Second World War: Air Base and USO Brought Excitement to Small Missouri Town

Good jobs were scarce, but an air base and USO center brought prosperity to a small Missouri town.


| Good Old Days



Before and during most of the war years I attended high school in a small Missouri town. This was mostly farm country with very little industry. I did not think my hometown was very exciting, and there certainly were very few chances for good employment. 

I was the youngest of six girls, and while I was still in high school, one by one my sisters started looking for jobs. One worked in a 10-cent store, one in the office of a poultry-packing plant and one in the law office. The others married and moved away. Most of the jobs then only paid $5 a week, which wasn't much even back then. I remember baby-sitting for 10 cents an hour, and one summer I took care of a neighbor's three children, cleaned their house and cooked supper - all for the princely sum of $1.40 a week. With this money, my mother purchased material to make my school clothes.

Into this quiet little town the second World War suddenly exploded. A military air base was built in the country near our town. Now there were jobs to be had, and all of my sisters went to work for the base. A USO center opened in our town, which became filled with servicemen on weekends. It was heavenly to this teenage girl! All these handsome, lonesome boys flirted with us, whistled at us, dated, fell in love and even married many of the local girls. Some dance halls sprang up. At last there was a place to go and a lot of partners to dance with. This did not sit too well with our elders, but we young-uns loved it.

Upon graduation I was lucky enough to secure a job on the air base, too. My whole family moved out to live on the air base. All of us were now working for the government. The rent on the housing units was low; groceries could be purchased cheaply in the commissary. There was even a theater on the base, as well as weekly dances at the NCO or officer's clubs. The base was like a small town in itself. My salary was an unbelievable $25 a week. I was rich! All my oId schoolmates thought I was the luckiest girl in the world.

All the men in our family had been called into service, and my poor mother would pace the floor night and day as each one was sent overseas. I can well remember the day FDR came on the radio announcing the bombing of Pearl Harbor - a day that would go down in infamy. Here we were: simple people, church-going people, learning first-hand about air raids, blackouts and the pain of separation from our loved ones. Other countries had always seemed far away from us, and now we were writing to and getting letters from all over the world as our servicemen were shipped out.

I must admit, being as young as I was I found it all terribly exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed all the activities on the base and being driven to and from work in a jeep by some of the servicemen I worked with.





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