Wednesday, June 15

Twice Upon A Town

There is a book on my keeper bookshelf that is different from any other book. It stands next to love letters sent by the Reagan's one one another, a book of poetry by Jewel, and a few well-worn romances from my teenage years, and I can open it randomly and know exactly what is going on.

The year before RadioMan and I got married we moved to a little town in Nebraska called North Platte. It's a western town in every sense of the word - surrounded by the Sandhills, rich in cattle ranches (my boss at the TV station liked to say if they based the ratings books on cattle, we'd be the number one station in the country) and 4-H clubs. Buffalo Bill called it home, and we could drive less than 2 hours in just about any direction to find a Native American reservation or historical landmark. Driving along the highway meant driving alongside railroad tracks, and possibly seeing a cowboy or twelve on horseback.

Once Upon a Town brings the North Platte of the WWII days to life, and that era in history has always been fascinating to me. North Platte was the last taste of home for many soldiers before shipping out to the Pacific Theatre or being stationed somewhere along the west coast or in Hawaii. The Canteen was civilian run, by women who were waiting for their soldiers to come home, moms who wanted to do more than wrap bandages, and townspeople who wanted these boys to have one last night in which they didn't have to worry.

In a lot of ways, the town is still that way. Neighbors look out for one another, you can still see cowboys all over town, most of them drive big trucks now instead of riding in on a horse...although you might see a horse or two in some of the smaller towns.

But that isn't the reason the book is on my keeper shelf. It's because of RadioMan's grandfather.

When he was a young Navy guy, he was on a troop train going from Chicago to San Francisco, and
one of the stops the train made was in North Platte. I don't believe he'd married Grandma yet, but I'm sure she was on his mind when he stepped off the train for a bite to eat.

He wrote this inscription, and several others throughout the book. Telling us about his memories of his time in North Platte, the things he remembered, and because of those inscriptions, I have a better feeling of what WWII was about. What it meant to him, and what it still means for all of us.

It's interesting to me that this one small town was a bit of a life-changer for two generations of a family - Grandpa's generation because it was a way-point on his way to San Francisco, a place to rest and push away the worries that were certainly not far from his mind...and our generation because our work took us there.

Those inscriptions, and that bit of generational serendipity are the reasons this is a keeper book for me. Even though Grandpa is gone now, it's a piece of him that we still have. Even though RadioMan and I only spent 5 years there, it's where we became 'us' - where we got married, bought our first house, had a handful of our crazy 20-something years...and met some people who are still our friends today.

Do you have any books on your keeper shelf that are different from the others? 


  1. I love this story. I have Muriel Jensen's A Carol Christmas and Valentine Hearts and Flowers on my shelf. They are in pieces, but when I need validation on the romance-writing front, I read one of them. I don't have any Trixie Belden books left, but I still remember how they got me through some of the dark times of being adolescent.

    1. Most of my keeper shelf books are romances...this one is special for other reasons, though. :)

  2. This is so cool. I wish I had something like that have that special connection. I do have my great grandmother's journal which was written in a ledger and consisted of weather updates and a sentence or two on each day to tell what they did. Very dry info but it's all I have.