Every day I go through an intersection at the corner of Smith Street and Oakland Street in Providence. It is just an ordinary intersection joining two streets in the Smith Hill section of the city, just up the hill from the State House. It is a mixed use neighborhood with multi-family homes, offices, and a variety of small businesses. I’m sure it has seen its better days, but overall it’s not a half-bad location.
There, on the side of the Smith Street, is a stone resembling a tomb stone. It says:
JWV POST 533
SAUL I. BARD
and MYER PRIMACK
KILLED DECEMBER 24, 1944
BURIED IN BELGIUM
KILLED JAN 23, 1943
BURIED IN WARWICK, RI
I frequently get caught at the red light at that intersection and find myself staring at the memorial stone which is chipped, discolored and probably overlooked for the most part. Over the past five and a half years I have developed a relationship with Saul and Myer who were of my father’s generation. I never met them or any member of their family, but I’ve come to consider them as friends. I get the feeling that they may not have many anymore.
The Jewish War Veterans Post 533 either doesn’t exist anymore or is so hidden that I wasn’t able to find it when I was doing research. I suspect that at one time there must have been a sizeable Jewish population in the area surrounding the intersection, which is known on the memorial tablet as the Saul Bard and Myer Primack Memorial Square. I’m sure that when the intersection was named for these two young heroes of the Second World War there were words spoken which said, “So we will never forget the sacrifice these two brave young men made in the defense of their country.” Maybe that it’s true for their families, who I can’t seem to locate.
But the reality is that the drivers of the hundreds of cars which pass through that intersection every day probably don’t even see the plaque. It’s one of those intersections where people are always in a hurry, either going to work or coming from work. I don’t know how many of them, like me, look around and wonder what Saul and Myer were like. I was just a toddler when they were killed and I didn’t live in New England at the time.
But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to know more about them. They were young. Saul was only 19. His body lies in a foreign grave in Belgium, and I would guess that there is no flag on his grave on Memorial Day or flowers on his grave on his birthday. Myer’s body came home. He was older, 28, about the age of my uncle who fought in that war.
I think I’m going to write a story about these two young men. It will be fiction, because I don’t know enough about them or their circumstances to write biographies. But we’re neighbors. Or, at least, I’m a neighbor to their memorial stone. And I’m a frequent visitor to the sight where heart-broken family members gathered in the mid-1940′s to remember them. Maybe I can figure out something that honors them.
Photo Credit: Jed Waverly