As “Those Were the Days” prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the man who started it all is coming back to the weekly old-time radio showcase.
Starting this weekend Radio Hall of Famer Chuck Schaden will produce and host “Recollections at 50,” a series of 20 weekly segments dedicated to memorable moments from the program’s first half-century on the air.
Schaden, 85, a longtime Morton Grove resident, launched the show to share his passion for old radio shows by buying air time on a small station in Evanston. It’s been airing on WDCB since 2001. Schaden, who retired in 2009, maintains a lively podcast and website at SpeakingOfRadio.com.
“I never considered it to be a business, yet I was able to support my family and have a nice life,” he told me on the publication of his memoirs earlier this year. “The reward was in the great satisfaction of doing what I truly enjoyed with and for people who expressed their enjoyment of what I was doing.”
Leading up to the 50th anniversary will be Schaden’s 20-part retrospective. Each one of his “Recollections at 50” segments will feature his personal nostalgia along with special audio clips from past programs.
Saturday’s opening vignette recalls the show’s Halloween broadcast from 1995 starring announcer Ken Alexander.
“I was off that day and Ken is in our WNIB studio at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in the Chicago Cultural Center when he is visited by such Halloween-type characters as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre — all voiced by Ken,” Schaden recalled. “It’s a one-man tour de force and again points out how important Ken has been to our program over so many years.”
Steve Darnall, who ably succeeded Schaden as host and producer of “Those Were the Days” 10 years ago, said the series will culminate in a special 50th anniversary broadcast before a live audience in May.
“Since Chuck launched this show in 1970, ‘Those Were the Days’ has always been about preserving radio’s remarkable history,” Darnall said. “Now that this show is in its 50th year, it occurred to us that we’ve got some history of our own.
“We’re always delighted to welcome Chuck back to the show he created and we’re especially pleased to share some of his many adventures on the air as we prepare to celebrate [our] milestone anniversary.”
In addition to the debut of Schaden’s series, Saturday’s show also will feature Halloween-themed broadcasts of “Father Knows Best” with Robert Young (1953), “Life of Riley” with William Bendix (1944), and three programs starring Vincent Price — “Escape” (1950), “The Saint” (1951) and “Suspense” (1957).
Thursday’s comment of the day: Mark Mardell: Very happy to see Andy Shaw honored for his work with the Better Government Association. The work that they do is so important.