The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
Historical Manuscripts Home
Alphabetical List of All Collections | Collections Listed By Subject


Manuscript Collection

Collection Title: Hattiesburg U.S.O. Club Records

Collection Number: M 211

Dates: March 1942 - August 1946

Volume: .20 cu.ft.

Provenance: Donated by Wade H. Stokes, Jr. on April 11, 1985.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) were founded in 1941 to provide recreation centers for armed forces personnel during World War II. Men were uprooted from their homes and familiar surroundings and transferred to strange places. The U.S.O. provided the servicemen with recreational facilities and the opportunity to meet and get to know new people. Information and counseling services were also available.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi opened its branch of the U.S.O., located on Front Street, on March 15, 1942, in response to the increasing number of military personnel stationed at nearby Camp Shelby. Activities like movies, dances, and plays were available for entertainment. Game rooms in the building were popular sites for bridge, bingo, cards, chess, checkers, and other games. Classes were conducted in photography, dancing, and even algebra, among others. Special events were organized according to the season of the year, such as Christmas tree trimming.

Other organizations affiliated with the U.S.O. were the G.S.O. (Girls' Service Organization) and the Army Wives. The Army Wives met often in the U.S.O. building. The G.S.O. was based on personal character, in an effort to provide the servicemen with wholesome companionship. The G.S.O. was central to the success of U.S.O. activities, as girls served as drawing cards for the men.

Besides recreational activities the U.S.O. had an information desk which dispensed assistance to servicemen and visiting families unfamiliar with the Hattiesburg area and its various services. Personal counseling was also available to help the servicemen deal with family, financial, or emotional adjustments.

The U.S.O. did not disband immediately at the end of the war but continued providing services for the demobilizing servicemen until numbers dwindled to the point that it was not feasible to remain open. The Hattiesburg Front Street U.S.O. reached this point in August 1946 and was closed.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of monthly narrative program reports for the Hattiesburg (Mississippi), U.S.O. Club, dating from March 1942 to August 1946. The reports were written in a variety of ways, but generally used a format listing regular activities such as dances, special interest club meetings, instructional programs and special activities. Sometimes a dramatic approach was taken, like a conversation between two frequent members of the Club or an impersonal third party's view of the Club's activities. A dramatized version of a serviceman's letter home, reporting on his activities (unrealistically centering on U.S.O. activities exclusively) and excerpts from the diary of an army wife (also unrealistically U.S.O. centered) were other approaches used that considerably enliven the otherwise dull reading of program reports. Many of the reports contain statistical information on building attendance, snack bar receipts, and other items of a statistical nature. The reports were written by the various directors of the Hattiesburg U.S.O.

When the war ended the Hattiesburg U.S.O. did not disband immediately, but continued services for the demobilized servicemen passing through Camp Shelby. The reports in the late 1945 and 1946 center more around speculation of the future of Camp Shelby, and report a decreasing number of participants in U.S.O. activities. Civilian community use of U.S.O. facilities increased as military use decreased. Group activities and scheduled events were greatly reduced, as were paid personnel and volunteer workers. By August 1946 there was so little need for U.S.O. services that they finally closed, after four and a half years of service to military personnel stationed at Camp Shelby.


Created by: Bobs M. Tusa
Prepared and maintained by
The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries Special Collections
http://www.lib.usm.edu/spcol/index.php
118 College Drive #5148   Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5148

Please send comments or questions to Ask-a-Librarian
Revised: December 14, 2004