A feature story by Peggy of the Flint Hills1 in the Topeka Capital is about the 15th birthday of the USO. In the picture along with the story is Connie Smith, A Hartford girl who now works at the statehouse in Topeka.
Fifteen years ago Governor Ratner called Ray Pierson, Clarence Malone and the writer to meet in his office. Mrs. Daisy Johntz could not be present at that first meeting. We met to talk about United Service Organizations. This was back in those days when we were talking about defense. Our boys were being assembled for defense. Mothers were concerned about the temptations their sons might face away from home. USO came into being to meet that need and forestall that worry. It was to be a home away from home, a wholesome place where lads could go when not on duty and where they could find someone interested in them.
At the national level someone had assembled representatives of the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, the Salvation Army, the Jewish Welfare Board and The Travelers Aid Association. These six organizations banded to-gether to form the United Service Organizations. Governor Ratner gave us the information he had received and told us there was a job to be done, to perfect a statewide organization and solicit funds to support it.
Everyone over the state knew Red Pierson, the only one of that committee who has gone to the great beyond. Clarence Malone had headed the Knights of Columbus and had a wide acquaintance. Mrs. Johntz had been president of the Federated clubs, president of the Woman’s Kansas Day club, president of the Council of Woman. The writer was there to represent rural Kansas. At this time Kansas was beginning to emerge from those long, lean years of the depression and money was not as plentiful as it is today. We coined the phrase “a bushel or so for the USO” and asked people to share a bushel of wheat for this cause. They did.
The welfare of their boys was close to the hearts of every family. At that time the committee was thinking of the immediate task at hand. Certainly no one voiced a long look into the future and pictured the USO as it is today.
The USO is still that home away from home. As Peggy says: “Boy likes to meet Girl and Girl likes to meet Boy.” That is true in peace time as it is in war. Country girls who go to Topeka to work, get into the USO and there they meet boys. Thus the USO has come to be as important for girls as it is for boys.
How many married couples do you know who met at the USO? Many happy returns of this birthday.