Although Carroll was a much smaller store than Lansing, before entering the service Walt Neppl had made first man faster than Mil Batten. This, of course, required the joint campaigning of both the Carroll store manager Sren Kudsk and DM Roy Miller. Therefore, when the decorated 23-year-old Army Air Force captain came home, got married, and went back to work after a brief honeymoon, Miller and Kudsk saw nothing to discourage their admiration and respect for the young man. They began the traditional Penney Company nurturing of identified special talent.
Meanwhile, Neppl reacted to the town and store to which he had returned. They were virtually the same as when he had left in 1943 causing a momentary feeling of dislocation, as though experiencing a weird sort of time warp. Had he really been away? Did he really do all of that fast growing up? Neppl was nothing if not mentally tough, and he quickly forced himself to banish thoughts of the war and rejoice about being married and home. Now the town and store became reassuring and pleasurable.
Yes, Walt Neppl did return a changed man. Unlike many returning combat veterans , however, he was able to dive enthusiastically back into the civilian rhythms . If it was the same town, the same store, and the same company, he was different. Mature; stronger; wiser; well trained; and, yes, a survivor . All the better, then, for a renewed Penney person. So let's get going! Decades later he even maintained that he had never suffered nightmares because of his World War II experiences ("Nah!").
After his first days back in the Carroll store, Walt began to relish the familiar layout. As he put it, "Shoes were in the back, of course. Farther back, behind the stockroom, was the advertising room where I spent some time. The work clothes in the store were on the right, back of the counter, socks, gloves, shirts, and overalls. That's so, as you laid out that shirt and overall, you could pull over a pair of socks, another shirt, give them more than one to choose, work the counter, get the sales, make them feel good at the same time. Next we had men's dress shirts, underwear, ties, and a full men's department, and I mean full. We sold a lot of suits in those days. Then, across the front between the two doors, was the hosiery department. Then you had lingerie, piece goods, curtains, and draperies. Stairs nearby led up to the balcony , which was all ready-to-wear, the whole shebang. Quite a store, really, a lot going on there. A great place to be."
He wasn't there long. In just over a year after Neppl's return, the attention of his manager and DM resulted in a New Yorkapproved transfer to the Columbus, Nebraska, store. Therewith, the name of Walter J. Neppl was established in the minds of the men who mattered on 34th Street. While Kudsk was a born (in Sweden) merchant and saw the same bent in Neppl, the Columbus manager, Pete Lakers, was not. Instead, Lakers was an expert at cost control. Miller, the DM, thought Neppl could learn from Lakers. And, he thought, God knew that Lakers could use Neppl's merchandising touch.
So Mr. and Mrs. Walt Neppl moved to Columbus at the end of 1946 and began having their family on the road, as it were. Typical of upward-bound Penney people, they became uncomplaining nomads whose roots remained in Iowa but withered over the years. The company became their larger family, their permanent community, and it was always a stable and happy relationship.