loren Eric Swanson: Once Upon a Town

Friday, August 26, 2005

Once Upon a Town

Earlier this summer I spoke to the staff of Campus Crusade's Military Ministry at their bi-annual gathering in Fort Collins. Part of their theme and motif was taken from something that happened over 60 years ago in North Platte Nebraska. From Christmas Day 1941 to the last day of WWII the small town of 12,000, during a time of rationing, met every troop train with sandwiches, fried chicken, cakes, cupcakes, popcorn balls etc, from 5am in the morning til midnight, every day of the year...every day of the war.

The idea came about quite by accident. The town folk, hearing that soldiers from Nebraska were to have a brief stopover in North Platte, organized to meet them with food, letters and cigarettes. The troops were actually from Kansas but the effect of meeting the soldiers and feeling so appreciated was transformational. The following day twenty-six year old Rae Wilson wrote a letter to the Daily Bulletin suggesting the town meet every troop train with food and love. She volunteered to lead the effort. Other towns, hearing of their efforts, joined in. Some 125 towns of Nebraska and Colorado volunteered to meet the troops (sometimes up to 32 trains a day) with food and love during their brief stop in North Platte. By the time the war was over they had served six million soldiers!

Often, the young women would include their names and addresses inside cakes and popcorn balls so the boys would have someone to correspond with. More than a few of these long distance relationships ended in long marriages.

The train station and canteen were torn down in the early 70's but the memory of what happened during those four magical years remains.

From the story of North Platte,
  • What can we learn about movements?
  • What can we learn about volunteers?
  • What can we learn about a noble cause?
  • What can we learn about leadership?


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