Family Traditions of Service: Elizabeth City USO Dance Sign, May 1944

[This blog post was written by Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Elizabeth City USO Dance Sign, Date: May 1944

Elizabeth City USO Dance Sign, Date: May 1944

The United Service Organizations for National Defense (USO) was brought into existence through Presidential order on February 4, 1941. USO clubs aimed to provide service individuals facilities near military bases that could offer recreation, dancing, movies, music, and other activities. USO clubs maintained morale and provided safe locations for servicemen and servicewomen to unwind when off duty. During WWII, Americans believed that women were better able to boost servicemen’s morale than other men. Women made up the bulk of USO volunteers, and would serve as hostesses at the USO clubs and events.

On November 28, 1941, the first government-built USO club opened in Fayetteville, North Carolina. This hand-painted sign advertises a dance held in May 1944 at the Elizabeth City, North Carolina, USO club, which served the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station base there. The sign shows how local art was created to meet display and advertisement needs during World War II. Note the pencil lines where the letters had originally been placed, but later changed. Because resources were limited, everything was reused and nothing was discarded—even when errors were made.

To see other pieces of North Carolina home front activities during WWII, check out the WWII Papers, found in the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina.


This blog post is one in two-week series of posts sharing the items used in the exhibit titled “The Family Traditions of Service:  A Historical Tribute to Veterans.” This exhibit, on display from November 3 to November 13, 2015, at the Dare County Arts Council building in Manteo, N.C., is sponsored by the Friends of the Outer Banks History Center, the exhibit serves as a historical tribute to over 100 years of military service of North Carolina residents and their families, with particular emphasis on coastal North Carolina. The goal of the exhibit is to honor the role of North Carolina veterans and their families during peacetime and war. The items from this exhibit come from the holdings of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina and the Outer Banks History Center.