COLUMN: Of Many Oneonta Greats, Joe Left A Big Footprint

IN APPRECIATION • Joe Campbell Sr.

Of Many Oneonta Greats,

Joe  Left A Big Footprint

Editor’s Note: “Big Chuck” D’Imperio, radio personality and author, assess Joe Campbell’s impact on Oneonta at the “Voice of Oneonta’s” memorial service Saturday.  This is an excerpt.

By CHUCK D’IMPERIO • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

When I joined WDOS in 1989 I was a fairly young guy, not even 40-years-old yet.

And the station was filled with young people, from sales to administrative to on-air and to management. But there were two old guys at the station that many of us will never forget. One of them was Bob Whittemore, the crusty cigar chewing sports guy who talked a mile a minute and knew many of the great baseball players on a first name basis.

Chuck D’Imperio recalls the guidance he was provided as fledgling broadcaster. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

And the other “old guy” was Joe Campbell. Having been around both of these legendary figures in radio, and me having never spent a minute in a broadcast booth, well, let’s just say that I learned at the feet of giants.

Joe Campbell was a one-of-a kind in this or any other community of its size.

Everybody knew Joe, liked him, respected him and enjoyed his many talents. I remember when I started out more than 30 years ago I was nervous and not very confident of really what to do. I would stand in the studio behind Joe and watch him through the glass partition.

He was definitely old school, that is for sure. He cupped his ear when he spoke, he had a story about every singer, song and big band that he played and he had a magical rapport with all of his listeners. I watched Joe and learned from him. We all did.

Joe was one of the last true gentlemen. I never knew Joe to wear a hat, but if he did he would certainly have tipped it when greeting a lady on the street. His handshake was hearty, his laugh was infectious and his pure joy for the art of broadcasting was unlike I have ever seen before or since.

Joe left a big mark on this community. Some people do that, you know – mostly the older folks who we remember in an instant with a smile and a nod. People like Sam Nader who also left big footprints all over the city.

And Jim Konstanty, Gene Bettiol and Clyde Wright, Dick Miller and the Bresee’s men, and too many others to even mention. Other people left their marks in smaller yet no less significant ways in the City of the Hills, people like Jack Stahl tickling the ivories or even dear Muriel Ross serving up a smile and a cup of coffee at the Health Bar. These are our small town legends.

But Joe’s legacy is different. It is a sweeping, multi-generational impact that perhaps this city has never seen.

Thousands of young people have learned life lessons from Mr. C, one of the most beloved teachers in OHS history. Hundreds of young men have learned the hard lessons of integrity and discipline from the days when Coach Campbell pushed them on the playing fields of Oneonta. And how many have been entertained by his unique and mythic “Sentimental Journey,” a show than ran on radio for a historic 50 years at WDOS?

Well, we will never know that number for sure. But they are out there.

The grandparents who tuned in to hear the Big Band music of their youth. The young couples who listened to Joe’s stories of happenings around Oneonta. The student athletes who would tune in to maybe, just maybe, hear their name called out as Joe read one of his uncountable local sports stories.

Yes, the numbers of people that Joe touched via radio is unknown, but is clearly massive.

It has been my pleasure to know Joe Campbell and I will cherish every single moment I had with him both on the air and off, whether sipping a beer with him in his basement museum at 18 Grand St., or over a Monday afternoon plate of spaghetti with Joe and the boys at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club. He blessed our fair city with his presence and his voice. I dare say we will never see the likes of the Grand Old Man ever again.

I remember how “old-fashioned” Joe’s sign off from his “Sentimental Journey” was each Saturday. It never changed for over 50 years. I used to think it was kind of corny, really. But looking back now I think the words echo almost everything that we came to know about Joe. And they seem almost perfect.

At 11:57 a.m. every Saturday for two generations of listeners, The Grand Old Man would cup his ear and sign off with these words: “And so, my dear friends, I close by saying ……… let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing. And I, yes I, will stay younger than spring.”

Rest in peace, Joe Campbell.

When I joined WDOS in 1989 I was a fairly young guy, not even 40-years-old yet.

And the station was filled with young people, from sales to administrative to on-air and to management. But there were two old guys at the station that many of us will never forget. One of them was Bob Whittemore, the crusty cigar chewing sports guy who talked a mile a minute and knew many of the great baseball players on a first name basis.

And the other “old guy” was Joe Campbell. Having been around both of these legendary figures in radio, and me having never spent a minute in a broadcast booth, well, let’s just say that I learned at the feet of giants.

Joe Campbell was a one-of-a kind in this or any other community of its size.

Everybody knew Joe, liked him, respected him and enjoyed his many talents. I remember when I started out more than 30 years ago I was nervous and not very confident of really what to do. I would stand in the studio behind Joe and watch him through the glass partition.

He was definitely old school, that is for sure. He cupped his ear when he spoke, he had a story about every singer, song and big band that he played and he had a magical rapport with all of his listeners. I watched Joe and learned from him. We all did.

Joe was one of the last true gentlemen. I never knew Joe to wear a hat, but if he did he would certainly have tipped it when greeting a lady on the street. His handshake was hearty, his laugh was infectious and his pure joy for the art of broadcasting was unlike I have ever seen before or since.

Joe left a big mark on this community. Some people do that, you know – mostly the older folks who we remember in an instant with a smile and a nod. People like Sam Nader who also left big footprints all over the city.

And Jim Konstanty, Gene Bettiol and Clyde Wright, Dick Miller and the Bresee’s men, and too many others to even mention. Other people left their marks in smaller yet no less significant ways in the City of the Hills, people like Jack Stahl tickling the ivories or even dear Muriel Ross serving up a smile and a cup of coffee at the Health Bar. These are our small town legends.

But Joe’s legacy is different. It is a sweeping, multi-generational impact that perhaps this city has never seen.

Thousands of young people have learned life lessons from Mr. C, one of the most beloved teachers in OHS history. Hundreds of young men have learned the hard lessons of integrity and discipline from the days when Coach Campbell pushed them on the playing fields of Oneonta. And how many have been entertained by his unique and mythic “Sentimental Journey,” a show than ran on radio for a historic 50 years at WDOS?

Well, we will never know that number for sure. But they are out there.

The grandparents who tuned in to hear the Big Band music of their youth. The young couples who listened to Joe’s stories of happenings around Oneonta. The student athletes who would tune in to maybe, just maybe, hear their name called out as Joe read one of his uncountable local sports stories.

Yes, the numbers of people that Joe touched via radio is unknown, but is clearly massive.

It has been my pleasure to know Joe Campbell and I will cherish every single moment I had with him both on the air and off, whether sipping a beer with him in his basement museum at 18 Grand St., or over a Monday afternoon plate of spaghetti with Joe and the boys at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club. He blessed our fair city with his presence and his voice. I dare say we will never see the likes of the Grand Old Man ever again.

I remember how “old-fashioned” Joe’s sign off from his “Sentimental Journey” was each Saturday. It never changed for over 50 years. I used to think it was kind of corny, really. But looking back now I think the words echo almost everything that we came to know about Joe. And they seem almost perfect.

At 11:57 a.m. every Saturday for two generations of listeners, The Grand Old Man would cup his ear and sign off with these words: “And so, my dear friends, I close by saying ……… let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing. And I, yes I, will stay younger than spring.”

Rest in peace, Joe Campbell.


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