Today, we at The Telegraph officially re-present North Platte’s and western Nebraska’s finest hour.
You’re all invited to join us from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center for the release of “Canteen: As It Happened,” featuring the best of our ancestor papers’ real-time coverage of the World War II Canteen.
Special projects reporter Todd von Kampen, who compiled and edited our book, and retired “Reporter at Large” Sharron Hollen, who wrote its epilogue, will be on hand to sign copies.
Books will be available for sale at the party, but if you preordered yours for pickup at the newspaper, you can pick them up today at the party or starting Monday at our offices. Books preordered to deliver to your home should arrive soon.
If you haven’t yet bought a copy, we’ll have plenty at the paper. You’ll also find them at our other major sponsors: the Golden Spike Tower, the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau and the Lincoln County Historical Museum, whose Canteen photo archive provided most of the pictures you’ll see throughout our book.
We’re thankful for all our partners, but especially for the museum’s immediate enthusiasm when we approached its leaders.
Not until we started work did we learn of their interest in an expansion project to update the museum’s Canteen exhibits and reproduce the Canteen room itself.
If the funds can be raised, those features would sit behind a false-front scale replica of the trainside entrance to the beloved, deeply missed 1918 Union Pacific Depot where kindness flowered daily from Christmas 1941 to April 1946.
How appropriate it would be if the Canteen’s real front doors, now the current museum’s front doors, could again reveal something like the scene those 6 million service visitors saw.
We’re also grateful for your advance response to our book project. This story, after all, belongs to all of us fortunate to call ourselves western Nebraskans (along with our northeast Colorado neighbors who also pitched in at the Canteen).
It was a worldwide story in its day. It needs to be told, and retold, so it isn’t forgotten when the last people who experienced it leave us.
It needs to be retold because it’s becoming dangerously out of fashion to so love our fellow human beings that we’ll come together and do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to care for each other and reassure each other that we’re not alone.
Nebraskans still know how to do this, as the aftermath of March’s blizzards and floods has shown. And because of those World War II Canteen volunteers, and their World War I predecessors, we have a century’s worth of examples in North Platte and our region that still inspire us.
Without them, would we respond so quickly if a similar worldwide peril suddenly confronted us? We’d like to think so — though, as you’ll read in our book, there were a few doubters and dissenters in North Platte in the Canteen’s first months.
What overcame those doubts? It was the power of faith and love among those women who brought the Canteen to life. They refused no one, whether they were helpers or customers. They inspired their community, then their region, then a nation.
You’ll read a list of thank-yous in the pages of our book. But our last thank-yous here belong to those people who modeled and still inspire the very best in ourselves in these parts.
We remember Anna Bogue and her World War I Red Cross Canteen volunteers, who gave birth to “Canteen Spirit” exactly 100 years ago.
Rae Wilson, who remembered their example and ran with it in those first dark days after Pearl Harbor.
Helen Christ, Jessie Hutchens, Edna Neid, Rose Loncar, Mayme Wyman and Opal Smith, the Canteen officers who kept Rae’s dream going when she no longer could.
And so many, named and unnamed, among the 55,000 people in those 125 Canteen Honor Roll communities to whom this day also belongs.
Come see us this afternoon. We hope that you enjoy “Canteen: As It Happened” and that it helps to ensure our region’s finest hour will never die.