Clubs offer military personnel low-cost lodging in expensive cities
As greater numbers of troops move around the globe, many have the opportunity to take rest and relaxation in some of the world’s most popular, but also most expensive, cities, including San Francisco and New York.
In these cities, not-for-profit, non-governmental clubs welcome active-duty, reserve, retired and even former military (i.e. veterans) to enjoy their accommodation on a space-available basis.
These clubs offer more than a place to sleep. They also offer the opportunity to meet other comrades in arms, many of whom are most helpful and knowledgeable about the local scene.
Most clubs have quiet libraries and reading rooms, Internet access and coin-operated washers and dryers. Because of their membership policies, close monitoring of ID cards and long-tenured staff, the clubs also offer an extra measure of security.
The welcome mat is out at many other veterans’ clubs in the British Commonwealth, where they offer a welcome and good cheer, but not accommodation.
Following are some details on the clubs in San Francisco and New York. Rates are subject to change since our last check.
¶ The Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, just two blocks from posh Union Square and only one block from the famed Powell Street cable cars, boasts 136 first-class rooms, including 13 luxury suites, at rates one-third of those charged by its five-star hotel neighbors.
The club’s nearly 20,000 members enjoy a 12th-floor Skyroom Dining Room and Flying Leathernecks Lounge, which offer a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay.
Its business center offers e-mail and Internet connections for free, as are its fitness center and pool. Club members have the opportunity to visit reciprocal clubs worldwide.
Current military are welcome as Marines’ Memorial Club members. For anyone else who has served honorably in a U.S. or allied military service, membership is a modest donation, which is plowed back into refurbishing the club’s beautiful facilities.
The club is a one-of-a-kind living memorial to the Marines who lost their lives in the Pacific during World War II. Displays in its library are a moving museum of Marine Corps history.
Throughout the year, the club presents special nights and luncheons honoring Marine Corps and military history: Wake Island; Battle of Midway; Battle of Ia Drang; Navy Corpsmen; the George Schultz (former secretary of state) lecture series. It takes on additional glamour for its annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball in November, its New Year’s Eve party, its two Big Band Nights and other special events.
Currently, the members rates for single and double rooms are $125 Sunday through Thursday; $135 Friday and Saturday. (non-member rates are $155 and $165). Prices include breakfast and happy hour. Military personnel who are currently serving may join the club free and be entitled to special active military rates starting at $69 per night. Early room reservations are advised. Reservations are also suggested for dinner in the fashionable Skyroom dining. A moderately priced buffet and an a la carte menu are offered at lunch; fine dining in the evening.
The Marines Memorial Theatre in the club is one of San Francisco’s most important legitimate theaters. In the past 60 years, it has hosted the likes of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Peggy Lee, Buddy Ebsen, Imogene Coca, Charlene Tilton, Cloris Leachman, Lynn Redgrave, Julie Harris, Phyllis Diller, the folks from “Greater Tuna” and the long-running musical “Stomp.” They are just a few of the stars who have played on stage at the club.
They follow Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, who entertained the troops and broadcast their radio shows in the theater in the late 1940s. Crosby aired his weekly radio show from the club’s theater.
For more information, contact the Marines Memorial Club at 609 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94102 or by phone at (415) 673-6672. Room reservations are available at (800) 5-MARINE, by fax at (415) 441-3649 or e-mail email@example.com. Its Web site is www.marineclub.com.
¶ The Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen’s Club in mid-town Manhattan is one of New York’s best-kept secrets.
Its 29 hotel rooms and 69 beds are only $25 per person per day for active-duty enlisted (pay grades E-1 through E-4) and military academy and ROTC cadets. For enlisted in pay grades E-5 and above, the cost is $37. The rate for warrant officers, company-grade officers (O-1 to O-3), retired military and widows/widowers of retired military is $47. The rate for field-grade officers is $52. Children up to 3 stay free; the rate for children 3-14 is $10; 14 and older, same as sponsor. A continental breakfast is included.
Since the club is not-for-profit, taxes are not charged on the rooms. The club usually fills on weekends, so reservations are recommended.
The club is within five blocks of Grand Central Terminal, the Eastside Airport Bus Terminal in one direction, the Empire State Building and Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in another.
The club has four public rooms, including a library and an Internet room (use is free). Clubrooms are richly appointed in l9th-century antiques. They are just like the clubrooms in private men’s clubs in London. Club security includes 24-hour controlled access.
The club was established in 1919 “To promote the general welfare of all servicemen and women in the Armed Forces of the United States, and in aid thereof to maintain club houses and/or club rooms and other facilities.” It has been housed in its present site, a former mansion, since 1922.
While the club’s primary purpose is to accommodate active-duty men and women and their families, it also accommodates retired, Reserve, National Guard, military academy Cadets, Midshipmen, and honorably discharged veterans and members of Allied Forces.
The building has undergone an extensive renovation/modernization and welcomes donations to complete the job. One idea for memorial contributions would be to put the names of military units and veterans organizations on brass plaques on the doors of the club’s rooms. Several unnamed rooms are still available.
The club is in New York City’s fashionable Murray Hill neighborhood at 283 Lexington Ave. (between 36th and 37th streets), New York, NY 10016; phone (212) 683 4354 or (800) 678 TGIF; fax (212) 683-4374. It’s Web site is: www.ssmaclub.org.
Dennis Cavagnaro is a retired Marine and freelance writer who lives in California.