HISTORY OF LETTERMAN GENERAL HOSPITAL
The War Camp Community Service
There is not a service man in all of San Francisco who is not familiar with the War Camp Community Service, last to speed the parting and first to welcome the homecoming “doughboy.”
This organization, and the men and women who comprise it, have been such an important and integral part of the life of Letterman General Hospital that description is almost superfluous.
Everybody knows of the outings that it has provided for convalescent men, particularly such occasions as the big outing to the Saratoga Blossom Festival last spring. That there may be work going on, and advantages offered to service men, of which some of our readers are unfamiliar, however, we are publishing this brief account of some of the activities of War Camp Community Service.
Welcome to Soldiers
In the days when the civilized world was a few square miles of territory in southern Europe, the reward for heroic endeavor was a laurel wreath placed upon the brow of the hero by a pretty maiden.
Upon the hero was later showered the honors of the nation, and his position in the community was such as became the doer of deeds of valor, and every effort was made to have him maintain that high degree of moral courage and deportment which made it possible for him to win the wreath of laurels.
In these days the setting is not such as to make fitting the presentation of laurel wreaths, but in California flowers bloom profusely the year around and flowers radiant with life and pretty girls with the sunshine of their smiles abound.
As a personal word may we not add that if any soldier has come to San Francisco since the armistice was signed; has not been met by the One Minute Girls of War Camp Community Service and has not received his flowers as the expression of our feelings, toward him, it was lack of opportunity or a combination of circumstances over which we had no control which prevented the demonstration.
The One Minute Girls
The War Camp Community Service One Minute Girls, inaugurated first in San Francisco January third of this year, need no introduction to the Letterman boys.
The girls are volunteer workers and have met every returning man who has arrived in the city, whether they came in large units or as straggling casuals. In San Francisco the function of the girls has been to present each man with a California flower as a welcome token and with a welcome booklet which extends to him the hospitality of the city through the mayor and the various War Camp Community Service activities.
The Girls have the use of the Pine Branch Club of the Red Circle series, at 2514 Pine street. It is one of the many clubs established throughout the city by War Camp Community Service.
Each girl is required to give a definite time each week to the service and to furnish her own uniform. The only requirements are that she be of good moral character and interested in the work for the sake of being of service.
Service men puzzled about the apparent intricacies of war risk insurance, especially the conversion of their policies into the now authorized standard forms, are receiving assistance from War Camp Community Service at 657 Market street.
The Defenders Club
“The finest in San Francisco!” declared the service men who saw for first time the Defenders Club new dance floor in the club rooms in the Monadnock Building, last June. To strains of a lively orchestra, the Defenders Club was reopened, completely refurbished and fitted up. The War Camp Community Service has taken over this institution, which in its war-time career entertained and made at home 880,000 soldiers, sailors and marines.
Miss Laura McKinstry, new chairman of the enterprise, was a recent hostess and hundreds of “doughboys” and “gobs” made merry at the first party in the refitted club rooms. Mrs. W. B. Hamilton, chairman retiring, and her assistants made of the club an institution that will forever live in the hearts of many a sailor or soldier.
In addition to the brand new dance floor, which service and former service men will appreciate nightly, the club rooms contain billiard tables, a canteen and reading room and everything to make Uncle Sam’s men-at-arms realize the loving appreciation of the “city that knows how.”
Future Plans of W. C. C. S.
The activities of War Camp Community Service in California for the next eighteen months indicate a broader scope for the organization and point to the permanency of the service, according to Harry M. Creech, state director.
For the “Listening Post” he states: “The problems which War Camp Community Service has met during the war period and the solutions of them have fixed its place permanently in the communities which it has endeavored to serve, if we may take the representatives of the various communities organized as an indication of the public mind.
“The work immediately at hand is, of course, the placement of returning service men in positions. The War Department and Navy Department Commissions on Training Camp Activities look to War Camp Community Service to see that the soldiers get a welcome and the commission’s ideas of a welcome is not merely an ostentatious display at the point of detrainment, but a welcome that shows the returning man that the community at large is genuinely glad that he has come back to take his place in community affairs as he did before entering the service, but with a broader vision which will help to make the community a better place to live in.
“To this end it was decided at the conference that War Camp Community Service would seek the cooperation of the relatives of the returning men in forming a committee in each of the towns and cities in the state, whether War Camp Communities or otherwise in making the returning man’s welcome real.
“The office of the state director will endeavor to serve all of the towns in the state which have a War Camp Community Service representation at hand with information as to the returning men and such other information as may be wanted by the kinfolks of the various communities.
“In the matter of placing returned men in their positions or better ones, the office decided that War Camp Community Service would make every effort to coordinate the energies of the various organizations now seeking to place the man in a job to the end that there shall be no overlapping and misapplication of energy.”
Patriotic merchants of San Francisco volunteered to help War Camp Community Service make the welcome home real.
A number of the best firms in the city agreed to give the soldiers now being demobilized a ten percent discount on all goods purchased. The firms who are making this concession to show the soldiers that San Francisco is glad they are back, have all of their goods marked in plain figures and the discount is a real one. Soldiers and sailors who decided to take advantage of this discounts may do so by calling at the War Camp Community Service headquarters, 460 Flood Building, and securing the proper credentials to present to the merchants.
The constantly increasing demand for suitcases by soldiers being discharged in the Presidio caused another appeal to go forth from War Camp Community Service headquarters for contributions of these necessary articles.
War Camp Community Service asked the Hotel Men’s Association of California to assist in securing the suitcases from among the great grist of such articles which are left from year to year by departing guests.
Jobs For Soldiers
War Camp Community Service cooperated with other war work agencies in conducting the Community Placement Bureau at 470 Flood Building.
Of the employment situation, Manager Charles A. Stephens says: “the public is giving service men have the opportunity to make that preference permanent. But that preference will be temporary unless service men take it upon themselves to discourage acts of unreliability and shiftlessness among that small number of their fellows who are so inclined.
THE HOME CLUB
The Home Club, on California Street, near Market, with Mrs. A. B. Denniston as head, is located ideally for serving all service men. The Board of Directors who have nobly assisted Mrs. Denniston are: Mrs. M. E. Cook, Mrs. W. Jessop, Mrs. Frd Kellog, Mrs. M. Beretto, Mrs. W. Slaven, Mrs. C. Lewis, Mrs. I. Moulton, and Mrs. P. A. Morbio. The club is a part of the War Camp Community Service.
Good things to eat at very low prices, a writing room and library, combined with a cheerful, cozy, homelike atmosphere and a real welcome from the women in charge has endeared the Home Club to all service men.
MOTHERS AND KINSFOLK OF MEN IN SERVICE
The work of the Mothers and Kinfolks of Service Men, which organization came into being through the efforts of War Camp Community Service, has been particularly gratifying to the men at Letterman Hospital, because these never tiring women have accomplished the all but impossible in bringing a little touch of home into the wards of the hospital.
Mrs. Leah H. Davis who is president of the organization, Mrs. Blanche Selig and Mrs. Leon Goldman, have been the leading spirits. The organization was formed in January and there has been scarcely a day since its organization that some effort has not been made to cheer the lives of those boys who are at Letterman Hospital.
When a special event was planned by War Camp Community Service for the wounded men, Mrs. Davis and her efficient helpers were called upon and they never failed to respond to the call.
Oakland War Camp Girls
The Girl’s Division of the War Camp Community of Oakland takes its place among those who work at Letterman Hospital. This is done by sending entertainment to the hospital and by offering its club room at 1444 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, to both the men in service and the man who is discharged.
This Division was organized in October, 1918. Miss Ethel Moore was appointed executive chairman of the Girl’s Committee and Mrs. Esther Snyder, director. The formal “opening” however, was on New Year’s Day when the club room was thrown open to all, music, dancing and refreshments were provided for men in service.
Programs are given for the boys at Letterman Hospital and on July 4, 300 men from this hospital were serve at a barbecue held at Idora Park. The Girl’s Division has most enthusiastic participants in all national and community plans for meeting the emergencies occasioned by this war; money raised for the Salvation Army by selling doughnuts; the National Camp Fire Movement was likewise assisted, and the Victory Loan Drive was strongly supported.
By living up to the highest standards of character and by helping others to do the same, and by rendering whatever special service they can, the name W. C. C. S. Girls will live long after the club is no more.
THE LITTLE GLASS HOUSE
Set in the middle of California Street at Market, is a part of the W. C. C. S. and dispenses information and theater tickets to service men. Miss Kathryn Cole is Captain and Miss Marie Weissick, Miss Carolyn Weissick, Miss Inez Perazzi, Miss Anita Perazzi and Miss Edith Godell are assistants. The words “I don’t know” have never been used to answer any one of the 16735 service men who have applied for information since April 7, 1919.
Miss Cole has been an active Red Cross worker since 1906. In 1916 she organized the Healdsburg Chapter of 2000 workers. In addition to her War Camp work she is a constant worker for the boys at Letterman and has been active in assisting The Listening Post.