Portland YWCA and World War II

Document 1

Document 2

Aid to Women

Interracial Charter

Youth on the Move

 

World War II: Youth on the Move

Research by Melanie Wright and Sharyl Harrison

U. N. Study Group

Starlight Club

        The upheaval of World War II freed many young people from conforming to traditional parental expectations for their lives. Many youth left school to join the labor force or the military; others, especially younger teens, turned the distracted state of many adults into an opportunity to explore the world on their own terms. The YWCA sought to keep up with the new interests, mobility, and needs of youth, especially of girls and young women. Pressure from teens for co-ed social activities which had been building since World War I finally got results as the need for chaperoned amusements became more urgent. When the YWCA founded new clubs in town and a canteen at Vanport, staff and volunteers were better able to keep a watchful eye over the activities of young people.

 

Hubba-Hubba Hut
       The "Hubba Hubba Hut" at Vanport, which functioned with volunteers and contributions from the community, was coordinated by the YWCA. The Starlight Club, a "teen-age nite club" was an interracial group for high school girls and boys that opened in November, 1944.[1]
Co-Rec Council, c. 1946
Girl Reserves staff worked with schools, collected dues and memberships, and ran events, most notably a weekly Friday night dance. Starlight
lasted two years, when its interracial idealism transferred over to a permanent club, the "Co-Rec Council," which incorporated a U.N.-inspired, inclusive, "one world" sense of mission into its recreational program for young men and women. Young people's spaces continued to be the zone for experimention--and disappointment--where crossing the color line was concerned. After the war, white support for integrated social programs for youth at Williams dissipated. "[A]s long as we have an interest or recreation program here I may be able to keep it interracial," noted a Williams Avenue leader in 1945. "If it becomes a Y-Teen group with a full program, including co-ed dancing, the few white members will be instantly withdrawn. This is not a supposition," she insisted, "their mothers have told me so."[2]

1. Report by Irene Walker, "Starlight Club, Portland, Oregon," 19 February 1944, National YWCA Records, New York City (Microfilm, Reel #207).
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2. "Williams Avenue Report," 1945, Portland YWCA Archives, Portland, Oregon.
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