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Tinman

Stage Door Canteen

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I know of two other individuals who are interested in and collect Stage Door Canteen memorabilia and that’s it. As a USAAF wing collector, I tend to notice anything wing shaped. The first time I saw a hostess wing in a friends collection I was hooked (became obsessed is more accurate). I’ve been collecting Canteen items for about seven years.

The Stage Door Canteen was started and directed by The American Theatre Wing at the beginning of WWII. Its’ purpose was to provide a safe, alcohol free place where soldiers, Marines, sailors and merchant seamen (who had their own specific Canteen) could come, relax, visit with and/or dance with young wholesome women. Often entertainment was provided by top entertainers of the day who volunteered their services.

Canteens were located in New York, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Francisco and other major cities in the U.S. Towards the end of the war there were Canteens in London and Paris.

The Canteens were closed at the Wars end. All of the records for all of the Canteens were stored in an individuals’ garage which subsequently burned to the ground. The American Theatre Wing website has a brief history of the Stage Door Canteen but request anyone with historical information to contact them.

Young women were recruited to work as hostesses. There uniform was normally a red, white and blue apron to be worn over an appropriate dress. The 2 ½” wide wing pins shown would be pined to their apron or their dress. Most of these sterling pins are very high quality jeweler made. The pin on the right is the early version which I believe is pewter and painted with enamel paint. The other pin is sterling silver, gold plated with white and red enamel. The mask is blue enamel paint.

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In addition to the hostess wings were a number of smaller pins worn by entertainers or volunteers, male and female, who donated their services to the canteen.

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There are several variations of these 1 ½” wide enamel pins which may have been souvenirs in addition to being given to volunteers.

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Hostesses were issued ID cards. At the end of their services they were given a large certificate of appreciation.

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The Philadelphia Canteen used unique insignia. I assume the large pin was worn by hostesses.

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If anyone has a relative who worked in any capacity with the Stage Door Canteen I would love to hear from you. The pin shown is a WWII Victory Guild of N.Y. Women pin which was associated with the American Theatre Wing. I contacted the ATW requesting information on the Guild. They responded that they had the exact type of pin in their collection but knew nothing about it. I can’t find any information myself. Anybody have a clue?

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The Hollywood Canteen was a separate entity with no affiliation to the Stage door Canteen. It was started and operated by Bette Davis and some of her colleagues. Hollywood’s top stars volunteered to entertain the troops, often sitting at their tables and shooting the breeze. The hostesses were young beautiful women, rising stars in their own right resulting in long lines of Gis’ waiting to get in. Items from the Hollywood Canteen are quite rare and have a much broader appeal, being of interest to Hollywood memorabilia collectors. This explains why I had to pay a small fortune for the certificate of appreciation singed by Bette Davis. The ID card is quite security oriented compared to the Stage Door Canteen ID, it’s laminated and required a thumb print.

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Postcard showing GIs' lined up to get into the Hollywood Canteen.

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Hello Tinman

I new of the Hollywood & Stage door canteens and the movies, but never new these outstanding wings and related Ephemera facet of the home front existed. I have seen many wings and spent a lot of effort searching sweetheart items but you have a totally unique and impressive collection. I can really appreciate the historical significant value of this collection.

 

I showed the photos to my wife she usually says "that's nice" when I show her something in my collection, but this time she exclaimed "WOW -Cool" " there so different than those wing things you have".

 

We both like things that contributed to the morale of Americans in WWII.

The people as well as the celebrities really did something important for the G.I. on the Home Front in these canteens.

 

I just seen Betty Davis on Turner Classic Movies give a (recorded) short public service statement for the War Bond program. "PRESENT WITH A FUTURE: BETTE DAVIS CHRISTMAS WAR BONDS TRAILER".She is shown giving 2 children (hers?) War Bonds instead of normal Christmas present. The kid says "ah gee mom can't I have a bicycle and a War Bond too"? You can see it on youtube.

 

Betty Davis did do a few tours in the canteens so that autograph is really outstanding too.

 

Cheers KEF

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Hi KEF,

 

Thanks for your comments. I gave a presentation on the Stage Door Canteen to the militaria club I belong to. The general impression I got was “Not a real manly thing to collect, to bad they didn’t make grenades on the side.” Oh well. As a follow up I’m posting a letter to Thelma Himmel (she died recently) from Bette Davis on Hollywood Canteen letterhead announcing that ‘Our picture’ (Stage Door Canteen) is finished. In addition I have a newspaper clipping for the premier of the movie “Are These Our Parents”. Thelma is the second from the left.

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What a gaff!!! I stated that the Hollywood Canteen was not affiliated with Stage Door Canteen. At the top of the Hollywood Canteen letterhead it is stated: ‘Affiliated with the American Theatre Wing (Stage Door Canteen)’. Please excuse. My point was to indicate that Bette Davis started the Hollywood Canteen.

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I have been collecting W.W.II militaria for a number of years and this is the first time that I have been made aware of these items. I have watched the old movie “Stage Door Canteen” on TCM and other period movies that had a similar theme but never have I run across any of these collectables. So far I have come back to this thread at least four times and I am still amazed at the items that you have posted, as well as the accompanying information. Thanks for posting your items and I look forward to seeing you add to it.

 

I should add that I did see an authentic Stage Door Canteen banner sell at one of our local militaria shows in 2010. The seller had picked it up in the L.A. area and has worked with the studios on a number of projects over the years. It sold to a dealer in southern CA., it was a great item. I do know the dealer so next time I see him I’ll ask him to send me a photo and I will post them. Gregg

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I have several different Hollywood Canteen picture Postcards and 3 of them are autographed by movie stars like Ray Milland and one of the Gabors and also Deb Stars I believed they called the new actresses. I got the Hollywood Canteen Postcards from an 8th AF 351 Bomb Group veteran who was at the Hollywood Canteen during WW II and got the stars autographs. He also gave me an original picture of Clark Gable, who was also in the 351st BG, standing in front of the Parachute Department of the Bomb Group with three enlisted men during WW II.

I'm downsizing my WW II Aviation collection and would like to price these items but I have no idea where to go to find out a price to put on them because they are a cross collectible item. If there's any serious interest in these items I'll try and take some clear pictures and put them on this Homefront & The War Effort site.

 

Mike

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Tinman ... This is a great collection and interest area. I wish, now after seeing some of your material, that I would have had an interest in this back during the WWII days even though I was only ten years old back in 1945.


“HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF AND PEOPLE REPEAT HISTORY"

http://www.freewebs.com/richardkimmel

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There are several variations of these 1 ½” wide enamel pins which may have been souvenirs in addition to being given to volunteers.

Nice collection.

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Very neat items!

 

I have a couple of Hollywood Canteen items - a few napkins and a small piece of paper with a lot of autographs (not anyone recognizable or "really" famous - no Betty Grables or anything).

 

I remember reading somewhere that employees/volunteers were not allowed to take aprons or pins or anything outside of the canteen, and had to turn them in at the end of their shift and then after the war when the canteens closed, which would explain why so little of this stuff has come up for sale. I saw a grouping on ebay a few years ago from the Hollywood Canteen that had the red, white & blue striped apron with a couple of pieces of paperwork (maybe an ID card). I was watching it, but it went out of my price range fairly quickly.

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I just found this thread. You have a great collection of some really historical homefront items. I have really enjoyed seeing these and thank you for posting them.

 

Congratulations on some fine pieces!! :thumbsup:


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Collecting WWII Armor and Tank Destroyer Items

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I have been collecting militaria over 50 years and this is the first time I ever heard of these historic goods. This is the reason this forum is the best. An amazing thread for sure. Thank you for posting it.


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I just found this thread. Neat collection you have there. I had heard of the organization, but didn't know about all the insignia. The only thing I have ever had is this picture I recently picked up. It was drawn by Katy Burchard on April 26, 1943 at the Stage Door Canteen in Cleveland, Ohio. It is not identified tot he soldier unfortunately. It and some newspapers on MacArthur's firing cost me a whole $5.

 

Fins...

 

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That wasn't friendly fire.. If I was being 'friendly', I wouldn't have fired at them!!!

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A very interesting thread! I'm glad I came across it. My contribution is this Hollywood Canteen postcard autographed on the back by none other than Jack Haley (Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz) It combines my interests in WWII AND vintage Hollywood so I couldn't pass it up when I found it. I got the auto verified by the AMA authentication services and it's the real deal! Hope you guys enjoy it.

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301st Medical and 301st Engineer Battalions


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Some things I’ve recently picked up. I’ve seen a photo of the 1” wide ATW pin being worn on a garrison cap. The 1 ¾” wide pin-back speaks for itself. I didn’t know there were Senior Hostesses.

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The Hollywood Canteen armband came with an original HC certificate of appreciation so I believe it’s legit even though it’s a very unusual design.

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