Editor's Note: Salt Lake Tribune veteran Harold Schindler, who celebrated his 50th anniversary at this newspaper Aug. 1, was a copyboy when the news of Japan's surrender flashed across the wires.
The huge city room shared by The Salt Lake Tribune and its evening counterpart, The Salt Lake Telegram, was in a state of controlled tension 50 years ago Monday.
That would be expected as a matter of course in any major newspaper office during an ordinary working day. But Aug. 14, 1945, was something special--and it could be felt in the air.
Everyone in the office--for that matter everyone but the proverbial hermit--knew the end of the war with Japan was imminent, that the surrender would be announced any moment.
As a Tribune copyboy with precisely two weeks of experience, I was waiting to do my part in the operation that would put the story in all its historical significance into print for the morning editions. It was a grand moment, indeed.
John Mooney, sports editor of The Telegram, sidled up with a $5 bill.
``Say kid, run out and buy me some mixer.''
``Yeah. 7Up's all right, but get a couple of bottles of club soda or something like it. And, hurry back, the war's liable to end any minute, and I need mixer.'' Forty minutes of fighting through the growing crowds on Main Street--and a half-dozen visits to drugstores and a grocery in the downtown area later--I was forced to admit defeat.
``There isn't a drop of mixer of any kind left in the city,'' I explained to Mooney, who supposed that he could do his celebrating ``neat, on the rocks.'' The war effort did that to people; they learned to make sacrifices.
The announcement we had all been waiting for came with a loud ringing noise. The Associated Press on an upper floor in The Tribune Building had a doorbell connected next to the pneumatic tubes in the city room. The bell was to be used only to alert the newspaper staff that a bulletin was on its way down the tubes.
It was my job--when I wasn't searching for mixer--to open the tubes when they dropped and to direct the contents to the news editor. On this day, Don Howard (since deceased) occupied that chair of authority.
The tube smacked down with a loud thump. There was a torn bit of newsprint fastened across the leather cup that covered the tube--another ``flag'' alerting the newsroom that something important was carried in it.
I don't remember precisely the phrasing, but the terse message was simply that Japan had accepted unconditionally the terms of surrender! World War II was over, Pearl Harbor had been avenged.
A large newsprint broadside with the announcement was quickly hung in the front window of the newspaper business office on the main floor for the benefit of the throng out front.
As in every city in America that afternoon, I suppose, crowds collected around the local newspaper, not so much for word, which they could have gotten from their radios, but for the celebration.
And it was a celebration.
GIs on leave and in uniform were the center of attention. Soldiers, sailors, marines and pretty girls. . .snake-danced up and down Main from South Temple to Broadway.
And in the early evening, as I watched from the second-floor windows, I could see the Salt Lake City Police Department paddy wagon, the ``Black Maria,'' used to cart drunks to jail, trying to drive across Main at 200 South, but finally slowed to a halt in front of the Owl Drug under the Walker Bank Building on the southeast corner.
The officer, doggedly trying to do his duty, had a wagon full of inebriates.
And as I watched, I could see him being surrounded by a score of partying celebrants, chanting for the officer to join them. Before he knew it, a couple of soldiers had pulled his keys from his belt and opened the door to the police wagon.
Once the passengers were repatriated, so to speak, the revelers tossed the officer's keys into a U.S. mailbox nearby, leaving the patrol wagon stranded and empty.
The whooping and hollering went on well into the next morning.
The war was over