Past Times

Past Times: Raleigh’s YWCA was the place to go for entertainment

After World War II, servicemen found entertainment at Raleigh’s YWCA. A banner displayed patches from all branches of service.
After World War II, servicemen found entertainment at Raleigh’s YWCA. A banner displayed patches from all branches of service. NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Following the war years, Raleigh’s YWCA provided a gathering place for the area’s young people.

Through the doors of an unimposing, dingy-white building on South Salisbury Street here every weekend pass hundreds of young people bent on relaxation and a good time. To the teen-ager and serviceman alike, the YWCA is a place to dance, meet friends, play games or just sit and talk.

Raleigh, never a town noted for its gay night life, at present offers little in the way of entertainment for its ever-increasing weekend population of servicemen. Of course there are the usual movies, bowling and skating – all of which the serviceman can find in abundance on his base. But a real GI problem – how to meet a girl he wouldn’t mind introducing to the folks – is being neglected here now, except by the YWCA.

Since 1941, the Y has held a Saturday night dance for servicemen with registered junior hostesses on hand to help entertain. In all the ten years, the Y has missed only one Saturday night and that came during a move from one location to another.

Martha Zachman, YWCA adult activities director, who has been at the helm of the dances and the companion Sunday afternoon open house the entire time, estimates present Saturday night crowds average around 200 persons. Some 500 junior hostesses are registered at the Y, with considerably fewer senior hostesses on file. One of the biggest volunteer needs in the servicemen’s program now, according to Miss Zachman, is senior hostesses, adults who will give an hour or two of their time on Saturday night or Sunday to help keep activities running smoothly and talk to the boys. Many of the servicemen who don’t dance or play games, she said, enjoy sitting and talking with older women ...

GI visitors on Saturday nights are charged a quarter admission to the dances until they have paid $1.50, the minimum YWCA membership fee. After that they are issued an associate membership card which entitles them to free admission. Charge is also made for drinks and candy.

Servicemen from all branches have presented Miss Zachman with their division patches which she has stitched on a large piece of cloth and hung in her office. She now has over 200 with more coming in. Servicemen are always eager to see their patches on the wall hanging, the director said ...

Prospects for USO-financed recreation in Raleigh are dim indeed. The USO died after World War II and is now in the throes of a reborning as Associated Services. With only a limited budget, present AS plans propose only one center in North Carolina and that in Fayetteville. For the moment it seems that any servicemen’s recreation here will have to be sponsored on a strictly local level.

Aside from its activities for servicemen, the YWCA offers a dance for teen-agers every Friday night. With all the sound and fury over to read or not to read comic books and the hurly-burly of who’s to blame for increasing juvenile delinquency problems, Raleigh provides little organized after-dark recreation for its teen-age youngsters.

An average of from 10 to 300 teen-agers take advantage of Friday night activities at the Y, according to Mrs. Cyrus King, teen-age program director. Some 450 youngsters are listed in the files.

The teen-agers are charged 15 cents admission and buy their own Cokes and candy.

In addition to dancing, the boys and girls may play ping pong, cards, checkers, games, sing or just talk. Mrs. King says the youngsters seldom come with dates. Usually groups of girls and boys arrive separately, although they may leave in couples. The N&O Feb. 25, 1951

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times,

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or