Bob is a mild-mannered man with a wry smile and pleasant demeanor as we sit down to coffee and donuts with him and his wife Barbara, an engaging hostess. Bob has an approachable way of speaking that immediately makes one feel at ease.
Bob was a radio DJ entertaining audiences for over forty years. He spun 45s and played pop melodies and rock n’ roll beats that once changed the face of American music, eventually becoming our well-loved “oldies".
His casual and relaxed conversational tone on the radio gave his listeners the impression that he was just the guy next door speaking to them, a unique style at that time.
Many people grew up listening to Bob on the radio, and his stories of crowded record hops in the 1950s can’t help but strike a chord with our imagination of that exciting time in history.
Robert, or more affectionately known as “Bob,” was born in Arnold, a small town northeast of Pittsburgh, PA, in 1926, the youngest son of Italian immigrants. His parents, Francesco and Theresa, were born and married in Santa Severina, Calabria, Italy; they moved to the United States in the early 1920s and Francesco, along with many other “paesans” found work at Alcoa, the Aluminum Company of America.
Bob’s mother, Theresa, passed away suddenly at a young age when Bob was in high school; it was an event that deeply affected Bob and the immigrant community in New Kensington.
Bob was significantly younger than his four older siblings and the only one born in America. As his brothers and sisters married, they moved across the street or down the block resulting in a family community, even more extended by other Italian immigrants living in the same close-knit Italian pocket of town.
He remembers being “spoiled” due to his position in the family given the fact that he always had a large menu to choose from at any meal; if he couldn’t find his favorite dish of spaghetti in a homemade tomato sauce at home, he could always travel down the block to the house of his grandmother or siblings, who always had a spot for him at their table.
Bob remembers the vibrant town of New Kensington as a “little Chicago” with all of its amenities, including five movie theaters, many shoe stores, shoe shine shops, department stores, restaurants, and the like.
Bob reminisces about Jimmy’s Coney Island Lunch, “where you would get a real good greasy hot dog for a nickel,” from a man nicknamed “Jimmy the Greek.”
Bob was drafted into the Navy towards the end of WWII. He was sent to Oklahoma instead of overseas because he was identified as having typing skills, and being a non-swimmer, he was thankful for this fate.
Upon returning to New Kensington after the war, he was hired at Alcoa; however, Bob had dreams of being on the radio. Using the GI Bill, he attended radio school and felt fortunate to have been hired full time at the WKPA radio station in New Kensington in 1950.
In the early 50’s, Bob played favorite standards such as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Patti Page, and Rosemary Clooney. In fact, Bob met the young Italian, Tony Bennett, who came to promote his new record at WKPA in the early 50’s. It was during this time that Bob married Barbara in 1953.
Barbara was the babysitter for Bob’s older brother.
He recalled “always having his eye on her.” They started their family soon afterwards with their three children.
Bob shares quality time with his extended family on Sundays and holidays, and being a religious man, attends church regularly and credits any success he’s had to God. Despite his popularity and long tenure as a DJ, his career has never been a defining factor in his life.
First and foremost, his focus has been as a husband, father, and grandfather, and he sees this role as his legacy.