The Hollywood Canteen

Remembering WW II
Last week I took my dad to visit the aircraft carrier “Midway” that is now part of the Maritime Museum, here is San Diego. The 3 hour, self-guided tour gave my dad and I a chance to talk about WWII and dad’s experiences in England  and Germany.

During WW II, like many other young men at the time, my dad was eager to ‘sign up’ and fight for his country. He gave up a scholarship to the Art Institute in Chicago to enlist in the Army Air Corp. He lied about his age – as many kids did, and he became a 17 year old soldier. For him it was also an opportunity to have 3 square meals a day – something he rarely had growing up.

Stationed in Long Beach for flight training, it wasn’t dad’s first visit to California. As a young teen he had joined the CCC – California Conservation Corp. during summer vacation.

“I remember the first time I saw the San Fernando Valley.” My dad said with a smile on his face. “We were at the Hollywood Canteen and they asked if anyone wanted to drive out to the San Fernando Valley. It sounded interesting so I got on the bus with 15 or 20 other soldiers and off we went.”

I guess it was love at first site, because after the war it took him seven years to convince my mom to move from Chicago to L.A.

During WW II, The Hollywood Canteen was set up to help keep up the morale of young soldiers. Located on Cahuenga Blvd., just south of Sunset, It was operated and staffed completely by volunteers from the local entertainment industry.

In 1942, over 3000 stars, players, directors, producers, grips, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, technicians, wardrobe attendants, hair stylists, agents, stand-ins, publicists, secretaries, and allied craftsmen of radio and screen had registered as volunteers.

On any given day or night, famous actors and actresses could be found pouring coffee. My dad remembered Carey Grant sitting down with the guys just to talk, asking about their home towns, etc.

I ran across a news clip from 1944 about the Hollywood Canteen. Hope you enjoy it:

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