During 2017, Armed Services YMCA of Honolulu is honored to celebrate 100 years of specialized programs and services benefiting Hawaii’s military community. As a private non-profit organization, Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) Honolulu has touched more military lives than any other organization in Hawaii.
100 Years of Supporting Service Members & their Families!
In 1914 a Honolulu Chamber of Commerce questionnaire to servicemen revealed the need and desire for an Army and Navy YMCA, which was the name of Armed Services YMCA prior to 1948. At that time there was not a place in Honolulu where an enlisted man could stay the night at a reasonable price and enjoy organized entertainment. In spring of 1917, a committee was established to raise the funds necessary to purchase a building. The committee was chaired by Lorrin Thurston and members included: JR Galt, Walter Dillingham, Wallace Farrington, and James Wakefield to name a few. Within two weeks, these gentlemen had raised half the money needed to purchase the original Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Richards Street and early that fall, the Army Navy YMCA of Honolulu opened.
The new facility had sleeping quarters for 500 men, a gym, music room, game room, pool, laundry and cleaning services, and organized entertainment. Membership dues were not charged and anyone in uniform was automatically a member. In 1921 there were 13,000 enlisted men stationed on Oahu and on any given weekend more than 4000 men passed through the doors. In 1926 Armed Services YMCA moved into the building that is today the State Art Museum. Similar to the building it replaced, it had large open lanais, music room, pool, gym, game room, writing room, reading lanai, sleeping quarters and a cafeteria.
By 1940 the Armed Services YMCA was so popular that even after putting up cots in the gym during the evenings, there still wasn’t room to accommodate everyone. The bus line from bases ended at the Army Navy YMCA and once they arrived, service members could participate in dances, letter writing assistance, lectures, concerts and visit the gym and pool.
Pearl Harbor Survivor, Al Bodenlos, Bugle Master, of the 804th Engineer Aviation Battalion, had an overnight pass on December 6, 1941. That night he attended a dance band competition of the battleship dance bands at the Army Navy YMCA. He stayed the night and his hopes of a relaxing Sunday were dashed by the loud speaker at the Army Navy YMCA, telling all military personnel to report back to their units immediately.
In the months following the attack, the Army Navy YMCA began expanding its staff, activities and services to meet the increasing demand. It was reported that the “volume of service and activity at the Army Navy YMCA facilities was almost beyond belief. The facilities were absolutely swamped, and the expanded staff literally worked night and day in never ending efforts to serve the military personnel”
As the war progressed, the Army Navy YMCA was a place of refuge and rejuvenation for O`ahu’s servicemen. In fact, Pearl Harbor Survivor, Sterling Cale, recounts that it was one of his favorite places where he could get a bed, blanket, hot dog and coke for fifty cents.
The Armed Services YMCA continued to care for service members through the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. However, as times changed, so did the Armed Services YMCA. In 1987 the building downtown was sold and became the Hawaii State Art Museum, while the Armed Services YMCA moved on bases. It was becoming clear that the best way to serve those who serve was to be there for the spouses and children. Recognizing this, Armed Services YMCA planned programs that benefited families in housing areas so that they were more easily accessible. Today, the Armed Services YMCA continues the tradition of making military life easier
ABOUT ASYMCA HONOLULU:
The Armed Services YMCA of Honolulu supports service members by providing low-cost and no-cost programs for them and their families. ASYMCA events, programs, and services are designed to increase the resiliency of service members and their families. Affordable childcare, parenting classes, and holiday travel assistance are just a few of the offerings from the ASYMCA. For more information on ASYMCA Honolulu or how you can help support military families, click here.
1) ASYMCA Preschool Students showing off their Centennial Cookie: Krsita Malta, ASYMC Staff Member poses with two of her students at our first centennial event, Beachfest, on JBPHH.
2) Board Leadership with US Army Garrison Hawaii at the Wheeler Centennial, Open House and Hawaiian Blessing: “Commander U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Col. Stephen E. Dawson, Command Sgt. Maj. Lisa C. Piette-Edwards, ASYMCA Executive Director Laurie Moore, Mrs. Paddy Griggs, ASYMCA Board Member Paddy Griggs, ASYMCA Board Member Christina Cavoli”
3) Preschoolers at Wheeler posing in front of the flag.