The show is from the Golden Age of Radio, and it is open to residents, families and friends of the Oak Park Arms and to the public.
During World War II, radio played its part in supporting our troops. Shows like G.I. Jive, Jubilee, and Your Hit Parade featured celebrities performing for the American fighting forces. But no show was as successful as the long running "Command Performance,"
Hailed by Time Magazine as "the best wartime program in America," it ran from 1942 until 1949 and featured hundreds of Hollywood's best actors, actresses, singers, and musicians, all donating their time and talent to entertain the troops.
Another reason this program was unique is that it was broadcast through the "Armed Forces Radio Network" via short-wave and therefore the general American public rarely got to enjoy it. Some stars of the show were Dinah Shore, the Andrews Sisters, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Kate Smith, Spike Jones, Betty Hutton, Ginger Rogers, Vincent Price, Virginia O'Brien, Burns and Allen, Cass Daley, Phil Harris, Jack Benny, and Danny Kaye.
The Armed Forces Radio was headquartered in Los Angeles. Its staff included Army and Navy personnel as well as civilians. Its commandant, Colonel Thomas H. A. Lewis, had been vice-president of a Hollywood advertising agency and was married to actress Loretta Young, a combination which assured AFRS access to major Hollywood talent.
The AFRS continued to air pre-recorded radio shows in years following World War II, but by the early 1960s, radio programming had morphed into recorded popular music aired by disc-jockey personalities. The story of one wildly creative DJ, Adrian Cronauer, and his controversial AFRS programming in Vietnam is portrayed in the 1987 film Good Morning Vietnam.
The troupe of actors
Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is composed of Chicagoland actors who share a common interest - to perform old time radio programs for the community. Each donates talent and time for free. The group’s founders Ben Dooley and Pam Turlow, husband and wife, established a connection with The Oak Park Arms in September of 2002, when Turlow’s father became a resident. They’ve been performing at “The Arms” ever since.
Dooley and Turlow’s group performs only once every two months due to the considerable challenges involved in creating a show. They browse through thousands of old time radio episodes, select a favorite, listen and type out the script. Many shows are not available in print and have to be painstakingly transcribed. Then they gather sound effects, rehearse and mount the show.
Sound effects were an important part of live radio shows, and the group performs them live. They have a real door for slamming, buzzers, a sound board and shoes for footsteps, and doorbells.
The shows are very popular with residents and people from the community. Some bring their children to show them what “pre-TV” entertainment was like.
“Since the entire cast donates its time and energy, we can only do shows six times a year,” Dooley said, “but we strive to make sure that it's well worth the wait.”
“Christmas Command Performance”
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The Oak Park Arms is a rental retirement community which provides independent and assisted living apartments and a full schedule of activities and services. Furnished apartments are also available for a short-term stay, a weekend, a week, or longer.