Oak Park Arms

Radio Show: “You Can’t Stop Christmas”

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Oak Park Arms

Those Thrilling Days of YesteryearThose Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, an all volunteer radio reenactment group, will present “You Can’t Stop Christmas” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, at the Oak Park Arms retirement community, 408 S. Oak Park Ave.

Two very special old time radio episodes will be performed complete with added live Christmas carols on stage.  A hot chocolate and cookie reception will  follow.

The first episode will be a Christmas special, “House of the World,” aired by the long-run CBS radio series for children, “Let’s Pretend.” The second episode, “Barbed Wire Christmas,” was part of the “Cavalcade of America” anthology drama series.

“Let’s Pretend” was created and directed by Nila Mack. He believed that if stories were for children, then they should be told by children. The show was broadcast with an audience full of children, and he used a cast of child actors. Story adaptations included classics such as “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Rumpelstiltskin.”

In “House of the World,” a young boy and a “Good Will” angel visit homes around a world that are surrounded by the walls: selfishness, greed, poverty and intolerance. The people in these homes live narrow lives, consumed by fear. They are oblivious to the people around them in need of love, help, support and kindness, but one by one, their lives are transformed, and Christmas once again glows in their hearts and in their homes.

The “Let’s Pretend” series received numerous awards including two Peabody Awards, a Women’s National Radio Committee Award and five Radio Daily Awards.

The Cavalcade of America was initially broadcast on radio from 1935 to 1953. The series documented historical events through individual stories of courage, initiative and achievement.

Cavalcade of America: “Barbed Wire Christmas” is the true story of American soldiers in a German P.O.W. camp during WWII. With Christmastime approaching, morale is low and hope is all but extinct. The men decide that despite their situation, they want to have a Yuletide mass. Excitement begins to grow within the camp, and hope returns as the group plans the big day. Everyone is looking forward to the big day, until word comes from the Gestapo office that too many men assembled in one place is considered dangerous. The soldiers are ordered to cease their planning and warned that anyone seen entering the mass service will be shot.

Together, these rare classics from the Golden Age of Radio will remind the audience that “You Can’t Stop Christmas.”

The performers

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 actor and technician donates talent and time for free.

Group 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 volunteering/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 effect, 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 even bring their children and grandchildren to show them what entertainment was like before television.

“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.”

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, a month or longer.

The radio show is free and open to the public. For more information call 708-386-4040.