Friday, October 21, 2005
The North Platte Canteen
Right here in little ol' Nebraska, in a small town right in the middle of the state, stood the North Platte Canteen. During World War II, troop trains from all over the country went through North Platte every single day. And every single day, they would stop at the Canteen for a short time - usually no longer than 10-15 minutes - and disembark. There they found something they did not expect...
Food. Smiles. Thank you's. Birthday cakes. Hot cups of coffee. Warm sandwiches. Music. Pretty girls to dance with. Popcorn balls. Magazines. Women that reminded them of sisters, wives, girlfriends...mothers.
Bob Greene wrote a fabulous book called Once Upon A Town about this remarkable place. It was so remarkable, in fact, that many a World War II soldier would talk about the Canteen to other soldiers and more often than not would get an enthusiastic, "I've been there! It was wonderful" Years later, when Greene found these veterans and interviewed them about the Canteen, they choked up, tears coming to their eyes, as they recalled the overwhelming kindness shown to them by those small-town Nebraskans.
It's a book that makes you feel good and puts you right back into the 1940's. But more importantly, it shares the story of people willing to sacrifice their own comforts for others...for those defending their country.