The Sign At 2212 Walnut Street

There was a thermometer mounted on the brick next to the fire escape’s door. I’d always refer to the temperature on the “95PEN Weather Fire Escape!”

I just got a tweet with a blast from the past.

Candy Egan Perri @kuteskatergirl 7h
@geofffox I just drove past the WPEN building, it looks exactly the same. #Philadelphia

It’s still there! The WPEN sign along the eastern edge 2212 Walnut Street in Center City Philadelphia. Considering WPEN hasn’t been at 2212 since the late 70s that’s quite an accomplishment.

Chalk it up to benign neglect. It’s probably cheaper to leave it where it is than pull it down.

I started at WPEN late in 1974. It was the WKRP of Philadelphia–bad signal, underfinanced and AM. Even in ’74 music on AM was a tough sell.

We played oldies. We had a good product. That alone was not enough. We just couldn’t compete.

At one time WPEN was a big deal. It even provided the seed that made Dick Clark a big deal.

If any program can be designated the prototype for Dick Clark’s legendary dance show, that distinction goes to WPEN’s 950 Club, named for the station’s location on the AM dial. Originated in 1945 and hosted by the popular duo of Joe Grady and Ed Hurst, the 950 Club was the first radio show on which a studio audience was invited to dance to records being broadcast over the air. The show, which saluted a different high school each day, quickly became the focus of the area’s bobby-sox set, who, seeking admission, deluged WPEN with two to three thousand pieces of mail each week. – American Bandstand
Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire

That studio was still there, in a terrible state of disrepair, when I arrived. It even had a name: The William Penn Room. Could it be more Philly?

I loved that building.

There was a fire escape at the end of the 3rd floor hallway, just past the studios, where you could go for a smoke (I was a smoker). We also went to try and catch a glimpse of the Moore College of Art girl’s dorm at the corner.

The statute of limitations has expired, right?

A big metal thermometer was mounted on the exterior brick next to the fire escape’s door. On-air I’d refer to the temperature “On the 95PEN Weather Fire Escape!”

I’d never before worked in a commercial district right in the middle of a big city. It was much more exciting than a suburban office park or studios built at the edge of the towers. It made me feel more grown-up, more professional.

WPEN was my favorite job in radio. It’s nice to have this reason to remember and smile.

I hope they never take down the sign.

11 thoughts on “The Sign At 2212 Walnut Street”

  1. We “just” missed each other ….I was in Philly studying/working @ Jefferson Hospital…or was it Geofferson???? Moved to Connecticut in 1970….moved to south Florida late 2000….
    Too busy at the time to have a favorite radio station, but I too grew up with American Bandstand. Feel better.

  2. You should try to get this published in Philadelphia magazine or something predudice intended, but this is one of the best short story’s you have written.

  3. Geoff Fox (I can call you Geoff Fox, right?). What a great station 95PEN was! You, Mike St. John, Loren Owens, Mike Landry, Bobby “Dashboard” Dark were tremendous radio personalities. Even the newsmen were personalities, like Bruce Erik Smallwood. It’s a shame it was on AM and not FM. Even I got on the air. Well, in a way. I won a helicopter ride for telling the worst joke of the day!

    Glad I found your blog. It brought back a lot of great memories. Now I’m going to listen to those great 95PEN jingles! Take care. Mark in Philly

  4. I was surfing “Old Images of Philadelphia.” Someone mentioned “Cuthbert” and I had a 35-year flashback.

  5. Oh Geoff, how I miss you and your “Worst Joke of the Day”. It was a pleasure getting to know you and listening to you every morning before heading off to Kalish & Rice. BTW, you were/are one of the funniest men even off the air.

  6. Hey Geoff,

    I stumbled on your page and website here doing a search for WPEN’s Walnut Street studios. Very cool to hear your write up on it! I worked as a DJ for several years as well (including in Philadelphia). One thing that fascinates me is how old radio studios and buildings morph over time into other things. I often wonder, do the new occupants know there was a radio station in this building? Do they care? I’ve spent countless hours curiously looking up old addresses and searching them on Google. Call it a strange hobby that only a broadcaster would understand or appreciate.

    Jeff Ryan

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