Bob Bradley, who also used to teach communications at Temple University, was an old TV hand at WRCV-TV (and later KYW-TV), Channel 3 in Philadelphia. He worked there from 1956 to 1987. In 1986, Bob Bradley was honored by the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia as our "Person of the Year." In 2003, he was inducted into our "Hall of Fame."
In the late fifties, local kiddie shows were all the rage. Channel 3 had several: Pete Boyle, Bertie the Bunyip and Buckskin Billy. One of the things Buckskin Billy did was originally started by John Zacherle (as Roland) over at WCAU-TV and that was intercutting live shots of the air talent (in this case, Buckskin Billy) into the old theater serials he showed. For example, if there was a shoot-out on the film, the station would cut to a live shot of "Billy" shooting at the bad guys.
Buckskin Billy was portrayed by Bob Bradley. He would have children as guests on his live Saturday & Sunday shows and he would ask, "Where are you from?" The kid would answer, for example, Upper Darby. Bob would then ask, "Did you have a rough ride on the stage coming to the TV station?"
Voiceover Announcer Jerry Immel from Atlanta, Georgia grew up in Cleveland and then Philadelphia, so he got to know Bradley from both cities. He sent us this e-mail:
I listened to Joe Earley's conversation about Bob Bradley, and thought I would add some background information..., since my friendship with Bob actually began in Cleveland, where I lived before moving to Philadelphia and where Bob was a staff announcer, before the 1955 NBC-Westinghouse station swap, at NBC's WTAM-AM-FM and WNBK(TV). His Buckskin Billy character was also created there.
Bob was born in around 1920 and grew up in East Lansing, Michigan. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Michigan. Having worked for NBC in Cleveland since 1948 (using his actual Dutch surname, Bouwsma), he was inspired by the ownership transfer to fulfill his longtime ambition of freelancing in New York. Even though he spent a year with some success in New York, family responsibilities persuaded him to return to full-time station work.
Using his contacts on the WRCV-TV management team, many of whom had migrated from the Cleveland operation, he began doing part-time booth work at Channel 3.
When Pat Landon, who did the weekday morning shift and the Today show cut-ins, left to become a radio program director, an full-time opening occurred.
Many announcers were auditioned, including weekend part-timer Gary Geers, but the job went to Bob, who was a known quantity to the management from the Cleveland days. That would have been in around 1957 or 1958. My last conversation with Bob took place in 1986.
Broadcast Pioneers member Joe Earley, well known in Philly as Mr. Rivets e-mailed us:
The announce booth was on the second floor with a window looking into Studio B. You entered the booth through the sound lock to the studio. Booth announcing was a bore. You spent your entire shift in that little room waiting for the station breaks and the little amber light to flash, your cue from master control, to do station ID and whatever promo they had scheduled for that break. Then you checked it off in your log book which was brought in by the traffic department before your shift started....
I did booth announcing at Channel 3 in the late fifties, from five thirty P.M. to sign off, about two A.M. Did it for six months. It was a bore and ruined my social life, disastrous for a twenty-six year old. So, I went on to bigger and better things. I hope!
Other booth announcers, if I remember correctly, were: Norman Brooks, (Earle Gill), Gary Geers, Alan Scott (briefly) after his show went off. There were also some part-timers who filled in such as Bud Smith, Bill Webber (I'm pretty sure) and, I think, Sid Dougherty. I could be wrong about Sid.
A little while later, Joe Earley e-mailed this:
...Dick Graham did some booth work at Channel 3. At the time he was doing radio in Wilmington. Last I heard he was living in Roxborough, right off Henry Ave.... Also there was a Roy Allred (he later showed up at Channel 6 doing sports). I think he was a news anchor at Channel 3 for a short time. When I would come in to relieve him for the night shift, he would complain how tired he was not having had enough sleep,... (Roy was recently married). By the way, Dick Graham was a great guy with a marvelous voice. A real pussycat. I always enjoyed his company.
Later, Jerry Immel e-mailed:
Bob used the Buckskin Billy name on WNBK Cleveland. Another of Bob's side activities was with an organization called the Invest-in-America Committee. I'm not sure was its mission statement was (Invest in America for more and & better jobs), but I recall Bob hosting a discussion program on WRCV-TV (maybe even on WNBK) with the title "Invest in America." Bob's undergraduate degree was in economics.
A subjective impression: Bob was ahead of his time in that he was never announcerish. Many announcers from that generation were quite formal and stylized -- Norman Brooks was a good example -- but Bob's delivery was always extremely natural and accessible, way before that style became as common as it is today. As the host on KYW-TV: 50 Years of Your Life (aired in 1982), I would even call him avuncular.
One part-time booth announcer not included in Joe Earley's recollection was my old buddy Frank Kastner, who at the time worked as Frank Carter. He and Gary Geers would split the broadcast day on Saturdays and Sundays, with Gary working sign-on and Frank working sign-off. By the way, the WRCV-TV staffer whose job it was to direct the station breaks and cue the booth announcer was called the correlator.
Broadcast Pioneers member Bill Bransome e-mailed in 2001:
Bob Bradley is alive and well in Clearwater, Florida. He has been down there for several years, and is particularly active (in broadcasting) during Spring Training.
We understand that Bob stopped the broadcasting work a few years after this e-mail.
Barbara Van Weelden, a visitor to our website e-mailed in 2006:
I just visited the website that shows Bob as Buckskin Billy and read some of his background there. We met Bob and Rosemary Bouwsma while on vacation in the Caribbean in 1991, became friends and now that we all live in Florida, we see each other more frequently.
He has often talked about his broadcasting career and it was exciting to me to see him in his "Billy" characterization on the website.
Bob gave up his spring training work a couple years ago and now is still active leading discussion groups in his church.
David Murphy, weatherguy for Action News on WPVI-TV e-mailed:
Of course, most people remember Bob as a long time sports anchor and reporter at KYW-TV. His daughter and son-in-law remind me that he was also the anchor of "The 10th Inning," WPHL's old Phillies post game show, as well as appearing as "Buckskin Billy," the children's show host back in the 50s.
I remember Bob as a neighbor and a close personal friend of my parents, along with his wife, Rosemary. In fact, during a house party, it was Bob who came upstairs to watch a Flyers game and along the way, convinced me that I should go to Temple University. It worked out pretty well. I met my wife there. And I wound making it back home to Philadelphia, post their training!
Broadcast Pioneers member Jay Meyers e-mailed:
I grew up watching him and as a senior at Drexel University in the early seventies. I was an intern working with Bob at KYW on Sunday nights, you may recall that for a while he did weekend sports and I edited video tape highlights for the early and late reports (video tape was pretty new then, on huge reels). Actually, I was sort of the eyes picking the highlights and a tech actually edited it for broadcast. It was an interesting time at KYW in those days, lots of "star" power in the building, Tom Snyder, Mort Crim, and our Sunday evening weekend anchor was Jessica Savitch for a short time before she went weekly. Bob was a great mentor and teacher, and the best of times was between casts, not a lot happened in those days between 7 and 11 so we would either sit around his office and listen to stories of the old days of TV, or the whole crew would go out to dinner together, which was really great for an intern to be involved in.
35 years ago this summer I did my last day as an intern after graduating from Drexel and accepting my first full time gig as Program Director of WCHE in West Chester, PA. Oddly, it coincided with Bob's last weekend doing sports during that run, as when Jessica moved up, they revamped the whole weekend line-up with new people. His last words to me I never forgot, "go out and work hard because broadcasting is a terrific vocation, if you do it right and you're lucky, you'll feel like you never had to work a day in your life." 35 years later I can tell you Bob was right!
Broadcast Pioneers member Liz Matt (a.k.a. Lizabeth Starr) e-mailed:
Bob was my teacher at Temple University. I was later his teaching assistant from 1973 - 76, while I ran the suite of audio studios at Annenberg Hall. When I became the adjunct who taught Broadcast Performance at TU many years later in 1996-97, I consulted with Bob and taught specifically his “method,” which makes people into strong “natural” communicators, not posing anchor-robots. He influenced a generation of broadcasters --- for the better!
Mike McGrath, host of "You Bet Your Garden" on WHYY-FM, Philadelphia, e-mailed:
Bob was my broadcast performance instructor at Temple as well. As many others have already noted, he was a HUGE influence who encouraged me to keep my 'real voice' and not try for the FM sound. Advice that has served me very well.
Fred Woskoff. Director of Operations for the WisconsinEye Public Affairs Network e-mailed:
I had the pleasure to work with Bob at WPHL-TV on our "Phillies Today" pre and post game shows, and was lucky enough to be in his first Broadcast Production class at Temple. We often kidded how I had been his student, and then I was his "boss" when I worked as Producer/Director for "Phillies Today". I also used to razz him about my never winning a puppy when he was "Buckskin Billy."
Bob was the smoothest on-air talent I have ever worked with, and that is meant as no disrespect to the many fine people I have met over the years. Bob could take a quick note that I would make like "Carlton strikes out Stargell," and turn that into 20 seconds of adlib highlight coverage. We often had 10 to 15 minutes of highlights during our pre-game show, and Bob could do it all without a script, and without taking a beat.
Bob often arrived at the WPHL studios just minutes before our pre-game show at 7 pm, having been on the air at KYW until 6:30. There may have been some speeding on the West River Drive a time or two. He could
quickly settle in, and do a 30 to 40 minute show without anything but a quickly typed format, and a few cues in his ear. It was fly by the seat of your pants TV at its best, and Bob made it look easy every time. I can't tell you how many times we would be throwing it to Richie Ashburn for his interview segment, and Bob wouldn't know who the guest was until Rich and the guest walked into the shot about two seconds before we went
Perhaps his finest moment at WPHL was the day of the Phillies World Series Parade. The station couldn't cover the full route, so I made a deal with WPVI to share some of their parade route shots while they weren't using them in exchange for our feed from JFK Stadium. Bob anchored almost three hours of live coverage, filling long gaps with highlights we quickly cued up and interviews with former Phillies players we hastily got into the studio, before we tossed it to the stadium for the ceremony. Then we quickly turned the coverage around for a 90 minute prime time recap that night.
My favorite memory of Bob however came the night before, when Tug McGraw struck out Willie Wilson and the city went wild. All of us in the control room were jumping up and down and hugging each other. I looked
out into the studio where Bob was sitting watching on his set monitor, with the biggest grin I have ever seen. Then he quickly began scribbling notes for his highlights. He was a fan as well as a great broadcaster.
It was a pleasure to work with my friend Bob for seven seasons on the Phillies, and then for the 1982-1983 76ers games on WPHL as well. He perhaps forever will have the title of hosting victory parade broadcasts
for both the Phils and 76ers World Championship teams. It may be a long time before those events happen again, and it will be a longer time before a nicer guy than Bob Bradley comes along.
Bob suffered a stroke at his Clearwater home on Sunday, June 15, 2008 and died the next day, Monday, June 16, 2008. He was 86 years old.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by David Murphy of WPVI-TV
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