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.
In August of 1944, many servicemen of color turned out for dance night in the main auditorium of the USO #2, 713-15 Commerce St. During World War II, the US military was still segregated and USO #2 was sponsored by the YMCA for the entertainment of African American servicemen and women. The main auditorium was decorated with transparencies by the Washington State Progress Commission. The project was under the supervision of Bert Smyser. The auditorium was a large space that could be adapted for many uses. (photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma) (information provided by USO #2 brochure for Recognition Ceremony)
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.
In this photograph from around 1946, eight volunteer Senior Hostesses posed around a refreshment table for an unidentified event held at the USO #2 located at 713-15 Commerce Street. Pictured left to right: Lila Brown, Ethel Butler, Helen Beck Stafford, Maude Leonard, unidentified, Louise Beck, unidentified and Minnie Harris. (brochure from Recognition Ceremony USO Number Two on 3/30/1947; photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma)
This undated photograph appears to have been taken at the USO club #2, the Tacoma club reserved for servicemen and women of color. Second from left was Tacoma Mayor C. Val Fawcett (acting 1943-45, elected 1946-50) and on the far right is Rabbi Bernard Rosenberg of Temple Beth Israel.
The 70 piece Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Pacific Northwest performed in front of the temporary bandstand, topped with unfurled flags, at the USO Music Festival held July 28, 1946 at Point Defiance Park. The young orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Francis Aranyi, was one of the favorites of the 7,000 concert viewers. (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)
On Sunday February 3, 1946, USOs across the nation celebrated the fifth anniversary of USO (United Service Organization) operation by opening to the public. In Tacoma, all of the USO clubs had open houses but the main event was held at the USO #2, the club reserved for servicemen of color at 713-15 Commerce St. Guests of honor were Tacoma's Mayor Harry Cain (center back table) and Earl Marble, the chairman of the Tacoma USO Council. The anniversary program included performances by the Special Service Band from Fort Lewis, concert pianist Pvt. Glen Michaels and tenor Sgt. Soto Andrews. (TNT 2/3/1946, pg. A-7, 2/4/1946, pg. 1; photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma)
The 70 piece Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Pacific Northwest perform at the annual USO Music Festival, held at Point Defiance Park on July 28, 1946. The orchestra, conducted by Dr. Francis Aranyi, was photographed on the temporary bandstand erected in the natural amphitheater at the entrance to the park. The concert was attended by over 7,000 people. (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)
The Puget Sound Navy Orchestra, from Seattle, performed jazz at the second annual music festival on July 28, 1946, at Point Defiance Park. The orchestra was under the direction of Ensign William Paul Currence. Watching and waiting for their turn to play, right, was either the 448th Special Service Band or Sharps and Flats, both groups from Fort Lewis. The newspapers classified their sound as "Boogie-Woogie." The 448th was under the direction of Sgt. Benjamin W. Martin; Sharps and Flats was under the direction of Joe Jordan. The concert, held in the natural amphitheater at the entrance to the park, 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)
This photograph from the Helen Stafford collection is dated July 29, 1945, meaning it was taken at the first USO music festival at Point Defiance. Six thousand attendees sat on the grass to listen to the 362nd Army Band from Fort Lewis play Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Also performing were the 29th Special Service Band directed by Sgt. Earnest Hayden and the 25 voice Naval choir from Bremerton. (TNT 7/29/1945, PG. 1; Photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma)
ca. 1946. One of the purposes of the USO was to make the holidays more festive for servicemen stationed away from home and their families. This picture of a local pair, left, and four servicemen was taken around Christmas at the USO Club #2. All of the people in the picture are unidentified. The Club was reserved for servicemen of color; at this time, the military was still segregated. (Photograph by F.L. Powell, YMCA, Tacoma).
ca. 1946. A group of at a refreshment table at the USO #2, 713-15 Commerce St., around 1946. The border in the background is formed of a line of thumbtacked photographs of the USO Club. (photograph by F.L. Powell of Tacoma)
Volunteers of USO No. 2 shown in this undated World War II era photograph include community activist Helen Stafford, second from right. 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. TPL-5977
ca. 1946. One of the functions of the United Service Organizations (USO) was to create a welcoming atmosphere for servicemen and women away from home, especially during the holidays. From the look of the guests' hats and leis, the social event in this undated photograph was held during the holidays in the main hall of the USO #2, 713-15 Commerce St. The military was still segregated during World War II, so USO #2 was provided for the entertainment of African American soldiers.