Christmas from Home recalls early World War II struggles, uncertainty, and hope in Portland

Featured image: The Alpenrose Dairy Opera House, which hosts Christmas from Home through December 18 (photo by Cheryl Landes)

It’s December 1941. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, which pushed the United States into World War II. Portlanders are scared and worried, uncertain about the future. But they’re determined to do whatever it takes to win the war—whether sacrificing their lives on the battle lines, rationing goods at home, or working in factories to build ships and weapons.

Christmas is only a few days away. KRRT radio in Portland wants to send a message of encouragement and hope to the troops, so it records a show that will be broadcast over short-wave radio on Christmas Day.

This is Christmas at Home, a recreation of a WWII radio show by playwright Pat Kruis Tellinghusen and performed by Ralph Radio Theatre. The show features sketches, singers, live band music, sound effects, and vintage ads accurately portraying the culture and emotions during WWII.

stage
On the KRRT stage at the Alpenrose Dairy Opera House, musicians from The Dreamfire Express Band warm up for the show. (photo by Cheryl Landes)

The cast includes a young woman who decides to become a nurse on the front lines, a man who enlists for the Army but is rejected because of health concerns, a soldier who is leaving home on Christmas Eve, the soldier’s girlfriend, and a barber and beauty shop owner who hear war news and gossip from their customers. Women talk about other women who were hired across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, to build warships and consider joining them.

sound-effects-table
David Ian, the sound effects person, checks his props before the show. (photo by Cheryl Landes)

The audience participates during the show. Before the show started, the announcer gave us instructions: Be quiet when the “On the Air” light is on, except when the “Applause” light flashes. Then we could clap for the actors on stage.

applause-sign
The Applause sign in one of the balcony boxes at the Alpenrose Dairy Opera House (photo by Cheryl Landes)

Christmas at Home is playing at the Alpenrose Dairy Opera House on weekends through December 18. Sunday performances are free—first come, first served. Buy tickets for the Friday and Saturday performances.

The opera house is in the Christmas in Dairyville village at the Alpenrose Dairy, 6149 SW Shattuck Road in Portland (view directions). Parking and admission are free. For details about other holiday activities at the dairy, visit the Christmas in Dairyville website.

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