(Left to Right) Harold Pannepacker and unidentified girl performer
WPTZ, Channel 3

Harold J. Pannepacker helped shepherd Philadelphia television from the infancy stage to the digital age. Penny as he was called by his friends, passed away in 1995 at the age of 73.

When he started in broadcasting, only 500 Philadelphians had TV sets. In 1995, 2.7 million households in our area had television receivers. Penny was the 13th person hired to work at Philco's WPTZ, Channel 3 in Philadelphia. That was in 1946 when the station was owned by Philco.

WPTZ went commercial in 1941 but suspended most of its operations because of World War II. After VJ day, the station returned to the air with a more regular schedule. WPTZ's history actually goes back to 1932 when Philco operated experimental television station W3XE. Penny's first duties were at the old Philco factory at C and Tioga streets. There he addressed postcards to the city's 500 owners of Philco televisions. The cards stated the times for the television station's two hours of programming each evening.

Through the next half-century, Harold worked as cameraman, stage manager, director, producer and time salesman. He was stage manager for the first commercial telecast of a political convention in 1948 when the Democratic party nominated Harry S Truman. (W3XE broadcast the 1940 convention but it was a non-commercial event). Pannepacker ran camera for WPTZ's first commercial Mummer's Parade presentation in 1947. He also served as Channel 3's station manager but didn't like it and returned to selling spots.

He spent most of his career selling TV time to local advertising accounts. In 1950, he became the station's second time sales person. Penny retired in the early nineties. He was a member and lector at Queen of Peace Church in Ardsley, and was a member of the Men of Malvern. In 1991, he was named the person of the year by the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia and a few years later, in 1995, he was named to our Hall of Fame.

Broadcast Pioneers member Allen Murphy said:

He was a big, boisterous person with a laugh you could hear from one end of the floor to the other. ...He was a big kidder. ...When he cracked a joke, it really brightened your day. That was the real Penny. ...He knew everyone in the world of advertising. ...Everybody liked him. He made selling TV time a personal thing, because he made friends with the people he called on.

He represents this entire business from its inception as an experimental television station till now. He worked with all the people who went on to become big stars; people like Ernie Kovacs, Tom Snyder and Jessica Savitch. He knew everybody; Mr. Rivets the robot, Bertie the Bunyip. Everyone was his friend.

We are not sure what program the above photo is from but we suspect that it may be the "Sears" Visi-quiz Show. This program was a local program that aired live on Thursday evenings from 9 pm to 9:30 pm. The program was also aired over WNBT-TV (now WNBC-TV) in New York City and on WRGB (then operating on Channel 4) in Schenectady. The idea for the show is that contestants in the studio portrayed famous places, people or things. First viewer to call with the correct answer won an item from the Sears catalog. The on-stage contestant also won the same item from the catalog (which was 8 feet high and appeared on the stage). The television MC Don Saxon told corny jokes, hammed it up and played it for laughs. Previously, he worked as an emcee in local area nightclubs.

From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
© 2016, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
All Rights Reserved

The e-mail address of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia is pioneers@broadcastpioneers.com