Throwback Thursday: UT’s World War II dating bureau takes love off the battlefield

Sara Reinsch

Searching for a date in the digital age is as easy as opening an app and scrolling through a list of nearby singles, but, before modern technology, finding a date was a chancy pursuit. In 1942, a UT council attempted to connect men and women in an innovative way — through an organized dating service.

UT’s War Effort Council Date Bureau opened registration to University women on Oct. 7, 1942, according to a Daily Texan article. The bureau, created by a student group that coordinated World War II-related activities, was created to bring UT women and Austin-area soldiers together for dates.

“Sign up for the University Date Bureau today in the Union Building from 8 until 5 o’clock and put your private ‘V’ for Victory into practice!” said the article, citing the bureau’s slogan.

Although today’s process is more efficient and customized than the one in 1942, the two share remarkable similarities. At registration, women were asked to fill out cards detailing their ages, addresses, heights, hair and eye colors, religious preferences, areas of study and interests. They were also required to submit photographs of themselves and were charged 10 cents to register. The women’s dating profiles, along with a record of the unmarried, college-aged soldiers in the Austin area, were filed in the War Effort Council’s office.

“The soldier will come to the Date Bureau headquarters, specify the date he prefers, and show his identification,” the article said. “If his card is [on] file, a suitable girl will be chosen. The girl will be called, and if she has no previous engagement and cares to go, the date is made.”

UT’s Dean of Women’s Office limited date destinations to a list of approved places, required women to sign out of their residences at the beginning of dates and requested parental permission from every woman who registered for the bureau. Unlike present-day match services, the bureau didn’t give users the option to choose their dates.

“The soldier requesting a date will not be allowed to go through the files,” an Oct. 8 Daily Texan article said. “The person in charge of the Bureau will choose with his guidance a suitable date.”

Four hundred “potential morale lifters” had signed up for the dating service after the first day of registration. That number almost doubled on the second day, reaching 700.

“I think the response to the Bureau was wonderful, and that the set-up is splendid,” Assistant Dean of Women Kathleen Bland said in the article. “I like the fact that the Bureau has been so voluntary.”

The overwhelming demand for the service forced it to close a mere 13 days after its initial launch, as it could not keep up with the administrative demand.

“We did not foresee the proportions which the Bureau assumed,” Dean of Women Dorothy Gebauer said in an Oct. 20 Daily Texan article. “The cost of administering such a large office would be more than the University feels able to assume at this time. … We do not have the facilities as yet to handle such a problem.”

The resources to facilitate such a program are in high supply in 2014, as computers have created a dating network that the students of 1942 could have only dreamed of.