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When L.A. Exploded With Joy : V-J Day: The end of World War II sent people dancing into the streets 50 years ago today. For those who had lost loved ones, it was also a bittersweet time.

August 14, 1995|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Pasadena, Winnie Dennis, 20, stood on her head at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Arroyo Parkway, paying off her bet with her boyfriend, Don Royer, that the war wouldn't end for another three days.

In East Los Angeles, Betty Bronstein, whose daughter was one of the first infants born after the surrender was announced, named the girl Berna Marilyn Bronstein in honor of the victory.

When the news came through to Azusa, "we all ran up to the main intersection in town--Azusa Avenue and Highway 66--where the World War I memorial was," said Leo Nasser, who has run a menswear shop in town for more than 60 years.

"Lots of people showed up at the memorial, and pretty soon we'd stopped all the traffic," Nasser said. "The people on the highway got out to ask what was going on, and when we told them, they joined right in. . . . Hell, nobody went home all night."

In the harbor, vessels of every description cut loose with blasts from their whistles, punctuated by a thunderous salute from several 155-millimeter cannons at Ft. MacArthur.

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The hubbub was misinterpreted in some quarters as a warning of enemy attack, and several thousand war plant employees scurried for cover in air raid shelters.

Gretl Mulder--then a 9-year-old resident of Covina--heard the news while attending a two-week Girl Scout and Brownie camp at Jenks Lake, in the San Bernardino National Forest.

"I'd never been to camp before, so to me it seemed like part of the whole camp thing," she recalled. "But everyone else seemed to think it was wonderful, so I thought it was wonderful too."

For people such as Margaret Scott Meier, then living in rural Glendora, it was a day of wrenching ambivalence.

"It was wonderful, because it meant that my husband [Hebert Meier, now 79] would be coming home," she said. "But it was very difficult too, because we had learned that my brother would never be coming home."

Her brother--John Scott--captured by the Japanese during the fall of the Philippines in 1942, had survived the infamous Bataan Death March only to die later in a prisoner-of-war camp.

Phylis Rider, then a 29-year-old housewife in San Marino, remembers "everyone telephoning everyone else. . . .

"But it wasn't partying," she said. "It was a feeling of tremendous relief that the terrible war was over. . . ."

We didn't know it yet, but for those of us who were children, Japan's capitulation meant an end to things we thought had been going on forever--ration books, defense stamps, air raid drills, acres of camouflage netting draped over Southern California's aircraft plants, saving up bacon fat, a 35-m.p.h. speed limit and the wooden lookout tower in our Azusa schoolyard where wardens watched for enemy planes.

It also meant an end to an impertinent rejoinder, snarled through clenched teeth at anyone complaining about the chronic shortage of consumer goods: "Don'tcha know there's a war on?"

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