Every day is Veterans Day at Dreamsville, USA. At Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, veterans are welcome at no cost every day of the year.
Treating our soldiers, sailors and marines in a special way began here way back during WWI. Dennison just happened to be halfway between Pittsburgh and Columbus on the Pennsylvania Railroad, so the train needed to stop here for refueling. That gave opportunity for the Red Cross to open a canteen to give food and cheer to the servicemen on board. A little eight year old girl, Lucille, helped her mother bring food to the troops. From April to October in 1919, over 136,000 servicemen were served.
Things moved up a gear during WWII, when that grown up Lucille proposed the idea for the Dennison Servicemen’s Canteen, which the Salvation Army then operated as the trains rushed in. The canteen served all the GIs when the train stopped. Her idea inspired other cities across the country to set up canteens for points of cheer along the way. This Dennison Servicemen’s Canteen served over 1.3 million servicemen during WWII.
When the conductor called, “Dennison, next stop”, young men in all branches of the service put on their coats, combed their hair, and straightened their hats. The friendly, smiling girls meeting them reminded them of their moms, sisters, and girlfriends..and there was free food. A dream come true! Thus the name Dreamsville, USA.
Some were away from home for the first time so the stop greatly touched their lives. When the train stopped 600-800 young men would step off and get in line for a lunch bag, handshake, and warm smile.
At the Dennison Depot from 1942-1946, four thousand volunteers helped with the canteen. Farmers donated crops from their gardens and orchards, while women baked cookies even though sugar was scarce. A little bit from a lot of people made a big difference.
It didn’t matter what time of the day or night the train arrived, women in white uniforms waited to give the servicemen a touch of home. 24/7, these volunteers served a cup of hot coffee and a lunch bag that included things like fruit, bologna or cheese sandwiches, eggs, doughnuts or cookies.
When the people of Dennison restored this site, they saved a national treasure. Today this is the only remaining canteen site that reflects this WWII heritage.
Have lunch at the station’s friendly diner called Lucille’s, in honor of the WWII founder, and veterans even get a free piece of pie. While eating a Boogie Woogie Bacon Cheeseburger or a Gunner Hot Dog, listen to music of the 40s in the midst of a room filled with posters from the war era. Their menu states:
Lucille knew that a hot cup of coffee and a smile would make a world of difference to the servicemen passing through Dennison. We hope our coffee and smiles make your day just as special.
Dennison Depot Museum is located in Dennison, Ohio not far from I-77. Take exit 81, 36 East, to the Dennison exit. Turn right on Second Street and continue on Second Street until you reach the tracks. Turn left on Center Street and after two blocks you will see the museum. Parking is on the left side of the street.