My name is Lee Wilson Jr. and I am the historian for Palm Springs (Calif.) Owen Coffman Post 519. I teach world and U.S. history nearby at Cathedral City High School, and spend a lot of my free time in the summer working on my Fallen Heroes project and Post 519 history stuff. Over the years I've begun to organize our collection of memorabilia. I've found bits and pieces of past radio shows from our post; however, this summer, with the help of our post's amateur radio president Tom McLean, we've been able to definitively prove our most illustrious "Hollywood" history. Post 519 was dedicated on Jan. 3, 1948. I learned that celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney did fundraisers for our construction. But Tom and I also learned that radio engineers from NBC helped construct our now fully-restored radio room, and between 1948-1954, during the twilight era of radio, dozens of national radio broadcasts were played from the Palm Springs American Legion post! In fact, you might say that Al Jolson and Jack Benny ran the place! Our first celebrity broadcast was with Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna for a Shriners fundraiser. Later, Jolson brought Judy Garland, Groucho Marx, Cary Grant, pianist Oscar Levant, Doris Day, Lou Bring and his orchestra, and Larry Parks (who played Al Jolson in the title film). Benny brought his regular crew of Mary Livingston, Mel Blanc, Frank Fontaine, Dennis Day and even Bing Crosby! Former movie star/tennis star/Palm Springs Mayor Charles Farrell and his wife Gail Storm did "Murder at the Racquet Club" featuring Benny, Dennis and Academy Award winner Paul Lukas. Ralph Edward broadcast "Truth or Consequences," and the G.I. Chorus played a show. I learned most of this from scouring the now-online digitized editions of our local paper, the Desert Sun. We have lots of rumors that Frank Sinatra used to swing by after playing golf across the street and do impromptu shows; unfortunately, I haven't been able to verify. Our stage still has our original 1905 Steinway piano, a gift from our local Girl Scout troop in 1947, which was used for these radio shows! Tom has also spent a lot of time restoring our radio room and rediscovering our old but original equipment. We invite you to come by sometime and check out our "Hollywood" history!
[See more pictures on Legiontown.]