Simon Pontin, host of "The Sunshine Show" and "Salmagundy" retires

Sat, 05/16/2009 - 6:00am
Simon Pontin_140.jpg
WXXI-FM Host Simon Pontin
Simon's Retirement PartySimon's Retirement PartySimon Pontin hosted his last Sunshine Show on Friday, May 15 and his last Salmagundy Show on Saturday, May 16. After 33 years of hosting Classical music on WXXI-FM, he has retired. Pontin, the longest-tenured morning radio host in Rochester, joined Classical 91.5 in 1976, and during his distinguished time at the station, was producer and host of The Sunshine Show and Salmagundy, the Show for Working People. His love for Classical music began at an early age. “As a child I listened to the BBC, and they always played Classical music,” explains Pontin. That’s where he was first exposed to the works of Mozart, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Copland and so many others.
 
Novelty songs is another love of Pontin’s, and his admiration for it inspired the creation of Salmagundy, the light-hearted and humorous magazine-style program featuring show tunes, novelty pieces and locally produced movie reviews, book reviews and musical commentary. “I love Classical music, and I don’t think Salmagundy took anything away from that,” he said. “But, that show was more my personality.”
 
Pontin was born in Reading, in Berkshire, England in the early days of World War II. He moved to America with his family when he was 16 years old. In the States, Simon worked at several printing-related jobs before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1959. In the service, he was trained to repair broadcast equipment. Upon being discharged, Simon took a job in a safety department at Eastman Kodak Company. While at Kodak, he moonlighted as host on WBBF-FM, then Rochester’s only Classical music station. He joined WBBF-FM’s successor, WBFB, full-time in 1971 and later became its program director. He left the station in 1975 when the format changed from all-Classical to all-news. After less than a year as a car salesman, he accepted a job with WXXI-FM as host of the morning show. Pontin enjoys traveling, gardening and entertaining his greyhounds, and plans to do more of it with his fiancée Christy Simons. He has three adult children and, at last count, six grandchildren.

"Mornings will never be the same," said Brenda Tremblay, who is serving as interim host of the morning show, weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.
 
 
 
Pontin Tribute - Barbara Stewart:
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Pontin Tribute - Bob Koch:
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Pontin Tribute - Dave Sluberski:
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Pontin Tribute - David Minor:
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Pontin Tribute - Ellen Koskoff:
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Pontin Tribute - George Grella:
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Pontin Tribute - Isobel Neuberger:
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Pontin Tribute - Isobel Neuberger 1:
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Pontin Tribute - Jay Stetzer:
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Pontin Tribute - Joe Baker 1:
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Pontin Tribute - Joe Baker 2:
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Pontin Tribute - John Andres:
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Pontin Tribute - John Ballard:
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Pontin Tribute - John Proffitt:
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Pontin Tribute - Lauri Dishman:
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Pontin Tribute - Lucien Morin:
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Pontin Tribute - Mary Jo Heath:
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Pontin Tribute - Mordecai Lipshutz:
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Pontin Tribute - Richard Howland-Bolton:
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If you'd like to leave a message for Simon electronically, you're invited to add it as a comment below.
Keep in mind that comments are moderated and will not immediately appear, but will all certainly be passed on.

Comments

Simon's retirement

I was the Radio Manager for WXXI in the early 1980's, and I must say that one of my greatest pleasures during my time in Rochester was gaining a friend and colleague in Simon Pontin. It is safe to say that I was, like many Rochesterians, thoroughly conditioned to wake up to the Sunshine Show, with its invigorating -- and sometimes irritating! -- smorgasbord of eclectic music, entertaining conversation and subtle British wit and humour. And the birds! Oy, the birds....

With his always accessible and always 1st class presentation, Simon epitomizes the best that public radio has to offer. So, Simon -- you will be missed! But I'm glad to hear that you'll be "hanging around!"

Best Wishes to Simon!

I've been in Rochester since 1973, and a listener of yours for much of that time. I've grown quite proud of public broadcasting in Rochester, and the quality of local programming like yours is responsible for that in no small part.

I wish you the VERY best in your retirement!

Jim

Farewell

Simon,
The Best to you in your Retirement. I am certain I will be going into Simon withdrawal since your
voice has been in my house for 30 years. You have been a comfort and an inspiration to me each
day. You are One of a Kind and I thank you for that. Sincerely, Jane Ellen Bailey

Mr. Pontin's retirement

Dear Mr. Pontin, I should like to offer my fond reminiscence of having heard you over WXXI while I was on holiday in Rochester in the early 1980's. While motoring towards the Eastman School to hear some concerts and visit the SibleyMusic Library, I happened to hear you playing Dag Wiren's "Serenade" played by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and conducted by Neville Marriner. It was the first time I heard said same. Whenever I play the record, I think back to that time and recall what a pleasantly lasting impression was made upon me by the work itself and by your commentary. May I say much good fortune to you and yours. "Auld acquaintance" is most certainly not forgot! Yours sincerely, Les Bernstein, Miami, Florida

Thank You.

Thank you Simon for the many mornings of music. We seem to live in a time when radio morning formats are intended to grab your attention and sensationalize. I have always enjoyed starting my day in a more relaxed and uplifting way. Thank you for your thoughtful voice and approach to radio broadcasting. I will miss hearing your voice each morning. Best of luck to you!!

Best Regards,

Nate Ruder
Fairport, NY

Kudos to Simon

I have listened to WXXI and Simon Pontin since arriving in New York 12 years ago. During my 30 plus years as a Public Radio listener I have been a member of six PBS stations in four states. Only one morning announcer during that time period has come even close to Simon and that was Garrison Keillor who did the morning show in Minnesota before hitting the big time with Prairie Home Companion. Like Simon he had an eclectic mix of music, news bits and humor. I will miss WXXI as it has been a constant companion at work for many years with Simon starting off my day. Thanks for the music, whimsy and humor, Simon, and for introducing me to the Black Dyke Band, Limey light music and Tommy O’Reilly among others.

Congratulations, Simon

Simon,

So when I left the WXXI-FM morning show in 1976, I had no idea that that old guy who replaced me would end up staying for 33 years. I feel like that baseball player who took a day off.....Lou Gehrig replaced him and set the all-time record for consecutive games played. I can't remember his name, just as no one remembers mine.

Congratulations, old friend. Enjoy your retirement!

Tom Teuber
Madison, WI

Congratulations, Simon! We will miss you!!

Simon,
We've awakened to the Sunshine Show for the past 25 years and have greatly enjoyed your choice in music, witty remarks, and quirky sense of humor. Listening to Salmagundy, we've often wondered where you find the songs that work so well with the various spots. You have been a constant in our lives and even though we have never met, we feel like we know you. Our lives have been enriched because of you -- you've enticed us to learn more about classical music, given us many chuckles, and helped is start the day in a positive frame of mind. Thank you for your many years of service and many contributions to our community!

We were dismayed to hear that you are retiring and know that mornings will never be the same without your warm, calm voice awakening us. We will miss you greatly!! However, you have certainly earned your retirement, getting up before dawn all these years! We wish you great health and much happiness in the coming years!! Congratulations and best wishes!!

To Simon upon his retirement

Dear Simon,

My mom told me that the first time I met you was at a fund raising picnic for WXXI. At the ripe young age of three I took charge of our picnic, bringing all things necessary: a checkered blanket, my tea set, Winnie The Pooh, other various stuffed animals, and a jar of huny (spelled huny because it was for Pooh, of course). Amid the fields of elegant Pittsford picnic set ups, you came by to judge me. My mom introduced us and said, “Amanda, this is Simon from the radio.” There was no introduction needed. I knew exactly who you were.

You are a voice that I have known my whole life. I knew the number for your pledge drives (four-five-four-sixty-three-hundred) before I knew my own. Your birds at 6am chirped me through my adolescent years. Your fondness for Beethoven and show tunes is what makes us kindred spirits. Your music choice is impeccable. I love the stories you tell and the way you always know how to play the perfect medley of songs to get me through the day.

I always had a secret hope that you would be eternal because it is hard to imagine WXXI, my morning commutes, or Saturday morning without you. Still, there is a part of me that knew this day would come. I wish you as wonderful a retirement as all of the wonderful years of music you have given me.

Sincerely,
Amanda

Simon Will be Greatly Missed

Dear Simon,
My wife, Nina, and I are very long time members of the station. I started listening to you decades ago on WBFB.
So many of us have enjoyed the great classical music you have brought to Rochester in such a relaxed and often amusing manner. But, of course it, it wasn't all classical. Where else would we hear Spike Jones, Twelve Days of Christmas, etc. One can never know what will be aired next when you're at the helm! I especially like your ability to follow a feature spot with a piece that has a clever, subtle connection to it. I think it would be fitting for you to give some credit for your long tenure to Morgan. After all, he was so inept that you were forced to learn how to run the show yourself before you banished him from the premises. Since then all has run flawlessly!

Best wishes to you,
Nina and Dave

Retirement

BAWL! First Mordecai, now Simon. I love Brenda, too but there is no getting around the fact that Simon has been for me, as well as for so many others, the 'face' and spirit of XXI for a looonnnngg time. It had to happen, I know, but surely there will be an echoing void in listeners' lives now. There is no other FM station that has had- and will continue to have-this precious sense of person-hood that this one has had all the many years I have listened- as a member, by the way. I have no funny incidents to recall- just the delight of sensing a sharp, witty mind at the other end of the line all these years, a real western NYer, a real, not stuffed (or stuffy) person. You have other wonderful persons on board, thankfully, so keep up the good work of being "real" and please stencil Simon's name over his window and retire his chair to the Smithsonian or something! He deserves his retirement but should never forget how much he will be missed! Fondly- Susan

Fare Thee Well

I moved to Rochester in 1982. While I was a bit homesick, I knew I had made the right choice when I discovered a wonderful way to begin my day: Simon Pontin’s Sunshine Show.

Having been a fan and supporter of the classic music station in my hometown, I just assumed that with classical music came somber, pompous voices lecturing us less mortals about the importance of traditional, classical music.

What a delightful surprise when I discovered FM 91.5 and found that I could listen to the classic music station and laugh out loud at the same time! And to discover that good, “classical” music existed not only in 18th century Europe but also in 20th century America.

My favorite memory, of many, is waking up slowly on a June morning to the classic Rogers and Hammerstein song “June Is Busting Out All Over”; and indeed it was when I opened the curtains. I smiled and hummed the whole day long.

Thank you, thank you Simon for the gift of waking up every morning to a witty, intelligent show. Blessing to you on your well-deserved retirement.

Good Luck Simon

Simon,

It will not be the same without you. When I first moved to Rochester, I was not hooked on
classical music. My sister loved 'XXI and your shows in particular. I remember volunteering a few
times during Selmagaundy and quickly became a fan. My sister always said you carried her through some difficult times; she was right because you were there to lift my spirits when she died.

I even loved the fund drives, and the idea of "Cat stew" when one had too many cats! Simon, you know there is no such thing as too many pets, be they dogs or cats.

I want to wish you the best, a long and healthy retirement and the blessing and peace of the
Lord be on you always.

Sincerely, Pat Curry

Congratulations, Simon!

Simon, I shall miss your sense of whimsey and eclectic tastes. And the birds! What a delightful way to start the morning!

Best wishes for a wonderful retirement.

Mary Jane Stoltz

Simon

i've been a fan of yours since we moved to this area in1965. Thank you for your wonderful humor, your interest in music and your accent is always refreshing. Your Saturday programing was interesting and brought smiles to my face. i am going to truly miss you.
May your retirement be as blessed as mine has been and busy also. To be busy is a wonderful position to be in. It keeps the goblins at bay and lets all the wonderful happenings come your way.
Blessings. martha

Thank you, Simon

Your voice and selections have been a bright part of our lives. I know it sounds schmaltzy, but your programs have been our sunshine, especially on Saturday morning - you've made us happy, when skies are gray!
Best wishes for many happy days ahead!

Rochester will miss you Simon!

It was extraordinary listening to you every morning... you will leave a void that will be hard to be filled. Rochester mornings won’t be the same without you. I am sad to hear that you are leaving... but I wish you all the best. I have listened to many classical radios in other places, but have not found anything like your show! Cheerios my friend! You deserve all the best... Thanks for everything!

Congratulations, but not farewll

You may not remember me Simon, but many decades ago in the pristine village of Fairport, we shared membership in the local Junior Chamber group. I was in charge of placing a few park benches around town (only sat on one, once) and a few other projects that my memory has displaced.
Anyways, I have listened to you for years (although being out of town with my profession frequenlty means that I am unable to hear you daily; h'mm perhaps thats a blessing?) And the sad part is, many times I vowed to get in touch with you - Now all of a sudden, your are departing the airwaves of Rochester - and sincerely it will never be the same.
You will be sorely missed by so many, including me and my wife Pat, as I listen to you as the birds signal the end of overnight classical music and the start of your show - which has always been most entertaining. All I can say now is
THANK YOU, THANK YOU and God's richest blessings on you and new bride. Now I also have heard that you are
going to spend more time with model trains and that is also my primary hobby. So perhaps yet, we will meet this side of heaven. (and they say that never the train shall meet!)

"Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish"

From your choice of silly songs and stunning symphonies
From your stellar knowledge of classical and not so classical music to your always sunny voice
For your brightening my mornings for the past 21 years
Thanks!

Enjoy your well earned and deserved retirement. I hope to still hear Salmagundy every once in a while. I will miss your morning cheer. Peace

Dan Dwyer

Thank you, Simon

Dear Simon,

We have enjoyed listening to your shows for many years and will miss you very much. We wish you the very best in your retirement and upcoming marriage. We'll hope to hear news of you from time to time and perhaps even your vioce and interesting music choices as you fill in at WXXI.

Most Sincerely,

Gerry and Bev Verbridge
Williamson, NY

Retirement Congratulations!

I was the midday announcer and music director for WXXI in the 1980's, and had the privilege of working alongside Simon, public radio's finest announcer. I am also proud to count him as a treasured friend for all these many years. The following echoes and reinforces former Radio Manager John Proffitt's justified praise.
Simon has always been my broadcasting hero and mentor. To me, he is quite simply the best announcer I have ever heard. Over the years, I've listened to scores of announcers and always come back to that conviction. When I came to WXXI in 1980 as a very green and mistake-prone announcer, he gently guided me through his example of integrity and professionalism. And when I would compliment him, he would always brush it aside with characteristic humility. This is what Simon taught above all: Always be yourself on the radio. Being a young buck fresh out of SUNY Geneseo, I didn't really have a clear sense of identity. But I worked through that with Simon's powerful inspiration giving strength and vision. In broadcasting there are always so many wanting to change or mold you into something you are not. Thanks to Simon I stayed true to myself and so was able to make 'real radio'. He is a GIANT and the best there has ever been!
Congratulations, Simon, on a remarkable career and may you have a wonderful retirement!
Your friend always,
Dave

Simon

Congratulations, Simon on your retirement, and thank you for years of entertainment. I hope
someone explains where "The Citrus Hour" and "Albert Hall" came from: it has always perplexed
me! Best wishes for many happy and healthy years in retirement. We will all miss you!
Joy L

Best wishes Simon!

Best wishes on the start of your new career, Simon!

Here's hoping it will be at least as unique as your time behind the microphone!

Glenn Call

Sigh

Just heard George Grella's comments, Simon-- have to add: "what he said"- perfect. Because I can listen only when at the computer (not convenient for living) I have sorely, sorely missed the Sunshine Show accompanying me through the morning. So I did not know of Lois' illness and passing, and I almost missed hearing of your retirement. After all this week (being near Rochester for a while and able to follow some of this) I have to say I am sitting here crying. We never met but, as another writer mentioned, it did not prevent you from becoming a friend. I do not wish to discourage or disparage the unfortunate person who will have to fill your broadcasting shoes but there is no denying that your listeners are losing a great and unique treasure. I stumbled upon one of those sour-pickle blog comments to the effect that it's time you moved on for the younger generation. Well. If that person had in mind his own smug and arrogant style as a suitably current replacement, your loss is all that more lamentable. Your retirement is well-earned so we all wish you the best. In an hour an a half it won't be quite Rochester anymore.
Fondly- Susan

Simon

I'm surprised by my sentimental feelings about your retirement. I don't know you. You're the just voice on the radio.

But for decades, through mornings grabbing a quick bowl of cereal as a teenager before school, making coffee in my first apartment, the relief of hearing the "birds" after a sleepless night with a sick baby, the calm voice as a soft song of sanity behind the order to "brush your teeth!" and "pack your backpack!"...the morning I sat on my kitchen floor, learning my grandmather had died, and you were there.

You don't know me, but you've been my friend for most of my life. Steady and reliable, entertaining and charming, calming and steadfast.

My children, now teenagers, are listening to the last Salmagundy as I write...I didn't tell them to.
We have your bobble-head. It broke, but it will sit next to our kitchen radio. Henry, my youngest, was teary when it broke yesterday...I guess you're their friend, too.

Thank you. Thank you, Thank you.
Carin Ash

Simon Bobble-Head

Hi, Carin --

I just happened to read your message to Simon and noted that your Simon Bobble-Head no longer bobbles! I wanted you to know that, if you are interested, we would be happy to replace your bobble-head.

Just reply to the e-mail above with your mailing address or give me a call at 258-0252. We'd love to put a smile back on Henry's face!

Sharon Congelli
WXXI
Administrative Assistant, Individual Giving

Simon bobble head?

Sharon,

When Simon retired, I wrote a note about how sad we were, and that his bobblehead had broken, leaving my youngest surprisingly sentimental.

I never thought to look for a response, but I just looked back and saw that you- ages ago- replied that it could possibly be replaced.

If that's still true, it would be so much fun to give Henry as a Christmas present!
If not, no problem and I thank you-either way- for even offering.

Thanks so much,
Carin

Simon Bobble Head

Carin,
I'm sorry you didn't get the message earlier. Unfortunately we don't have any more Simon bobble heads.

Simon Pontin's Retirement

Each of Simons' fans has a special attachment to his radio broadcasts, this is mine.

As a young child in the 1950s I remember visiting my father as he worked during the summers in the hot and cramped radio studio of a small sunrise to sunset AM station in the Midwest. He had great pride as a rebel in his end-of-day show "Jerry the Janitor" playing jazz and pop tunes on a country western station. At a small midwestern college he was professor of speech and radio broadcasting, running the campus radio station and trying to educate students in the promise of radio.

Everyone in my family except me had training and/or careers in classical and jazz music. "Any music regardless of genre that is well written and performed is good" was my father's credo. He also prized his Spike Jones record collection, stating that "you have to be a good musician to play that crazy". Needless to say I formed an immediate attachment to Simon's offerings on WXXI radio in particular Salmagundy and the Citrus Hour. His style, wit, humor and programming selections remind me so much of my father's radio broadcasts. Simon's efforts and achievements are that of my fathers' dreams, fortunately coming to fruition for the pleasure and benefit of the Rochester area community.

Because of a busy Saturday schedule in recent years I often recorded Simon's shows to time-shift to a more convenient time of day for listening. I still have a few of those recordings and will prize them for years to come. At this moment I am recording his final show to add to that small collection.

As a busy retiree I welcome Simon to retirement; hopefully, he will find the same satisfaction in the pursuit of interests that I have found. Best wishes and luck to you, Simon, in years to come.

A grateful listener,

Greg Lawrence
WXXI Member

So ephemeral, and yet...

I'm sitting here eating my breakfast, watching the Simon Pontin bobblehead nod in a reserved, yet friendly, manner - as Salmagundy plays on and Simon chats.

Since graduating from Geneseo in 1978 Simon's voice has been Rochester to me. It colored my perception of what kind of city I had moved to: one that could embrace classical traditions but was not too stuffy to lose its sense of humor about them. It helped me judge the relative worth of new friends. If the appreciated the Sunshine Show, they were good folk.

It was wonderful to wake to the gentle sounds of birds chirping each morning. It was even wonderful to wake, one morning, to the roar of a Harley motorcycle - announcing the start of a pledge drive.

I hope the ability to appreciate and still keep our laugh intact will not be lost with Mr. Pontin's departure from the air.

I do wonder, though - how the loss of something so ephemeral - a voice, magically transmitted in an invisible form through the air, can leave such a tangible hole in my heart?