We’re going to reach just a bit further back than the beginning of the baby boomer generation; we’re going to step into the year before it started, to a story no doubt we all thought we knew … but as BoomerCafé contributor Renee Fisher tells us, we didn’t know the half of it!
There’s a famous iconic photo taken on August 14, 1945 by the legendary photographer Alfred Eisenstadt. It is the day World War II ended, and the photo is called “The Kiss.” A young soldier in Times Square (we assume he is strong, handsome, possessed of all the traits necessary to have single-handedly beaten the Germans and the Japanese and the Italians) is kissing a young nurse (whom we assume is beautiful, possessed of all the traits necessary to be both strong enough to have contributed to the war effort and soft enough to surrender to a soldier’s muscled arms).
It is a photo that defines the end of a war and the beginning of a peace that will forever change a generation and a country.
In the 68 years since the photo was taken, it has appeared in newspapers, in magazines, in books, online. Millions of people have seen it. Although there were a lot of people captured by Eisenstadt’s lens at that moment, these two are the focalpoint. It is impossible to look at the photo and see anything but them. It is impossible to know that beyond them, the camera has captured an event-in-the-making that is far more memorable.
Fast forward through the decades: The Flying Dog Café in Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida. The Flying Dog has always had that photo on the wall. A lot of people look at it, including Sande, my son-in-law’s father. Except that day, Sande watched a man come over and lift the photo off the wall. The man came over to him and said, “I saw you looking at this photo. I’m the sailor just behind the one who is kissing the nurse.”
His name is Tom Bozza, captured walking behind the random pairing of two presumed strangers, caught up in the moment, captured for all time. Bozza became famous among his friends. Then he became just another guy in the photo. A few days later, he stood in front of a Navy clerk, Elenore Haines, who executed his discharge papers.
He fell in love, in the way that young men who have been at war fall in love with fantasy. But he did ask her out and she did accept. And then more dates followed. The fantasy didn’t last much longer than it took Bozza to switch from a uniform to civilian clothes. They went their separate ways. They each got married.
Years later, Elenore Haines’ husband died. She remembered the young sailor. She went online and found him in New York. Bozza had just become a widower. He told her he’d be on her doorstep in the morning. He flew to Bradenton. They fell in love. They moved in together.
Haines and Bozza are still in Bradenton. They are in their 90s and live in a mobile home park. They are still in love. Sometimes they visit the 26-foot-high statue of “The Kiss” that stands near Sarasota Bay. Haines likes to bring a copy of the photo with her to show tourists what the statue doesn’t: the young sailor who survived a war, fell in love, and found that love again 50 years later.