On a cold winter evening, December 17, 1941, a group of friends and family members from North Platte stood on the Union Pacific Depot staring with dismay at a troop of soldiers disembarking from the train. The parents, grandparents, children, sweethearts and friends had heard through the grapevine that their own soldiers, Company D of the Nebraska National Guard would be stopping on their way to war.
Only now, there wasn't a familiar face to be seen as the confused soldiers stared back at them in confusion. It was National Guard Company D all right, only the boys were from Kansas, not Nebraska.
One courageous young woman, Rae Wilson, stepped forward, declaring that these soldiers would enjoy the gifts she had brought. The rest of the crowd followed suit, passing out the home made foods and hand made gifts to the surprised and grateful soldiers.
Seventy years this month will have passed since that act of unparalleled generosity... what makes it unparalleled is that Rae Wilson spearheaded the effort to do the same thing EVERY TIME a troop train passed through town. On Christmas Day, the Canteen opened in the Union Pacific Depot and went on to operate for 54 months, meeting every single troop train until eventually 55,000 volunteers served more than six million service men and women.
To commemorate the anniversary, artist Denis Hurst penned and performed a tribute to the North Platte Canteen:
God bless our men and women in uniform, and those volunteers who showed them so much love so long ago.
Thanks for stopping by. As with the old-time signal of an approaching troop train "Put the coffee pot on!"