The Hollywood Canteen operated between October 3, 1942 and November 22, 1945 (Thanksgiving Day) as a club offering food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen, usually on their way overseas.
The Canteen, a former livery stable and nightclub, the Old Barn, was located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard, off Sunset.
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Even though the majority of visitors were U.S servicemen, the Canteen was open to servicemen of allied countries as well as women in all branches of service. The serviceman's ticket for admission was his uniform and everything at the Canteen was free of charge.
The driving forces behind its creation were Bette Davis and John Garfield, along with composer Jules Stein, President of Music Corporation of America, who headed up the finance committee.
"Jules Stein, up to this time, was seldom ever seen. Few people even knew what he looked like. He preferred to live this way. It was a big decision when he said he would head the financial committee. He would have to alter his way of life. Without his hard work, advice, and investments of our funds the Hollywood Canteen could not have been successful, to say nothing of the work of his wife, Doris, who I asked to be the head of the committee for the hostesses necessary for dancing partners for the servicemen.
When the canteen was no longer needed after V-J Day, $500,000 remained in the canteen account. These monies were the result of Jules's ideas. A great source of revenue came from a film he urged Warner Bros. to make called Hollywood Canteen, a large percentage of which was allotted by Mr. Warner to the canteen itself. With the remaining monies a foundation was formed, and to this day contributions are made to worthy projects dealing with the armed forces."
Bette Davis devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to the project.
Materials for repairs and decorations and actual labor were donated by members of the fourteen guilds and unions of the industry, which included the board of directors of the Hollywood Canteen, with Davis as president and Garfield as vice-president. Artists and cartoonist painted murals on the walls.
The Canteen was operated and staffed completely by volunteers from the entertainment industry. By the time the Canteen opened its doors, 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.
The Canteen charged $100.00 dollars to sit in the bleachers for opening night, October 3, 1942.
Davis, "This also was Jules Stein's idea. The canteen made $10,000 that night from the bleacher seats. It seemed thousands of men entered the canteen that night. I had to crawl through a window to get inside."
Glamorous stars volunteered to wait on tables, cook in the kitchen and clean up. On September 15, 1943 the one millionth guest walked through the door of the Hollywood Canteen. The lucky soldier, Sgt. Carl Bell, received a kiss from Betty Grable.
Actress Shirley Temple, a United Service Organizations (USO) volunteer, holds a bowl of cookies for servicemen at the Hollywood Canteen, Ca., Aug. 21, 1944.