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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 21, 2018

R.A.R.E. USO Show raising funds for Whitely Opera House

May 01, 2018
PHOTO SUBMITTED From top to bottom, Bob Hope, Lou Costello and Mrs. Horace Hornblower, played by Caleb Huddleston, Rusty Weeks and Marlyn Copeland, are part of the  fundraising Regional Association of Restoration and Education USO Show planned Saturday and Sunday on the Harmony Elementary School stage.

FARMINGTON — A fundraising Regional Association of Restoration and Education USO Show is planned Saturday and Sunday on the Harmony Elementary School stage.

R.A.R.E. is a nonprofit, 501c(3) that assists in restorations of National Registered Buildings in Van Buren County and surrounding counties. Its current project is the upper story of the Whitely Opera House in Bonaparte. The plans are to put the theater back in and remodel the open floor area into mobile tables and chairs to handle many large events. This is an example of a private public partnership to accomplish the preservation of a historic structure. The USO Show is the first of three fundraisers scheduled in 2018.

The R.A.R.E. USO Show features more than 20 performers. It includes songs from the Andrew Sisters, Frances Langford, Kate Smith, Kitty Kallen, and Rosemary Clooney. Their professional pianist will be Larry Jensen from Mt. Pleasant. Skits lead by Bob Hope, Prof. Jerry Colonna, Jack Benny, WC Field, Abbott & Costello, and Rosemary Clooney, will be performed. Even Mammy Yokum will come to life right out of the comic strips.

Music will be provided by the Fairfield Big Band, a 16-piece band with a vocalist at Saturday’s performance. Rodger Gillaspie will lead the band in songs like “In the Mood,” “Little Brown Jug,” “String of Pearls,” and more. The Fairfield Big Band has been providing music for 10 years. Its members come from several surrounding counties.

The Sunday matinee band will be The Tarnished Brass Band. Jerry Runon will be leading the band in 1940s big-band songs from Glenn Miller, Benny Goodwin and others The 25 band members, some who have played professionally, are from several surrounding counties.

The USO was founded by President Franklin Roosevelt. Between 1940-1944, U.S. troops grew from 50,000 to 12 million. The alcohol-free USO facilities were quickly opened and enhanced the morale of the troops by letting them know that America cared, and remembered them. The Hollywood and New York Canteens had celebrities serving food to the servicemen and their families. They offered assistance to those in need and a distraction of the war.

USO Camp Shows from 1941-1947 presented 428,521 performances. At times, more than 700 performances each day were done. Over 7,000 entertainers traveled overseas. By the end of World War II, more than 1.5 million volunteers had worked at the USOs.

Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye and other entertainers had touring troupes that went to Australia, South Pacific, Africa, and Europe to entertain the troops. They also performed on radio studios. These shows were called “Command Performance” and recorded for the troops to view in the field.

Doors for the show Saturday open at 6 p.m. Doors open at 2 p.m. Sunday. Dessert will be served. A white elephant silent auction and “MugShots” will be before the show and at intermission.

Seating is limited. Reserve tickets by calling 641-233-7793 or 641-682-8466. A $3 discount is offered to veterans.

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