AMERICAN CENTRE
OLD TOWN HALL ARCADE
QUEEN ST, BRISBANE, QLD
DURING WWII

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The American Centre was opened in the Old Town Hall Arcade, at 66 - 76 Queen Street, in Brisbane, Queensland on Sunday 4 July 1943 by Brigadier General W. H. Donaldson, Jr., the Commanding Officer of Base Section 3.  When Brigadier General Donaldson arrived he was not allowed to use the elevator until he was presented with the Gold Key for the Centre from its Controller, Lieutenant Laurence Jones.

Early in the afternoon hundreds of civilians gathered outside the entrance to the Old Town Hall Arcade but US Guards told the crowd that it was only for American troops and people working for the Americans. The official guests at the opening were entertained in the club from 3:30pm until 5:00 pm. The Base Section 3 orchestra played dance music and the dance floor was officially christened when Brigadier general Donaldson danced with the American Red Cross Are Supervisor, Miss Mary K. Browne.

The American Centre was thrown open to all American troops at 5:00 pm and dinner was served in the restaurant. The Menu included Tomato Soup, cold slaw, lettuce, tomatoes, roast chicken, or grilled steak and American apple pie.

The American Centre became a home for American forces particularly those visiting Brisbane from New Guinea and north Queensland. It provided them with a place where they could bathe, shave and eat in comfort. There were reading and writing rooms, bowling alleys, game rooms, shower rooms and a snack bar which served hundreds of hamburgers and cups of coffee every night. The American Centre included accommodation for several hundred men.

Colonel Emer F. Yeager, the new Commanding Officer of Base Section 3, opened a new six alley Bowling Alley at the American Centre on 19 September 1943. A brightly illuminated Juke Box blared out the "Easter Parade" at the official opening. The Bowling Alley was open each day from 10 am to 11 pm.

The American Centre closed its doors on 2 January 1945 due to the decrease in the numbers of American service personnel in the Brisbane area. during its 18 months of operation its dining room had provided approximately1,100,000 meals for service men and women. Its Insignia, Toilet and Souvenir shops had catered for 100,000. Its Barber Shop performed 100,000 haircuts, and the Beauty Parlour had 4,000 sittings and the Tailor Shop had 15,000 customers. Its pool tables, bowling alley and amusement machines had been used by 300,000 customers whilst its ice creams and coca colas had been served to 380,000 customers. Two hundred civilians had been employed at the Centre since it opened and their work had received praise from both the personnel passing through the club and the Centre staff.

 


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Barber Shop at American Centre (26 Apr 44)

 


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Private Thomas F. Mamboy, St. Louis, MO plays a game of pool on one of ten tables (26 Apr 1944)

 


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Kitchen for Officer's Dining Room (26 Apr 44)

 


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Officer's Dining Room (26 Apr 44)

 


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Main Dining Room of the Officer's Club showing Thanksgiving decorations (28 Nov 43)

 


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Main bar in the Officer's Club showing decorations for Thanksgiving (28 Nov 1943)

 

The Old Town Hall Arcade where the American Centre had been located, was erected on the site of the former Old Town Hall which was demolished in 1937. The Old Town Hall Arcade was subsequently demolished by February 1970 when construction was underway on what became the new Lennons Hotel in Queen Street which later became The Chifley at Lennons. After a 15 month, $100M refurbishment the hotel was reopened as the Next Hotel Brisbane in October 2014. 

 

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This page first produced 9 September 2011

This page last updated 12 April 2015