Hollywood Guild and Canteen


The closest thing to home for soldiers who came to Hollywood was Mrs. Anne "Mom" Lehr's Hollywood Guild and Canteen at 1284 North Crescent Heights Boulevard. 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, eight hundred stayed there each week night while one thousand two hundred resided each night on weekends. Sometimes, as during Christmas holidays, the guests numbered one thousand three hundred. The distinguishing attractions were a clean comfortable bed, three square meals a day, and the privilege of corning and going as they pleased at any hour of the day or night, and staying on until it suited them to leave. If hunger struck at midnight, the icebox and kitchen facilities were at their service. When the war broke out, 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; 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. Lehr decided to turn her home into a free hotel for servicemen. She broke the news to her small handful of helpers who begged, borrowed or otherwise procured thirty-five beds. On May 15, 1942, the Hollywood Guild & Canteen opened with thirty-five beds and not one serviceman to occupy them. No one had thought about getting the word out to the servicemen. Several of her helpers, 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 waste, decided to drive down to Hollywood Boulevard and try to "collect" some servicemen. Some of the soldiers were skeptical. "What's the catch, lady?" a couple of them asked. "This ain't Thanksgiving." But most of the boys took a chance and cautiously consented to come along.There were half a hundred of them finally. They cleaned up the 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 guests from the Hollywood streets. Then the boys started to appear under their own power. The word of the Hollywood Guild and Canteen travelled 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 1,000 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. 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 carne 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 1,000 women, many regularly employed in other jobs, who cleaned, washed dishes, made beds, waited tables, danced with the boys, and did whatever else was necessary to keep the place a going concern. As one can imagine, the Hollywood Guild and 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's" 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. Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, and others echoed his plea and the movie industry went into action. Nils Thor Granland got up a nightly collection at the Florentine Gardens which amounted to about $1,000 weekly. Show-star Beryl Wallace did likewise at Earl Carroll's. The Hollywood Canteen, which had a surplus, contributed $52,000 a year to the Guild & Canteen. The major studios added another $40,000 and the smaller studios, newsreels, etc., furnished an additional $50,000 annually. After the war was over, "Morn" Lehr did not stop helping. She embarked on a rehabilitation program which continued for a couple of years. The Hollywood Guild and Canteen was very near the Garden of Allah hotel.  When the war was over Hollywood ceklebrated VJ Day.

Click to Enlarge
Hollywood Guild & Canteen
Click to Enlarge
Hollywood Guild & Canteen's Dorm
Click to Enlarge
Hollywood Guild & Canteen's Dorm
Click to Enlarge
Dorm at Hollywod Guild & Canteen
Hollywood Guild and CanteenHollywood Guild & Canteen
HGC-001
1943
Hollywood Guild and CanteenHollywood Guild & Canteen's Dorm
HGC-002
1943
Hollywood Guild and CanteenHollywood Guild & Canteen's Dorm
HGC-003
1943
Hollywood Guild and CanteenDorm at Hollywod Guild & Canteen
HGC-004
1943
Click to Enlarge
Hollywood Guild & Canteen's Dorm
Click to Enlarge
Anne
 
Hollywood Guild and CanteenHollywood Guild & Canteen's Dorm
HGC-005
1943
Hollywood Guild and CanteenAnne "Mom" Lehr and servicemen at the Hollywood Guild and Canteen
HGC-006
1943