Greene - Book cover

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

Editorial Review from

Millions of American soldiers, many of whom had never left their hometowns before, crossed the nation by rail during the years of World War II on their way to training camps and distant theaters of battle.

In a little town in Nebraska, countless thousands of them met with extraordinary hospitality--the "miracle" of veteran journalist Bob Greene's title. "The best America there ever was. Or at least, whatever might be left of it."

So Greene writes of North Platte, now a quiet town along the interstate, its main street all but dead. It was a quiet town then, too, at the outbreak of the war, but still a hive of activity as its citizens gathered to provide, at their own expense, coffee, sandwiches, books, playing cards, and time to the scared young men who rolled through by the trainload, "telling them that their country cared about them."

Greene's pages are full of the voices of those who were there, soldiers and townspeople alike, who took part in what amounted to small acts of heroism, given the shortages and rationing of the time.

Greene, generous in his praise if rather disheartened by the modern world, against which he contrasts the past, turns in a remarkable account of the home front. It deserves the widest audience. ---Gregory McNamee

Another book from Amazon by Bob Greene

Duty : A Father, His Son and the Man Who Won the War

Review from Amazon

As his father's death approached, Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Greene was forced to come to terms with their distant relationship.

He found in another man, Paul Tibbets, the pilot who flew the atomic bomb to Hiroshima, someone who could help him understand his father's generation.

Tibbets lived in obscurity in Greene's hometown, Columbus, Ohio. After 20 years of attempts to interview him, Greene got to meet Tibbets informally. That led to friendship and a chance to understand the reticence and the responsibility of Tibbets' and his father's generation.

To Greene, his father seemed to be the archetypal man in the gray-flannel suit, a no-nonsense corporate worker who kept his nose to the grindstone, never complaining but never connecting either. Tibbets, like Greene's father, was a reticent man. But the fact that Greene was working a legitimate news and historical angle and that he and Tibbets weren't related helped ease communication between them.

Tibbets' astonishing mission and unswerving responsibility in carrying it out symbolized for Greene the sense of duty of his father's generation. That sense of duty is also evident in the ruminations of Greene's father, excerpted from the taped oral history he left for his children, which are interspersed throughout Greene's narrative.

Through his father's death and his friendship with Tibbets, Greene writes, he "realized anew that so many of us only now, only at the very end, are beginning to truly know our fathers and mothers."

A touching look at parent-child relationships and the psychological distance that can grow between generations.

Vanessa Bush -- This text refers to the Hardcover edition.