Precious memories…of the healing kind

By Andrew Lidden Pate, Jr.

It had to be mid-morning of August 15, 1945, when I jumped onto my bicycle to spread the good news I'd just heard.

Taken Aug. 14, 1945, by renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, New York City

In less than a minute, I was passing Mr. Morton’s fruit stand on the south side of the 600 block of North Alamo at full speed on my Western Flyer, shouting, “Mr. Morton! Mr. Morton! The war is over!...The war is over!”

My goal was to tell the whole town, all 4,000 people if I could.

It was the happiest day of my life. I was 10 years, 4 months and one week old.

I also have a vivid WWII memory from almost four years earlier, of listening to the radio with my parents and sister and hearing President Roosevelt announce our declaration of war against Japan. The announcement was made on December 8, 1941, a day after Pearl Harbor, which Roosevelt poignantly described as a “day that will live in infamy.”

I cherish those memories, others of that period, and many more. Not because I’ve lived into my 9th decade, for which I am genuinely glad. But I cherish them because I am well aware now of the healing power our memories have for us, if we cherish them for the learning experiences they can be, and should be for us.

As a boy, growing up living in an Humble Oil Camp for nine years, then, the next nine, in the little South Texas oil field town of Refugio, I had the great honor of knowing and learning from many adults of the generation Tom Brokaw has called the Greatest, which was composed of people who reached majority age in the 1920s and early 1930s and who survived the Great Depression and played major roles in supporting, fighting and winning the Great War.

What do my memories tell me today about the Greatest?  They were thrifty. They paid their bills on time. They saved every bit they could. They never wanted to be “without” again. And they made darn sure that every need of their children would be met.  I was among those so blessed.

Also, the Greatest hated Nazism and the vicious, evil expansionism of the Japanese Empire. After Pearl Harbor, the Greatest never turned back.  Most of the young men went to war. The women went to work, as needed. The Greatest learned the most profound meaning of patriotism. And they looked at the photos of the Holocaust with horror and, as a consequence, gave strong support to the founding of the United Nations and Israel,  and the execution of the Marshall Plan that brought peace to the the Eastern world, while making Allies with the other great democracies of the world.  Since, the world has prospered as never before.

When time came to integrate in the mid 1950s, the leaders of the Greatest accepted the SCOTUS decision and began the hard task of changing society in ways that many of them were, to be honest, not ready for, but they did it anyway.

In my adult years, I have had experiences that have, thankfully, given me additional wonderful memories which which to  live out my golden years, assured, too,  that the values instilled in me are worth fighting for and sharing with others.

I write this for a reason: Persons  without such memories will read and see what they may not know.Justice, Equality, Fairness, Dependability, Honesty, Truthfulness - these are the truths to live by in any generation.

If you do not know what I’m talking about, Dear Reader,  put you mind to work. Read, listen, learn... love... and ...remember.