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The Magical Qualities of Canned Tuna

Gloria Penner began working at KPBS as a journalist in 1969.

Above: Gloria Penner began working at KPBS as a journalist in 1969.

My first impression of the KEBS offices in late 1969 was the swimming pool. I walked through a rickety gate which linked the edges of a U-shaped two-story drab masonry apartment building which wouldn’t have survived the 2009 Haitian earthquake.

Original KPBS administration building
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Above: Original KPBS administration building

The “apartments” housed offices for both KEBS and some State College departments. But it was the swimming pool that riveted my attention. It was ugly, crumbling and a hazard. No lifeguards, no fence, no liability insurance and hot summer nights.

After an over-stimulated, overheated student jumped into the pool from the second floor balcony, the bulldozers arrived and filled the pool with dirt. A picnic table and a shade tree would take its place.

A simple can of tuna was Penner's gift to ensure health and longevity in a newly planted tree.
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Above: A simple can of tuna was Penner's gift to ensure health and longevity in a newly planted tree.

My contribution to the project was a can of tuna. I had lived in Hawaii for 4 years in the mid-60’s and was still steeped in Island mythology. As the new tree was being planted, I remembered the Hawaiian folklore that a new tree would be blessed if a fresh fish from the ocean were thrown into the planting hole. This would ensure health and longevity for both the tree and its benefactor. With no fresh fish in the vicinity, I grabbed the tuna from my lunch pack and tossed it in as dirt was filling the hole. The blessing worked. The tree prospered until the site was leveled a few years ago.

As for me, I’m still growing and thriving at KPBS.

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