This painting, of a young Marine just home from the war, shows us how much we have lost. I remember when the guys were coming home from the war. My parents had parties for them. My father had enlisted in the Navy in World War I even though he was only 15.
He looks older but was only 15 and, after the war ended a few months later, admitted his age and came home. He had no intention of being a peacetime sailor.
Here is one of the parties after the war. Our house had a basement party room with a fireplace (that smoked) and a full bar plus a juke box and, at one time, a penny slot machine that I wish I had now. Sid White, sitting in the front, was a B 17 crewman who was shot down and spent several years in a POW camp.
Standing at the far right is my uncle Tom and his wife Mavis. He had spent the war in Europe. Standing to the left of Sid is Bud Gonya who was a Seabee in the Pacific. He is wearing a vest over a white shirt. My father is standing behind the bar directly behind Sid. Next to him is Chuck Quinn, a neighbor and friend of Bud Kerrison, my cousin who is to the right of them. Bud is behind Mavis and was a B 17 bombardier in North Africa. Next to Bud and perhaps sitting on his lap is Pat Neary who would marry a friend of Bud’s from the North African campaign named Frank Flanagan. Sitting next to Sid with her arms on his shoulders is Ellen Smith who would marry him. Her brother Jimmy was in the POW camp with Sid.
Most of these girls were friends of Bud’s sisters Ruth and Marian and quite a few of them married friends of Bud from the war. I was only 7 years old at the time and had a lot of fun meeting and getting to know these people.
There has been criticism of this “Greatest Generation” who probably spoiled their children, “The Baby Boomers” who have gone to destroy their parents’ world. I think this group had grown up in the Depression and gave considerable credit to the government, credit we now believe to have been excessive. On the other hand, Roosevelt had done a credible job of running the war.
Everyone was happy it was over and the country had a period of prosperity that continued until the 1965 Johnson Administration set off an inflationary spiral that has brought us down, perhaps forever. The 1960s also introduced the violent and anarchic Baby Boomers who wrecked the social institutions over the next 40 years.
Rockwell would not recognize the country we have become.