Jack Bland was known as “Mr. Senior Citizen” and, for almost a decade, the host of “Sunny Days” on WSUN-AM 620. He also wrote a nostalgia-oriented newspaper column, titled after the radio show, for the St. Petersburg Evening Independent that, like its radio counterpart, evoked memories of life “in the good old days.”
His half-hour radio show, aimed at Tampa Bay’s senior citizen population, debuted on January 3, 1957. For years, seniors all over the bay area tuned in for the program five nights a week at 7:30 to hear him remember anniversaries, play requests on his “Memory Lane Hit Parade,” and offer a goodly portion of philosophy to live by.
Jack’s appreciation for the homespun, gentle things life had to offer most likely went back to his days growing up on a farm near Concordia, Kansas. As he grew older, his interest in the theater developed. After graduating from high school, he worked with a small stock company locally in Concordia and, later, joined a traveling repertory company that played small towns throughout the Midwest.
During World War I, he served in the U.S. Navy’s medical corps. When the conflict ended, he attended Naval Medical School on a recommendation from his commanding officer. He also worked for the Public Health Service in veterans’ hospitals, did sales promotions in Washington and New York, and took a course in industrial psychology.
While working in Baltimore, Jack heard that Florida was opening up for television, and decided that was where he wanted to live. Nine years later, he’d only gotten as far as Columbia, South Carolina. While there, hosting a televised talent show for young people, he began to realize that folks over 50 liked to sing and dance, too. That was all it took to prompt him to resume his journey to the Sunshine State and seek out a radio station interested in airing a program for seniors.
As soon as he arrived in St. Petersburg, he stopped by and spoke with WSUN GM Fred Shawn and program director Dayton Saltsman. He made his pitch for a program for and about seniors, and they took to the idea. A few days later, “Sunny Days” made its radio debut and ran on WSUN until around 1966, when he departed for another St. Pete station, WPIN-AM 680.
Jack was 79 when he passed away in 1975, and is remembered for his closing line of encouragement, spoken at the end of each of his broadcasts and included at the end of each of his newspaper columns – “Keep smiling. It looks good on you.”
1957 - 1968 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (On Air Personality)