The picture shows me at 4 years old patrolling busy 2nd Street. It seems that I could go anywhere in town, with or without an adult, between ages 5 and 10; but my mother’s one admonition always rang in my ears, “Don’t go near the river!” It’s as if she thought she’d lose the body if I were drowned. Yet, all the other dangerous situations that I got into could easily have cost me my life. Indeed, about that time, I lost a childhood friend, Jimmy Mallory, who was run over as he darted between parked cars on Camanche Avenue. Eerily, ten years later, a high schooler living in Jimmy’s old house, Dick Delacy, drowned while swimming out in DeWitt. It happened right after he’d delivered the Declaration of Independence -- in my place -- because I had a baseball game. The way that fate changes lives is a powerful force.
However, in 1942, patriotic Rosy the Riveter had nothing on me! I fought the Second World War from my station on South 2nd Street, in front of The Revere. It was 1942, and my comrades-in-arms were youngsters Ronnie Cronacher, and Junior Iverson; and grown-ups Les Campe, the shoe repairman; Grocers Heinie and Obie Sino; Curly Pollastrini, Father Horton from St. John’s; and, of course, Pete Rastrelli. My tricycle and I patrolled the block surrounding our house on Fourth Avenue, where a small three-starred flag adorning the front window proclaimed to all passers-by that my older brothers (Gene, Jim, and Dick Herrity) really were on the front lines defending our country.
As wartime movies show, public emotions ran high and none of us could do enough to support the troops. Those war movies were liberally-laced with Allied propaganda too, but no one minded. The USO canteens across the country were packed with service-people who received an “R and R” pass. At least two movies, “Hollywood Canteen” and “Stage Door Canteen,” (recently on TCM), depict that life and times, complete with big-time dance bands and celebrity-servers. Betty Davis, Catherine Hepburn, Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, Joe E. Brown and hundreds of others gave cameo performances in those movies.