A true original

Fred Peterson, radio newsman, dies May 28 at age 86



There's the story about Fred Peterson, who, while the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor that fateful December morning in 1941, managed to survive the Sunday surprise attack which killed more than 2,000 Americans by not going to breakfast with his mates at the mess hall, which took a direct hit. He slept through it. He had taken full advantage of a tropical Saturday night.

There's also the story about Fred Peterson, who, suddenly dismissed from his noonday newsman stint on a Friday after a year with KVEC radio, finds himself in the news on the pages of what was then the Telegram-Tribune because, unbeknownst to his boss, he was let go on his 75th birthday.

There are a lot of stories about Fred Peterson, perhaps the most familiar name in San Luis Obispo radio news ever.

"[He] was an institution. There's an entire generation of people on the Central Coast who grew up listening to Fred Peterson," said KVEC radio talk-show host Dave Congalton.

Peterson, who died at the age of 86 on May 28, got his start behind a microphone in the Armed Forces Radio Network while he was in the army in the Pacific after World War II. After several years in radio news, Peterson arrived on the Central Coast, taking a job at KSLY in 1968, where he stayed until the mid-'90s when he switched over to KVEC.

"He was probably the most dedicated radio newscaster in town," said Guy Hackman, owner of KKJL and former employer and friend of Peterson. "He got up at four in the morning and went to see the police, the fire department, covering all the beats. He went to city hall, and met with people morning and night after working all day."

Peterson was a frequent visitor at Sebastian's, one of the town's most popular watering holes that is now Mission Grill, not far from where Peterson lived.

But it wasn't Peterson's physical presence that was imposing ... it was his voice, and the way he used it.

"He was a real character, and he had a lot of style," said Hackman. "That's what distinguished him."

Anyone around at the time of Peterson's prime will never forget his radio signature, "This is Peterson ... and ... the news."

"Even thought the years have gone by, if you were asked to name a radio newscaster in town, his name would come up," said Hackman. "I don't think anybody could name another radio newscaster."

A celebration of Peterson's life is planned for this afternoon, June 2, from 3-5 p.m. at Mission Grill on Chorro Street in San Luis Obispo. ³


Managing Editor King Harris can be reached at

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