Rod’s first stop was the Hollywood U.S.O where he got a bed for $0.50. After that he “fooled around til 8:30″ at the Hollywood Canteen (pictured at right) – a well-known club for servicemen offering food, dancing and entertainment for free (your entry ticket was your uniform.) Oftentimes celebrities visited to help out and entertain.
(Palladium Ballroom, circa 1940)
Next, Rod returned to the Hollywood Canteen and continued his night of dancing. The Kay Kyser Orchestra (pictured at right) was playing, but Rod says Kay Kyser himself, bandleader and radio personality, was not. At that point, Rod was probably exhausted and so he “hit the hay.”
(Orpheum pictured at left, Jimmy Dorsey at right)
After the concert, Rod returned to Hollywood around 4:30pm and wandered around. He saw a bunch of different notable landmarks of the time: Earl Carroll’s, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Sardi’s, NBC studios and CBS studios. He says “There’s just so much to do one isn’t able to begin doing it.” I want to note that in his letter Rod underlined “Sardi’s” which was a restaurant (sister to the original Sardi’s in New York City.) I wonder what the special meaning was for him to underline it. All I could find was that it was frequented by the stars of Hollywood and so perhaps was well-known to folks at home.
(Earl Carroll’s Theatre, circa 1947)
(Grauman’s Chinese Theater, circa early 40’s)
(Sardi’s Restaurant, opened in 1932)
At 10:30pm Rod picked up his ride back to camp at Hollywood and Vine. He says that he picked up a private ride from a guy in another company and only paid $4 round trip which was apparently “darn reasonable.” Rod notes that most fellows charge $10.
He finished his letter by explaining and describing the pictures he had enclosed (which unfortunately are not in our collection.) The pictures, though, were taken on Hollywood Blvd and were “one of those pay while you wait propositions.”
As someone who loves old films and musicals, I couldn’t help but think of movies like On the Town and Anchors Aweigh. You know the ones, the hardworking servicemen get time off to go into the city and gawk at landmarks (and somehow always get into shenanigans and end up falling in love.) While this wasn’t exactly Rod’s story, there is a sense of wonderment in his letter that he just can’t wait to tell somebody at home about.
So there you have it. Rod’s whirlwind tour of Hollywood. He does visit Los Angeles and Hollywood again later, and tells his mother about it in his lettes. But his later descriptions are never any longer than a few sentences that basically detail what he did and who he saw. He never again writes with the enthusiasm he has after his first visit.
Below you can click to view the full-size images of Rod’s letter.