The Liberty Theatre at Camp Dix - 1918
This picture may be fittingly entitled “An Amphitheater of Liberty," for Indeed does the spirit of Liberty look with admiring eyes on these 1200 young men of other lands who have just sworn solemn allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, a scene that will never again be witnessed in this lifetime.
Hundreds of young men, many of them who fled with then- parents from the blighting rule of the despot monarchs of Central Europe, raised their hands to Almighty God and swore to uphold and fight for the honor of the flag that stirred the “Spirit of ’76’ gave freedom to the slave and liberty to them and the entire world.
Naturalization Court in the Camp Dix Liberty Theatre, one of a number held there during the great war. A suitable place by name, location and size. Seating 3000 people, this theatre, one of those built by the Government under the direction of the Commission on Training Camp Activities, is the scene of amusement every evening of the week, and the final resting place of Smileage Tickets, the transfer of a dime or a quarter into a heaping measure of good cheer.
History of the Liberty Theatre
WHAT to do " is the most serious problem of the soldier's life. Not that he isn't busy most of the time, but there are several hours every day when he is left to his own resources for entertainment or amusement.
At these times, particularly at night, his thoughts naturally revert to the "days that used to be," and in consequence he is likely to brood or become discontented. And his efficiency and value to the service suffer accordingly.
There are still some who claim that the soldier should devote all his time to his work. But he is a human being and, like all human beings, must be entertained. " A contented soldier is a good soldier " has become the maxim of the War Department, and the Liberty Theatre is one example of their practical adherence to it.
After the draft men arrived at the cantonments, the Y.M.C.A. and K. of C. did their best to furnish entertainment for them. The local organizations also gave shows composed of " local talent." But the local talent was eventually exhausted, and facilities of the war workers were hopelessly inadequate to the entertaining of the entire camp.
Some remedy was necessary, something which would supply amusement for forty thousand men a week. The military authorities conferred with the leading theatrical men of the country and the plan of the Liberty Theatre was born. Some great auditoriums were constructed, one in each cantonment.
Theatre men did their best to help the great cause; actors and actresses offered their services, either without recompense or at a price far below that which they might ordinarily command. Companies were formed by the commission, and soon Uncle Sam had added to his manifold vocations that of theatrical producer.
Now the men at Camp Dix can go to the Liberty Theatre seven nights a week, with matinees Saturday and Sunday, and see a first-class production for ten, twenty-five, or fifty cents.
And they are certainly taking advantage of this opportunity, for every night the great hall, seating three thousand, is packed. Smileage plays an important part in this scheme; over 70 percent of the admissions are paid in Smileage coupons.