Downtown Newark on V-E Day, May 8, 1945

by Nat Bodian


Downtown Newark Morning Celebration

Crowds had gathered at the Four Corners for President Truman's 9AM announcement over the radio that the war in Europe had come to an end.

It was followed by the playing of The Star Spangled Banner, during which the crowd seemed particularly reverent. Then, after a few moments of quiet, the celebrations began, the noisiest in Newark's history.

A snake dance of several hundred office workers lasted for about 20 minutes. There was a lot of backslapping and lots of hugging and kissing with servicemen.

About five minutes after the start of the Four Corners celebrations, the air was filled with the sounds of church bells and factory whistles.

The downtown celebration far exceeded the previous day's celebration when the German surrender was announced.

But the uninhibited celebrations were cut short nearing noon by the onset of a heavy rain, and by 1 PM, the downtown streets seemed deserted.

All department stores and most other downtown stores had closed for the day.

Street Celebrations

The downtown Newark celebrations were concentrated on Broad Street, going north from Market toward the department stores.

The celebrations started quietly with small crowds gathered around the stores near Broad and Market awaiting the 9 o'clock hour when President Truman would come on the radio to announce the end of the war.

Most clustered near storefronts, taxis, or parked cars that had their radios on loud.

After President Truman's announcement, the crowd stood quietly during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, and then, it seemed like all hell broke loose.

Within minutes there were car horns blaring and the start of general rejoicing.

The crowd was estimated by that time at around 25,000.

It was made up largely of workers who had left their jobs, housewives who had come downtown to join in the excitement, and teenagers who had abandoned their classrooms.

Newark's Tallest Building

At the National Newark Building at 744 Broad STreet, workers from the building formed bucket brigades to carry confetti and streamers that were laying on Broad STreet back to upstairs offices, throwing it down again and again on the celebrators below.

The Falling Confetti on Broad Street

In the Broad Street area between the Prudential and the 744 Building, the streets were loaded with confetti.

Groups of rambunctious teens scooped up armloads of torn up phone books and other confetti and playfully tossed it at some of the cars and busses that were stuck in the jammed-up Broad Street traffic.

As a City Commission election campaign was also underway on V-E day, a wealth of the carefully-prepared campaign literature wound up being torn to bits and converted into confetti that added to the litter on Broad Street.

Downtown Newark Store Closings

Practically every store in downtown Newark, including the large department stores, closed for the day.

According to a late afternoon report in the Newark Evening News on May 8, the only remaining open places were drug and food stores, and restaurants.

Various Other V-E Day Business Closings

The Newark Chamber of Commerce asked stores to close, but many stores not affiliated with the chamber closed voluntarily.

Banks in Newark and throughout the state remained open.

The Prudential Insurance Company, Newark's largest employer, had closed the day earlier, when the peace agreement was signed, and remained open.

In many other downtown offices, many office workers left their desks without sanction of employers, to join the celebrating crowds down below on the streets.




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