USO Clubs in Spokane

A Soldiers Home Away From Home

As the Second World War raged on soldiers returning home on leave or based in the states needed recreational centers to destress. Black soldiers did not always feel welcome in USO clubs so separate USO facilities like the George Washington Carver Club were founded.

When the United States entered the Second World War President Roosevelt felt a need to create a home-based organization to provide recreational activities for soldiers. The United Service Organization or USO was then founded and USO clubs began operating to be a “home away from home” for soldiers. Due to the city’s proximity to a major airfield and a Naval Training Center, Spokane needed such centers for the tens of thousands of soldiers coming into the region every year.

While the city had civilian founded centers that offered similar services since 1941, the first official USO Club in Spokane opened on 3rd and Monroe in 1942. It was the 1200th USO club to open in the United States. During its first year of operation, thousands of soldiers would go there to dance, drink, play games, read, write letters, or make phone calls.

There were three USO clubs in Spokane, two for white soldiers and one for African American servicemen. The USO’s official policy was to not operate segregated facilities; however, in segregated communities, the clubs would reflect their surroundings. In the nonsegregated clubs, many black soldiers still found notable tension when they participated in club activities. This led some cities to open separate clubs for the black soldiers, such as Spokane’s George Washington Carver Club. By 1943, there were nearly 200 USO clubs designated specifically for black soldiers.

The George Washington Carver Club officially opened on August 9th, 1943 on the corner of first and division and offered the same sort of recreation as the other USO clubs in town. Rose Malone the club director recruited over 100 local women to work as hostesses to dance and play games with the black soldiers in Spokane. Between the many dances and playing cards, the George Washington Carver Club offered an important respite for the black servicemen in the Inland Northwest.

With the inland northwest having facilities for every branch of the military, including a navy training center, two major airfields, and one of the busiest military hospitals in the country between the three clubs, there were nearly 2 million visitors throughout the war. After the end of the war, the USO clubs continued to operate for a short time but in December 1947 the three Spokane clubs closed along with the other clubs across the country.