The Seaside Library moves to the Soldiers and Sailors Club after World War I

World War I soldiers shooting cannon at Tillamook Head from the beach.

During World War I, many boys from Seaside went off to fight in the war. Letters written overseas and sent back home were published on the front page of the Seaside Signal. The Seaside Signal was mailed to the soldiers so they could keep in touch with their hometown while away at war. As soldiers returned back to Seaside after the war, they were thrown multiple parties and dinners in private homes in Seaside.

Sadly, death notices continued to arrive months after the war had ended, and notices of death or injury from as far back as a month before the end of the war were still making their way to Seaside six months later. People in Seaside could not assume that just because the war was over, their boys were alive and well.

During the war, the Clatsop County forest was taken over by railroads, logging, and mills for the express purpose of harvesting spruce trees for airplane production. About 2,000 men were at the Elsie logging camp at the peak of the war production. Once the armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, production was stopped immediately and all spruce logging camps were shut down within the month. To celebrate the armistice, the Seaside marching band led the Seaside parade through town, but only a few members of the original marching band were left, since fifteen of the marching band members were still overseas in the army. The United War Work Campaign continued to fundraise for support of paying for the war effort as well as for the recreation and diversion of enlisted servicemen. Some of the fundraising went to the American Library Association since during World War I, librarians established libraries at hospitals and military bases for the soldiers. They also distributed books, promoted book drives, and encouraged donations. Over 10 million books were donated and distributed to soldiers during the war.

Across the nation, from 1917-1919, Soldiers and Sailors clubs were created for enlisted servicemen. The New York Soldiers and Sailors Club, established in 1917, is still in existence today. The main purpose of these clubs was to provide wholesome entertainment and education for enlisted servicemen both during and after the war as well as help transition soldiers back to civilian life. Seaside established a soldiers and sailors club during World War I possibly as early as 1917, although the Seaside Signal mentions the club for the first time in 1918. Seaside’s club was unique in that it was completely funded by the residents of Seaside. Programs and entertainment were provided by the women of Seaside and included refreshments, music, and readings. The club had several rooms that included a reading room with a collection of books.

After the war had ended, the War Camp Community Service manager asked the Seaside City Council to take over the Soldiers and Sailors club rooms. The Seaside City Council decided in January 1919 to equip the Soldiers and Sailors club with women’s bathrooms and move the Seaside Library into the building. Before this, the Seaside Library had been in the public restrooms in the Dresser department store building for the last six years. This would be the first time (but not the last), since being established, that the Seaside Library would be moved. No mention is made of the physical address or location of the building that the Soldiers and Sailors club was in other than the fact that the city already owned the building and that the club existed in several rooms. It was assumed in every mention of the club in the papers that everyone knew the location. Most likely it was centrally located downtown, possibly near the Bungalow dance club, which is today the Carousel Mall in Seaside. The entire property where the Soldiers and Sailors club existed was valued at $3,500 in 1919, so it must have been in a fairly large building.

The library’s main purpose as it moved into the Soldiers and Sailors club would be for the “visitors and citizens of the city.” Previously the library’s focus was for Seaside residents only. The Seaside Civic and Improvement club who were originally in charge of the library (they had created it 6 years ago) agreed to the move and officially turned over all books and equipment from the library in the Dresser building to the city. All items were to be moved into the soldiers and sailors club building, and work was ordered to begin immediately. The librarian Clara Gilman was tasked to take over duties in the new building, including arranging a rest room specifically for women and children, making the club a meeting place for the newly formed Boy scouts and young men’s athletic club, and allowing for any soldier’s clubs that would be formed after the war to also meet in the building. According to the transfer documents, “The place should be a general public community center with provisions made of a budget for general upkeep.”

All information was gathered from the Seaside Signal 1917-1919 with the exception of national information on soldiers and sailors clubs and information from the American Library Association regarding World War I librarians.

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