Joan Kovace-Raisner

I was five years old. My dad, at age 35 with two daughters, was in the last group to be called up for the draft in WWII. My parents were shocked. They thought WWII was almost over. He was assigned to Lakehurst NJ Naval Base to work on dirigibles — hot air craft. After he completed basic training my mom, sister and I moved from Cleveland into base housing to be with him. At some point the Hindenberg blew up and everyone in the little gondola at the bottom of the craft was killed. Maybe hot air craft were cancelled then. Major changes were going on in the adult world.

Not in the kid’s world. The base was utterly filled with children of all ages and we ran in and out of everywhere and just generally ran wild. I picked up language that resulted in a very public mouth soap-washing, but generally, as a mob of Navy brats, we were never supervised or organized.

I have a vivid memory of being carried on my father’s shoulders into New York City to celebrate V-E Day. We rode the Staten Island Ferry, saw amazing fireworks, and the noise never stopped. The cheering, the firecrackers, the city lights reflected on the water, the people crowded into spaces where we would never ordinarily fit. Incredibly, the Ferry did not founder. I fell asleep on the way back to the base. It was the most exciting celebration that I have ever experienced in my life and I have lived a long time now. That was seventy years ago. Wow.