Throwback Thursday – World War II Comes to Bowling Green

The Historic Railpark & Train Museum in downtown Bowling Green is hosting a 1940s USO-inspired fundraiser later this month. The L&N railroad helped bring WWII through Bowling Green. Canteens and USOs were set up downtown as ways for soldiers to find all the comforts of home.

When America officially entered WWII in 1941, the country became a war machine. The L&N railroad played a significant role in transporting goods and people for the war effort. Recruits traveled to training camps. Soldiers were shipped off to war. Hospital cars brought the wounded home. 

According to the Bowling Green Daily News in a 1945 article, a canteen was set up at the L&N Depot. A canteen was a refuge for troops to find food, entertainment, and fellowship. The local American War Mothers group started the canteen in April. Private rooms were set up in the depot and cookies, sandwiches, cold drinks, and board games were provided to the service men and women who came through on the lines. 

Along with the canteen at the depot, a USO was set up on Main Street in the Getty Building. Its third floor was home to a skating rink and stage, the perfect spot for soldiers to wind down after days of traveling. Now the entrance to 440 Main and Micki’s restaurants, the front door proudly boasted its USO headquarters.

The Kentucky Museum and Library Special Collections boast photos from 1940s Bowling Green. They feature parades of soldiers down Main Street and around Fountain Square, Red Cross tents popping up all over town, and soldiers outside the USO entrance.

The Historic Railpark & Train Museum’s annual fundraiser features live 1940s- inspired wartime entertainment. Coming up August 29, 30 and 31, tickets are available on the Railpark’s website.