Saga, indeed, I never wrote a saga before ...
In the bottom drawer of my desk, there is sturdy wooden box, about large enough to hold the exciting Britannica book “GUNN - HYDROX.” In that box, there are a dozen or so memorabilia from my service days in World War II. To each of the dozen, there are many memories, and in off moments, it is a joy to savor what is there and to wonder why there are so few things. Campaign ribbons, dog tags, old V-Mail letters and fading photographs, things like that; meaningless, perhaps except to my kids, who demand more from them than just looking at what appears to some as junk.
One item I have is an envelope with three Original Post Cards showing the North Platte, Nebraska Canteen. These Original Post Cards, reproduced elsewhere on this web site, kicked off a series of events that transcends.
I got to wondering if there was anything in or around North Platte to commemorate the Canteen. The WEB soon gave me Martin Steinbeck, local North Platte citizen. In almost less time than it takes to tell, Martin, armed with a very modern digital camera and a very old and honorable sense of history, went out to find the Canteen. Off to local museums, he turned up several places where the canteen exists in historical markers, museum archives, and in carefully worded essays from such places as the Union Pacific Railroad records. He even aroused the curiosity of Gary Reber, the editor of the North Platte Telegraph (newspaper).
Not satisfied with that, Martin created this WEB site. It is altogether fitting and proper that he should do that, in that memories of the Canteen exist in the minds of many Americans all over the country.
Evidently, two events converged, back in 1941-46. One was the absolute need to service the steam locomotives that drew trains full of US Servicemen in transit between Chicago and the west coast. This servicing caused the typical train to be in the North Platte Station for 30 or 40 minutes, thus precipitating the second event.
The ordinary citizens of North Platte opened the canteen, where in they dispensed the usual coffee, chewing gum and playing cards. Standard things, really. But, more than that, the good folk greeted, maybe hundreds of thousands of GI’s in the middle of a 60 hour train ride. They, especially the matronly ladies and teenage daughters, gave a surrogate “mom and girl next door” warmth. From the hearts of those good people and from the heartland of the USA, there was an outpouring of this TLC, 24 hours a day round the clock, the week and the calendar.
The North Platte Canteen was not the celebrity top heavy, PR driven (and very nice) Hollywood Canteen, where local GI’s could visit on a week end pass. No. This canteen served many whose entire visit to the state of Nebraska was less than one hour long.
It is fitting that this canteen be saluted in the medium of a WEB site, a plaque, a vertical file of yellowed newspaper clippings. In a hundred years from now, that will be all well and good, like a glass case containing Civil War Battle flags. But this is here and this is now, and this is a living slice of Americana.
This WEB site, which Martin chooses to start with the Saga of Frank Nolte, should be a living museum, cherished in the warm memories of the people who never left North Platte and those who never went back.
So, Martin, Gary, Union Pacific Railroad, North Platte people, my fellow vets all over, and the kind reader of this text, I raise my cup to toast you. Oh, yes, there is only coffee in the cup. If you believe that, I will sell you a North Platte Historical site.
Frank Nolte aka Franken793@AOL.COM
24806 West Outer Drive Lincoln Park, Michigan 48146-1238 313-382-9460