Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pelham Manor's Grand Celebration of V-J Day During World War II

On September 2, 1945, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed, thereby formalizing the surrender of the Empire of Japan marking the end of World War II.  The date is among those sometimes known as Victory Over Japan Day, or "V-J Day."

After news of the formal surrender of Japan reached the Village of Pelham, the community surged into action.  It quickly arranged a monumental, yet old-fashioned and patriotic, celebration of V-J Day.  On the evening of Monday, September 3, 1945, thousands of residents of the Village of Pelham Manor streamed to the recreational fields of Prospect Hill Elementary School.  There, members of the street and sanitation departments of the village had built a railroad tie bonfire framework two-and-a-half stories high that, once lit, roared flames fifteen stories into the evening sky.

Anonymous donors funded the distribution of four thousand Good Humor ice cream bars and one thousand bottles of soda pop to the crowd.  The Fort Slocum Band played music for the crowd.  Politicians and military men addressed the crowd.  A piano accompanied the crowd in a community sing-along.  The merriment ended at 10:00 p.m. when the Village of Pelham Manor Fire Department used its hoses to extinguish the massive bonfire as the crowd departed.

Like so many communities throughout the United States, Pelham Manor had sacrificed greatly as part of the War effort.  Monday, September 3, 1945 was the first step of the healing process for the tiny community that had lost many of its native sons during the gruesome fighting of the War.

V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
First Published in Life in 1945 with the Caption:
"In New York's Times Square a White-Clad Girl
Clutches Her Purse and Skirt as an Uninhibited
Sailor Plants His Lips Squarely on Hers."  Source:

Below is a transcription of a portion of an article about the Pelham Manor celebration of V-J Day.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.  

"Manor Celebrates 'V-J' Day With Huge Bonfire and Community Party
Band From Fort Slocum, Community Singing Led by Joe Downing.  Free Refreshments and Snake Dancing by Children Made Monday Evening a Memorable One for Everybody:  At 10 O'clock Fire Was Put Out by Fire Department.

With the flame of a Victory bonfire leaping skyward for 150 feet thousands of Pelham Manor men, women and children, officially celebrated the return of Peace at a village gaterhing in the grounds of Prospect Hill School on Monday night.  For a few hours the playfield was transformed into an old fashioned village green of New England.  The band of Fort Slocum contributed popular musical selections through the courtesy of Colonel Bernard Lentz, Commandant; Joseph Downing, the Jester of Westchester, led the Community singing from a piano placed near the speakers' stand erected on the bank to the west of the school playfield.  

Through the generosity of a resident of the village, ice cream was served free to those present and another resident footed the bill for the soda pop.  Four thousand Good Humors were consumed and one thousand bottles of pop emptied by the celebrants.

Proceedings began shortly after eight o'clock in the evening.  The Street Department, under Joseph Murphy, had built a fire pile about 25 feet high, its backbone being railway ties.  It roared upward in the middle of the playfield.  Long before bonfire time a crowd gathered and at 8:30 Mayor C. Furnald Smith formally opened proceedings by having Miss Mary Barton sing the National Anthem which she did very simply and sweetly.  

Mayor Smith -- Friends and neighbors.  We are greatly pleased to see the great interest which this celebration arranged so hurriedly has aroused.  I welcome you on behalf of the Village Board of Pelham Manor.  Joseph C. Rovensky suggested an old-fashioned bonfire as a means of celebtating V-J Day and the grand victory which our men have achived for us.

The Mayor went on to assure those gathered there that the cost of the ice cream and pop which was to be supplied did not come out of village funds but was being paid for by some anonymous donors.  He extended thanks to Col. Lentz for allowing Fort Slocum band to be present and furnish the music; to Joseph [illegible] for the [illegible] to the stage [illegible] for the speakers 'despatched by many signal engineers;' to Mrs. F. H. Luddington, Jr.,, and to Fire Chief Nelson Rundlett, who was present and had protective hose lines laid and manned ready for any emergency; to Joseph Murphy, street foreman, and Henry Telford, foreman of the sanitation department for gathering the material and building the bonfire. . . ."

Source:  Manor Celebrates "V-J" Day With Huge Bonfire and Community Party, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 6, 1945, Vol. 36, No. 21, p. 1, cols. 6-8 (portion of article missing).  

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I have written about Pelham during World War II on numerous occasions.  For examples, see:  

Fri., Apr. 10, 2015:  Air Attack in Pelham During World War II.

Fri., Apr. 03, 2015:  The Sad Tale of Katsuji Onishi of Pelham Manor, Detained After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.

Tue., May 20, 2014:  Pelham Goes To War: Pelham's Reaction to the Attack on Pearl Harbor, "A Date Which Will Live In Infamy."

Thu., Jan. 05, 2006:  Organizational Plans for North Pelham's Victory Gardens in 1943.

Thu., Nov. 10, 2005:  More About World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham.

Mon., Nov. 07, 2005:  World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham.

Fri., Aug. 26, 2005:  Pelham's Reaction to the "Date Which Will Live in Infamy": December 7, 1941.

Bell, Blake A., World War II Victory Gardens in Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XV, Issue 9, Mar. 3, 2006, p. 12, col. 1.

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