100 people on a busy night now crammed to the gills with hundreds of celebrating people kind of a adults gone wild. Something to make ‘Girls Gone Wild’ blush with envy. The dance floor was crowded so they moved out into the café area out on the paved area of the filling station and even in the graveled parking lot. Two buses from different directions came in for their mandatory stops and decided by a vote of the passengers to join in the festivities.
The adults danced adjourned from time to time to their cars for a few swallows of their favorite libation with mostly cokes as chasers while the kids played hide and seek and other games of fun. Actually twice a group of adults had to be rounded up to hunt for a couple of kids who didn’t come in when the call went out for alla alla out’s in free. They were safely found still hiding in their great hiding places waiting be found.
The fun and games and the dancing and celebrating went on until the wee hours. Finally around 1:30am the bus headed for OKC pulled out a few hours behind schedule and some time later just as me and my Mother were leaving along with 5 passengers who had to be crammed into my Mother’s 1941 Ford Coupe (2 rode in the Trunk while holding the lid up high enough so they could get some air and me and another kid of whom I do not remember her name rode in the back of the car in the shelf right behind the seats looking out the window at those still celebrating at Bell’s Tavern until we both fell fast asleep about halfway back to Geary.
It was a memorable night for me and I assume for a lot of other folks. One of the things that has stuck with me until this day was at least for that few hours there was no color barrier as there were Blacks, Indians, and other ethic groups along with a couple of Italians who had came over from Italy at the beginning of the war. For that one brief shining moment in time we were all color blind. Too bad that, that didn’t carry on from there and that it took many years later to change.
It was the wildest celebration I have ever been a part of and such as it was, was forever burned into my memory. War is Hell and why we can’t see that is always been a mystery to be. There was more pure friendship and love on that one night than perhaps I have ever seen since. The pity is that, that kind of love and sharing and caring can’t trump hatred and bigotry.