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Helen Stafford Papers
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Helen Stafford Papers

  • 3.4.2

Inlcudes membership handbooks, programs, agendas, and other information related to several organizations with which Stafford was involved including Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Matron's Club, the Washington Association of Colored Women, the Allen AME Church, and others. Also included are speeches and writings by Stafford and honors and awards she received.

Helen Stafford


U.S.O. #2, 713-15 Commerce St., circa 1946. During World War II, although black and white soldiers fought side by side, the United States Army was still segregated. In Tacoma, African American service men and women had their own USO Club at 713-15 Commerce. It was dedicated on September 4, 1942 and closed late in March of 1947. The Kaufman-Wolff building where it was located had previously housed the Soldiers and Sailors Clubhouse during World War I. USO #2 was enlarged in 1944 by adding an annex in the building to the north of the original club. The enlarged structure provided the following facilities: dark room, music room, hobby room, game room, showers, sleeping accommodations, library and snack bar. It was operated by the YMCA and staffed primarily by volunteers. (brochure from Recognition Ceremony USO Number Two on 3/30/1947; photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma).


On Sunday February 3, 1946, a dinner was held at the Tacoma USO #2, 713-15 Commerce St., honoring the 5th anniversary of USO operation. The United Service Organizations, or USO, was incorporated in New York Feb. 4, 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who believed it was important for private citizens to take responsibility for the on-leave recreation needs of service members. One of the guests of honor for the Tacoma celebration was Mayor Harry Cain, standing center, who attended with his wife Marjorie, last woman seated left. Seated to the right of Mayor Cain was Mr. Arthur Hayes, chairman of the club's operating committee. The other individuals at the table were unidentified. (TNT 2/3/1946, pg. A-7, 2/4/1946, pg. 1: photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma)


The performance by the 70 piece Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Pacific Northwest, under the direction of Dr. Francis Aranyi, was one of the highlights of the USO Music Festival held July 28, 1946 at Point Defiance. The festival was held in the natural amphitheater at the entrance to the park. The concert drew over 7,000 listeners. It was also broadcast over the Mutual Network by KMO. (TT 7/27/1946, pg 2 and 7/28/46, pg 1; TNT 7/27/46, pg.1 and 7/29/46, pg. 1& 2) Photo by F.L. Powell, YMCA, Tacoma)


An unidentified majorette performs with the Seattle Elks Band at the USO Music Festival at Point Defiance Park on July 28, 1946. The band was one of many performers in the concert attended by over 7,000. (TT 7/27/1946, pg 2 and 7/28/46, pg 1; TNT 7/27/46, pg.1 and 7/29/46, pg. 1& 2; Photo by F.L. Powell, YMCA, Tacoma)


ca. 1947. Orson Welles (standing), noted performer and director of stage, screen and radio, conferred with an unidentified African American pianist in this undated photograph. Two women in hats looked on from the drawing room beyond. The occasion was possibly in March of 1947, when Mr. Welles spoke to 5,000 persons in the Armory as a guest of the Tacoma Jewish Association in observance of Brotherhood Week.


On October 22, 1945, this group of unidentified individuals were photographed seated around a table after what appears to be a dinner at the USO #2, 713-15 Commerce St. (photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma)


This undated photograph was taken in front of the snack bar at the USO No. 2 in Tacoma. At the head of the table was Arthur Hayes and at the end closest to the camera was Helen B. Stafford, local civic activist. USO No. 2 opened at 713 Commerce Street in September 1942 to serve Tacoma's African American servicemen and closed in March 1947. This location also served servicemen during World War I as the Army-Navy Club.


Undated photograph of the Matrons Club. The woman seated front left is Helen Beck Stafford, one of the founders of the group. Dr. Stafford moved to Tacoma in 1926 to marry Wendell P. Stafford on New Years Eve. Even though she had taught for a few years in Kansas schools, Tacoma school personnel directors refused to hire a black teacher. She stayed at home and cared for her husband and daughter. She and several other women who stayed home to rear their children would get together for a social outlet. In 1927, they formally organized the Matrons Club. The women who attended the meetings often brought their children along and the children would play together. (TNT 2/22/1982- NWR clipping file) (photograph by Liberal Engraving Co., 907 1/2 Commerce)


During World War II, the US military was still segregated. Despite the fact that they fought side by side, servicemen of color were not allowed in the whites only USO clubs. In Tacoma, a group of prominent religious, community and civic leaders addressed this problem by opening USO #2 at 713-15 Commerce St. and dedicating it for the use of African American servicemen and women. This photograph is of an unidentified violinist and accompanist performing at USO #2.


Volunteer Senior Hostesses at the USO #2 posed around a refreshment table, circa 1946, at an unidentified event at the club located at 713-15 Commerce St. Pictured in the standing row were, at far left, Lila Brown; second from left, Ethel Butler; fourth from left, Maude Leonard; fourth from right, Louise Beck; far right, Helen Beck Stafford. Minnie Harris is seated, partially hidden, in the second row. The remainder of the women are unidentified. Mrs. Leonard served on the Operating Committee of the club; she also volunteered over 5,000 hours during its years of operation. (brochure from Recognition Ceremony USO Number Two on 3/30/1947; photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma)

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