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V-E Day in Halifax

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

‘I will never forget it,” Shirley Hennessey says of the morning this merry photograph was snapped on Spring Garden Road in Halifax.

She was just 19 and working as a secretary in one of the city's military offices when “the news came out over the radio and the whole city just shut down. We were working down on the waterfront and everyone just poured out onto the streets. Ships were blowing their horns. People were shouting. Everything closed up and the party was on.”

Now living in Charlottetown, where she has just turned 80, Mrs. Hennessey recalls how the festivities got out of hand. “It wasn't anyone's intention to wreck the city, but the riot just started out of joyous celebrations,” she says.

“It was fuelled by joy. In hindsight, had Halifax left the liquor stores open, people could have celebrated without breaking in. People were sitting in store windows with fur coats on, lounging on furniture. It really was joyous.”

The other women in the photo — from left, Peggy Keough, Eileen Hallett and Toni Hepburn, partly hidden by Ms. Hennessey — were all friends who worked in the same office. Ms. Hallett, who is 80 and 25 years retired from the post office, now lives in Weymouth, N.S., and still sees Mrs. Hennessey every summer. She remembers that, after they returned to their barracks, “that was the end of the celebration and everyone's lockers were searched for liquor.”

But the women made the most of it in the hour they were loose.

“The park on Spring Garden Road was full of sailors and all kinds of beer and all kinds of spirits,” Mrs. Hennessey says. “It would have been unfriendly to pass by. We had to join in. But shortly we were herded up and taken back to barracks for three days.

“The sailors, we had no idea who they were. But they had the spirits.”

The man in uniform Mrs. Hennessey is clinging to is chief petty officer William Dzyndra of Winnipeg.

According to his daughter, Marilyn Sanderson, “my dad was stationed in Halifax for most of the war, overseeing the repair and maintenance of the ships.” After the war, Mr. Dzyndra, who died of cancer in 1997, worked as a foreman with Canadian National for 30 years in Transcona and also was active in municipal politics.

The photo appeared in Star Weekly magazine, causing much worry for Mrs. Hennessey, whose teetotaller father would have been appalled. “There I am with a beer in my hand and I thought I was going to be in big trouble. But for some reason they didn't get the paper that weekend. I was lucky.”

After the war, Ms. Hennessey, one of nine children, returned to Charlottetown, where she met Joe Hennessey, “the love of my life,” at a hockey game. They also had nine children, as well as 18 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. “My family turned out so well,” she says. “I'm so proud of all of them.”

The Hennesseys own and operate a successful racing stable on Prince Edward Island. Joe is currently in the hospital with a heart condition. Shirley visits him every day.

— Shawna Richer

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