World War II Connellsville Canteen

Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Within days of the declaration of World War II in December 1941, American troops began mobilizing, moving swiftly across the country on their way to the front. Embracing a strong need to be a part of the war effort on the home front, many towns and cities organized canteens at their railroad depots to serve troop trains passing through.

At the war’s outbreak, Con­nellsville, in Fayette County, had a population of fourteen thousand. Lo­cated in southwestern Pennsylvania, about sixty miles east of Pittsburgh, Connellsville had once been the center of the Commonwealth’s coke industry, and was still an important railroad crossroads where the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), Western Maryland Railroad, and the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad intersected. Organizers deemed it an ideal location for a wartime canteen.

Rose B. Brady, described as a “born organizer,” founded and directed the can­teen from April 1944 to April 1946. The can­teen was housed in an old machine shop near the B&O station, commemorated by the installation, in 1994, of a state historical marker at the North Water Street site, opposite the location of the former station. Volunteers came from Connellsville and the surrounding communities of Dawson, Vanderbilt, and Dunbar. Hundreds of volunteers worked in four-hour shifts making refreshments available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, during an unsettling period in world history.

When word arrived in Connellsville that a troop train was on its way to or from Pittsburgh, the women would quickly gather at the canteen to prepare sandwiches, bringing an assortment of pies, cakes, cookies, wafers, tarts, and other homemade goodies. The canteen would not allow the military personnel to pay for the refreshments, and local businesses and individuals contributed money to help defray expenses. Area farmers donated milk, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and chickens. Many families gave up their ration.of sugar and shortening to bake for the cause.

The B&0 crews cooperated fully. Just before a train pulled into Con­nellsville, a conductor or porter would announce that all service men and women were invited to the station “as guests of the ladies of Connellsville.”

At first the canteen provided snacks to servicemen and women and later the wounded, prisoners of war, and war brides. In January 1945 alone, Connellsville’s volunteers served 29,283 sandwiches, 26,789 cups of coffee, and 14,000 doughnuts, as well as cases of tangerines, apples, and oranges. During its two-year existence, the canteen served six hundred thousand troops, prisoners of war, and war brides. Day or night, rain or shine, Con­nellsville always mustered a warm welcome.


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