Boise’s Victory Center was a stage in front of city hall. Every week on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, organizers would present entertainment there starting when the noon whistle went off. The performances were meant to inspire downtown workers to buy bonds and, not incidentally, sign up for some branch of the military to serve their country.
The first mention of a Victory Center in The Idaho Statesman, on June 12, 1942, had a strong Idaho connection, but it wasn’t about Boise. It was about the Portland Victory Center, where Lana Turner had bestowed kisses on the top purchasers of war bonds. Turner, from Wallace, Idaho, was generous with her kisses and the people of Portland—likely the male people of Portland—were generous with their dollars. The crowd of some 30,000 purchased $379,000 worth of war bonds.
Inspired by Portland’s success, Boise merchants announced the first performance on the Victory Center stage in front of city hall at the end of June. The city band played, and every time someone bought a bond the emcee rang a bell.
The Statesman commended the Retail Merchants Bureau for the Victory Center, writing that, “If they take the trouble to arrange snappy, diversified programs, they will attract copious crowds to Victory Center, nee the City Hall vista.”
The newspaper’s praise continued: “Boise candidly apes Portland and Seattle in the Victory Center idea. Those two coast cities have mammoth Victory Center stages raised at the heart of the commercial districts and hold interesting programs daily, interspersed with effective bond buying ballyhoo. The programs attract thousands of people, utilize crowd emotion, fan the red-blooded Yankee spirit and sell thousands of dollars’ worth of victory bonds.”
The first week in July 1942, the Victory Center performance featured “a negro quartet from Camp Bonneville,” along with the Gowen Field orchestra. The U.S. treasury publicity chief made an appearance, declaring the Victory Center a vital part of the war bond effort. R.M. Logsdon, the state war bond committee secretary said, “It bares the patriotic spirit where the hurried noon-day crowds can pause to reflect on the urgency of financial support of the war effort.”
Performances on the stage included the dramatization of a prize-winning play by a KIDO troupe, Ivan Hopper’s orchestra, and a solo sung by Curt Williams. Rousing, patriotic speeches were not uncommon. One such, given by E.G. Harlan of the Boise Chamber of Commerce, included the line, “When a small boy saves his dimes and nickels until he can buy $5 worth of stamps, perhaps he is buying an airplane first aid kit that may save the life of his older brother in service.”
When the Dailey Brothers circus came to town, Mary, Rosie, and Nemo put on a show at the Victory Center. Mayor A.A. Walker posed with one of the pachyderms performers for a front-page picture.
That bond bell that rang up the purchases was probably scrap metal by the time it quit dinging on July 10. The City of Boise bought $50,000 in war bonds. A $1,000 war bond could be purchased for $750 and redeemed after the war for face value.
KIDO and The Statesman got together in August to sponsor a slogan contest. Those participating were to complete the phrase “Sponsor a Naval Recruit” with six catchy words of their own. The winner of the contest, from hundreds of entries, was Mrs. Dorothy Layne of Boise. Her slogan was “Sponsor a Naval Recruit—put more kicks in America’s boot.” That earned her a $25 war bond.
It wasn’t all about the money. At one Victory Center presentation 74 young men signed on with the navy. In subsequent days the Victory Center goal was to raise $1,000 each to pay for transportation and training of the men. They ended up raising $81,000.