Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 17, 1941 - the North Platte Canteen

You know how rumors go in a small town... they fly around faster than the speed of today's social media. That's how it was back on December 17, 1941. The rumor spread throughout North Platte that their own Company D of the Nebraska National Guard would be coming through town on a troop train.

You can imagine the excitement as moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, children and sweethearts began collecting anything and everything they thought their loved ones might appreciate on this day so close to Christmas. When the time came, nearly the entire town was gathered at the North Platte Depot to welcome their loved ones.

The train pulled to a stop and the soldiers got out to stretch their legs, probably more than a little bemused to see the townsfolk waiting for them. Because, you see, it wasn't Nebraska's National Guard, but the Kansas National Guard who were aboard the train.

The silence stretched on, becoming uncomfortable as neither side knew quite what to do. Finally, a townsperson broke the silence. "I'm not going to take my goodies back home... let's give them to these boys." And so, though they couldn't share with their own service men, the North Platte folks shared with the boys from Kansas.


Later that week, Rae Wilson, who had been on the platform waiting to greet her brother, wrote a letter to the editor urging people to get behind the idea of opening a Canteen to serve the men and women who would be traveling across the country to make their way to the front lines of the war. North Platte took her suggestions to heart, and on Christmas Day 1941, the North Platte Canteen opened its doors. Over the next 54 months, more than six million service men and women would spend ten minutes that they never forgot in the loving presence of those men and women from North Platte.

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