The excitement surrounding the end of World War II reached even the mountain town of Blowing Rock on Aug. 15, 1945, when Japanese forces surrendered to the Allied Powers, two days following the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
Joyce Blackwell Williams Martin, a native Floridian who first visited Blowing Rock in 1943 has fond memories of the town, including Victory in Japan Day and her parents’ role in The Farm House Inn.
Martin, 94, said that while she’s been unable to travel to the mountains during the past “few years,” the last time she was in the High Country, “(Blowing Rock is) very much the same as what it used to be, especially Main Street.”
Her parents bought a house in the town in 1944, and Martin and her family “traveled there every summer from then until forever,” she said, noting that her own children also grew up traveling to Blowing Rock to visit.
“It was beautiful, pleasant and so much different than Florida,” she said.
Martin married Ernest Williams, a Blowing Rock native, in 1949 when he returned home from the Navy, and her brother-in-law Bill Williams, who served in the Army during the war, was Blowing Rock’s mayor from 1971-1973, according to town records.
Martin said that on Aug. 15, 1945, she was 20 years old when the announcement about President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring peace came across the radio.
“I think it was mid-afternoon,” she said. “I can’t describe the excitement that we all felt hearing peace declared. The whole world was looking forward to the end of WWII — we realized it (the sadness and rationing) was over. People were happy.”
Specifically, Martin remembers dancing in the streets with other residents of the town, as the news of peace spread through “only word-of-mouth.” Music came from a borrowed van that was parked on Main Street, she said.
Martin’s son, Ernest Williams Jr., keeps a special place in his heart for the mountain town as well.
“Blowing Rock means everything to me,” he said. “I’ve gone to Blowing Rock from the time I was in diapers, and I’m in my 70s now.”
Williams worked at the Farm House Inn, which his grandparents originally owned, for every summer from the time he was 12 years old until he was in college, he said. According to the town, the restaurant closed in 1997 and the building was demolished shortly after.
Martin said on Aug. 11 that the footsteps of her family “for generations” are “all over town” in Blowing Rock, and she has “always cherished her time spent in the mountains.”
Aug. 15, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of V-J Day and an evening of dancing in the streets in Blowing Rock. Martin said that “the simplicity of the celebration” is what made it “so special.”
Following the war, Ernest Williams Sr. attended Tulane University in Louisiana and Georgia Medical College in Georgia. Then, he practiced medicine in Gastonia.
Martin and Ernest have four children.