When I think of Harrison, New Jersey, I always think of the old store called Two Guys, that got its start as a snack bar in the old RCA building there. Here in this photograph are two guys from Harrison, buddies Bernard J. Doran (1917-1973) and his good friend Stanley, taken after World War II. This church isn’t one of the Harrison ones. It could be the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in nearby East Newark – any help with the name is appreciated. What I love about this picture is Stanley’s arm slung over Bernie’s shoulder, their infectious grins, and the two lads almost hidden behind the car looking on as the photo is taken. The simple and beautiful lines of the brick church draws my eyes up from the muddy ground below. The two friends are dressed for church, yet they wear open galoshes over their shoes.
Bernie was one of the quiet Dorans, and he never married, nor had children. He had been named after his father, and also his paternal grandfather. Bernie enlisted in the Army in July 1941 after doing a stint in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and served until October 1945, leaving with the rank of Corporal. The family said Bernie had been jilted by his girlfriend back home, and had received one of those dreadful Dear John letters while serving in the Pacific Theater. Bernie was active in the American Legion, was a steady worker, didn’t make waves, and never gave his heart away again.
After his father died in 1947, the family moved to the Ironbound section of Newark. There, Bernie went to work every day, a pub most evenings – like many of the other folks in his neighborhood – and helped his siblings pay the rent. In the 1960s he was hit by a Newark city bus, the story being told that he was run over by the front and rear tires, but he was patched up in the nearby VA Hospital in East Orange. This was something he never talked about much, and truthfully he never talked much at all. He was a quiet, gentle, and small man – easily overlooked.
Yet, it is these simple family stories that truly do need telling, and photographs help do that for us. They preserve our cherished quiet memories, and remind us to say a prayer, or a simple meditation, for the souls of our dearly departed family.