Port Townsend USO clubhouse is dedicated on December 23, 1941.

  • By Duane Colt Denfeld, Ph.D.
  • Posted 8/11/2009
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9107

On December 23, 1941, the Port Townsend USO (United Service Organizations) clubhouse, located at 2009 Monroe Street, is dedicated. The clubhouse represents a continuing effort to serve sailors at the Point Hudson navy base and soldiers from Fort Worden during these World War II years. It is the first completed federal recreation building in the Pacific Northwest and one of the first in the nation.

Civilians and Soldiers During Wartime 

The United Service Organizations (USO), a national organization, was incorporated on February 4, 1941. It was made up of six agencies: YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, Jewish Welfare Bureau, National Catholic Community Services, and Travelers Aid. Early in the war, the agencies had joined together under the name, United Welfare Committee for Defense. The committee sent President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) a telegram requesting a meeting with government officials to present its views. In December the committee met with Paul V. McNutt (1891-1955), head of the Federal Security Agency, whose responsibilities included recreation. Roosevelt in turn directed the Federal Security Agency to work with the welfare committee to come up with an effective program.

President Roosevelt, recognizing the interest of citizen-soldiers in seeking civilian recreation, believed that community-based programs could best satisfy this reality. Additionally, providing community recreation centers would reduce the perceived threat of large number of military personnel hanging out with nothing to do. Another advantage would be to enlist local civilian populations, especially women, in the war effort, giving them meaningful functions. The USO was in the position to hire professional staff, and this gave it a tremendous advantage in providing an effective recreational and morale-building organization for service men and women far from home during wartime.

Building Morale

In the fall of 1940, the navy YMCA had opened a facility in the old Central High School to serve both sailors and soldiers. (Both the coast guard and navy had a facility at Point Hudson, a mine-sweeping-training school and patrol-boat-repair facility.)

The organization received USO funding in July 1941, which enabled it put on dances and other activities. The army and USO cooperated in getting hostesses to Fort Flagler dances; buses took them from town to the Fort Worden dock where an army boat transported the women to Fort Flagler.

Quickly the high school facilities proved inadequate, so a $49,000 federal clubhouse was built. The Phil Anderson Contractors had it completed in mid-December. The Port Townsend USO remained open into April 1946 and along with Seattle, Tacoma, and Astoria, was one of the last active facilities.

It closed in May 1946 and was sold to the American Legion. Renovations in 2008 returned the building to its wartime appearance.

Sources: Brian Gerard Casserly, "Securing the Sound: The Evolution of Civilian-Military Relations in the Puget Sound Area, 1891-1984" (Ph.D. diss., University of Washington, 2007); James R. Warren, The War Years: A Chronicle of Washington State in World War II (Seattle: History Ink/HistoryLink, 2000); Richard C. Lancaster, Serving The U.S. Armed Forces 1861-1986 (Schaumburg, Illinois: Armed Services YMCA, 1987).

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