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Students perform with the spirit of USO

Current and former American service personnel were guests of honor and the focus at the annual program of Our Lady of Mercy School's eighth-grade class.

The 41 eighth-grade students in classes of Patrice Keeler and Diane Wennberg staged a musical dinner production Wednesday night called "Don't Say No to the USO!" for 350 parents, grandparents, fellow students and friends in the school's multipurpose room on East 27th Street.

Principal Judy Blackburn said this year's musical was dedicated to service veterans. The sold-out dinner show, held for more than 20 years, raises money for the eighth-grade class trip to the Magic Mountain amusement park.

"They (students) do it all," Blackburn said. "They perform, sell tickets, do all the decorations and serve dinner. It's one of the most memorable things they do at OLM School."

Students worked on the production for three weeks, assisted in the choreography by Blackburn and dance studio owner and parent Jane Bryan. Many of the uniforms worn by students in the musical were lent by service veterans and the American Legion loaned flags flown at local posts.

Set during World War II in a United Service Organization (USO) club, the play centers around spying German enemy agents who ultimately abduct the hero, Pvt. Joe Kilroy. The spies are arrested at the end.

The production included singing of vintage 1940s tunes, marching in place, era recruiting posters saying "Uncle Sam Wants You" and scenes with female students playing Rosie the Riveter, the women who worked in the shipyards to help the wartime effort.

About a half-dozen veterans attended the group's first showing that morning. Blackburn said the production was a learning experience and each year's show gets better and better.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or