PHOTO INDEX: RON ALLEN BEING NAMED MEDIA MAN OF THE YEAR, RON ALLEN IN A MID 60s WARM SURVEY SHEET WHEN HE DID 3PM TO 6PM, A SKETCH OF RON ALLEN IN 1967 WHEN HIS AIR SHIFT WAS 1 PM TO 4PM, RON ALLEN SUITED UP FOR SOME SORT OF AN EVENT, A DRAWING USED IN THE EARLY 60s OF RON ALLEN AND RON ALLEN WITH HIS FOOTBALL HERO, JOHNNY UNITAS.
I first met Ron Allen was I was 17. He was doing the 1 PM to 6PM Countdown Show on WARM and I had a scoop. It turned out our high school, St. John the Evangelist in Pittston was bringing in "Digger" Phelps, the Notre Dame Basketball coach for a banquet. I walked into the main studio area and Ron was sitting on the sofa, perusing the Racing Form and eating a Snickers Candy Bar. I introduced myself, breathlessly told him my news and Ron Allen said, "I know". It was then that I realized that no one could ever scoop Ron Allen.
As a listener, he first came to me on the radio after school when he did the 3PM to 6PM shift on WARM. If you listened to the show, you were "palin' with Allen". On the weekends, he did the top 40 Countdown Show. Every kid in WARMland listened to that show, survey sheet in hand, looking to see where our favorite group landed. Allen had as his sidekick "Mother Fletcher", an irracible person of seasoning who escaped from "The Home For the Terminally Silly". His bits with her/him??? were hysterical.
Allen bridged the gap from entertainment to sports. He foresaw that AM radio and its role in pop music would not be dominant and he turned WARM, the place for Music and News as the place to turn for sports. With George Gilbert and Pete Erickson, Allen re-invented WARM into a sports leader. Starting on a Sunday night, the show was live and began in 1974. High school basketball, football, and the Ron Allen Sportsline became a "must listen" entity if you were a sports fan. But Allen, with his vast knowledge of all things sport, also had a way of getting those uninterested or uninvolved with the games to somehow understand it. He was well known on the banquet service and no visit by a sports head of state was not complete without an appearance by Ron Allen. He moved easily among the DiMaggios, Aarons, Mantles and superstars but was almost giddy when you mentioned the name Unitas. A diehard Baltimore fan, Allen rooted for his Birds and Colts but muted that passion to make room for his audience's favorite teams.
Ron Allen worked at the same place for nearly four decades. But don't mistake him for "the company man". Allen seemed to take all the curveballs Susquehanna Broadcasting could toss at him but always seemed to make the ideas work into a particular radio format mandated by the suits in York. Because of his creativity and savvy, thousands grew up with and then matured with WARM. One Susquehanna GM even gave him a "lifetime contract", the only one bestowed on a WARM employee.
Ron's death seems different to me from others because his presence was absent the last 15 years or so. After suffering a stroke, that gift of gab and exhibition of language was silenced. But his old friends kept in touch, getting the hugs and that patented Ronzie smile. Ron Allen might have died physically today, but those of us who loved music, sports and a good lively discussion will always hear forever, "hello everybody, Ron Allen here................". Like the sports heros he covered, Ron Allen gave us time away from the cares of the big bad world, whether it be school or work. Thanks Ron, you will remain "the best there ever was".