Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen” as Want to Read:
Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,651 ratings  ·  386 reviews
In search of "the best America there ever was," bestselling author and award-winning journalist Bob Greene finds it in a small Nebraska town few people pass through today—a town where Greene discovers the echoes of the most touching love story imaginable: a love story between a country and its sons.

During World War II, American soldiers from every city and walk of life rol
Paperback, 264 pages
Published May 6th 2003 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Once Upon a Town, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,651 ratings  ·  386 reviews

Sort order
Jul 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
I wanted to buy this book when it first came out, but didn't. Glad I didn't pay $22 for it. I found a copy at a book sale at the Cooperstown Library for 50 cents.

The book is about a really fantastic community effort that took place in WWII - a small town in Nebraska that decided to meet troop trains that stopped in its town for only ten minutes each. So, they set up the North Platte, Nebraska, "Canteen."

Along with a dozen other towns, some of them one hundred miles away, volunteers provided san
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This was a great true story of the North Platte Canteen.
Jason Kurtz
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
"Once Upon a Town" is the true story of the North Platte Canteen. What is that? Well, on December 25, 1941, just 18 days after Pearl Harbor, the women of North Platte realized that many troop trains were stopping through their Nebraska town crossing over to the Pacific side of the U.S. They decided to meet the servicemen on the trains for Christmas, because it was supposed to be Nebraska boys. It turned out to be Kansas servicemen, but it didn't matter, they gave them all of their Christmas gift ...more
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked up this book because the place name North Platte seemed familiar to me. Finally, it dawned that we had stayed there overnight on our epic road trip from Crystal Lake, Illinois to San Francisco, California, and back in 2011. We traveled in a loop going through a total of twelve States. According to my blog, we had visited Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska earlier that day in a sweltering 96ºF! Anyway, I digress.

I truly thought this would be an interesting and heartwarming read about t
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
What a heart warming book this is! This is the story of North Platte, Nebraska during World War II. Troop trains enroute to their ultimate destinations in Europe and the Pacific pass through this small community daily. Every day of the year, every day of the war, the people who live there ban together to form the North Platte Canteen where homemade food, entertainment, and recognition is given to soldiers during their brief stop. Staffed and funded entirely by volunteers, by the end of the war, ...more
Linda Hart
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The North Platte Canteen: who knew it ever existed? This is nice feel-good nonfiction about a remarkable group of ladies who brought their small community together for the servicemen in WWII. Somewhat repetitious but a true account that is uplifting and optimistic. Journalist Bob Greene tells an interesting story showing the extraordinary patriotism of the times. Favorite tongue-in-cheek quote: “The interstates were meant to be the national bypass-the way to avoid taking things slow, to avoid lo ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although I didn't find this book particularly well written, it is a book I would suggest to every friend. I think that it is a book that reminds the reader who we - many of the world's citizenry - once were. It is a story of sacrifice, of patriotism, of loving kindness. It is also a story of the tremendous difference individuals can make in the life/lives of others. I have already recommended the book and have begun the process of sharing my copy with as many friends as I am able.
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
It was a monumental act of generosity that kept the North Platte Canteen in operation from 1941 to 1945, offering food, drink, and gratitude to the multitude of troop trains carrying young servicemen through Nebraska during WWII. Greene's book is a tribute to those who made it possible - a scrapbook of memories recalled by men and women who are now in their 70s, 80s and older.

Through scores of interviews, he is able to capture again the excitement, the emotions, and the utter innocence of that p
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
A feel-good read that a friend in Belgium sent me after her bookclub read it. Why didn't we know about it here??? The book centers around the small town of North Platte, Iowa, that accomplished an extraordinary feat. The people of this area met every troop train with food and drinks for the entire 6+ years of the WWII. Families saved their sugar rations so they could bake cakes for the soldiers, farmers wives saved their eggs and then took 10-12 dozen boiled eggs to share, beef was donated, cook ...more
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an amazing true-life account about one Mid Western town and its citizen's efforts to support military troops during the second world war. The account is largely based on memories recalled during personal interviews and by historical newspaper articles.

I found this book to be heartbreaking and and the story was truly touching. The writing did seem to wander a bit, but the author does a good job of weaving together multiple eyewitness accounts with other elements of the story.

While the m
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing! This was something I was completely clueless of. I had no idea what soldiers went through in the US before being shipped off to Europe, the Pacific or else where during WW2.
I'm astounded by the sacrifice this community in Nebraska gave. It was a time when Americans were truely proud of their country and showed it through respect by giving their time resources and service to others. And in a time with rationing and all together a lot less. Some farm houses didn't even have electricity y
Becky Loader
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
You have to admire a town in Nebraska whose townfolk met every troupe train that went through it during WWII. The people were planning to meet the train with their own boys on it, but when that wasn't the case, they went ahead and provided the troupes with treats, coffee, and companionship. That started the tradition of meeting every train because they were ALL their boys.

Bob Greene is a newspaper reporter, and he has a very irritating style of writing. I wanted him to spend more time on the pe
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
America in all her glory....when people truly cared for each other.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So interesting! My dad recommended this book to me and it was worth the read. An interesting piece of history.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Bob Greene is a newspaper columnist and each chapter of this book could have been written for a newspaper column. Someone gave me a copy of the book and I was trying to remember why I was reading it. Our town is reading this book for a "Reads" program and all the local book discussion groups are discussing it in the next month or two. It seems like an odd selection for this because it is non-fiction and he makes a few grammatical errors in the book--not enough to discourage the reader.

World War
Apr 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
I read Once Upon a Town while working on a musical adaptation of it, about which the less said the better. It was pretty impressive to read about so many towns around North Platte putting so much work into creating and maintaining the North Platte Canteen. It was also pretty impressive to hear about the long-lasting memories our servicemen kept of the kindness they found there. It was absolutely stunning to feel the matter-of-factness in the voices of the participants, years afterwards, as they ...more
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Here's what I loved about this book: the story of the town of North Platte and all those fantastic people that dreamed up and worked the Canteen that brought joy and a moment of good cheer to millions of soldiers during WWII. Anyone writing about this story has a good chance at producing an interesting and captivating read, simply because the facts are so amazing. I have fallen in love with that Canteen and all those that supported it and made it a reality. A wonderful glimpse into the potential ...more
Tiffany Cannon
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever find yourself losing faith in humanity, this story is a great reminder that there is truly a goodness in people. During a time when everyone was scrimping and saving and making do, the people of North Platte and the surrounding areas did whatever they could to provide the soldiers that were passing through their humble town with a homecooked meal, a few moments of entertainment, and a whole lot of kindness. Despite the rationing of supplies, and the shortage of money, these people al ...more
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unbelievable True Story of a Truly Patriotic City

Wow!. What an incredible story. I had never heard of the Canteen in North Platte, Nebraska, but now I want to tell everyone about it!. What the residents did during WWII is absolutely inspiring. The sacrifices the citizens of North Platte and surrounding communities made to show their love and appreciation for American service members is beyond comparison. I've never heard of anything like this. The Canteen had a lasting impact on the millions of
Dan Verner
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Bob Greene chronicles the story of the North Platt (Nebraska) Canteen, where from Christmas Day, 1941 until April, 1946, volunteers met trainloads of servicemen and women stopping for ten to twenty minutes at the Union Pacific station with food, coffee, encouragement, hugs and love. Greene went to great lengths to track down the people from the area who, in spite of meager resources, came together to feed and welcome literally millions of young men and women who were just "passing through." He a ...more
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book, maybe because my dad was in WWII. Greene tells the sweet story of the people in the small town of North Platte, Neb. and how they banded together to welcome and feed the boys on the troop trains that passed through their town. The boys only stayed at the North Platte Canteen for 10 minutes before moving on to war. This was a 10 minutes they never forgot. I could see this as required reading for young people who have little idea of the warmth and hospitality of peopl ...more
Dec 09, 2008 rated it liked it
This was a nice uplifting book. It kind of reminded me of a Mitch Albolm with it's romantic way of looking at life. In fact, it got a little too romanticized in places which led to drawn out dreamy depictions of what seemed like a run-of-the-mill midwestern town, and it kind of turned me off. Still, what the Americans of North Platte put together during WWII was really quite amazing. The stories are great. Unfortunately, it wasn't compelling enough for me to finish. I guess I'm not warm and fuzz ...more
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was an easy read book all about North Platte Nebraska and what they did for the military men going off to World War 11. I remember my Uncle going off to war and seeing him off at the railroad station. I wonder now if he was one of those who were treated so kindly in North Platte. I do remember him saying that the Red Cross was at the front lines while they were being confronted by the enemy. They were selling the coffee and donuts. A far cry from North Platte who was giving it for free. A w ...more
Aug 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Tremendously interesting story about a Nebraska town that fed every soldier that came through on troop trains for five years. Thousands a day. Incredible dedication to "our boys" which did not go unappreciated. But Greene gets bogged down in what has become of North Platte since the war and the death of passenger trains. I would have liked more info on how the town and surrounding area were able to organize and pull off such a massive undertaking.
Apr 04, 2012 is currently reading it
Both my grandfather and grandmother on my mother's side came froma nearby community. While they had moved to Colodado by that time, their siblings and Aunts and Uncles were the people who were part of this miracle.simple and humble people doing a great thing. It seems almost impossible that a place like this could exist,but it did.
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
I didn't actually finish reading this book. The fundament story of the people of North Platte who met every train carrying soldiers through their town with homemade food, drinks and entertainment during WWII was really cool. The book contained some fun and inspiring stories, but it was a bit too long and got kind of boring.
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is my new favorite book. It makes me want to do more for those around me and make my community what this one was during the war years. It is a delightful read. I really needed a book like this as the world around me seems to abound in conflict. What would it be like if we all just cared about each other?
Nov 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Heard the author on NPR. This is a touching story about a town who pulled out all the stops to make soldiers of WWII have something special when the train stopped.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Three stars is not a bad review. In fact, I am recommending this to everybody, because it is an uplifting and inspiring story. I'll explain.
Bob Greene did a fantastic job of researching for this book. He brought in stories from former soldiers of World War II, went looking for anyone that had ever stopped in the North Platte Canteen. He found the people that volunteered there. He went back to North Platte itself. The story? The North Platte Canteen existed during the war specifically to serve t
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The trains 1 7 Nov 03, 2013 01:06PM  
WW II History 2 21 Jan 09, 2013 05:32PM  
  • The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey
  • Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis
  • Lee The Last Years
  • Of Courage Undaunted: Across the Continent with Lewis & Clark
  • Old Jules
  • Eat My Words: Reading Women's Lives Through the Cookbooks They Wrote
  • Evil Obsession the Annie Cook Story
  • A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life
  • It Is Well with My Soul: The Extraordinary Life of a 106-Year-Old Woman
  • Song of Survival: Women Interned
  • Prepared for a Purpose: The Inspiring True Story of How One Woman Saved an Atlanta School Under Siege
  • My War
  • The Journey's Echo: Selections from Freya Stark (Travels)
  • George Washington's War: The Forging of a Revolutionary Leader and the American Presidency
  • Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend
  • The Fracture Zone: My Return to the Balkans
  • Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier's Perspective
  • The Children
Robert Bernard Greene, Jr., who writes as Bob Greene, is a journalist.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
“North Platte, Nebraska, is about as isolated as a small town can conceivably be. It’s in the middle of the middle of the country, alone out on the plains; it is hours by car even from the cities of Omaha and Lincoln. Few people venture there unless they live there, or have family there.” 1 likes
More quotes…