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Hollywood Guild and Canteen Photos

Anne "Mom" Lehr's Canteen

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

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Prior to World War II Mom Lehr was head of a small charity organized which she had formed several years before to care for Hollywood's broken down stuntmen unemployed and underfed extras and the like.

New Guild and Canteen

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. As the USO, when it was open, they could get hot coffee and doughnuts and write a letter home; and the star-spangled Hollywood Canteen offered them a glamorous good time, but neither place was designed to provide a temporary home for the boys. So Mrs. layer decided to turn her show people sanctuary into a free hotel for servicemen. She broke the news to her small handful of helpers who begged borrowed and otherwise procured 35 beds.

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Grand Opening

On May 15, 1942, the Hollywood Guild and Canteen opened with 35 beds and not a service man to occupy the. There had been no publicity about the whole thing and Mom seemed to be quite dismayed. Several of her lieutenants, in despair at the complete emptiness of the guild, and faced with the tragedy of a magnificent turkey dinner prepared for the opening going to utter waste, decided to drive down to Hollywood Boulevard and try to collect some serviceman.

Some of the soldiers were skeptical. Many servicemen wanted to know what the catch was but there was none. Many 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 Morning after a hearty breakfast, could they believe that the whole thing was on the level.

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This went on for a couple of weeks, Mrs. Lehr and her friends recruiting each nights 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 around the world. Aside from the main house, new structures were built on the grounds, and nearby buildings were taken over, soon there were nearly 1000 beds, plus 140 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.

Hollywood Guild and Canteen Management

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. She was helped by about 1000 women, many regular employed in other jobs, coop cleaned, washed dishes, made beds, waited tables, danced with the boys, and did what ever else was necessary to keep the place going.

The boys themselves, had a complete run of the place, instinctively reciprocating with broom and mop and in surveying and clearing the tables. They gave a hand with the dishes, carried in supplies, guided newcomers, and saw that no one got out of line.

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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 meals or between meals. As one can imagine, the Hollywood gilding canteen was an expensive operation. The place was about to fold when W. R. Wilkerson, publisher of the influential Hollywood Reporter, wrote an editorial praising mom Leer as the greatest thing Hollywood had contributed during the war. In it he appealed to the movie studios to save the guild and to support it with regular contributions. Had a hopper, the well of Parsons and others echoed his plea and the movie industry went into action. The Florentine Gardens on Hollywood Boulevard took up a nightly collection which amounted to about $1000 weekly – – with all the money going to the Hollywood Guild and Canteen. The major studios added another $40,000 and the smaller studios, and newsreels furnished an additional $50,000 annually.The Hollywood Canteen, on Cahuenga Ave., was also a big supporter, contributing thousands of dollars to the Hollywood Guild and Canteen.

After the war was over, Mom Lehr 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.

Vintage Hollywood Guild  and Canteen Photos

Vintage photos of the Hollywood Guild and Canteen are best seen on the hollywoodphotographs.com website. The images, of both the inside and exterior of the Hollywood Guild and Canteen, are available.

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