Dr. George R. Eichler, a graduate of Northampton High School and retired orthopedic specialist, reflects on his V-J Day memories. His father was the superintendent of Northampton schools in 1944 and served in World War I and on the draft board for World War II.
“V-J Day was Aug. 15, 1945. I was 14 years old and was a newspaper carrier for the Evening Chronicle, the afternoon paper of the Call Chronicle Newspapers in Allentown. The Morning Call was the morning paper.
“My paper route was mainly in the second ward of Northampton, although I had one or two customers in the first ward.
“My dad’s routine for the hot August days (no air conditioning in those days) was to come home from work about 4:30 p.m., change into shorts and a short-sleeve shirt, grab the Evening Chronicle, go into the backyard, sit under a shade tree and read the newspaper.
“I would return home at about 6 p.m. from delivering my newspapers, and then we had dinner.
“The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima Aug. 6, and the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later – Aug. 9.
“From the news in the Evening Chronicle, Dad commented that ‘sooner rather than later, Japan would have to surrender.’ Germany had surrendered in July, and it was only a matter of time before Japan would also surrender.
“On the afternoon of Aug. 15, the telephone rang and Dad answered the phone. Voice on the other end said, ‘George.’ My dad’s name was also George, so he said, ‘Yes.’
“The voice then said it was Mr. Sensinger from the Call Chronicle. He was the supervisor for my paper route. He said the teletypes were hot with the news of an imminent surrender, but no time was mentioned. The linographs and presses were all standing by to run an extra edition as soon as the word was announced that Japan had surrendered, and he wanted to know if I was interested in selling the extra-edition newspapers on the street.
“Dad realized the call was for me and handed the telephone to me. I agreed to sell the newspapers. He said again they would start the presses as soon as the news came. I was instructed to stay close to a radio and a telephone to get a delivery time as soon as the news broke.
“For a 14-year-old, the responsibility was awesome, and chills ran up and down my back.
“Sure enough, shortly after, I heard President Truman announce Japan had surrendered on the radio! I don’t remember the time, but I shortly after received a call from the Call Chronicle office at Sixth and Linden streets, giving me the time to be at the Roxy Theatre in Northampton to get the extra-edition newspapers.
“I showed up at the appointed time, waiting in front of the Roxy Theatre for the Call Chronicle delivery truck to arrive. Elinor Sage, wife of the theater’s manager, Bill Sage, who was drafted into the Navy, took over management of the theater in his absence. She was crying tears of joy and had the wisdom to close the theater. Heavens knows what the crowd would have done to the theater had it remained open.
“Main Street was filled sidewalk to sidewalk with people from 21st Street to 18th Street. I never realized so many people lived in Northampton!
“The local Home Guard Band came marching up Main Street playing ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’ I specifically remember the band was playing that song because that piece was too sophisticated for me to play at age 14. Leon Kuntz Sr. was the director of the band. Musicians from all over town of all ages belonged to the band, which was organized to help the morale of the town.
“I knew Mr. Kuntz well because he taught music in high school and was my director for the junior high school orchestra. I still remember the smile on his face.
“The trolley car came up Main Street at a snail’s pace because the street was jammed with people! Kids were putting rolls of cap pistol ammunition on the trolley tracks so that when the trolley wheels rolled over a roll of cap pistol ammunition, it exploded with a loud bang. The conductor tooted the air whistle repeatedly to get the crowd to move, but nobody paid any attention.
“Finally, after several hours of delay, the Call Chronicle truck arrived and dumped off a high bundle of newspapers with a bold headline. I don’t remember what the headline said. I forget how much a 6-inch-thick bundle of newspapers weighed. Carriers knew how much a load of newspapers weighed, so we could distribute it accordingly between the saddle bags and handlebar baskets of our bicycles, plus what we carried on our shoulder bags.
“We had to put extra air pressure in our bicycle tires to accommodate the load. Sometimes we would blow out a bicycle tire. Newsboys all carried repair kits for bicycle tires because chances for getting a new tire were nonexistent because of the wartime shortage of rubber. Furthermore, the news must be delivered.
“The truck driver and I put the bale of newspapers on the step on the doorway immediately to the left of the Roxy Theatre’s box office, which led upstairs to the theater’s projection room and Dr. Drumheller’s dental office.
“I can’t remember what I charged for the newspaper. I think it was 15 cents. They sold like hot cakes. I sold them all within 15-20 minutes and probably could have sold another stack if I’d had them.
“I jogged home with pockets full of change. Mom and dad were dancing around the living room. My older sister was running around the neighborhood with a Halloween noisemaker. My oldest sister was a college senior working as a playground supervisor at the Washington School Playground. When the kids started throwing horseshoes up in the air, her senior supervisor, Harry Wall, decided it was time to close the playground before someone got hurt.
“After I retired, Sandy and I moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., where I took up golf. I used to play with a retired accountant from Hartford, Conn., by the name of Ben Cohen. He would often say, ‘Harry Truman saved my life.’ He was an infantryman stationed on Okinawa preparing for invasion of the island of Japan. If that would come to pass, his chances of surviving an invasion would have probably been close to nonexistent.”