Once upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen

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9780060093877: Once upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen

North Platte, Nebraska, is a solitary outpost in the vast midwestern plains. But from Christmas Day 1941 to the end of WorId War II, American soldiers rolled through the town on troop trains, en route to their ultimate destinations in Europe and the Pacific. The tiny town transformed its modest railroad depot into the North Platte Canteen -- a place where soldiers could enjoy food, music, and friendly conversation during a stopover that lasted only a few minutes. Every day of the war, the Canteen -- staffed and funded entirely by local volunteers -- provided the weary, homesick soldiers with the encouragement they needed to help them through the difficult times ahead. By war's end, people from a town of just twelve thousand had served more than six million GIs.

In this poignant and heartwarming eyewitness history, based on interviews with North Platte residents and the GIs who once passed through, Bob Greene unearths and reveals a classic, lost-inthe-mists-of-time American story of a grateful country honoring its brave and dedicated sons.

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Review:

Millions of American soldiers, many of whom had never left their hometowns before, crossed the nation by rail during the years of World War II on their way to training camps and distant theaters of battle. In a little town in Nebraska, countless thousands of them met with extraordinary hospitality--the "miracle" of veteran journalist Bob Greene's title. "The best America there ever was. Or at least, whatever might be left of it." So Greene writes of North Platte, now a quiet town along the interstate, its main street all but dead. It was a quiet town then, too, at the outbreak of the war, but still a hive of activity as its citizens gathered to provide, at their own expense, coffee, sandwiches, books, playing cards, and time to the scared young men who rolled through by the trainload, "telling them that their country cared about them." Greene's pages are full of the voices of those who were there, soldiers and townspeople alike, who took part in what amounted to small acts of heroism, given the shortages and rationing of the time. Greene, generous in his praise if rather disheartened by the modern world, against which he contrasts the past, turns in a remarkable account of the home front. It deserves the widest audience. ---Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Award-winning journalist Bob Greene is the author of six New York Times bestsellers and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Op-Ed page.

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