During the war years, those left behind when the soldiers shipped overseas, did their part for the effort through sacrifice and hard work. There was rationing of gasoline, food and other staples of Americans life. Families grew vegetables in Victory Gardens, bought war bonds and women worked in factories, waiting for the return of their men.
Around the country, The Red Cross and the USO recruited young women, and in Los Angeles, Georgette signed up as a junior hostess on Wednesday nights at the Hollywood Canteen.
The Canteen, built by Bette Davis, John Garfield and other Hollywood luminaries, recruited the aid of the motion picture craft unions to turn an old barn at Sunset Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard into a night spot for servicemen. The interior had a western motif, with wagon wheels hung from the ceiling with lanterns as light fixtures. The walls were covered with art work from studio cartoonists. The Hollywood Canteen opened on October 3, 1942 at 1451 North Cahuenga Boulevard and closed on Thanksgiving day, 1945. In less than three years of operation, nearly three million men and women in uniform visited the club. Georgette danced with the young soldiers and was generous with her time and money. She gave rides to the soldiers, often treated them to lunches and invited them into her home.
The Hollywood Canteen catered to enlisted men, although officers were admitted to an upstairs area. Most nights, two bands played and the volunteer hostesses danced with the soldiers. Almost every movie star in Hollywood donated his or her time and effort to make the experience memorable for men and women in uniform. The snack bar, which provided coffee, doughnuts, sandwiches and milk, all free of charge, was a popular spot. No alcohol was served or permitted in the club.
Joseph Jasgur was the official photographer for the Canteen, carrying Photographer Badge #1, which entitled him to shoot pictures of the troops and movie stars. Jasgur, who died in 2011, is most famous for taking photos of young Norma Jean Dougherty, later known as Marilyn Monroe, in 1946, the year after the Canteen closed. Jasgur’s pictures of Monroe and others are highly collectible today.
Young women were screened before they were accepted as volunteers. They were fingerprinted by the FBI and issued photo identification cards. They were not allowed to enter or leave with soldiers. The junior hostesses felt it was a privilege to be part of the Canteen and were proud of their service. The junior hostesses and senior hostesses, mostly celebrities, entered through the stage door. Rule number 6 of the agreement stated, “All volunteer workers, hostesses, hosts, entertainers, musicians, name people, etc. must enter through the Cole St. door. There will be a light there at all times.”
A number of the young female volunteers also worked at the Los Angeles Times. Several hostesses knew each other socially outside the Canteen.
Georgette and her good friend, June Zeigler, worked at the Times and volunteered Wednesday evenings at the Canteen. June was also friends with Doris Puckett, who worked at the Times and volunteered at the Canteen on Tuesday nights. Another friend, Shirley Burke, also worked at the Times and volunteered at the Canteen.
Doris, who no longer lives in California, but recently visited the old site of the Hollywood Canteen, remembered dancing with servicemen and helping them write letters. Doris and June worked at the classified counter at the Times. Georgette worked for Becky Webb in the Women’s Service Bureau. Doris and Georgette did not know each other, but Doris remembers Becky Webb telling her after the murder that Georgette let her know that she was an heiress.
Mrs. Atwood, the janitor’s wife at the El Palacio, said, “She seemed happy and contented. She was very much interested in war work- especially the Hollywood Canteen, where she went every Wednesday evening.”
“She was real proud of being a junior hostess.”
Anne Lehr, affectionately known by servicemen as “Mom,” helped in the war effort by turning a rented home near Georgette’s apartment into the Hollywood Guild and Canteen. Located at 1284 North Crescent Heights Boulevard, the guild was only eight blocks from Georgette’s home and on her way to the Hollywood Canteen.
Although not officially connected to the Hollywood Canteen, the Guild provided a place for servicemen to sleep at night while on leave in Los Angeles. Originally, the former Dustin Farnum home was opened by Mrs. Lehr to house studio employees and unemployed actors and others in the business that were down on their luck.
After Pearl Harbor, she converted the house to a home-away-from-home for servicemen. As time passed, and Mrs. Lehr became known far and wide as “Mom,” she expanded and eventually provided three meals a day and beds for 800 to 1,200 men a night. Tom Breneman, from the Breakfast in Hollywood radio program, donated $10,000 to help keep the Guild alive. Others in the industry joined in with their contributions and for years after, soldiers, sailors and Marines would fondly remember the hospitality of “Mom” and the Hollywood Guild and Canteen.