Small-town heroes shine in WWII
by Linda Johnson
“Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen” by Bob Greene Nonfiction, May 2002 The time was December 1941. The place was North Platte, Nebraska.
On Christmas Day, some residents decided they should do something for the servicemen/ women coming through their tiny town on the troop trains. They created the North Platte Canteen, which was fully funded by volunteers in the town as well as surrounding farming communities.
No government subsidy was ever received for the canteen. The townspeople used their rationed coffee and sugar to bake pies and sweet treats and their rationed gasoline to deliver them to the Union Pacific train depot. No one knew what time of day the trains carrying the soldiers would arrive because that information needed to be secret, but there were always volunteers to serve the men and women, no matter what time they arrived, even after midnight.
The trains stopped for about 10 minutes, but in that time, the soldiers were treated to coffee, sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and anything the farming community might be able to supply. More than 6 million troops came through North Platte during World War II.
The stories in this inspiring book are told in the words of the volunteers and the servicemen/ women who came through the canteen. It transports readers to an era when people were unselfish. Those who couldn’t go to war did the next best thing. Is this a book about a miracle? Maybe. Is it a love story between a grateful country and its sons and daughters going off to war? Definitely.
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