Photo (circa mid 1940's) - Corner Brook Museum and Archives
THE WHITE HOUSE IN CORNER BROOK
USO (United States Services Organizations) club.
USO started on February 4, 1941 in the US in response to a request by President Franklin D. Roosevelt who felt it best if private organizations were to handle the on-leave recreation of the United States armed forces.
In January 1942 the USO Overseas Department was established in order to set up clubs in the Western Hemisphere at points outside the continental United States. Permission was given later that year to construct the first USO club outside the US. The Club was built by the US Army Corp of Engineers on Merrymeeting Road in St. John’s for use by some of the 10,000 American soldiers already stationed in Newfoundland even before the United States entered into the Second World War.
The second USO building to open in Newfoundland was located in Corner Brook and would serve the western and central military bases and sites in Newfoundland. The contract to construct the club was awarded in July 1943 to Bowater’s Newfoundland Pullp and Paper Mills Limited.
The Corner Brook club (White House) cost $100,000 and opened on February 21, 1944.
The opening ceremonies were broadcast and publicized all over NL. The formal opening and dedication was attended and participated in my Colonel F. D. Lynch, commanding officer of the US Army Air Base in Newfoundland, high army officials from other bases, Newfoundland dignitaries and the base band.
The newly constructed USO building contained a dining hall where you could have breakfast for 20 cents or dinner for $1.00. A large dormitory with approximately 48 beds was also available costing 50 cents per night. There was also a reading room, auditorium, games room, snack bar, bowling alley, and a number of other recreational facilities. The interior décor of the Corner Brook building was more elaborate than the USO building in St. John’s and featured a large floor to ceiling fireplace. A number of descriptions have been attributed to the USO building in Corner Brook such as it was “a G.I. paradise” and “the entertainment center of the west.”
American servicemen could spend a short furlough, or a three or four day pass, at the White House. There were local shows and plays by the civilian population of Corner Brook for the servicemen. The USO traveling tours also stopped in Newfoundland and Labrador. Many locals were invited to these shows by their American friends in the service.
Many famous celebrities visited NL while on the USO traveling tours. Individuals like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Jayne Mansfield, Ed Sullivan and Joan Blondell. One of the celebrities to visit the White House was ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his puppet side kicks Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Much of the success of the White House can be attributed to its USO directors like Joe Murphy, who was Director from 1944-1945. The next USO director was Ms. Peggy O’Neill from Franconia, NH who took over from Mr. Murphy in 1945 and stayed until the USO closed.
In 1947 the USO organization was closed down and given a discharge by President Harry S. Truman. With this order all USO clubs and facilities were closed in the United States and elsewhere. The White House was closed in 1946, a year earlier, and turned into a community center. Judie’s note - (so who took control at this time, I wonder? I’m assuming it was turned over to the Town of Corner Brook.)
The former dormitory was converted into a library for public use. The facility was also used for dances and gatherings. One such gathering was the thank you dinner held by Bowater’s NL Pulp and Paper on Feb 5, 1948 to thank mill employees and their families for housing evacuee children from Great Britain during the Second World War. The White House became a popular place with the local youth because of the variety of the socials and recreational activities offered by the center.
In 1955, a decision was made to sell the White House. That same year the Anglican Church bought the property and operated the premises as a church hall for the next 24 years.
In 1979, the Anglican Church sold the White House to The Western Star newspaper which at the time was published by the Canadian Newspapers Company Limited.
The White House was demolished soon after and in July 1979 construction of the new building to house The Western Star, which opened in the winter of 1980.
Source: Corner Brook Museum and Archives