There's really no way to imagine just how important the North Platte Canteen was to young men and women on their way to or from the battlefields of World War II.
The words North Platte, Nebraska were music to the ears of troops that were in dire need of a pick-me-up.
The North Platte Canteen played a major role in the war effort from December of 1941 thru April of 1946.
The smiles in the pictures said it all. When the train stopped in North Platte it was time to replenish your belly and your spirit. Once the train would come to a stop in front of the North Platte depot the troops would jump out of the passenger cars and run straight to this building. This was the canteen and over a five year period, 6 million troops passed through the Canteen doors.
Historian Jim Griffin can picture the scene clearly in his mind, "Sometimes this was the first time they've been able to get off this train since they left the East coast or the West coast sot hey might have 10 or 15 minutes at the most to get off the train and come into the Canteen."
Jim says at the height of the war in 1944 and 1945, the Canteen served anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people in a day, "So you had a lot of troops to feed and those people and those people that were volunteering that day they're the ones that made the food too."
Five patriotic women led the charge in feeding up to 5,000 people in a 24 hour period, "They had to have enormous amounts of food, including approximately at the height of the war about 70 fried chickens every day . They had to have a thousand bottles of milk."
Add in 36 birthday cakes, 100 pounds of ham, 2,000 buns and 23 pounds of butter...every day!
Once inside, it was first come, first served. Regardless of age, rank or skin color, "There was no segregation. If a private that was African American got there first he got in line first and the colonel got in line last if that was the case."
And everything was free of charge, "It was funded by private donations."
It took approximately $150,000 dollars to operate the Canteen over 5 years.