Here are some numbers... During WW II, over 16 million Americans served in the Armed Forces. Thousands of young soldiers would spend 5-7 days on troop trains going from the West Coast to the East Coast, and vice versa. These young soldiers, many in their teens, were away from home for the first time...headed off to Basic Training, or, after their training, off to an overseas assignment.
On December 17, 1941, just ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the town of North Platte, Nebraska, got word that their boys in the National Guard, Company D, would be on a train coming through town. 500 townspeople went to the station to greet their soldiers. With cookies, candy, cigarettes, sandwiches, they went with hearts full of love and well wishes.
But they had the wrong information -- and the soldiers of Company D on the train were from Kansas. The people of North Platte shared their gifts with these young soldier strangers from a different state...and wished them well. And that was the start of something big...really, really big...
|One woman wrote a letter and said she had never felt better about anything she had ever done. And why can't they do this for ALL THE SOLDIERS who would be coming through town?|
|AND SO THEY DID...|
I was so inspired by this story, I WANTED TO LEARN MORE...so I read this book -- which I highly recommend!
|By the time Bob Greene decided to write about the Phenomenon of the North Platte Canteen (2003), most of the players were in their 80's or 90's...|
The 10 minutes they spent in the North Platte Canteen became a memory those soldiers treasured for the rest of their lives. One soldier wrote, "you treated us like royalty. I have never before experienced such kindness, and I will never forgot it..."
As a matter of fact, the North Platte Canteen became a common topic for soldiers in every theater of WW II. Whether they were on the beaches of Normandy, in a POW camp in Indonesia, or on a ship in the middle of the Pacific, whenever soldiers or sailors would get together, somebody would ask, "so, did you ever go through North Platte, Nebraska?"
The most remarkable thing is that the citizens of North Platte accomplished all this during a time of severe shortages and rationing. Without a dime of government help or a single paid employee...
How did they do it? Well, it couldn't have been easy...
For example, chicken eggs were prized by farm families, and sold for their own grocery money. But one woman knew the local turkey hatchery discarded the eggs that had been candled and weren't fertilized, so she collected those eggs and made ten angel food cakes every week, using every bit of her own sugar ration, as well as the rations of her family and neighbors...
Meat was expensive and scarce, but pheasants were plentiful. The limit at the time was 12 birds a day per hunter -- so the men and boys hunted pheasants and the women created ways to cook and serve pheasant meat. They fried, it, stewed it, or made loose meat sandwiches out of it...they ground it, used it to make chili, or smoked it to make lunch meat.
|The North Platte Canteen was open 24 hours a day and met every single train, and fed every single soldier...|
By the time the war ended, the Canteen in North Platte, Nebraska had served over 6 million soldiers.