Once Upon a Town
By Bob Greene
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During World War II, American soldiers from every city and walk of life rolled through North Platte, Nebraska on troop trains, en route to Europe and the Pacific. The tiny town transformed its modest railroad depot into the North Platte Canteen — a place where soldiers could enjoy coffee, music, home-cooked food, magazines, and friendly conversation during a stopover that lasted only a few minutes. It provided homesick military personnel with the encouragement they needed to help them through the difficult times ahead. Every day of the war, the Canteen — staffed and funded entirely by local volunteers from the community of twelve thousand — was open from 5 a.m. until the last troop train of the day pulled away after midnight. By war's end they provided welcoming words, friendship, and baskets of food to more than six million GIs.
Based on interviews with North Platte residents and the GIs who once passed through, Bob Greene unearths and reveals a classic, lost-in-the-mists-of-time American story of a grateful country honoring its brave and dedicated sons.