DANCES, BANDS, CONCERTS, VAUDEVILLE AND ENTERTAINMENT
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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Many American military personnel arrived in Australia soon after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. A number of ships headed for the Philippines were diverted to Australia when the news of Pearl Harbor was received. By June 1942 there were 88,000 American military personnel in Australia. 

Dance Halls soon became popular places for entertainment and a place to start many blossoming romances. Many new dance venues were opened to meet the demand. The Trocadero was a popular dance venue with one being established in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. They each featured a full orchestra. As many as 2,000 dancers could pack the dance floor of the Brisbane Trocadero. 

The Americans introduced the Jitterbug and the Jive to the young Australian lasses.

The Americans also set up their own entertainment halls on some of their military bases and held dances for the locals girls. Helton Hall near the base of Mount Louisa in Townsville was right in the heart of the Townsville Air Depot, Base Section 2. Some famous Hollywood stars appeared at Helton Hall including John Wayne and Joe E. Brown. On 12 December 1943, movie stars Gary Cooper, Una Merkel and Phyllis Brooks put on a show for the 'boys' living at the base of Mount Louisa.

John Wayne and Lt. Col. Blackween at
the Albion Park Races in December 1943

The United Services Organisation (USO) was established in January 1942 by the Americans to bring entertainment to the frontline troops. Famous personalities such as John Wayne, Joe E. Brown, Jerry Colonna, Al Johnson, Gary Cooper, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Larry Adler, Carole Landis, Martha Tilton, and Una Merkel were touring the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

The Australian Military established the 1st Australian Entertainment Unit which gave more than 12,000 performances. Amongst the Australian talent which featured in their shows were George Wallace, Michael Pate, Gladys Moncrieff, Bebe Scott, Jenny Howard, and Colin Croft.

 

Full size versions of the above photos are available on
my "Australia @ War" CD-Rom

 

Booker T Washington Club
Club for Negroes
Sydney, NSW
Brisbane City Hall Dance
King George Square, Brisbane
Two or three nights every week and every Saturday night, with the exception of any Special Entertainment being advertised for that night. Also Sunday night as advertised in the Press.
Civic Concert, Brisbane City Hall, King George Square
2nd Fri of each month at 8pm, 4th Fri of each month at 12 noon.
Caledonian Hall Dances
46 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane
every Thursday and Saturday night
Cantwell Ballroom
463 Adelaide St. Petrie Bight, Brisbane
every Thursday, Friday & Saturday night.
Cocoanut Grove Dance
(or Coconut Grove)
(W. Hickson Adams)
Comedy Theatre
Adelaide Street, Brisbane
every night except Sunday
Cremorne Theatre
Stanley Street, South Brisbane
Doctor Carver Club, Stanley Street, South Brisbane Helton Hall, Townsville Air Depot
Mt. Louisa, Townsville
Ozanam House Dances
Gotha Street, Fortitude Valley
every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night
Railway Institute Dance,
Edward Street
Just above Central Station every Wed, Fri and Sat nights
Trocadero, Melbourne Street, South Brisbane
Every night except Sunday
Trocadero, Sydney Trocadero, Melbourne United Services Organisation (USO)

 

Can you help me with more information and photos on this topic?

 

REFERENCES

"They Passed This Way - The United States of America, The States of Australia and World War II"
by Barry Ralph

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2005

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This page first produced 17 December 2002

This page last updated 26 January 2013