Guest Post – There’ll Be a Hot Time … – gpcox

There’ll Be a Hot Time …



USO Dance, Washington

USO Dance, Washington

Entertainment for troops at home also provided sources for a social life to the civilians and gave the war drive efforts an available stage.  The USO is usually the organization that comes to mind for most of us.  They had 59 companies going abroad to entertain, but they also provided amusement for those in the U.S.  Just about every city had a USO center for dancing, conversation, food and getting the opportunity to see celebrities.  The Red Cross would usually set themselves up in these centers and supply baskets of goodies free of charge to the troops.  They strove to become a home away from home for the men.  Today, in the Midwest, a group of volunteers re-enact the USO and WW2 era in parades, ceremonies and living history displays.

Washington D.C., San Francisco and NYC had a Pepsi Cola Canteen where anyone in uniform ate for free. They had a game room and showers.  A service center in

USO Center, Miss.

USO Center, Miss.

Georgetown catered to many of the wounded men coming out of Walter Reed and Bethesda Hospitals.  The civilians in the area became very close to the veterans and many kept up their contact years after the war ended.

Being in the National Defense Strategic Railway Route, the Pennsylvania RR depot at Dennison, Ohio doubled as a canteen.  During WWII, over 3,980 volunteers served the troops while the trains were being filled with water.  The Dennison Canteen from 9 March 1942 to 8 April 1946 never closed its doors, ran out of money or food – quite an accomplishment in itself.  The building that distributed meals, treats, magazines and Christmas packages is now a National Historic Landmark.

Outside of the USO centers, I believe the most famous was the Stage Door Canteen.  This was started by the American Theatre Wing in 1942 and ended in 1946.  Situated in

Stage Door Canteen

Stage Door Canteen

the basement of the 44th Street Theater in New York City, caterers and local merchants provided food and drinks while big name performers and service staff took charge of keeping the Canteen in operation, even during black-outs and curfews, for the numerous servicemen that passed through the city.

But, it wasn’t always the women entertaining the men – here in the photo; a sailor is seen enjoying giving Conga lessons at a dance held at the Hamilton Community House in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.  The National Park Ranger Station held dances

Boston Ranger Station

Boston Ranger Station

on the second floor of their building in Boston, Mass. And the Everett Covered Bridge Dance was held each July.  Many a blossoming romance evolved from the dance halls and this was not just true in the U.S.  In Australia they opened the Trocadero, which was a popular dance venue where the American soldiers introduced the locals to the Jitterbug and Jive.  Judy informed me that her father wrote in a letter dated, 23 March 1943: “Last Saturday, the three of us – Vic, Art and Al – went to L.A. to see “The

"This Is The Army"

“This Is The Army”

Rookie.”  It is a ‘scream,’ and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole production.  It is put on by the boys from Fort MacArthur, just south of L.A. proper and they seem to enjoy doing it as well as the audience enjoys seeing it.  It has been running since the latter part of 1942 and the house is still crowded at each performance.  It really is good.”  The Greatest Generation had imagination; “if you can’t entertain us – we’ll entertain ourselves,” seemed to be their motto.

Not everyone wanted to dance or attend church functions.  Neighbors, with their men overseas, created groups to play cards, swap recipes and tell stories.  One such group called themselves the ‘Dumbos,’ in Yankton, South Dakota.  As each man came home, he was required to take the whole group out to dinner.  Thankfully, all their men came home.  They then continued to meet monthly, a tradition that would last for over 35 years.

Special dispensation was given to the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus to ride the rails during the war.  The government felt their travels to numerous cities helped to keep up the civilian morale.  The Thomas Carnival started in Lennox, South Dakota, to provide clean and safe entertainment for the people of that state and ended up providing midway fairs for 15 other states.  The rides, games and food concessions gave home front diversions from their 10-16 hour work days.



In Stanford, Texas they remember when the high school band played at the rodeo because the “Cowboy Band” members were mostly in the service.  Some of the women from here sang with Gene Autry when in 1941, NYC’s Madison Square Garden hosted Everett Colburn’s World Series Rodeo.  Soon afterward, Autry not only took over the NYC Garden, but the Boston Garden as well and continued the tradition for decades.

The war had put a damper on traveling, but the era was not all hardship.  Individual parties and family events went on, often as though there was no war at all.  Some were based on the war and would have a military theme whereby bringing a piece of scrap metal was the entry fee to a dance or a war bond was given as a holiday gift.  They did not have televisions, video games or cell phones.  People played games together, played instruments and visited friends and relatives.  They rolled bandages and wrote to their loved ones overseas.  There was always a movie theater in town to watch the newsreels and latest movies.

Children did real homework out of books and on paper.  Kids were seen everywhere playing hopscotch, Red Rover, Statues, RedLight-GreenLight, jacks, jump rope, dolls or they would read or just plain make up their own games.  I’m certain I’ve forgotten a number of the activities that went on – what do you remember?  I realize most of the states were not mentioned and I had very little data for countries outside the U.S., so let’s hear from all of you!  Allow Judy and me to learn your stories and that of your town, state or country.

Last, but definitely not least – the radio.  Big stars like Abbott and Costello continued touring the U.S., making movies and performing their skits for the wireless.  And this

Abbott and Costello

Abbott and Costello

leads us right into next month’s guest post where we’ll step back once again in time to visit Hollywood’s contributions.

Resources:  Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”;;;  Thomas; “Let the Good Times Roll” by Paul D. Casolorph; “Americans Remember the Home Front” by Roy Hoopes;;;;;

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy , the story of the 11th Airborne written by gpcox. Be sure to check it out.

Judy Guion


Trumbull – Storm Aftermath and Thanksgiving – Nov, 1939

1934 - 1940 Timeline

1934 – 1940 Timeline

The total destruction of a house leads the weekly news from Trumbull to Venezuela this week. Grandpa follows up with news of family and friends, keeping Lad in the loop.

November 12, 1939

Lad in Venezuela - 1939

Lad in Venezuela – 1939

Dear Lad:

I think in  my last letter I described to you how the storm caused the lights to go out. There is a sequel to the incident which did not develop until the following morning when the Trumbull fire siren woke us up about daylight. Then shortly after, a second alarm brought over the Long Hill apparatus. Later I learned what it was all about. The Levy’s had been up over the weekend and when they left, Mrs. Levy turned the regulator down to 40 so that the pipes would not freeze in the event of a cold snap. The theory is that when the current went off, the oil burner flame went out but the oil continued to flow and then when the current went on again and the spark ignited the excess oil. There being nobody home, it had time to get a good start, burning up through the cellar and then to the second floor and finally through the roof when the man living in the house opposite, on his way down to work, noticed the smoke and flames and turned in the alarm. By that time most of the inside of the house was completely gutted and many fine pieces of furniture destroyed. The grand piano had fallen down into the basement. The loss was estimated at about $10,000. Erwin Laufer had his baptism as a Constable doing traffic duty in the absence of the regular constables.

Trumbull now has a Police Commission consisting of Mr. Mahoney, the head at the district office of the John Hancock, in which company you have your policy, and who lives opposite Johnny Austin; Mr. Richard Brown of Nichols, and Howard Lane, Elvy Lane’s brother, who lives on Cedar Crest Road. The plan is to hold an examination soon, to be prepared by the state police department and those holding the highest marks will be appointed as regular salaried policeman for the town by the Police Commission.

Things at home here are running along about the same. My new grandson seems to be getting along nicely. Mack is getting heavier, and in spite of the fact that we’re trying to keep his diet down so he does not get too portly, he seems to be hungry most of the time. Dan usually leaves Sunday night and comes back from the University of Conn. at Storrs on Friday. Ced still has his unearthly hours of work when everybody else is asleep and he sleeps when the rest of us are awake. Dick and Dave are still going to high school. Dick has only three subjects and, according to his last report card, is doing very well. Dave, while he is studying very faithfully, is not making very good marks, particularly in Latin.

Dan and Barbara, Ced and Jane Mantle all went down to the horse show last night in Madison Square Garden. It was Barbara’s idea and the others did not think they would enjoy it very much, and perhaps for that reason, they had a pretty good time. Ced is all aroused right now about a new scheme that a fellow named Streit has proposed about a sort of United States of the world, in which all the democracies would pool their fighting forces and raw materials and currencies but maintaining their own internal forms of government. He saw the article first in LIFE and wrote a letter to them and I believe if a branch league of the proposed organization were started here, Ced would join it. He has just learned that Mrs. Hughes knows the author very well, having, in fact, going to school with him.

Just after dinner while Dan was washing the dishes, Ray Wang dropped in. He and his mother were up on a visit. His father is back at work again but is not feeling okay yet.

Last night Dick went to a party at Kascak’s and this morning, because the minister was away, was designated to assist the substitute minister in running the morning church service.

No letter arrived from you this past week so I am looking forward to two letters this week.

I have invited Aunt Betty up for Thanksgiving which occurs in Connecticut on the 30th, while in New York it is set for the 23rd.*  I haven’t heard from Aunt Elsie and I have invited none of the New Rochelle folks, principally because of the lack of funds.

I haven’t heard yet whether Cecelia got her flowers and cigarettes, and you also have not told me whether you want me to renew your driver’s license and your P. S. license.

Ced has put up practically all the storm windows and yesterday afternoon Dan and Dick took all the accumulated ashes out of the cellar and spread them on the drive. We have not yet started the furnace, trying to get along as long as we can with the oil stoves and fireplaces. I have to get some coal some way and start the furnace for Thanksgiving on account of Aunt Betty. If I can weather the financial storm this first year, my hope is that business will pick up and enable us to get by. At present (with the $165 a month Selectman’s salary out), I am not quite able to cover monthly expenses with the income. This is the one thing that worries me more than anything else right now.

It occurs to me that every letter I write has this sour note in it, which is not pleasant for you, and I shall therefore cut out all references to financial difficulties in future letters. There is no use making you the safety valve when I have to blow off steam occasionally.

Have you heard anything recently as to how much of the road is completed that was supposed to connect North and South America? I believe it is entirely finished now as far as Mexico City, but I am wondering if a continuous highway has yet been constructed through Central America, and if it would be possible to drive down, say to Ciudad Boliva, with a fair chance of reaching one’s destination without chartering a marsh buggy.

Dave informs me that Cecelia told him the other day she had ordered a new Ford car. Probably you know all about this.

Election Day in Bridgeport resulted in McLevy going back again for a couple of years, which of course was expected. The voting, however, showed a tendency of not giving him such a large majority as in past years, both the Republican and Democratic votes coming up.

And that’s about all I can think of to keep you up with Trumbull doings. Any inquiries about things or people will have my best attention. Meantime, don’t overeat on turkey and plum pudding of Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, currently celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November by federal legislation in 1941, has been an annual tradition in the United States by presidential proclamation since 1863 and by state legislation since the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Tomorrow, we’ll be continuing with more news from 1939. Share this blog with others you know who might enjoy this look back at history viewed by one particular family.

Judy Guion