Hostess Houses for Everybody - 1918
Camp Devens Hostess House, Ayer, Massachusetts. Report of Hostess House Committee, 1919. GGA Image ID # 180047379a
In the beginning – equipped for any crisis within two months and a half of the declaration of war, the Y.W.C.A. opened its first Hostess House for hospitality and service to women who visit men in the military camps.
Since that time, the middle of June, when the Hostess House for the Reserve Officers' Training Camp at Plattsburg, New York, began its work—this branch of the War Work Council has extended until it includes now not only Hostess Houses at camps for enlisted men as officers, but also a house for sailors at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois; for marines at Quantico, Virginia; and latest, a house now building at Fort Riley, Kansas, which will not only afford a place where mothers and friends may visit with the soldiers during the day, but will also provide a social evening centre for the nurses of the hospitals.
Hostess House Cafeteria at Camp Zachary Taylor, circa 1918. GGA Image ID # 18005e0ab1
Social centers where nurses may spend their time when off duty are in growing request and a few of the Hostess Houses are now serving that purpose. Of the thirty-eight Hostess Houses already opened, and of twenty-four more building or being furnished and about ready to open, everyone has been constructed at the request of the commander of the camp or station.
Seven more not yet authorized have been requested. “I do not think that we shall ever again have an army post without a Hostess House," Raymond B. Fosdick, Chairman of the War Department's Committee Training Camp Activities, said in recent speech.
Hostess Houses everywhere, whether on the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf shores, or in the interior, have one purpose to provide a home-like place where soldiers and their women visitors may meet. Since this is their aim, everything that will interfere with conversation is barred-formal meetings, dancing and program entertainments.
Thirty-four Hostess Houses open; four are closed because the men are gone; twenty- four are under construction and seven more have been requested. Two houses for friends of colored troops open and eight more are among those that are being built.
Of the $ 900,000 set aside from the War Work Fund for Hostess Houses, all has been either used for the ones that are completed or appropriated for those that are authorized.
Mother and Son at the Y.W.C.A. Hostess House, Camp Kerny, California. YWCA War Work Bulletin, Special Number, September 1917. GGA Image ID # 1800674c77
The Hostess Houses placed in the camps and cantonments right across the continent from Camp Meade, Maryland, to Camp Kearny, California, are a dramatization of a phase of YWCA Hostess. The Houses are primarily for the convenience of the visiting wives, mothers and friends of the soldiers, who feel very strange in the great sprawling khaki cities.
Eighty-three of these Hostess Houses are either in operation or in process of construction. Ten of them are for the use of colored troops. These houses, under the supervision of colored women, are among the most successful in friendliness, hospitality and efficiency. No house is built in any camp except at the direct request of the commandant. The work has government sanction and is under the War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities.
The houses are in use by the soldiers and visitors from morning to night. On regular visiting days, the walls fairly bulge out from the crowds.
“774 Pots of Baked Beans”
" All sorts of things happen at a Hostess House just as they do in any well-regulated family, only they are sometimes a little more so, as one worker said.
In the middle of the afternoon, mess over, a hundred and fifty new officers from one of the forts dropped into a camp the other day from a train that had no diner. As one man they came straight to the Hostess House. The cafeteria manager there has a theory that whatever the hour, travelers wanting food must be served.
Now the help, as is not unknown among help, had all quit without notice that very day, but the men went away happy, well served with sandwiches, hot coffee and ice cream.
The cafeterias in the Hostess Houses open not only to the women friends who come to visit the soldiers, but to the soldiers themselves when they are on leave. Family parties, birthday parties, even wedding anniversaries are not infrequent happenings.
Many of the people who come, bring home cooked food, things of which the men are especially fond, and supplement these with hot coffee and ice cream. A corner is sometimes reserved for such a party, or a table or two, and with father, mother, children perhaps and the soldiers, it looks like home.
No cafeteria manager can be quite sure of camp taste, especially in such familiar foods as beans. When the Camp Lewis cafeteria opened , baked beans were not in the bill of fare, because they were counted out as expectedly unpopular. But they had to be put on because they were repeatedly called for, and on one Sunday alone 774 individual pots were sold .
An officer in one of the cafeterias laid down five cents, the other day and said , “The biggest bargain I ever saw - a delicious cup of coffee for a nickel." A trip in front of the steam table on a busy day is interesting. Comments of all kinds are heard: " Gee" I wish I had known about this place before.” “ Mother, you can't carry all that on your tray. Let me carry some on mine.”
At Camp Joseph E. Johnstoon -- Among the Florida Pines -- A Hostess House That Overflows. YWCA War Work Bulletin, 26 April 1918. GGA Image ID # 1800f77aa9
Hostess House Visiting Day
Everybody at the Hostess House gets up early on visitor's day. At every Hostess House in the land, Sunday is the big day of the week. Here is a faithful picture of life in one of them - Camp Meade.
To begin with, to appreciate the spirit that pervades these houses, one must understand that there is a family life back of it all. This accounts for the prevailing home atmosphere.
According to the size of the house, from two or three to a dozen workers call the house home, and it is part of the program to make sure that the atmosphere of the home is genial and congenial.
Breakfast is a hurried meal on visiting day. Once over, the big social room and the cafeteria get their last touches, as they do in every well-regulated household after the "help" has done the routine sweeping and scouring.
The vases and bowls of flowers, in which most of the houses are rich, are arranged and put where they will make the best showing. By nine o'clock, guests begin to drop in. A soldier appears - has his mother arrived yet? She was coming with her own car.
His name is taken at the desk and put on file. Then with the arrival of trolleys and trains the day's rush begins. Two hostesses stand at the front door to greet the guests and give them the direction that they need. If they are looking for soldiers they are sent to the information desk and their names are filed.
Names of soldiers looking for friends are also filed. Many who are accustomed to visiting the house, wait patiently.
Hostess Houses Requested by Sixty Camp Commanders. Captions (left to right, top to bottom) That Letter Home, "Information Please," More Things Brewing, On the Inside, and The Best is None Too Good. About Hostess Houses, A Special Edition of the War Work Bulletin, 5 February 1918. GGA Image ID # 1800cd4d6b
Many of the guests bring luncheon boxes—little, medium and big—according to the size of the party. Others come with baskets and some with pails. By half-past eleven the big social room is full and the cafeteria open. A rope strung across from the windows of the room to the great central chimney, which separates the cafeteria from the social room, keeps the cafeteria free until the time to occupy it.
A hostess on each side of the chimney guards the entrances, one to keep the line flowing in, and one to guide the line that flows out. At Camp Meade, three weeks ago, a double line one hundred and thirty-five feet long reaching from the front door of the social room to the end of the cafeteria was unbroken for two hours and a half. Two thousand soldiers and their friends were fed during the day without confusion or unnecessary delay.
This was not an unusual day. In some places the number is greater. At two o’clock the cafeteria closes. The great social room is full. The soldiers and their guests sit around in little groups, everybody seemingly as comfortable as though standing room were not almost at a premium. Again at four the cafeteria opens.
As six o’clock approaches there comes a warning from the military police. “All civilians must be out of the camp at six o’clock. You have twelve minutes,” he cries. You expect to see the great mass occupying the room rise and depart. Not at all.
Very gradually from the big room all the color seems to fade away, and when six o’clock strikes from the big clock on the mantel, if it were not for the flowers, khaki would be the only color spread out before you. The women have gone. Then it is that the soldiers flood the cafeteria and order their favorite dishes.
But meanwhile there is work for the hostesses and their friends. From one end of the room to the other the place is littered with relics of the day's festivities—paper everywhere, and all the rest. The director appears, armed with a dozen brooms. Her assistants each eagerly seize one and go to work.
Soldiers sitting comfortably around the fireplace rise to the occasion. One by one they take the brooms. Everybody picks up paper and litter. The dozen brooms work diligently. In less time than one can imagine the great room is restored to order, the camp chairs are folded and stacked away, the chairs and settees are rearranged, a soldier is playing and singing at the piano with a little group around him; workers who have forgotten they were ever weary are visiting in groups, and the great visiting day of the week is over.
Children Enjoy a Happy Day at Camp When the YWCA Hostess House Has a Nursery Like This. YWCA War Work Bulletin, 30 August 1918. GGA Image ID # 1801392c98
Later there are hymns and patriotic songs around the piano, and hometime, until taps summons the men to their barracks. “A wonderful day,” says one, who has seen a score of them and is not tired of them yet.
An incident at Camp Dix illustrates what the foreign worker in the Hostess House is able to do for non-English-speaking friends of the soldiers, and for the soldiers themselves. An Italian man in the base hospital, speaking no English, had been worried about his allotment which was to have been paid to his mother in Italy. She had expected it earlier and had written that she had not yet received the money. Through the Italian worker, Miss Trapani, satisfactory information was obtained, and the news was taken to the man that his mother would receive the money in due time. An Italian book which was wanted was also supplied by the Italian worker.
Doors and windows are wide open, birds are singing among the apple and peach blooms, and an open fire is a thing of the past—at least until after dark. With the warm days at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, mothers and friends who visit soldiers have multiplied steadily.
Just as eager to do their part now as they were when they were belles of Civil War days, members of the southern club known as “Girls of the Sixties,” are deep in work for the various camps. Members who live in Columbia, S. C., go once a week to the Hostess House at Camp Jackson to patch and dam for the soldiers in khaki, with the same devotion that they expended for the brave men in gray.
YWCA Poster: For Every Fighter a Woman Worker Care For Her through The YWCA -- United War Work Campaign. She makes aeroplanes, powder and shells for the army. At the request of the Government the YWCA has established War Service Centers on the “Hostess House Plan” for her. Two millions of girls are already behind our fighting men. This poster, designed by Adolph Treidler, will be used during the United War Work Campaign. YWCA War Work Bulletin, 27 September 1918. GGA Image ID # 18015c7119
YWCA Poster: Make Ready For Greater Service -- Come to Summer Conference of YWCA. Haskell Coffin, the artist who designed the favorite Jeanne d’Arc poster used in the second W. S. S. campaign, painted the original of the popular YWCA Conference poster now in use throughout the United States. YWCA War Work Bulletin, 31 May 1918. GGA Image ID # 18016b2687
"About Hostess Houses: A Special Edition of the War Work Bulletin" in the YWCA War Work Bulletin: Work for Women and Girls in War Time, New York City: National Board of the Young Womens Christian Associations, No. 18, 5 February 1918, pp. 3-8.