Broadcast Pioneers member Harold J. Pannepacker
January 1, 1947
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 on Wednesday, May 10, 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 sets. 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.
One of the things, Penny did during the early days of television was to write postcards to those 500 people who owned television receivers and tell them what programs were on during its two hour program day. That was when he worked at the Philco plant,
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 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, Jessica Savitch. He knew everybody; Mr. Rivits the robot, Bertie the Bunyip. Everyone was his friend.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written, researched and compiled by Broadcast Pioneers historian Gerry Wilkinson
© 2007, Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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