The USO on Kauai during World War II

The USO operated eight clubs on Kauai during World War II that provided canteens, regular dances, mobile shows, live entertainment and athletic programs for the more than 40,000 military personnel stationed on the Garden Isle during the war.

Each of the clubs was operated by a director paid from USO funds and was staffed by volunteers from around the island.

At Hanalei, the historic Waioli Mission Hall was blacked out and made into a clubhouse featuring a canteen.

In Kapaa, an office and laundry building located across from the Roxy Theater — which was situated on the corner of Kukui and Ulu streets — was remodeled into an attractive USO club that would become the site of the Club Blue Lei after the war.

On the westside, the USO leased and housed its activities in the Waimea Community Hall, while Lihue’s USO was ensconced in the Isenberg Recreational Center.

Built in 1938 on Ehiku Street near Isenberg Park and now the property of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Isenberg Recreational Center was comprised of a gymnasium large enough for basketball, volleyball, ping pong and pool games to be played simultaneously, an athletic center, a lunch bar, and large-sized reading and writing rooms.

Both the Waimea and Lihue USO clubs sponsored outdoor athletics because of their proximity to nearby playing fields.

A refurbished store building in Hanapepe, still standing at 3871 Hanapepe Road, was home to that town’s USO, and there was also a Waterfront USO at Nawiliwili, another USO in Kalaheo, and at Koloa, an old run down store was leased and renovated into still another USO club.

In September 1945, the Kauai USO and its 130 volunteer hostesses were honored at a ceremony at the Lihue Parish House.

Accepting a military commendation on behalf of the USO was Kauai USO chairperson Miss Elsie Wilcox, while 17 hostesses, each with 1,500 or more hours of service, received chevrons, and 113 hostesses, each of whom had 500 or more hours of service, were awarded service pins.

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