Bob Hanna’s WDFM reminiscences

Bob Hanna recently shared his memories from Penn State and WDFM in the late 1960s:

I arrived at University Park as a freshman for fall term 1967, already knowing that I wanted to get involved with WDFM. I was trained on the equipment and began doing “board ops” for some shows where the announcers didn’t do their own. I also volunteered to handle the remote setup for the weekly recording of the religious service in Schwab Auditorium. Basically, I said I would do just about anything to get the hands-on experience so it meant doing a lot of the shifts no one else wanted. In addition, I handled hourly newscast announcing duties occasionally.

In my sophomore year, I was named Co-Production Director (along with Mike Berger) and was responsible for training everyone on the equipment and scheduling board-ops. Before being allowed to run solo on the air, everyone had to pass a test confirming their familiarity with the equipment. Mike and I designed a killer test…lots of false-cues on reel-to-reel tapes, miscued tape cartridges, unplugged mics! In hindsight, it was probably more severe than it needed to be.

In my junior year, I was named Station Manager. Si Sidle was Program Director and Paul Heimbach was Chief Engineer. These were the only paid positions on the staff. I remember the University paid each of us $125 for the entire academic year as compensation for our services. Dr. Nelson once told me it had something to do with the fact that because the University held the license to the station, they needed to be able to show the FCC that we were “employees”. Given the hours each of us put in, the hourly rate was probably a penny or so. We worked hard that year to improve the news and sports reporting and had two very capable people in charge of those departments. Al Dunning was News Director and Barry Jones was Sports Director. With Vietnam War protests coming to even Happy Valley, there was a lot to report that year.

As a senior, I stepped back a bit to give the new management team space to implement their own vision. Plus, I was working each evening at one of the local stations so my free time was severely limited.

Looking back at the time I spent with WDFM, it was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my life and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities it gave me.