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The Hollywood Canteen Photos & History - Part 3

Building the Hollywood Canteen

Hollywood Canteen Volunteer Workers

In order to get the Hollywood Canteen opened, all of Hollywood's motion picture craftsman unanimously volunteered their services and immediate cooperation. From plumbers, electricians, carpenters, painters, laborers, prop men and teamsters to art directors, decorators, and cartoonist, everyone pitched in. In addition, thousands of feet of lumber, multiple barrels of nails, gallons of paint, miles of electrical wire, hundreds of yards of concrete, and scores of plumbing fixtures were freely given.


The old red barn, on Cahuenga Ave. was thoroughly ripped apart. Truckloads of new lumber were rolled into place as carpenters pour out and rebuilt floors and walls. Looking like something in a sped up movie, grips, prop makers and laborers worked at a breakneck pace to construct a new bandstand/stage, a large service counter, a kitchen facility, a lighting control room, a lobby and offices.

Everything took shape as planned, and in just a week, the made over structure was ready for electricians. Fixtures, in the form of antique wagon wheels with lanterns, were hung above the Canteen’s main room. Thirty-five painters carrying cans of paint showed up on Sunday and finished the job in one day.

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Wall Murals

Some of the most amusing features of the Hollywood Canteen's new luck were the hand-painted murals in the main room. A large one on the north wall, just above the service counter, was a contribution of the screen cartoonist guild. In keeping with the Canteen’s western theme, it was called cowboy heaven, and had lively pictures of things Cowboys dream about. Five big mural panels on the opposite wall were done by the motion picture illustrators and depicted such popular legends as Frankie and Johnny and the Shooting of Jesse James. Even the bathroom walls got a special treatment and were painted with delicate spring-time blossoms by actor/director Richard Whorf.


Hollywood Canteen Photographs

The website has photos of electricians hanging lights, illustrators painting wall murals and carpenters remodeling the interior of the Canteen.

When the remodeling was done, various studios and many private companies offered what ever furnishings, equipment, and supplies that were needed. Finishing touches-- from upholstered seats to hanging stage backing -- would continue to adjust days before the Canteen’s opening.

The old red barn had been transformed into a welcoming wood front building, with an entrance sign crafted out of a large hemp rope that spelled out Hollywood Canteen for servicemen. Inside, the plain, casual old West decor was inviting -- and able to take a beating from heavy service shoes and good-natured crowds ready for fun.

While the old red barn was being remodeled, many volunteers, including celebrities, helped in advertising and promoting the soon to open Hollywood Canteen. Starlet, Leslie Brooks, and others, went out onto the Hollywood streets to hang signs announcing the opening of the canteen.

In addition, other volunteers, including Rita Hayworth and Bunny Waters showed up to get the Canteen ready for opening evening.


Volunteer Signing Up

Once the word got out that the Hollywood canteen was going to be a reality, hundreds of volunteers began signing up. As mentioned earlier, only those in the entertainment industry were allowed to volunteer at the canteen. Hundreds of entertainment employees arrived at the canteen to volunteer their services. The FBI required all volunteers to be photographed and fingerprinted which were placed on ID cards which had to be carried when ever they were at the Canteen. The website has photos of several celebrities being fingerprinted and photographed, including Loretta Young, Marlene Dietrich and Jean Gabin. By the time the canteen opened, on October 3, 1942, more than 3000 volunteers had signed up.

The largest collection of Hollywood Canteen photos is on the hollywoodphotographs website. All photographs are available for purchase.





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