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"It's a beautiful day in Pennsylvania!":
The life and legacy of Pete Wambach

Listen to some examples of Wambach's recordings.

Peter Cyrano Wambach was a Harrisburg broadcaster-journalist for nearly 70 years, and a self-made historian of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His radio program, "This is Pennsylvania," was heard daily on over 100 AM and FM radio stations throughout the state from 1964-1985. His work earned him the name "Mr. Pennsylvania," and millions of radio listeners knew him by his closing tag line, "This is Pete Wambach. It's a beautiful day in Pennsylvania." The 5-minute informative segments that he produced regaled listeners with many little known facts about people, places and things throughout the state. During his career, he produced a total of 2,470 show segments including such varied titles as "The Caves of Pennsylvania," "In Philadelphia," "John White Geary," "Fishing in Pennsylvania," "Farm Vacations," "'B' Dekta Bricka," "The Hiking Trails," "Scranton's Shortstop," and "Merry Weekend in May."

Unfinished Capitol, looking west up State Street, 8th Ward in foreground, Harrisburg, 1904

"This is Pennsylvania" was awarded the George Washington Gold Medal by the Freedoms Foundation for the best radio program by any governmental agency and was supported by the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, whose members donated free air time for its broadcast. Wambach's radio series was a labor of love that he lobbied the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce to fund. When funding for the production, distribution, research and recording of Wambach's program was no longer available in the budget of the Department of Commerce after July 7, 1978, the Department of Revenue briefly provided for the shortfall until June 15, 1979, when the show ended. House Resolution 120 of July 11, 1979 called for the Department of Commerce to resume funding for the program in order to promote tourism and to take advantage of a half million dollars of donated free air time, but the funding was never restored. From 1980 through 1985 the program was, however, returned to the air under the sponsorship of the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Cooperative.

Wambach worked in radio from the late 1930s through the 1980s, instituted the first television-telephone talk show in the United States, and wrote a column entitled "Around the Square" that appeared at various times in both the Harrisburg Patriot News and The Paxton Herald for nearly 25 years. On the political front, he was a statewide leader in the Democratic Party, served as a press aide for Democratic Governor George Leader and for Lt. Governor John Morgan Davis and was an information writer for Democratic Governor David Lawrence. In 1966 he ran unsuccessfully for the position of lieutenant governor, and in 1974 ran a close second for the 17th District Congressional seat won by Herman T Schneebeli.

The Point and environs, Pittsburgh, ca. 1950

Born on July 30, 1916 in Philadelphia, Mr. Wambach was the son of Karl and Magdalena (Lena) Noheimer Wambach. Upon graduating from Girard College in Philadelphia he began his public speaking career as a carnival barker and also worked for Canada Dry Ginger Ale Company. He moved to central Pennsylvania in 1937 where he married Margherita Carmella Zarbo on April 11, 1940 and together they had fourteen children--seven boys and seven girls. During the 1950s he owned a restaurant in the Colonial Park Mall and from the 50s through 1967 he owned Wambach Waxworks, a record distribution company having five warehouses in Pennsylvania. Wambach was also an author, poet, and composer, having written a musical entitled Anthracite! about the coal regions. He was a member of St. Patrick's Cathedral, a founding member of the Diocesan inter-religious council, and was known for his philanthropic endeavors, his contributions of service to social and political causes and his lectures around the Commonwealth. One of the first inductees into the Pennsylvania Broadcasters Hall of Fame, he received numerous other awards during his lifetime, including The George Washington Medal of Freedom, The B'Nai Brith Award and The Four Chaplains Award. In 2005 he was honored at the State Capitol and recordings of more than 2,000 of his broadcasts were turned over to the State Archives to be remembered as a piece of Pennsylvania history. Peter C. Wambach died on May 17, 2007.

"Don't be takers; give back," was the motto by which his children remembered him. It was said of him by Dr. Michael Barton, professor of American Studies at Penn State Harrisburg, that "[He was] one of a kind as a chronicler of the community. He made history and wrote it at the same time. What he's left, we'll refer to as long as we want to know anything about Harrisburg. His best memorial is what he wrote." Today, Peter Wambach's name appears on the Hall of Fame Honor Roll of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters and many Pennsylvanians fondly remember his broadcasts as an illuminating guide to the Commonwealth's multi-faceted history and cultural landscape.

The transcriptions, tapes and records of Wambach's work held by the Pennsylvania State Archives document his acclaimed radio series "This is Pennsylvania." Included in the collection are original reel to reel raw tapes, 33 1/3 rpm record discs containing the actual broadcast versions of the series, and transcripts of the broadcasts. A chronological inventory of the broadcasts is available; please feel free to contact the Archives with requests for future broadcasts to be included on subsequent versions of this page. The audio material has been converted by Archives' staff to .mp3 and .wav files, and can be heard in the Archives search room if prior arrangements are made. All of the audio segments contain Wambach's famous tag line "It's a Beautiful Day in Pennsylvania."

The newly-created Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with the Philadelphia skyline and City Hall in the background, 1927




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