Service Men’s Club
“On this beautiful Sunday morning came the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese-and very shortly-our country was at war against the Axis powers.”
That was how the meeting notes dated Dec. 7, 1941 began. It was the beginning of a story that unfolds over four years of notes, articles and letters documenting the contributions of the Woman’s Club to support the war effort, and specifically the men in uniform.
“At the meeting of Dec. 11th we were told that soldiers from San Luis Obispo were guarding our waterfront. That these boys needed a place to bathe and have hot coffee to relieve their long night watches … The fateful motion was carried, and with that decision came a new era for the Ocean Beach Woman’s Club. An era of devoted service in a beloved country at war.”
And so the Service Men’s Club was established. They met in two buildings on Abbott Street and were open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week serving as many as 200 soldiers a day.
February 1942: “The service men’s club was a success from the very inception. Members of various women’s organizations acted as hostesses, goodies were baked in homes and conveyed to the club, and the steaming coffee pot was eternally available when the boys dropped in for rest and refreshments.”
September 1941 – Union/Tribune: “A radio, piano, several typewriters, writing material and a sewing basket like mother’s is there for the boys to use.”
Thank you letters poured in, including some from the U.S. Naval Training Center, Camp Callon (site of Torrey Pines Golf Course & Reserve) and Camp Elliott (MCAS Miramar). These original letters are thoughtfully preserved in the historical archive. The word got out and inquiries came from groups in other cities, asking for advice on how they could open a successful club for their region.
During this time, the OBWC contributed in other ways as well, buying multiple War Bonds and working with the Red Cross to make bandages, ship bags, and whatever else was needed-many times during blackouts and rationing. “Enough credit cannot be given the membership for its steady carrying on in the face of reverses for the country, of the newness, loneliness, and annoyance of ‘blackouts’ and radio silence.”
Consider this sobering excerpt taken from the obituary of Miss Jean Rittenhouse a founding member of the club. “During the war she painted over 300 portraits of servicemen and if they would not take the paintings with them, she, at her own expense, would send them to their parents. Many of the boys never returned to their homes – their pictures were cherished evermore by their parents.”
It was during these years where women really joined the workforce.
September 1941: “Mr. Charles Kenyon assistant director of Consolidated Aircraft [as speaker] told of the rapid expansion of factory facilities due to the National Emergency and announced that women are being employed for the first time. It was expected that at least 1,500 women would be employed by Consolidated before the hiring is complete.”
May 1943: “Miss Mary Trushinski entertained the Club with an Accordion solo, after which she sang a timely song in a lighter vein-Rosey the Riveter.”
The annual mottos of the OBWC over these same years really tell it all: Streamlined for Service, Service on the Homefront, The Key to Success is Willingness to Serve, Let Us Work as One!
June 7, 1944: “JUNE SIXTH was D*Day! The time of invasion of Fortress Europe. As these words are written, that invasion has just begun. God direct its ending. The sounds of gun practice still shake the beach. With victory in both the Atlantic and Pacific these sounds shall end too, and our boys will come home.
“And so, this chronicle ends…but always the struggle has been upward towards progress and the light. May we, as a nation and an organization, be facing a better and happier day is the wish of your chronicler.”
The OBWC remains committed to the country and community. If you’re a woman in our neighborhood, we invite and encourage you to come visit and join in the fun and service to Ocean Beach. And to all, please consider donating to our flooring fund as we lay a new foundation in 2017.
Submitted by the OB Woman’s Club Floor Campaign Committee.