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Hollywood Guild and Canteen History and Photos

Hollywood Guild and Canteen Photos

The Hollywood website has many photos of the Hollywood Guild and Canteen.

During World War II, and on weekends, servicemen outnumbered civilians tend to one on the streets of Hollywood. At first, they had to sleep in parks and in theaters, which offered their aisles and lobbies. Then Hollywood unlocked its doors, high school set up dormitories and private homes welcome men on furlough. California's theaters collected $190,000 from audiences in a bed for buddies campaign.


Planning the Guild and Canteen

The closest thing to home for soldiers who came to Hollywood was Mrs. And “Mom” Lehr’s Hollywood Guild and Canteen at 1284 N. Crescent Heights Blvd. To thousands of man in all services of every United Nation who had been there, Mom's place was the nearest thing to heaven. On average, 800 servicemen stayed there each week-night while 1200 resided each night on weekends. Sometimes, as during Christmas holidays, the guest numbered 1300.

The distinguishing attractions were the clean comfortable bed, three square meals a day, and the privilege of coming and going as they pleased at any hour of the day or night, and stain on until it suited them to leave. If hunger's truck at midnight, the icebox and kitchen facilities were at their service


Mrs. Lehr had nothing grandiose in mind when she got the idea for this establishment, soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was head of a small charity organization which she had formed several years before to care for Hollywood's broken down stuntmen, unemployed and underfed extras and the like. When the war broke out, these wards drifted away to jobs in the war plants, leaving her virtually alone in the former home of silent screen star Dustin Farnum.

Then she began to notice servicemen walking Hollywood streets all night, or sleeping on benches and in doorways and parked cars for lack of something better. At the USO, when it was open, they could get hot coffee and doughnuts and write a letter home. They could also go to the Hollywood Canteen where they could dance, be fed, and be entertained by some of Hollywood's finest and most popular celebrities. So Mrs. Lehr decided to turn her home into a free hotel for serviceman. She broke the news to her small handful of helpers who begged, borrowed or otherwise procured 35 beds.


The Guild and Canteen Opens

On May 15, 1942, the Hollywood Guild and Canteen open with 35 beds and not one serviceman to occupy them. There had been no publicity about the whole thing – – something that had been completely that collected by everybody involved. Several of her helpers, in despair at the complete emptiness of the guild, decided to drive down to Hollywood Boulevard and try to collect some servicemen. Some of the soldiers were skeptical. But most of the boys took a chance and cautiously consented to come along. There were half 100 of them finally. They cleaned up for dinner, and after a while, still not quite convinced, they tentatively went off to bed. Not until they left next morning, after a hearty breakfast, could they believe that the whole thing was on the level.

This went on for a couple of weeks, Mrs. Lehr and her friends recruiting each night’s guest from the Hollywood streets. Then the boys started to appear under their own power. The word of the Hollywood Guild and Canteen traveled quickly, and far, until its reputation was known throughout the country.


The Guild and Canteen's Buildings

Aside from the main house, new structures were built on the grounds, and nearby buildings were taken over. Soon there were nearly 1000 beds, plus140 more in an abandoned market a block away. A house in the next block was home to about 100 servicemen and there was a place for officers.

Breakfast was any time before lunch. Dinner was from 6 to 8. The boys drank $100 worth of milk a day and consume more than 1400 eggs at each breakfast. There was no limit on what a man could eat, at or between meals.

The Hollywood Guild and Canteen was, theoretically, run by a Board, consisting of such Hollywood luminaries as Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor and Myrna Loy. But actually, all direction came from Mrs. Lehr alone. She arrived around six in the evening and happily presided over it all until six the next morning.

The War Is Over

When the war was over there was no longer a need for the Hollywood Guild and Canteen. However, this is later did not stop helping. She embarked on a rehabilitation program, which continued for a couple of years. Many ex-servicemen still called the Hollywood Guild and Canteen home while attending school under the Veterans Bill of Rights.

To see Hollywood guild and Canteen photos, visit the website.


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