How Chautauqua Institution Learned Of World War II’s End

I’d like to tell you how the news of the end of World War II came to Chautauqua. It happened in August 1945 — 73 years ago this month.

Two teenage boys brought the news. I was one of them. The other was my friend, the late Jim Fox. After we grew up, we both became reporters.

That day when Japan surrendered became a momentous one in our young lives. A few months earlier, Germany had surrendered. Now, Japan’s surrender meant World War II was over. It would end four bloody years of fighting.

The news was especially welcome at Chautauqua. Many parents had sons in the military. Their boys would be coming home. They would be renewing their young lives in peacetime.

Fox and I were the first in Chautauqua to find out about the surrender. We happened to be in the Colonade Building. Chautauqua had put a United Press teletype in the lobby so people could read the war news as soon as it came over the wire.

That night, we were the only ones in the Colonade. So, when the bulletin on Japan’s surrender came over the wire, we were the first in chautauqua to learn about the surrender.

“A lot of parents are at the Amphitheater concert,” Fox said. “They won’t find out the war’s over till tomorrow. Let’s bring them the news now.”

So, off we went-dashing out of the colonade, sprinting across Bestor Plaza. Then suddenly, I stopped. I turned around and ran back to tear off the flash. I don’t know why or what made me do that. It turned out to a godsend.

Fox kept going. He raced through the plaza. He ran along the red brick walk. Past the library. Down an aisle to the stage where the symphony orchestra was seated. Program director Ralph McCallister was introducing conductor Franco Autori.

Fox ran up to McCallister. But Fox was so pooped, he couldn’t talk. He stood there huffing and puffing. A security guard yanked him away.

Moments later, I came up. I was just as winded. I couldn’t get a word out. But I remembered I had the flash. I held it up.

McCallister gave me a strange look. Then, he reached out to look at it. A different expression came over his face.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he told the crowd, “I have the most momentous announcement. Japan has surrendered. World War II is o-v-e-r.”

There was total silence. Then, it sounded like 100 cannons roared in the Amphitheater. Everyone stood up. People hugged and kissed whoever the person was next to them.

Forgotten in the joyous occasion were the two teen-agers who had brought the news.

Fox knew who carried that message. So did I. That’s all that mattered. We would remember that night all our lives.

David Zinman came to Chautauqua as a teenager in 1944. He worked as a Daily reporter in college, then spent his career with the Associated Press in New Orleans and Long Island Newsday.