JULY 14, 1944
HYDE PARK, Thursday—When we arrived at the Poughkeepsie station yesterday evening, we waited and looked around hopefully, not knowing whether the artists the War Entertainment Board had promised to send up were really on the train. In a few minutes they appeared and we were off, stopping for a few minutes at the cottage to collect the most important mail, and leaving Miss Thompson to spend the rest of the evening toiling over the accumulation of mail which had gathered in the few days we were gone.
While I was indoors, one of our youngest summer guests made friends with Mr. Williston, the magician of the evening, who did a trick for him, making his thumb disappear. The child was so excited that his mother had to put him under the shower to calm him down before he went to bed. Later, my small grandson was fascinated by the sleight of hand tricks which he could not understand either.
We then proceeded over to the big house, and the artists had time for only a very short rehearsal before and after dinner. By eight forty-five we started for the servicemen's canteen. This canteen is really an achievement, since a committee of enlisted men themselves run it with the aid of about 80 women from the village of Hyde Park who serve on different committees. They had transformed the old boat house on the Vanderbilt place, and it looked very attractive. They found a few chairs and tables to put around outside, and a little paint and bunting did the rest. Of course we had to have a bad thunderstorm, and even though you know it is good for the crops, you can't help being annoyed if it breaks up your party.
However, there were strong and willing hands to bring the piano in, and the orchestra moved indoors very rapidly. The dancing began, and then the show went on. The soldiers and the girls brought by the Red Cross Motor Corps from Poughkeepsie, as well as the committee of the evening from Hyde Park, and the wives of the men, sat on the floor and enjoyed the show. Mr. Williston did wonderful tricks. Mr. Burns, the ventriloquist, used his dummy very effectively, and finally Mr. Zero Mostel kept them all in roars of laughter. In spite of the shortness of the rehearsal, Miss Helen Madison managed to accompany everything on the piano in the right way, and the show was a great success.
As I looked at the artists and realized the heat of the night, and how difficult it was to perform in such a small space, I was even more grateful than usual to the generosity which keeps these people going to entertain big and small groups of servicemen all over the country and in faraway places. The refreshments served by the Hyde Park women were very good and much appreciated by all.