‘Those Were the Days’ recalls D-Day 75 years later

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The 75th anniversary of D-Day will be commemorated by the medium that brought it home to America.

Starting this weekend and airing on three consecutive Saturdays in June, “Those Were the Days” will present radio highlights of the events surrounding the Allied landing on June 6, 1944, that marked the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe.

“It’s our hope that it will give you a sound picture of what it was like to be on the home front during the early hours of June 6 and the 48 hours that followed,” said Steve Darnall, host and producer of the old-time radio showcase.

“Those Were the Days” airs from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays on College of DuPage’s WDCB 90.9-FM and streams live on wdcb.org.

Steve Darnall

Darnall’s radio retrospective will open with an address to the nation (known as a “fireside chat”) by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the capture of Rome, and early bulletins broadcasting “unconfirmed reports” of an Allied invasion of Europe. A series of special reports and related programming will follow.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the ‘24-hour news cycle’ began with radio’s coverage of the Normandy Invasion,” Darnall said.

“This battle is considered the real turning point of the second World War, and it’s quite remarkable to hear all of the ways that radio responded to this real-life drama, not only by harnessing all of the technology at their disposal to present breaking news from Europe, but also by transforming normal programming — from soap operas to variety shows — into something that would reflect the mood and the spirit of this most dramatic day in the history of the world.”

Highlights will include speeches from King George VI and Charles DeGaulle, Ronald Colman reading a poem written for the day by Edna St. Vincent Millay, a special program of music from Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians (“to help ease the tension we are all feeling”), George Hicks’s riveting account of Allied troops landing on the beach and more. The series will culminate with a special June 7 broadcast of “The Orson Welles Almanac.”

“It’s a sequence of shows that means a great deal to us, and — given its historic significance — one that I think should mean a great deal to everyone,” Darnall said.

“Those Were the Days,” founded by Radio Hall of Famer Chuck Schaden, recently celebrated its 49th year on the air.

Thursday’s comment of the day: Carol Felsenthal: I’m proud to call Ken Davis my friend. He lost not an ounce of curiosity and enthusiasm in the decades I’ve know him — going back even before the Saturday morning WBEZ show “The Hardware Guy” (I think that was the title). Hardware referred not to computers or keyboards but to nuts and bolts and tools, the stuff of conversation as he talked with the proprietor of a hardware store on Devon and Clark. I have zero interest in hardware of any sort — computers or paint rollers — and sub-zero interest in home do-it-yourself projects, but Ken made it work. I expect to see him and hope to appear alongside him on many political panels in the years to come. I’d be shocked if he left Chicago.