Oak Park Arms

Radio Show: Gunsmoke

Oak Park Arms

Those Thrilling Days of YesteryearThose Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, an all volunteer radio reenactment group, will present “Gunsmoke” at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 6, at the Oak Park Arms retirement community, 408 S. Oak Park Ave. Two episodes from one of the longest and most successful shows from the Golden Age of Radio, “The Mortgage” and “The Round-Up,” will be performed.

This American radio and television Western drama series took place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, during the settlement of the American West. It was created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston and was geared for an adult audience compared to the popular children’s shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “The Cisco Kid.”

The main character was lawman Marshal Matt Dillon, and villains were often seen getting away with their crimes. Episodes featured some of the most explicit content of their time including violent crimes, massacres, scalping and opium addicts.

Originally aired during the first season, “The Mortgage” depicts the story of a family torn apart by the greed of their landlord and the tragic and nearly impossible situation they find themselves in as a result. Their only hope is Marshal Dillon, but with the law not on their side, there is not much they can do.

A few months later “The Round-Up” aired, in which Dillon’s friend Zell Matlock offers to help with the annual round-up in Dodge, proving to be one of the rare times when Dillon loses his temper.

The somber program drew critical acclaim for its unprecedented realism, and in this way it differed from other radio westerners. Over the years, however, the program evolved into a warm and sometimes humorous celebration of human nature thanks in large part to the subtle scripts and outstanding ensemble cast.

The radio version ran from 1952 to 1961 and was the longest-running prime time drama on TV in the United States with 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975. It was also one of the few shows to make a seamless transition into television.

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.