The train pulled into Penn Station in Newark
and I was suddenly in no hurry to get off. The day that I had been
looking forward to was now here and I was dragging my feet. I finally
hefted my barracks bag and made my way to the exit. I would have
enjoyed a bus ride home but the barracks bag ruled that out. I made
my way to the taxi stand.
Every so often someone would pass and say, "Welcome home".
I was pleased and surprised by the greeting till I realized that
it was because of the "Ruptured Duck" sewn to my overcoat.
"The Duck" was sewn to the outer garment of all discharged
servicemen and women. This emblem enabled them to wear their uniforms
for thirty days following the discharge. There was a clothing shortage
in America and "The Duck" allowed ex-servicemen time to
buy new clothes.
There was no rush at the taxi stand. I got into the first one
and gave my home address. The driver welcomed me home and took off
in a cloud of exhaust. I said I was in no hurry. The driver explained
that he was, if you want to make a living you have to drive fast.
We took the route home that I had anticipated, everything looked
the same but smaller. Broad St. did not seem as broad as I remembered,
none of the buildings seemed as tall as I once thought they were.
In years to come I often thought of these impressions and never
came to any conclusion as to why I had them.
When I left the cab in front of my house a man from the neighborhood
gave me a warm welcome home, I looked up to the third floor and
saw my parents waving to me.
The house looked smaller than I remembered. When I entered the
hall and started up the stairs I wondered if the stairway was always
so dark and narrow. My mother later told me that the landlord now
used lower watt bulbs in the hall to conserve electricity.
In a talk with my father later that day he expressed the belief
the Hitler had changed the whole world, nothing would ever again
be the same. I tended to agree with him. Larger watt bulbs never
returned to the hallway, that was one thing that permanently changed.