Shouts and joy: After 75 years war’s end still unforgettable

Machias native, author of “Pilchuck Reflections,” was watching a movie in Everett when the news came.

Machias native Dorothy Jean Schroeder, shown here in Eastern Washington after World War II, recalls the celebration on Everett’s streets when the war ended 75 years ago. (Contributed photo)

Machias native Dorothy Jean Schroeder, shown here in Eastern Washington after World War II, recalls the celebration on Everett’s streets when the war ended 75 years ago. (Contributed photo)

Sailors in the streets, mill whistles blowing, “sheer bedlam” witnessed by a teenage girl who’d gone with her sister to see a movie. The memory of Aug. 14, 1945 — the day Americans learned of Japan’s surrender that would end World War II — comes back in an instant for Dorothy Jean Schroeder.

On Friday, it will be 75 years since Schroeder, then 17-year-old Dorothy Gemmer, and her younger sister June came to Everett to shop. With time to kill before they could catch a ride home to Machias, they went to see “Hotel Berlin” at the Everett Theatre. They were watching the “B” feature, which she recalls as “a typical second-rate musical with Desi Arnaz,” when Schroeder said a sailor appeared in the darkened theater and yelled “Hey, the war’s over.”

Her story might seem familiar. In her own words, Schroeder’s recollections were published on the front page of The Daily Herald on Aug. 14, 1995, the 50th anniversary of that momentous day. Twenty-five years later, at 92, she’s still telling the story.

“I just love history,” said Schroeder, author of “Pilchuck Valley Reflections.” Published in 2012, her book is subtitled “A chronicle of two pioneer families, the Gemmers and the Thomas family.”

“What makes it especially interesting, Mom was keeping a journal,” Schroeder said Monday from her home in Quincy, in Central Washington. A widow for 19 years, Schroeder’s husband Ken had a farm in the Columbia Basin.

Because of her mother’s diary, those August days so long ago “are brought to life again as if it were only yesterday,” she wrote in the 1995 article.

Her mother, Lorus Gemmer, had been a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse west of Lake Roesiger. The journal chronicled the family’s war years, from the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack to August 1945, when her mother wrote: “Dorothy and June described the celebration in Everett. I never saw Dorothy so excited!”

At the theater, hearing that sailor shouting about the war’s end, “we thought he was kidding,” Schroeder said. Soon, they knew it was so. She recalled horns honking, people “shrieking with joy,” and “gobs of sailors.”

Her 1995 article described a massive traffic jam, with Everett streets “already deep with ticker tape,” and those sailors, apparently from a ship dry-docked here, “hugging and kissing all the young women.”

She and June, then a Snohomish High freshman, knew they should hurry home to Machias. They caught a bus to the east end of the Hewitt Avenue trestle, and then a ride home with boys they knew from Lake Stevens.

Edward Gemmer, Schroeder’s father, was a foreman with the Monroe Logging Company. During the war, he only drove home from the logging camp a few times a month. Schroeder said although he had a “top-priority” gas-rationing card, he saw it as his patriotic duty to save fuel.

On that August afternoon in ’45, just before Dorothy started her senior year at Snohomish High, she and June had gotten a ride into Everett from a neighbor. Little more than a week earlier, on Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima. Three days later, Nagasaki was the target of a second A-bomb.

Rumors of a Japanese surrender were flying. The anticipation made it into Lorus Gemmer’s diary. On Aug. 13, ’45, she wrote: “Everyone is still sitting by his radio, waiting to hear about the Japanese surrender, but it takes time … ” The following day, the journal begins simply with “Not today.”

Like so many thousands of families nationwide, theirs was deeply affected by war.

One of Schroeder’s brothers, Quenton, was with the U.S. 3rd Army, still in France with the Army of Occupation that summer. Another brother, Daryl, was home from duty in the Pacific. He suffered from malaria. An older sister, Millie, was working in Everett for Boeing and would soon leave for Washington State College in Pullman.

The war’s official end would come Sept. 2, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

In this Aug. 14, 1945 photo, a sailor and a woman kiss in New York’s Times Square, as people celebrate the end of World War II. It was years after the photo was taken that George Mendonsa, the sailor, and Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, were confirmed to be the couple. (Victor Jorgensen/U.S. Navy, File)

In this Aug. 14, 1945 photo, a sailor and a woman kiss in New York’s Times Square, as people celebrate the end of World War II. It was years after the photo was taken that George Mendonsa, the sailor, and Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, were confirmed to be the couple. (Victor Jorgensen/U.S. Navy, File)

Schroeder graduated from Snohomish High in 1946. Three days later, her family moved to Soap Lake to run a tourist destination that had cabins. Recalling that she saw President Harry Truman when he came in 1950 to dedicate the Grand Coulee Dam, she said “everybody yelled, ‘Give ‘em hell, Harry.’”

In her long life, she raised a son and two daughters. She has 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

She remembers the “date which will live in infamy” in clear detail. “I was 13. I was making cupcakes from scratch,” said Schroeder, recalling Dec. 7, 1941, and how she learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Aunt Daisy called. Radio was big then, there was no TV.”

Already, her brother Daryl, who died in 2006, had falsified his age and joined the National Guard in Everett. By 1940, he had been mobilized with the 161st Infantry Regiment and would go on to serve in the battle of the Solomon Islands.

Schroeder can’t forget a community’s joy when the war ended, nor the sacrifices made. It was a lifetime ago. Still, the name of a sailor from Snohomish who served aboard the USS Arizona comes easily. Seaman 1st Class Robert Erickson was lost at Pearl Harbor.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Highway 9 work could disrupt travel through Lake Stevens

Construction is set for roundabouts on South Lake Stevens Road and one at North Davies Road and Vernon Road.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Floatplane wreckage recovery in Puget Sound begins

The U.S. Navy will use a remotely operated vehicle Deep Drone 8,000, a barge and a crane in recovery efforts.

U.S. 2 was closed from the Money Creek tunnel to Skykomish on Monday evening because the Bolt Creek fire spread close to the highway. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
U.S. 2 closed near Skykomish as Bolt Creek fire spreads

The highway was closed from the Money Creek tunnel to Skykomish, mile posts 46 to 50.

This screenshot shows a man being hoisted to a rescue helicopter Monday after being involved in a plane crash near Lake Cavanaugh. (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Brothers rescued after plane crash en route to Snohomish area

The two men, 78 and 79, were flying from Skagit County to an airstrip south of Snohomish when their plane went missing.

A woman was injured in an attack Sunday at Clark Park in Everett. (Everett Police Department)
Police: Purse snatching in Everett park led to stabbing

A Snohomish woman, 36, was arrested for investigation of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery.

A semi truck blows smoke out of its exhaust pipes while driving southbound on I-5 on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Reader: Did a tractor-trailer cover my car in diesel soot?

Probably not, according to a Department of Ecology spokesperson, since diesel emissions are getting “cleaner.”

Everett Memorial Stadium and Funko Field on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
City, county studying new outdoor stadium for Everett AquaSox

MLB facility requirements prompted government leaders to look at replacing Funko Field, either there or elsewhere.

Compass Health’s Broadway Campus in Everett. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Judge dismisses Compass Health lawsuit over Marysville man’s death

Joshua Klick’s estate argued his relationship with a counselor signaled negligence. A judge found the claim had expired.

Councilmember Megan Dunn, left, stands next to County Executive Dave Somers as he presents his 2023 budget proposal to her, Councilmember Nate Nehring and Councilmember Sam Low. (Snohomish County)
Somers: Federal aid creates ‘historic opportunity’ to tackle challenges

The Snohomish County executive’s plan focuses on public safety, housing, child care, climate — and mountain biking.

Most Read