Sunday, March 3, 2013


 OFFICERS' MESS. Interior of the Officers' Club, located in the perimeter of the Clark Parade Ground, was a favorite haunt for officers who looked forward to nights of unwinding and socializing. Along with the NCO Club and the Airmen's Coconut Grove, the clubs were main sources of entertainment for many military personnel of all ranks in the late 50s.

Back in 1959, “see you at the club!” was on almost every Clark personnel’s lips after the day’s work was done. Officers, NCO’s and airmen alike trooped to the 3 main clubs located at the base—to hang loose, socialize, and bond with buddies and families. A Clark Air Base guide printed that year, unrtyiduced in glowing terms, the 3 social centers to ‘newbies’—just arrived at the headquarters of the U.S. Thirteenth Air Force.

 The Officer’s Club, located by the Parade Ground, was “a tastefully furnished, air condition club with a schedule of events that can’t be beat”. Regular features included dances, variety shows, special game nights with prizes, buffet and exclusive family dinners, stag nights with entertainment, bridge tournaments and several monthly functions for officers’wives. Downstairs in the club, you step into the quiet candlelit atmosphere of the “Rathskaller”, with its superb “charcoal-broiled” foods ( sirloin steak was the specialty!) and excellent service.

Adjacent to the main club building one can find amenities such as a barber shop, a beauty parlor, an outdoor patio with a service area, and a swimming pool that provides perfect relief from the hit, tropical weather. The Officers Club also maintains a club annex on the hill in the officer’s quarters area.

“Where every member is a V.I.P.”, was the boast of the NCO Club (along Dyeess Highway, near Lilly Hill), which also prided itself as “the finest in the Air Force”. The air conditioned indoor patio has a seating capacity of 1,100, and its main feature is a beautifully decorated bandstand where a 16-piece dance band (Iggy de Guzman and his band) regularly performs 6 nights a week, while Western music holds forth the other night.

 Other attractions include exciting bridge, pinochle and shuffleboard tournaments, two nights of games a week, highlighted with floor shows, contests (at one time, there was a hula hoop competition!) and special family menus (the onion rings were to die for!) A Stag Room and a barber shop—both air-conditioned—are open for use by patrons. On the drawing board at that time are a modern health room and a swimming pool with patio. In 1986, the NCO Club was moved near Silver Wing. A most relaxing feature is the T-Bar 3 Room, designed and decorated with a Western motif, complete with cattle horn wall hangings, authentic Western-inspired rug and a plush cocktail lounge.

Meanwhile, at the Airmen Open Mess, one can find the company of “lower four” airmen in the remodelled and modernized club that also has a Stag Room, cocktail lounge, TV and game room and a spacious ballroom with a tropical motif.

The recently-enlarged dining area has endless offerings for everyone’s leisure—from nightly dances, game events, special formal dances, weekly floor shows and special Sunday breakfasts. For members’ convenience, there is a barber shop and a gift shop located at the club. Weekly, the “Mr. Big Shot”contest is held in the club, with the winner getting a free, all-expense paid week-end trip to Manila.

All the fun came to pass after the Pinatubo eruption which buried Clark—and with it, all the fond memories of clubbing in-base. The building housing the NCO Club is now home to a call center company. The Officer’s Club, still at the parade ground, is also being used as an office while the Airmen’s Mess has become an adjunct of the casino. But for military servicemen assigned to Clark in the late 50s, the 3 clubs were the places to be and to be seen, where homesickness, boredom and other worries were momentarily forgotten, through wholesome leisure and safe entertainment, under the shadow of the legendary red-light district of Balibago just a few kilometers away.

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