American Red Cross Field Director’s Office and Services Club
- Brisbane City
236-250 Adelaide Street, Brisbane 4000
Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross on 21 May 1881. The Australian Red Cross was established in 1914. During World War II, both branches worked together with the American Red Cross servicing US and Filipino personnel while the Australian Red Cross serviced other nationalities. When US General Douglas MacArthur transferred his headquarters to Brisbane (23 July 1942), the American Red Cross expanded its Brisbane facilities. 'Terrica House' at 236 Adelaide Street held its headquarters and main services club. Other floor space was leased in separate City buildings located in Charlotte and Edward Streets. In the suburbs, the American Red Cross had facilities in Fortitude Valley and in South Brisbane.
'Terrica House' was located at the corner of Adelaide and Creek Streets, just one block from the Queen Street entertainment precinct and was leased by the American Red Cross. It housed the American Red Cross Field Director’s Office plus the American Red Cross Services Club. It opened its doors on US Independence Day (4 July) 1942. The Director was Mary K. Browne, a former US golf champion. With only 49 other male and female American Red Cross workers sent abroad to run 30 Red Cross Centres in the SWPA, Browne called for Australian women to volunteer to staff the Red Cross centres.
Brisbane’s first American Red Cross Services Club was officially was opened at 3.30 PM on Thanksgiving Day (26 November) 1942 by USN Vice Admiral Arthur S. Carpender and US Army Colonel Francis S. Wilson. But on Opening Night, guests and American Red Cross workers watched, from the windows of 'Terrica House', as the violent 'Battle of Brisbane' erupted across the street outside the American PX located in 'Primac House' (99 Creek Street). Despite 'Terrica House' being located diagonally across from the American PX plus with the opening ceremony offering American luxuries such as 250 Thanksgiving turkeys, the rioters made no attempt to storm the American Red Cross facility. This reflected the high regard that both Australian servicemen and civilians had for the worldwide Red Cross. As well, US alcohol and cigarettes, the inaccessibility of which was an irritant for the rioters, were not for sale at 'Terrica House'.
'Terrica House' developed into the largest American Red Cross facility in the South West Pacific Area. It provided daily church services, a button sewing and mending repair service for uniforms plus a foreign exchange service run by a branch of the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac). A reading room stocked with books and contemporary US magazines was available. Copies of the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF) map Guide to Brisbane and Suburbs or the US government’s publication Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia 1942 were available. Two dances a week were held at 'Terrica House', By December 1942, a Sunday Night Floor Show had been added to the entertainment on offer as a response to the Queensland law that enforced the closure of Brisbane’s civilian-run venues every Sunday afternoon. The American Red Cross eventually pressured the state government to allow local movie theatres to remain open on a Sunday. The American Cross also established Brisbane’s first 24-hour restaurant in 'Terrica House'. A major attraction was the Red Cross Services Club noticeboard that US servicemen or women on leave would scan to read the notices posted by Brisbane families offering home-stays, picnics or other outings.
The American Red Cross expanded across Brisbane. The former industrial 'Smellie’s Building' at 2 Edward Street was leased as the American Red Cross’s 'Riverview Leave Area' centre from 1943. Located at the corner of Edward and Alice Streets, it was close to the Edward Street ferry jetty. In 1944, this Centre hosted a 'Miss Riverview' beauty pageant for young women. Margaret Crothers from Dirranbandi in western Queensland was crowned 'Miss Riverview'. The American National Red Cross leased the Carter’s Buildings at 142 Charlotte Street in the City in 1944. As its administration duties increased, the Field Director’s Office moved from 'Terrica House' to the 'Fortitude Building' at 54–56 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley. With its popular Jazz Club, the best-known American Red Cross facility, amongst Brisbane residents, was the 'Dr. Carver Services Club' in the 'Laidlaw’s Building' at 100 Grey Street, South Brisbane.
The American Red Cross introduced the celebration of Halloween to Brisbane children. It hosted annual Halloween and Christmas children’s parties. For Christmas 1942, the American Red Cross had the state government brownout (lights-out) regulations temporarily amended to allow a large Christmas tree with lights to be erected in the City Botanical Gardens in Alice Street. There, a 64-piece US Marines band played Christmas carols for the public. At Easter 1943, the Brisbane City Council constructed a large wooden cross in Albert Park for the American Red Cross’s dawn religious service.
American women Red Cross workers donned a military uniform that was similar in style to that worn by members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). Australian women volunteers wore the American Red Cross outfit of a blue dress marked with a red cross. Mary Browne valued her many Australian volunteers. In late 1943, she stated:
Too much praise cannot be given to the Australian women who volunteered their services…Without their help it would have been impossible to have taken care of the boys…They are an essential part of the club’s operations.
David Jones & Peter Nunan, U.S. Subs Down Under - Brisbane, 1942–1945, (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2005).
Special Services Division, Services of Supply, Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia 1942, (Washington D.C.: US War Department and Navy Department, 1942).
Roger Marks, Book 17. Brisbane WWII vs Now.