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Talkin’ Auction

Ken Kramer easily steps into hosting duties during the 1976 KPBS Auction.
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Above: Ken Kramer easily steps into hosting duties during the 1976 KPBS Auction.

I'll admit it. I miss the KPBS Auction. For those too new in town, or too young to remember the 1970s and 80s, Auction was an annual rite of spring, a drop-everything, suspend-the-schedule, week-long, every-evening on-air marathon to raise money for KPBS.

But it was so much more than that. Part shopping mall, part circus, Montezuma Hall at SDSU was transformed into a warehouse full of things donated by viewers and corporate supporters to be sold live on the air to the highest bidder.

Ken Kramer always had a good time during KPBS Auction.
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Above: Ken Kramer always had a good time during KPBS Auction.

Everything went -- from a custom-built car to an evening at a pistol range.

Unless otherwise arranged, the top-bidder always got their name read on-the-air. So everyone watching could learn exactly who won the vasectomy, the psychiatric care, or the shepherd-terrier mix.

It was controlled chaos…a sometimes silly spectacular that over the years must have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for KPBS. But I think Auction had another long-term benefit that still pays dividends today. It created a real, and, I would argue, lasting connection between the station and the community. You see, when you won that framed sketch by Mario Uribe you came right over to Auction to pick it up. You met the staff, and later maybe you became a volunteer, or a member, or learned about the Radio Reading Service.

By today's standards, it was probably way too labor intensive method to fundraise. But in its day, Auction was such a sweet celebration! A chance for KPBS to kick off its corset and laugh and sing.... "So Happy Together."

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