The Melody Maids of Beaumont, Texas, was an all-girls choral group that performed from 1942 to 1972. It traveled around the world to military bases in order to entertain the troops. The group was directed by Eloise Rush Milam (1908-2008), who had studied music her entire life, and taught music at Dick Dowling Junior High School. Additionally, she gave private voice lessons, and some of her students became the first group of Melody Maids in 1942.
The Melody Maids first appeared at a bond rally given at the Jefferson Theater on July 4, 1942. The group had not officially formed at that time, and in fact did not even have a name. "Melody Maids" was chosen on a whim, with no member of the group suspecting that it would continue past that particular performance. The group was well-received, however, and so it began performing at more events around Beaumont. They sang frequently for the Lions' Club, who sponsored the group and helped them raise money for their tours for years to come.
A turning point for the group came in December of 1942, when the Melody Maids sang for the first time for a military camp. The Maids traveled to Camp Polk, Louisiana, and performed a show for the men stationed there. Overwhelmed by the enthusiasm with which they were received, the Maids accepted more invitations to sing at other bases, thus beginning their decades of service to the military. Their trips began to extend across the United States – they visited San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago, singing for Lions' Club conventions, and always making time to sing for veterans' hospitals and other military bases.
In 1952, the Melody Maids took their first international trip, traveling to England to sing for soldiers there. The Maids funded this trip on their own, putting on ticket sales, benefit dances, and silver teas. Their shows were so popular with the troops, however, that the soldiers requested them most frequently of all entertainers. In light of this popularity, all Melody Maids tours after 1956 were paid for by the Department of Defense Entertainment Branch. The Maids toured Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Greenland, and Iceland. All in all, they made four tours of Europe, several to England, three to Asia, seven to the far North, four to the Caribbean, five to Mexico, and seven to Hawaii.
The Melody Maids were all junior high and high school aged girls. As such, Eloise sought to teach them more than just music. She explained that she taught them all “music, morals, and manners,” with music being the least important of the three. In later years, the women considered this training one of the best results of being a Melody Maid.
In 1972, when her husband, Mason, retired from Mobil Oil, Eloise decided to end the Melody Maids. Former Maids continued to gather at annual reunions and to celebrate Eloise's birthday. They also formed the Melody Maid Foundation, which sponsored a $10,000 scholarship fund to Lamar University. The Foundation opened an exhibit room, called the Melody Maid Rose Room, for its scrapbooks and memorabilia in the Julie Rogers Theater. Eloise passed away in 2008, but the Melody Maids continue to reunite every year to remember their life-changing experiences as part of the group.