Wednesday, June 15
Twice Upon A Town
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
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?