The North Platte Canteen was one of the largest volunteer efforts of World War II. It began on December 17, 1941 when the families and friends of the local Nebraska National Guard unit (Company D) came to the North Platte Depot to give them their Christmas presents. As the train pulled into the depot, the families began to crowd up to the train cars in anticipation. The excitement abruptly came to an end as they looked up and down the train for their boys and none were to be found. Company D had really come, but it was from the Kansas National Guard.
Everyone stood in disbelief, but finally, one person stepped forward and gave their presents to the troops. Soon, everyone else followed. The amazement and happiness expressed by the soldiers at receiving these gifts sparked an idea in Rae Wilson’s mind.
Wilson, a local store clerk, wrote into the North Platte Daily Bulletin newspaper the next day to raise support for a canteen that would meet every troop train stopping in North Platte. She figured, if the North Platte Red Cross ladies could run a canteen during World War I, it could be done again. Little did she know how big the effort would become.