4. “Exporting Morale”

North Platte Nebraskas historical North Platte CanteenThese volunteers baked and fried countless amounts of food. In one month in 1945, there was an effort to count exactly how much was being distributed. Its total follows:

40,161 cookies

30,679 hard boiled eggs

6,547 doughnuts

6,939 cup, loaf, and birthday cakes

2,845 pounds of sandwich meat

12 dozen different items in similar proportions

Of these items, the most memorable was the birthday cakes. A tradition of the North Platte Canteen, begun in 1942, was to give every serviceman celebrating a birthday on the day that he/she visited the canteen a birthday cake. Approximately 20 cakes were given away each day.

Angel food cakes were the most popular and even farm women, with access to more eggs than many of their city counterparts would sometimes have to be creative. One woman, finding she did not have the requisite 13 eggs contacted a local turkey farm and obtained turkey eggs. The resulting cake took only six of these eggs and no one new the difference.

After having baked an angel food cake there were lots of egg yokes leftover. Being the resourceful Midwesterners that they were, the women would make homemade mayonnaise with them. The result was yellow mayonnaise for sandwiches.

Among the food prepared for the canteen were popcorn balls. These treats were handed out by the platform girls. These teenage girls (16 years and older) would stand out on the depot platform with baskets of fruit, cigarettes, candy, popcorn balls, and many other items. They would give soldiers that were unable to get off the train these goodies. Some of these girls placed their names and addresses in the popcorn balls. The canteen leadership did not approve of this but it did not stop it from happening. Pen pals soon began to spring up. At least one marriage occurred because of this tradition, that of Ethel and Virgil Butolph. There story is presented at the museum.