As a fourth generation Californian with a keen sense of curiosity and adventure, Ken Kramer was a natural as the host and producer of, “Ken Kramer’s About San Diego”, a local, long time half show that explored the places and people of San Diego until his retirement earlier this year.
Kramer, 66, was born in Pasadena and studied at Pasadena City College where he first got the broadcasting bug. He later transferred to SDSU, and graduated in 1974 with a BS in Radio and Television.
It was at SDSU where he began working as a student assistant at the small campus radio station, KEBS [today KPBS}. At that time, it was a classical music station and Kramer worked as an announcer. He later added some news segments. This transitioned into a job as the director of news and information programming in 1971.
Inspired by television personality Ralph Story’s show, “People and Places of Los Angeles” [1964-1970], he thought about doing something similar here in San Diego. Like Story, he wanted to explore the human condition and discover people and places in the San Diego area that most people didn’t know about.
In 1972, he did just that, making his first half hour radio show, “About San Diego”. Six years later, in 1979, he hosted and produced the first TV airing of “About San Diego” with a group of volunteers for KPBS. The show was about homeless children south of Broadway and a young, female boxer.
Slowly “About San Diego” became a fixture in San Diego and was broadcast as a morning and afternoon drive time radio segment on KSDO (KOGO) radio 7 days a week from 1984 to 1996, reaching more than 200,000 listeners a week.
Although his heart was with KPBS and public television, he left to join NBC 7 San Diego in 1995 to do individual “About San Diego” segments on their news shows where he also was a news reporter, and worked in the field.
Those NBC segments became a half-hour program from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, he worked out a deal with both KPBS and NBC 7 to bring over stories and do a cross promotion of the show.
Although not Jewish himself, he had frequent interactions with the Jewish community. On a regular basis, he partnered in the field with video journalist Rand Levin, who today is administrator and a former president of Beth Jacob Congregation.
Eventually, he left NBC and just worked for KPBS where the show was a half hour prime-time program before he retired in 2015. To this day, Kramer maintains cordial professional relations with both KPBS and NBC 7.
His last “About San Diego” will air this Thursday at 8:00 on KPBS and the whole show will be dedicated to the Centennial of the Panama California Exhibit at Balboa Park, and looking back at the 100 years since then. He may continue to do occasional shows in retirement.
It will be a bittersweet ending for many of his loyal fans [including me] who over the years have enjoyed watching his show, and going on adventures with him. The show also struck a chord with the public and his peers.
“About San Diego” was honored with numerous Emmy and Golden Mike Awards. My favorite was when The County Board of Supervisors proclaimed “Ken Kramer Day” in 2008, and described the show as “…more valuable to San Diego history than any two or three of our local museums combined”.
When asked how he went about finding stories for his shows, he said that his natural curiosity, suggestions from people, and help from local libraries always provided material. He developed his special style of writing while doing the shows where he engaged you in his storytelling of describing a place without revealing what or where it was until the end.
Kramer told many stories, but one of interest was about Louis Rose, the first Jewish settler in San Diego, and the restored Robinson Rose House in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Rose also founded Roseville in Point Loma. In 2005, there was a ceremony for Henrietta Rose, Louis Rose’s daughter, to dedicate her tombstone at Mt. Hope Cemetery. It had previously been unmarked.
Don Harrison, editor of San Diego Jewish World, wrote a book on the life of Louis Rose and Kramer wrote the foreword for him. Harrison’s research was featured on at least two of Kramer’s shows.
Ken Kramer is a modest man who feels blessed to have been able to discover new places, and meet many interesting people. He confided that he will miss doing his shows, but also looks forward to retirement. He enjoys traveling and pursuing his hobbies. He is a ham radio operator and fluent in Morse code. Although his landmark show will be missed by many, he will be remembered fondly by the public who wish him well.