By Susan Thompson, CECOM Command HistorianAugust 21, 2019
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland - Army civilians support every aspect of the Army mission, including the serious business of rest, relaxation and recreation, which we all recognize now as a pillar of maintaining resiliency.
During World War II, one such civilian employee was Hana Oren, recreation advisor for the Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Signal Laboratory, also called Squire Labs. As part of a larger Recreation Committee, Oren served as the person in charge of making recommendations, and carrying out the tasks associated with keeping up the morale of both Soldiers and civilian workers, including administration of the $1000 budget (equivalent to about $15,000 today) set aside by the Signal Corps Ground Signal Service Employees' Fund just for recreation at the Signal Laboratory in 1943.
This was not always an easy task, with the Commanding General of the Eastern Signal Corps Training Center enforcing compliance with the nationwide food rationing and gas rationing programs. Luckily, summer staples such as soda, beer and watermelon seemed to be plentiful.
Activities promoted included dances, outdoor sports, game nights, organization day picnics, bowling, roller skating and holiday parties. Home-front support for the war included parties for wounded hospital patients, Red Cross support work, fundraising and Victory Gardening. These activities were aimed at the mostly civilian staff of the Laboratory, as there were even more numerous opportunities provided to the enlisted troops stationed at Fort Monmouth.
Twice-weekly dances, USO shows, movies, concerts, clubs and classes, contests and parties, and Soldier dramatic performances, were all supported by a robust Special Service Division aimed at keeping up military morale and welfare at the local Post Service Club, recreation halls, mess halls and post theaters. Local communities supported recreation opportunities as well, sponsoring holiday parties and other activities under the direction of a rank of junior hostesses.