From 1942 to 1946, a dedicated group of women ran a canteen at Ogden’s Union Station that provided “food, comfort, and a bit of home” to members of the armed forces passing through Utah. In the Winter 2016 issue of UHQ, Lorrie Rands chronicles this World War II home front effort, which not only helped service men and women but also demonstrated the remarkable executive capacity of the volunteers who operated the canteen.
Rands bases her research, in part, on daily log books kept by the canteen staff. This valuable source portrays the logistical challenges the women met (imagine serving more than 1,000 troops in one day), the place of the canteen in the community, and the voices of the volunteers themselves. Several pages from the log books are reproduced below, as is a page from a service member registry.
February 1942. These pages detail the earliest days of the Ogden Canteen’s creation, an effort led by Maude Dee Porter. Weber County Red Cross Papers, book 1, 4–5, MS 411, Special Collections, Stewart Library, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah (SLWSU).
September 1942. Though the number of soldiers served by the canteen was still relatively small, the value of that service was real, as the final entry establishes. Red Cross Papers, book 1, 254–55.
October 1942. Note the entry on page 271 recalling the operation of an Ogden canteen during the First World War (not to mention the joy of contemporary soldiers over cookies and brownies). Red Cross Papers, book 1, 270–71.
October 1942. These pages show how quickly things could become hectic at the canteen, as well as the participation of other community groups in the canteen effort. Red Cross Papers, book 1, pg. 274–75.
December 1942. This registry page illustrates the diverse origins of the service people who passed through the Ogden canteen. Note the expressions of gratitude. Soldier log book 3, courtesy American Red Cross Northern Utah Chapter.
August 15, 1945, V. J. Day. This page shows the exuberance of the canteen volunteers at the announcement of victory in Japan, as well as the huge volume of people served at the canteen by the war’s end. These entries also reflect the language of the era. October 1942. Red Cross Papers, book 5.
November 1945. Even as the war wound to a close, the women of the canteen still served staggering numbers of returning soldiers. Red Cross Papers, book 6, 102–3.
January 1946. The final pages of the log illustrate how hard the volunteers worked until the very end and the value of the canteen experience in their lives. As one of them wrote, “it has been our privilege to serve one million and a half of the service men and women who made that history. … It is with reluctance that we close our door and contemplate that a pleasant service is ended.” Red Cross Papers, book 6, 154–58, 161–63.