This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1943
Soldiers’ Service Club Activities
Mrs. Viola D. Mansur
The Soldiers’ Service club of Dayton is a community recreational center for enlisted military personnel and is located in a portion of the Municipal Building. It is managed by a group of women who serve on a voluntary basis. There is absolutely no paid staff from the director down through the entire organization. Approximately 650 persons and business firms have financed the club and to all concerned a tribute should be paid for the excellent way in which it has been conducted and the wonderful success to its credit.
Among the services provided for the soldier guest are a sewing and pressing room where there is a long line in waiting with senior hostesses to do the necessary sewing which might be a new stripe, insignia, or perhaps a much needed patch.
The club kitchen is a favorite spot for the soldier to unburden his thoughts to a senior hostess while gathered around a table or after raiding the refrigerator and then enjoying a gab fest with those about him.
In the music room is a grand piano, drums, combination radio-phonograph and recording machine. This room is always occupied. Here tryouts for the radio shows are made.
The library is full of good books, donated by Daytonians, and all are placed in good order on marked shelves—fiction, technical, engineering, mathematics, etc. Many a soldier reads and studies here; no one disturbs him in the sanctum of the library. Adjoining the library is the religious counsel room. This room is available at all times for soldiers wishing to confer with a Clergy which is represented by Rabbis, Priests and Ministers.
The activities of the Soldier’s Service Club are varied with the exclusive use of “Skateland” made available every Monday night for skating parties which is fine recreation for soldiers and their friends. Here they skate to organ music and none are admitted without a card issued from the Soldiers’ Service Club.
On Tuesday evenings, the Motion Picture Operators Union furnishes an operator and a movie film. The radio program of the Air Service Command is also broadcast from the Club each Tuesday evening at 9:30 p.m. over a local station.
Wednesday night is dance night at the Club with music supplied by a band from either Wright or Patterson Field and once every month a name band is secured.
On Thursday evenings the Soldiers’ Service Club Review is presented consisting of both amateur and professional talent, all soldiers. Better shows are hard to find and these shows are also broadcast every Thursday evening.
The Sunday night programs are of a semi-religious nature and attract between 300 and 400 soldiers. A local group has charge of these programs and secures the speakers. One’s emotions are stirred when watching the reverent attitude of the men in the Armed Forces of all religious beliefs and from all corners of the United States joining together in these devotional exercises.
Not long ago the Soldiers’ Service Club sponsored a most successful preview of Irving Berlin’s “This Is the Army” at a local theatre. Along with this preview, a movie was shown of a typical Sunday night at the Club.
Some of the recreational projects include a newspaper now in the making and to be known as S. C. O. D. (Soldiers’ Club of Dayton). This will be a pictorial publication featuring activities of the Club and the numerous celebrities that visit it. The work is to be done by the soldiers and hostesses.
Not long ago, a group of men from Company “C”, Wright Field, wrote and produced a “Gay 90’s Review”. This began as an amateur production but with such men as Lynn Riggs and William Saroyan planning it, it turned out to be a real production and art creation. The show proved so popular that Daytonians crowded each performance. It had the complete cooperation of the official personnel at both adjacent military fields. It was a very professionally produced show and a credit to all.
Art classes are conducted with competent instructors in charge. Two classes a week have been arranged at the nearby Art Institute. Here men who were once a part of the art world enjoy the opportunity afforded them to work with the art supplies as furnished by the Soldiers’ Service Club. An exhibit of the work done by these soldier boys hangs in the Art Institute gallery.
Many and varied are the experiences of the hostesses on duty. Oft times soldiers return after a tour of duty abroad seeking to renew old acquaintances and eager to relate their experiences. To them the Soldiers’ Service Club is a home. Sometimes one who has been given encouragement and heeded the kind advice of some senior hostess returns to thank those in charge for the inspirational advice given in his behalf. These experiences are something beyond the possibility of financial reward and to those benefitting thereby, the Soldiers’ Service Club has become a living, breathing reality. For those engaged in the operation of the Club, that is all the reward desired—to be allowed to make the path of war a little brighter for some soldier.
The Club is a happy playground. Deafening noises from the juke box, laughter from the dozen game tables, pool balls clicking, ping pong balls singing through the air, some boy hammering out boogie-woogie on one piano, a former concert pianist at the grand piano, no one has time to be lonely with all these fine American boys and girls at play.
The Soldiers’ Service Club is a product of the community. It is a living example of what can be done with proper community spirit. No business man or individual has ever turned a deaf ear on a request emanating from the Soldiers’ Service Club. This is a record of patriotism for we have asked for much help from very busy people who are making many other contributions toward the war effort in attempting to please the 17,000 or more men who pass monthly through its portals.