Hollywood, California and World War II
War industries have invaded the movie colony; the girls are still lovely but they're just as likely to be welders now as film stars.
By Pvt. James P. O'Neill YANK Staff Writer
Hollywood—Back in 1939 when a few brave souls forsook their movie jobs for rivet ing berths at Lockheed, it caused nearly as much commotion here as the Fatty Arbuckle scandal.
Hollywood had always been a one- industry town, and the fact that script clerks lived next door to set electricians, studio grip- pers bowled against makeup men, and low- priced extras sometimes took a poke at high- priced actors gave the town its special place in the sun.
Five years of war can work wonders. Now, in 1945, approximately 40 percent of Holly wood’s wage earners are working in the air craft industry while another 22 per cent are employed by local war industries. Only 24 per cent of the town’s citizens are in motion pic tures. The 1940 population figure of 210,000 has mounted to 235,000, and nearly all the newcom ers work in war jobs.
Over 40,000 workers are employed in some 200 small-scale war industries that have sprung up in Hollywood since Pearl Harbor. Most of the plants are situated in temporary and make shift buildings in the district lying between Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards. These plants make plastics, precision instruments, gauges and airplane hydraulic valves. At least 18 firms, all making plastic appliances, plan to stay in the community. Hollywood .apparently will never again be a one-industry town.
Despite this influx of new industries and new workers, Hollywood remains a district of Los Angeles, and the age-old fight to make it a sep arate municipality still goes on and on. Los Angeles postal authorities put up a terrible howl, but the mail around Hollywood and Vine still comes in addressed to Hollywood 29, California.
The lazy and warm manana atmosphere—the feeling that there isn’t a thing today which can’t be put off till tomorrow—has gradually faded in the last three years. The best way to get the new atmosphere is to sit on the wooden bench at the Vine Street and Hollywood Boulevard bus stop and watch an early Saturday-night crowd hurrying along the main drag.
Though the Boulevard still boasts the most concentrated array of beautiful young women to be seen anywhere in America, the old zip isn’t in the passing show any more, and you don’t want to whistle and turn handsprings as much as you did in the old days. At least not quite. It’s not as it used to be when the lovelies, dressed in their sloppy but revealing slacks, paraded slowly from shop window to shop win dow eying the new styles while the male popula tion paraded even more slowly eying the girls who were eying the styles. Now the ladies rush down the street with a jerky, tense jauntiness, a lot of them wearing aircraft-employee identi fication discs on their blouses. Nowadays a beau tiful doll often is seen walking along the Boule vard lugging a lunch pail.
But the girls look just as healthy, just as tanned and just as pretty. All they seem to need is a more tranquil world so that they can slow down a bit, and get into more comfortable, more revealing slacks again.
One thing that surprises you is that there are lots of cars on the streets. There seem to be more today than there were before the gas shortage. The large number of cars is explained by the fact that many townspeople work in the aircraft plants far out in the Encino Valley and hold high gas-ration cards.
It isn’t unusual to see women driving cabs and busses. One of these, “The Growler,” a squat, broad-beamed dame who drives the Western Avenue bus, embarrasses the hell out of civilians with her colorful language. And she works over her GI trade more thoroughly than a Fort Bragg first sergeant. One night she bawled out a marine for blocking the bus doorway.
“Listen, lady,” said the indignant marine, “you’re talking to a guy who’s been in five ma jor campaigns.”
“So what?” retorted “The Growler.” “You’re talking to a dame who’s been a bouncer at the Palladium on Saturday nights.”
Night life is much the same. Earl Carroll still draws the out-of-town butter-and-egg crowd with his old routine of “Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world.” Earl’s girls have yet to make a liar out of him. The Florentine Gardens, which opened a little before Pearl Harbor, is now a Hollywood Boulevard institution, drawing the same kind of trade as the Carroll emporium. The Palladium is booming; Gene Krupa, just finishing a long engagement there, made the joint jump so high that two of his recent sessions were tabbed as the cause of minor L.A. earthquakes.
But the “zoot suit” crowd of newspaper fame has gone, and swing-happy jivesters now go out of this world without people making a national issue of it. The draft law and war industries seem to have taken care of Hepdom’s problem children.
The Sunset Bowling Alley, with its 52 lanes, is as busy as ever, though the alleys have lost a lot of out-of-town customers, who, because of gas rationing, can’t make it into Hollywood. People are spending a lot more money; in 1940 $100,790,000 was spent in stores of the commu nity; in 1944 the amount jumped to $150,000,000.
It used to be that the normal citizens would turn the town’s bars, hot spots and theaters over to the tourists and autograph hounds on Saturday and Sunday nights while they slipped out to Pasadena or Glendale to see a movie in peace, or whisked over to a small joint in Bur bank or Encino for a few pay-day drinks. Those days are gone. Now, as a result of that gas shortage, blase Hollywoodites have to stick pretty close to town and buck the long lines in front of the Hollywood-Egyptian and Grauman’s Chinese Theaters in order to see a show. To get a drink they have to jostle the crowds at the bars of the Seven Seas, Melody Lane, the Radio Room and the Brown Derby.
Except for a few minor alterations, the high- school crowd seems much the same. The boys have discarded the traditional dirty corduroys for another pants craze, “Levis.” The name comes from the concern that makes this special type of dungaree. The dungarees are purchased two lengths oversize and the extra material at the bottom has got to be folded twice into a huge but neat cuff. Unless the pants are folded twice and the cuff measures at least eight inches they aren't “Levis” but just plain dungarees. The girls still wear those tight pink sweaters and short skirts, and the favorite male noonday past time at Hollywood High is to sit on the Admin istration Building steps and watch the girls go by.
The kids still hang out in the corner drug store at Sunset and Highland, and star-struck damsels still sit at the counter waiting for some one to discover them as Billy Wilkerson discov ered Lana Turner some years ago. The famous thick milk shake and hot-fudge sundae you
used to get at Brown’s candy store on the Boule vard have dropped a long way in quality;
Brown’s has to use iced milk instead of the rich cream of former years. Rich cream nowadays is something to remember, not drink.
There is a teen-age night club on Sunset Boulevard now right up the street from the Crossroads of the World. It’s quite popular, even though the swing dished out is a little on the mellow side and nothing more potent than coke is served. Zarappi’s, the rumba joint on lower Sunset Boulevard, still gets most of the hip- swinging fiends, and there are more of them these days than there used to be.
The political picture in the town is much the same. Lloyd G. Davies, a Republican, is city councilman, and John Kingsley, who operates the Kingsley Brothers stationery store, is still trying to resign as honorary mayor. John has held this unofficial position for five years. This year, as usual, he tried to quit, but the towns people refused to accept his resignation.
The Presidential campaign caused quite a row, and oldsters say that seldom has so much inter est been worked up in the old town. Jack L. A. Warner, Samuel Goldwyn and Katharine Hep
burn headed the “For FDR” organization,' while y Lionel Barrymore, Ginger Rogers and Jeanette MacDonald worked at the Dewey headquarters.
In a town where hermits parade the streets in sackcloth and sandals—and don’t draw a stare—and where a new grocery store has an opening with a battery of lights and a 10-piece band— and can’t draw 10 customers—a man ringing doorbells and crooning to housewives oughtn’t to be worth a yawn. But because the man was Frank Sinatra, the townfolk last summer were stunned. Some people say that Sinatra’s door- to-door crooning in behalf of the Democrats did more to stir up last year’s political excitement out this way than anything else that happened during the campaign.
Hollywood always has been a good sports town, and the Hollywood fan has rooted, bragged about and fought for his home-town teams with the fury usually attributed to the good citizens of Brooklyn. But he has been quiet of late. This past season Hollywood High’s football team didn’t win a single game and was beaten by the arch enemy, Fairfax High, 13-6. The Hollywood Stars, after a dull season, wound up sixth in the Coast League. There is talk that the Stars may become a farm of the New York Yankees, and most of the community hope that’s so, because Yankee cast-offs are usually of high quality and might help the local team get out of the rut.
There are several large redistribution centers in the vicinity of Hollywood and the first request of GIs home from overseas is a pass to visit the movie mecca. On a Saturday night ap proximately 60,000 GIs arrive in town; in 1944 alone the community played host to 3,000,000 servicemen. Civic leaders have gone out of their way to make a serviceman’s stay in town com fortable.
Moviedom’s contribution, the Hollywood and Hollywood Guild Canteens, have received na tional publicity, but the unsung people of this town—the homeowners, the workers, the apart ment dwellers—handle the major part of Holly wood’s effort to make visiting GIs happy. A local “Beds For Buddies” Committee, in a town with one of the acutest housing shortages in America, has scraped up regular week-end sleeping ac commodations for as many as 12,000 servicemen.
Each week end the Hollywood High Gym takes care of 1,000 GIs, and the school’s principal, Lewis F. Foley, has opened the school cafeteria on Sunday mornings, with the high-school girls acting as waitresses and dishwashers. “We fig ured that after a busy Saturday night,” Foley explains, “soldiers would be very hungry and slightly broke. We give them a breakfast of cereal, orange juice, bacon and eggs, toast, coffee and milk for 25 cents.”
The B’nai B’rith on Crescent Heights Boule vard, the Blessed Sacrament Church on Sunset and practically every other church in town are operating service canteens. The town has more than 20 canteens in all.
Besides being the symbol of glamor, star dust and make-believe to untold millions of movie goers the world over, Hollywood is also the cozy home town of approximately 16,000 GIs. The United States Employment Service has a veter ans’ section headed by a committee of 35 busi nessmen and civic leaders, most of whom are veterans of the first World War. These men al ready are helping discharged Joes get anything from a job to advice on where, and for how much, the wife can have that baby. Last year alone the veterans’ section of the USES helped 2,426 of the town’s vets obtain work.
Herman Joy, night principal at Hollywood High, is setting up free special courses for re turning service men. Class work will be stripped down to the essentials. “I think,” Mr. Joy ex-plains, “that the boy who went away to war will not be content to dawdle through a normal high- school course. He will be much older, for one thing, and also impatient to get started toward a career in life. If a boy wants to complete his education, we plan to make it as easy and as fast as possible for him.”
Hollywood has its own post-war plans, some of which are all set to start come the end of the duration. A $20,000,000 Hollywood Freeway, to cut diagonally across the business district, is one proposal. The Freeway, which is to be state- financed, will begin at Highland Avenue and Cahuenga Boulevard (just across from the Hol lywood Bowl) and end at the Santa Ana Free way, just north of the Post Office at North Main and Aliso Streets. Hollywoodites say it will be the most modern engineering job of its kind, with eight wide lanes and bridges over the busy streets.
Another project is a huge modern recreation center with two swimming pools, handball, ten nis and volleyball courts, two softball diamonds, a football field and a large main building that can be used both as a gym and a dance, hall. The recreation center will be situated at Santa Monica and Cahuenga Boulevards where the old M-G-M Studios used to be and where the circus pitched its tents a few years ago.
But the town today looks much the same as it did four years ago. White one-story houses with lawns in front remain the most popular type of home. The lawns, however, are not so well kept; it’s almost impossible these days to hire gar deners. While the streets are clean, nowadays you notice an occasional matchstick along the curb.
The weather this year has been unusually warm and for once the local Chamber of Commerce hasn’t had to exaggerate about the absence of rain; there were only three days of rain all winter.
Those scary Oriental wax figures that used to frighten you as you walked into Grauman’s Chi nese Theater are gone. So many souvenir hunt ers stole the clothing off them that the manage ment had to put the figures away. The usherettes at Grauman’s are as cute and as sassy as ever and still wear those slinky dresses, but most of the pert car-hops at Carpenter’s Drive-In have left for warrants. Everybody still goes around to the Warren pool parlor for a game of snooker, and Tom and Joe Griffin still operate the place. The Griffin boys have added another snooker table, but Joe hasn’t yet found the hair restorer that works, and Tom is as grouchy as ever.
Angelo, the midget who has been selling papers on the northeast corner of Wilcox and Hollywood Boulevards for more years than old-timers re member, is still getting stepped on by the Satur day-night crowds. He lost 45 bucks last year bet ting on the horses at Hollywood Park. Little Angelo’s horse system is still lousy.
All in all, the town hasn’t changed too much, and you won’t have a lot of trouble recognizing it. But if you get back any time soon, you will probably feel the same about Hollywood as old Sam Wong, the laundryman at 6430 Selma Ave nue. When somebody asked him how things were going, Sam grunted, “Too glom dlam blusy.”