AUGUST 10, 1942
HYDE PARK, Sunday—I did not have space on Friday to tell you that last Thursday evening I went to a meeting held on the stage of the National Theatre in Washington. The American Theatre Wing War Service, Inc., which sponsors the Stage Door Canteen in New York City, was organizing the Washington Stage Door Canteen.
Miss Helen Hayes, a Washington girl, is going to head it. We all had supper and then the speeches began, presided over by Mr. Brock Pemberton, the New York play producer. I imagine there were more stars treading the boards than ever had been on that stage at one time before.
Playwrights, actors, actresses, the union representative of the stage hands, businessmen, lawyers, all those interested in the theatre were represented. The speeches made tears come to many eyes. The theme was that if Washington undertook to run a stage door canteen, there would be plenty of work for everyone who could give time or money, and a very rich reward in personal experience. The stories about the boys drove home this fact.
One of the rules of the Stage Door Canteen is that the hostesses may not go out with any of the boys. One man, who has been coming regularly for a long time, invited the senior hostess and one or two others over to Governor's Island for an entertainment, saying: "You see we are only allowed to ask our families, but two of my boys have been killed in this war, and you are the only family I have, so won't you please come?"
Running the Canteen in Washington isn't going to be easy, if it is as popular as the one in New York City. It will require an enormous amount of food and a great deal of talent to keep the show going night after night.
The boys themselves contribute considerable talent. I have an idea that down here we might feature community singing. A good many boys come from places where they are familiar with folk music and many people in Washington know a great deal about that particular branch of American art.
Friday afternoon in Washington, I received the members of the Institute on World Problems of the World Federation of Education Association. They were a most interesting group. I should have liked to spend more time with them, but since I had been unable to obtain space on a plane, I had to leave them to say good-bye to Her Majesty, the Queen of the Netherlands, and take a 4:00 o'clock train for New York City.
I returned to Washington on the midnight train and yesterday attended the dedication of the new Meridian Hill Hotel. It has been built for government workers and we hope will be a help in the housing situation.