The great transition was taking place without violence. Across the land, veterans of World War II tried to make the best of this best of all civilian worlds.
In The Bronx, ex-Pfc. Peter Boucouvales, paralyzed from the waist down by the bullet which had lodged in his neck, lay between clean sheets in the Veterans Administration Hospital. The corridors were cheerless, the windows dirty. His lunch of filet of sole, peas, rice, cole slaw and lemon pie was cold by the time it got to him, but filling nevertheless. Lying in bed, naked to the waist, Boucouvales gazed down at his full stomach. His belly was getting so big, he told the nurses, he ought to be switched to the maternity ward.
In Manhattan, a grim-looking company of men marched to the office of the New York Real Estate Board and stated their case. They were veterans who could not find a place to live. How about some of those big, empty houses on Fifth Avenue? they hinted. Before they marched out they said, "We're sick and tired of words."
In Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Indianapolis, men traipsed in & out of branch offices of the U.S. Employment Service and Veterans Administrationgriping at the red tape, the delays in paying claims, the poor job offers and the stuffiness of bureaucracy. It burned them up when "Major So-and-So," now in civvies, interviewed them. "You wouldn't catch me calling myself T/3 Smith the rest of my life," sniffed ex-T/3 Smith.
In Boston, veterans flocked to Faneuil Hall to howl and hoot at speakers who opposed a proposed increase in the state bonus from $100 to $1,000.
In Washington USES announced that calls for workers outnumbered job applications by ten to one. The jobs might not be much, they might be sorting potatoes in Monte Vista, Colo., but they were jobs.
No Shock. This was the picture around the nation last week. There were gripes. Few men wanted handouts; they preferred to help themselves. But they would like a place to liveand some shirts and a suit.
Only a year ago the U.S. Army was pouring across the Rhine, the Navy was bombarding Okinawa. By last week more than ten million veterans of World War II were back; seven million were at work; 2,100,000 were at school or on vacation; 83,607 were hospitalized. The country had promised to cushion the shock of their return and the country, for the most part, had made good. No soldier could deny that.
If anything, the cushion was too soft.
On Boston Common, sunning himself on a park bench, an ex-corporal said: "What's the use of working for $20 a week when you get $20 for doing nothing? It's getting pretty monotonous but I haven't been able to find a thing."
His buddy had tried working at his old place. "The fellows acted like they were sorry I was back, like I was cheating them out of the big dough they could make during the war. They didn't expect me back for a couple more years. I didn't feel right. I felt lazy, except on weekends when I wanted to raise hell."