Monday, November 17, 2008

North Platte, NE: Nov 10-17

Our last USA city! North Platte is the proud location of the largest railroad yard and track exchange in the United States. During WWII, they had a canteen in the depot for soldiers that provided free cookies, cakes, sandwiches and coffee, as the troop trains stopped for a 10-minute pause on their cross-country treks.

The story was that the town had heard the train coming through was carrying local boys, so all the moms and sisters baked goodies and went down to the platform to meet the train. They quickly realized that the troops weren't the ones they knew, but was actually a platoon from Kansas. After their initial disappointment, one woman declared she wasn't going to bring her cake back home again... and the whole community followed her lead. They decided that it was the way that they in the heartland could support the war effort, but having a 10-minute morale boost for the troops that came through. And there were plenty that came! Over the six years that the canteen was operated, they served between 10 and 20,000 troops EVERY DAY. Keep in mind that sugar, flour, all treat-making supplies were rationed, and that everything was made by hand. It was a legendary stop for troops, and those 10 minutes stuck with many soldiers as they felt the appreciation of the communities that supported the North Platte Canteen.

As you can tell, this story is a source of pride for the town, and we watched a documentary on the Canteen, and then our host families brought tons of incredible food for a real Nebraska potluck, in the style of the Canteen. We even borrowed 1940's costumes for the staff from the local community theatre, to help set the mood for the dinner.

But Lloyd and Nola are the ones who really stole the show. This warm and wonderful couple has only been married five years (same as me!). They both lost their first spouses, and now play four-handed piano for parties and events. They work for free, but often get paid in restaurant gift certificates. Lloyd plays the low notes and Nola plays high- they tried to switch once and it didn't go well. They played a fun combination of old show tunes and Christmas songs, and had a steady crowd gathered round the piano for a sing-along. My favorite was when they played the song they always play before they go to bed every night, called "I'll see you in my dreams."

Lloyd and Nola came to both of our shows, and were such a touching impact on my experience in the city.

We had the unique opportunity of going to Ft Cody, which is one of the '7 Wonders" of North Platte. We had a ton of fun!

Not only did we see all of the kitsch in the shop, but we also saw the 2-headed cow!

We had so much fun that we eventually got thrown in jail :-(

Being the last US city, we also had to say goodbye to three cast members who aren't joining us in the Philippines because of health reasons. It was an emotional last few days, and now we're running on just a few hours sleep, catching up on the past six weeks sitting in LAX on a 12-hour layover. We're headed back to Manila, ready for four more weeks of adventure!

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