Library - Reading Room

Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!


Since 1968, centers have been established at nearly every major military installation in the U.S. and at several overseas. Coffeehouses were the first form used to provide a place where active-duty servicemen and women could congregate in a military town without having that old gnawing feeling that you were being ripped off for your money. When public attention was first focused on the new attitudes among service people, and the developing struggle against the war within the military, coffeehouses were often pointed to as the visible symbol of that movement.

In the past four years people have learned that many different forms of centers can serve the purpose of providing the kind of location necessary to aid in the development of a GI movement. For example, in Newport, Rhode island, adjacent to the 1st Naval District and the Naval War College, the Potemkin Bookstore was opened in the summer of 1970. In Clarkesville, Tennessee, near Ft. Campbell, home of the 101st and the 173rd Airborne units, the People's House, a three-story frame house on the main highway, has been functioning since the late fall of 1970.

These centers developed from the realization that there is usually no place on base where more than four or five people can gather at one time without running the risk of being harassed by the military authorities. At Ft. Hood there was a regulation, enforced mainly against Black GIs, that prohibited congregating outside barracks in groups of more than ten. In addition, nowhere on a military base could active duty people see the films, read the books and newspapers, and hear the speakers and entertainers who addressed themselves to the viewpoint of the rank and file enlisted person. For example, the military brass hasn't made available the classic film ''Salt of the Earth," a suppressed documentary depicting a strike of Chicano zinc miners and the struggles of the women in the community both against the mine owners and the backward ideas of their husbands and brothers.

As the GI movement spread and developed, the centers had to grow. Counseling programs were created either utilizing space within an existing location or obtaining an additional site. GIs needed office space so write and lay out the newspapers they were publishing. Bookstores and libraries were created to meet the demands of a growing number of GIs who wanted alternatives to the usual diet of reading material found on U.S. bases and in military towns.

About Face! The U.S. Servicemen's Fund Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 1



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