The USO and Sandpoint's Community Hall
George Dong, 95, is pictured outside Sandpoint Community Hall, where soldiers gathered for dances during World War II. Dong, a World War II veteran, and a Tai Chi master, attends Tai Chi in this building every Saturday, held under the direction of teacher Mark Evans.
| April 28, 2021 1:00 AM
Not too long ago, I went to a meeting at Sandpoint’s Community Hall. As I walked around the building, I wondered about the history of the place, and the people who had walked through its doors. I found that the Hall had a rich and varied history.
Community Hall came into being primarily to meet the need of local scouting programs. It was built in 1935-1936 on lots donated by the county. Local money was collected, but it ran out before the building could be completed. It took the WPA (Works Progress Administration) to complete the job. The total cost of the new hall was $8,292.
In 1942, the Y.M.C.A. leased the hall from the city for $1 a year, to be used as a U.S.O. club. It was not long that daily buses arrived in Sandpoint loaded with sailors. These sailors were from the Farragut Naval Training Station, near Athol, Idaho. Thousands of boys, from many states of the union, passed through the doors of the Community Hall, and were welcomed by a warm and friendly face. It was a place to relax, talk to pretty girls, play games, and eat anything different than Navy chow.
The U.S.O. added the south wing to the building in 1944. Today, many local groups use the hall that has reverted back to the original name of Sandpoint Community Hall. The building has served the community and nation well and today is the hub for community activities.
I would like to take you back to the days of the USO. Who were the people inside these walls that turned a lonely, homesick day, into one of joy and warmth? They were called, “Junior Hostess,” and it were these young women that made each visitor feel welcome. These girls did not just show up to volunteer. There were certain rules and regulations that each of them had to agree to before they could be part of the program. The Code of Standards for the Junior Hostess illustrates the high goals each girl had to meet, and why they were so successful in making a service man, or woman, feel like they had touched a little bit of home.
CODE OF STANDARDS
All girls must be willing to accept the rules and regulations as outlined by national USO.
Hostesses are expected to be on duty for at least three hours a night, one night a week. Hostesses leaving building during an event will not be readmitted to that event.
Members should use discretion in wearing suitable clothes.
a. Skirts should cover the bend of the knee.
b. Girls should wear proper foundation garments.
c. Form fitting sweaters, sloppy Joes, slacks, culottes, and bobby socks are not to be worn in
the USO building on Saturday nights.
Extreme jitterbugging is taboo. Remember that you are here as a hostess and a dancing partner, and not as an exhibitionist.
It is the duty of each Junior Hostess to:
a. Accept all invitations to dance.
b. Take time to chat with boys who do not dance.
c. Make each of our guests feel at home.
d. Help all other junior Hostesses to have a good time.
Women with the Armed Forces are also our guests. Make them feel at home. Treat them as you would wish to be treated in a strange community.
USO pins will be awarded each month for 100 hours of volunteer service.
As a hostess you are asked to cooperate with those in charge to make the evening a success.
HOW DO YOU RATE AS A HOSTESS?
I. Do you come to dances?
a. To meet a new man
b. To get a date
c. To give pleasure
d. As your part in war work
e. Because there' is nothing else to do
- How is your tact?
a. Are you a good listener
b. Can you make a bashful boy feel at ease
c. Do you introduce your partners to other girls
- Can you:
a. Get out of a date gracefully
b. Avoid being escorted home without being rude
c. Be cordial and friendly without being intimate
- Do you:
a. Chew gum while dancing
b. Ever talk to the chaperones
c. Introduce yourself to the boys
d. Ever teach a beginner to dance
e. Treat the women in the Armed Forces as you would like to be treated if you were in a strange community
(The above standards were provided by Nellie Garrison, who gave 150 hours as a Junior Hostess, in 1945-1946.)