The Greatest Generation
In early 1946, my father had only been home from the Pacific War for a few months. We were living in Norfolk, Virginia, where he and my mother had met in 1941, where I was born in 1942, and where he was discharged from the Navy. We had a small apartment across from the old Ocean View Park and boardwalk. In the backyard was the abandoned chassis of old Model A that was at various times my fort or my airplane.
On the weekends, Dad and his ex-Navy buddies would go down the coast somewhere and come back with bags full of crab, clams and oysters which they would cook up and consume with lots of beer. Always lots of beer. Sometimes around a fire pit. Coming home from the islands alive made them very exuberant fellows.
There was always some kind of war surplus item lying around. I specifically remember a luggable field radio that I was always trying to get to work. When playing outside I would often see Corsairs coming ashore from returning aircraft carriers. They’d fly so low over my sandbox that I could see the pilots’ faces. I’d wave and imagine that they waved back. I don’t suppose they did.
Over at the boardwalk there was a hall displaying a captured Japanese mini-sub, other materiel and large photos of the war. One large poster was already scaring the bejesus out of us with details of a potential new atomic bomb much deadlier than the ones used on Japan.
Nearby was a large lot that was being used to store all sorts of military vehicles returning from the European theatre. There were jeeps, ambulances, trucks and tracked vehicles of all sorts. I remember messing around in there with some older boys from the neighborhood who let me tag along.
I was 4 years old at the time but these memories still stay strong with me. Perhaps because I hold immense admiration for that generation. I still love the music, literature, movies and stories from that period. I believe that I would have been completely comfortable coming of age in the 1930s.
That generation is mostly gone now and my generation (I’m 70) will be the last to have personal knowledge of those people. I think the generation being born today will be the poorer for it. Perhaps that’s why these memories were the first and may be the last that I recall.