York County’s USO junior hostesses in World War II: ‘Patriotic to look pretty’
Servicemen, spouses and volunteers pose at York County’s Pennsylvania Dutch Canteen in June 1945. Notice that on the wall at right a drawing is posted of the placement of the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in February 1945, suggesting the famous photograph was already an American icon. George Bixler, a Marine sergeant observed the flag after it was raised after the important World War II fighting. ‘(I)t was like a ballgame, everyone hollering all over the place. I could just see that baby waving,” Bixler, a Hanover resident, said years later. The canteen was located in the still-standing York County Academy gymnasium. The academy building on North Beaver Street, which no longer stands, served as USO headquarters. The canteen was located to the rear of the academy building. Some of the Pennsylvania Dutch drawings on the wall are visible today in the privately owned building. Also of interest: Old gym bears signs of USO past and USO column attracts WW II-era memories and Just try to resist this memory-tugging photograph of northwest York, Pa.
The USO in York County attracted young women by the thousands.
These were volunteers, no doubt lonely themselves with many eligible men off fighting in World War II. But they provided comfort to many a guy in uniform at the North Beaver Street USO buildings, nonetheless… .
Maintaining positive morale of those in the service – and those serving on the homefront – was an important issue of the day.
In the USO’s first 18 months, 5,480 young York-area women volunteered as dance and conversation partners.
Senior hostesses oversaw their younger, junior counterparts.
Here’s more from “In the Thick of the Fight,” about the USO junior hostesses:
“USO newsletters contained regular counsel for these junior hostesses, who were at least 18 years old. They were on duty to entertain, not to be entertained, They could be served at the canteen at all times but with smaller helpings than the servicemen. They must not wear sweaters.
In fact, a USO newsletter item, titled “Patriotic to Look Pretty,” suggested that servicemen were asking for their hostesses to wear dance frocks – evening dresses. Such garb had not been worn, considered too frivolous for wartime.
“You don’t know how good it is to see a pretty girls in a party frock,” the servicemen told USO officials, “after you’ve lived with uniforms so long.”
They junior hostesses were forbidden to date the servicemen.
But talk to the hostesses years later, and they’ll tell you that the rule was sometimes broken.
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– To view all World War II posts from the start, click here.
Photo courtesy York County Heritage Trust.