Today on Senior Voices, Dayton native Bob Penrod talks about serving in not one but two wars. At 89 years old, Bob remembers his Navy service and his short career with a popular Dayton radio station between wars. He shared his story with Dayton Metro Library volunteer interviewer, Barbara Gerla.
Bob Penrod (BP): When I was 17, I was in the Navy in the South Pacific in World War II, and served there for a couple years, and then came back and they caught me again in 1950 and I served in Korea for a couple years. I came back from the Pacific in 1946, and I had had some radio experience in the Navy, pretty limited. WING was Great Trails Broadcasting, and they had their studio up above Loew’s Theater on Main Street, and so I went and applied for a job and they hired me as a control engineer. It was very exciting, and so I worked there ‘til 1950, and as a control engineer I worked with Don Lyons, I worked with the Breakfast Club on Saturday morning with Charley Reeder and I worked, my boss was the chief engineer, he was the man who started the WPFB in Middletown, and so I worked there for him. We used to go to RKO Keith Theater for instance, and do remotes of the stage presentations, Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra and all the various things like that. In those days, they didn’t even have tape, you had cut a 16 in plastic disk, and then play those on the air, so it was really great training and I worked with great people, and probably the most famous person I worked with was Gene Barry, Gene “By Golly Barry, here in Dayton was a fixture. He had a program called Swing with WING, and it was all night, and so we would go from, you know, midnight to eight o’clock in the morning, and play music, take requests, and do all kinds of things, so… It was a great deal of fun.
Barbara Gerla (BG): And the Korean War ended that career?
BP: Well, it changed it, that’s for sure. I’d stayed in the Reserves after World War II, which I didn’t have to do, I’d already done my obligation as far as military is concerned, but I stayed in and I had a pretty good deal in the Korean War, I was with Armed Forces Radio Service on the Pacific coast, and then they sent me to a small radio station in Adak Alaska, way out on the Aleutian Chain, and so I spent fourteen months on the air there, so…
BG: And did your programs reach the soldiers in Korea?
BP: They did, also a few along the Pacific coast, clear down, depending upon the weather and what have you, we would be heard, could be heard in Oregon and Washington, places like that.
After his stints in the Navy, Bob Penrod had a long career as a chiropractor, practicing in Xenia for many years.
This interview was edited by Community Voices producer and Senior Voices project coordinator Jocelyn Robinson. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.