May 8, 1945
Rain did not stop people from gathering in the streets of downtown Scranton waiting to hear the formal announcement by President Harry Truman saying that fighting in Europe has ended and that Nazi Germany was defeated. As the president addressed the nation, air raid sirens and church bells throughout Scranton and Lackawanna County sounded, marking this historic moment.
Once Truman finished, businesses throughout the downtown closed for the day and the Scranton public schools dismissed students early. Students at the city’s parochial schools participated in prayer services and then were dismissed. City and county workers were also dismissed following the president’s address.
Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Martin also sent out an address to the commonwealth marking the end of the fighting. In his address he also ordered that all state liquor stores and licensed drinking establishments be closed to ward off possible large gatherings across the state.
Despite the order, many who wanted to share a drink or two with friends to celebrate and remember the fallen had little trouble getting a drink at a tavern in Scranton.
Church doors were open as a gathering place following Truman’s address. Churches of all faiths announced that special services of thanksgiving would take place in the evening.
As the day went on, people noticed that “Hitler” was walking around Scranton. The “Hitler’ impersonator was Paul Zyats of Jessup. Zyats dressed as the late leader of Germany with a heavy chain hanging from his neck. Zyats was even joined by a group of high school boys who were goosestepping behind him as he made his rounds downtown.
Air Wardens, auxiliary police and fire personnel and other volunteers were stationed around Scranton to handle crowds that could cause traffic congestion in downtown. Their services were not much needed as the crowds were down as compared to the celebrations following the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.
Images are available for purchase at our online photo store – http://thetimes-tribune.mycapture.com/mycapture/folder.asp?event=2260852&CategoryID=49658
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 14 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast