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Southbridge Recollections:

The End of WWII Celebrations in Southbridge
Jack Sheehan

Just got around to checking you website, and it gets more astounding every day. I could very well have been one of the children dancing on Main Street. On VE (or Victory Europe) Day I was a nine year old student at St. Mary's School at the corner of Hamilton and Pine Streets.  During our morning recess a group from Chief's Cafe (a prominent Hamilton Street landmark and another building that has burned) gathered by the school fence on Pine Street and began playing music on a strange assortment of instruments, principally drums and cymbals with an occasional horn. There was no prospect of getting us back to our classes.  The lure of the "Pied Drummers" won out, and school was adjourned for the day.

The makeshift band began it's own parade, and many of us joined in.  We marched from somewhere around 10:00 AM until mid-afternoon and covered a good part of the town.  The Route of March was dictated by the location of taverns at which the band members stopped to refuel.  Food and drink were generously and freely supplied at every stop, and I recall that we were given sandwiches at "Fitzpatrick's Sandwich Shop".  Fitzpatrick's was a well known pub at the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets, somewhat less well know for serving sandwiches.  The size of the "band" changed at each stop, sometimes gaining members, sometimes losing members.  From the Globe the parade proceeded to the Elm Cafe at the corner of Elm Street and Eastford Road.  While marching back toward downtown on Everett Street, I recall "Chief" Giroux (Owner of Chief's Cafe, leader of the band, and owner of the drums) exhorting a man named "Fish" to beat the bass drum more loudly - only later did Chief discover that both sides had been beaten completely out of the drum. The parade found its way to a thronged Main Street, where the band dissolved into the bars at the Newman and Columbia Hotels and was not seen nor heard from again.

On VJ Day our house was visited by a group of bus drivers from the Worcester Street Railway Company at about 8:00 PM.  My father, a bus driver himself, saw them coming and cautioned the family to lock the doors and move away from the windows, creating the appearance of an empty house.  The WSRC contingent rang the front doorbell, beat on the door, banged on the windows and got no response.  They then moved to the side door, where one of them discovered an unlocked window.  The entire group climbed through the window and the inevitable party began.  My grandmother, Elizabeth Gaherty Mulligan, was an excellent piano player, and the singing and drinking went on until the sun came up, at which time the group decided that it would be appropriate to attend mass at St. Mary's Church.  They were greeted on the Church steps by a stern-eyed Father Smith, a man not known for his sense of humor.  Names of bus drivers that I remember were  Eddie McQuaid, the Splaine Brothers (Jimmy and "Rip"), John Donleavy, and Charlie Gravel.

My main memory of both of these events was of the crowds that filled the streets all over town, and celebrations occurring everywhere.  I would be surprised if we will ever again see such a public outpouring of celebration and enthusiasm.

Drop a line when you have time.  I'll have to find time to explore the many new additions to your web site.


 Jack Sheehan

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