(For more photos of the USO Tribute Show click on the photos prompt at the top of this page)
The USO Tribute Show, held at the Chester Auditorium last weekend, was a “class act.” It was conceived by Jane (Hobbs) Dodes, and dedicated to the memory of her father, Charley Hobbs, who served in the United States Army from October 1943 to November 1945. Jane has made it her mission to produce Veteran’s Day programs that are heartfelt and pay tribute to our veterans.
She thought it would be fun to put on a combination USO style/Command Performance, so that, as a community, we could honor the veterans of the county.
Command Performance was a radio program which originally aired between 1942 and 1949. The program broadcast on the Armed Forces Radio Network. It was broadcast only to the troops overseas. Troops would send in requests for a particular performer, idea or music.
The evening began with Reuben Schleifer introducing director Jane Dodes, who was assisted by Michael Pracheil, who also ran the sound and lights. Dodes searched far and wide for the various scripts and music to use in the show.
Announcer Mark Baldwin on Saturday and Dan Engle on Sunday introduced the various acts, used in the Command Performance radio show, stopping from time to time to give advertisements, such as a Pepsodent toothpaste or Spam. The program was also interrupted to give a war bulletin.
Each person who took part in the show did an outstanding job and made the program very entertaining.
Donations were received and will be used to help replace the auditorium stage curtains for the Chester Municipal Auditorium which has a very storied past. It was completed in 1938 at a cost of $24,000 (half paid by the Federal Government and half paid by the City of Chester through a bond drive).
The project was part of FDR’s New Deal program, the Works Progress Administration. This employed many local workers from the surrounding area. The building was built by hand, with over 16,000 man hours of labor, that comes to an average wage of about 75 cents per hour.
The auditorium has been a multi-purpose building, and housed the Chester High School basketball court from 1939 to 1965. It has recently been used by the Thayer County Community Theater and Thayer Central Schools, as well as for a large dance recital and other events.
The backdrop curtains were installed when the building was erected (over 70 years ago). The house curtains were replaced with used curtains approximately 25 years ago. The original seats were replaced in the 1980’s with seats from the remodeling of the Orpheum Theatre in Omaha.