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Cover Story June 12th, 2008

  Untitled Document

Ken Kramer
The Storyteller

by lyle e davis

photoSan Diego has had a great many broadcasters on both radio and tv that have carved a niche for themselves in the broadcast industry.

Just recently we lost Bob Dale, long time tv personality, familiar to many with his ever ready smile and his hand tied bow ties. Long gone are Harold Keen, Ray Wilson . . . a few have gone on to great fame and fortune . . . a young fella named Art Linkletter did all right, starting out at San Diego’s KGB radio (it wasn’t rock then); so did a handsome gent named Regis Philbin. A couple of years ago we lost Bill Ballance, he of talk radio and “Feminine Forum” fame.

Coming up fast on the inside lane is a fella who’s been around for awhile and is finally beginning to be recognized for a master craftsman. He’s been steadily learning his craft, earning a reputation for reliability, dependability, and being an all around nice guy.

We speak of Ken Kramer. Ken appears to have found a programming niche that the public finds fascinating, that he is clearly very good at doing, and is a concept that might well wind up being syndicated. His “About San Diego” is a well researched program into the sometimes little known facets of life in San Diego county, usually in years long gone by . . but sometimes current as well.

His look at fascinating subjects such as The Firemen Who Wore Tuxedos . . . takes a look at the funny, odd and fascinating things that make our region unique. Ken Kramer is the perfect person, with his poetic style, to narrate the fascinating people and history of San Diego.

We learn when viewing “About San Diego,” for example, that San Diego was home to two popular race car tracks in the early part of the 20th century. They hosted the likes of champion race car driver, Barney Oldfield, who is most recognized these days when we see clips of old Silent Films. He was the one who rescued a damsel in distress (Mabel Normand) in ‘Barney Oldfield’s Race for a Life’ by untying her from the train tracks moments before the train arrived. We learn the background of Cowles Mountain. We learn, among other fascinating things, that Cowles mountain was named after a guy named Cowles who founded a small town called Cowlestown. He died, and his wife married a new man and re-named the city after her new husband, who's last name was Santee. Cowles mountain is named after Cowles. Most people pronounce the mountain as in “vowels,” but he pronounced his name like "coals." (I know that’s true ‘cause Ken Kramer said so! And he does his research).

"About San Diego" has become Kramer's signature work. Through visual and verbal storytelling, each segment takes a look at some aspect of our county's history and people; the funny, the odd, the fascinating. Ken also serves as a reporter for NBC 7/39, bringing more than 30-years of experience in San Diego to the station's news broadcasts. He's won 10 "Golden Mike" awards for news and documentary work, along with five Emmy awards, and dozens of plaques from the San Diego Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi, the professional journalism society. His series has been honored by the Council of California History, the "Save Our Heritage Organization," and won several national awards for excellence in writing and reporting.

“About San Diego”
is on Sunday evenings at 6PM. You can catch-up on old episodes by visiting Ken Kramer’s About San Diego web site on NBC 7/39. Go to: When you visit the site, you can test your knowledge on San Diego History and view San Diego photos submitted by other viewers. There is also a blog you can join in reading as well as volumes of past programs you can view at your leisure.

Kramer studied broadcasting and filmmaking at San Diego State. He worked at the campus radio station for awhile with a concept for a show called "About San Diego." "The first few were produced with an all-volunteer crew," Kramer says. "But the audience loved it. I knew this was what I wanted to do."

Ken Kramer with colleague, Peggy Pico, NBC 7/39 Medical Correspondent and Emmy Award winner. The two were active supporters of The 21st Annual Union Bank of California Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Dinner Auction, held at Lowes Coronado Bay Resort. The two were photographed at that event where Peggy hosted the live auction that took place in the Grand Ballroom.

Just some of the archived stories available:

• Hidden Message In Dunes

• An Amazing Race For Mayor

• What Is Under Your Feet?

• Firefighters In Tuxedos

• Century-Old Tree Glows Again

• Local Landmark To Close Doors

• Recent Storms, Reminder Of 1916

• Large Military City Vanished

• Field Dedicated To Local Legend

• Bob Dale before San Diego

• Bob Dale’s Bow Ties

• When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turns Pro

Not only does he research old-time San Diego but he does a pretty fair job of summing up the current situation as well. In a recent interview Ranch and Coast Magazine, March, 2007, he responded to the following questions:

Best Thai Food: Celadon. New location in 3600-block of Fifth Ave. If the Duck Red Curry follows, it’ll be a "block" buster.

Best Dessert: The scones, warm and fresh-made, at Rebecca’s in South Park. You may have to put your name on a waiting list, but they’re worth it.

Best Outdoor Patio: Piatti, La Jolla. Wonderful ficus tree and gentle lighting make for a great outdoor dining atmosphere.

Best Dive Bar: Surf And Saddle, Encinitas. Surfers, cowboys, businesspeople, bikers, video games, TV, abundant beer. A well-seasoned regular may sketch your portrait or drown you in UFO stories.

Best Used Record Store: Folk Arts in Normal Heights. Owner Lou Curtiss is a walking encyclopedia. Only place where you can find both Jack Webb and Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers singing on vinyl.

Best Veterinary Clinic: Avian And Exotic Animal Hospital, Mission Valley. Twenty years ago, everybody told Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins he couldn’t make a living treating parrots and iguanas. Now he’s thriving and so are they.

Best Place To Go After Losing A Bundle At The Track: Fidel’s in Solana Beach. A little shop-worn, maybe, but the food and atmosphere more than make up for it. You might see an owner, trainer, or jockey there.

Best Video Store: Kensington Video. The place to go when you remember a great movie you saw one time, but you can’t recall the title or who starred in it.

Ken is single, graduated SDSU in 1974; Started at KPBS as a student, classical music announcer, later director of news and information programming. blended into tv, worked with on air fundraising, pledge drives, etc. He was with KPBS full time for 13 years.

He formed a company to produce “About San Diego,” an idea he had for some time. He went out and secured sponsors for the program and it then aired on KSDO; subsequently, KSDO liked it so much they hired Ken full time.

The ideas for his subjects are propelled by history . . . he loves to find stories and develop them in such a manner that at the program’s conclusion the viewer will say . . . “I didn’t know that!” He doesn’t seem himself so much as a historian however, more as a writer/storyteller.

“The facts are out there about many stories. You just have to go and dig them up. That often means lots of phone calls and lots of time on the Internet doing research. Perhaps 60% of the program material comes out of my own curiosity. I wonder about something, look into it, and often come up with a story. It then becomes a creative endeavor . . . taking the facts and writing the program in such a manner that it is interesting to the viewer/listener. We learned, for example, that Grossmont was named after the actor, William B. Gross. But that, in itself, is not all that interesting. You need to write the story in such a manner that you bring out the backstory, if there is one, and bring the viewer/listener in to the story.
People also call me and give me ideas. If they tell me about a historical event and say the magic words . . . “and I have photographs . .” I’m interested.

Kramer has earned the respect of his colleagues. Marty Levin, in an interview by Tom Blair in San Diego Magazine, was asked:

TB: You’ve worked with some of the biggest hitters in local news——broadcast and print——over more than three decades. Who makes your hall of fame?

ML: Ken Kramer. Gene Cubbison. And they’ve both been around. Cathy Clark, Harold Keen, Ray Wilson.

High praise indeed. Marty Levine who has been a commanding presence on San Diego television for three decades, places Ken Kramer right at the top of his list of hall of fame candidates.

Marty Levin, news anchor for KNSD39, NBCTV, San Diego

He’s quite busy within the community, speaking to civic and service clubs as well as to area schools. An example is his upcoming speaking schedule:

Meet Ken Kramer

Friday, July 11
Noon -Speak to Point Loma Rotary at the San Diego Yacht Club
Saturday, July 12
Noon - Speak to San Diego Genealogical Society at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, 8350 Lake Murray Blvd., La Mesa
Wednesday, July 16
7:00 PM - Emcee Society Of Professional Journalists Awards Program at Bahia Hotel
Thursday, July 17
10:30 AM - Speaking at USD to "University Of The Third Age"
You can reach Kramer at:





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