Throwback Thursday: The Face and Voice of Reno TV

Betty Stoddard
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Today local television stations fill much of the broadcast day with a mixture of network and syndicated shows, news and information programming.

Locally produced entertainment has almost, but not quite, disappeared.

One notable exception is "Zomboo's House of Horrors," a late night hosted horror movie.

Here in the 21st century, Zomboo and his House of Horrors abides, but his show may be the last echo of what local television was like back when television was new to northern Nevada and KOLO-TV was establishing itself.

In the days before live network satellite feeds, much of what filled the broadcast day, programming and commercials, was produced live from our Fifth Street studio.

It was a mixed schedule of music, interviews, hosted movies and children's shows. Whatever wasn't on film, including commercials, was live.

All of this required a stable of on-air talent who often filled several roles.

Those who excelled, lasted. A few became, household names, a new kind of local celebrity.

None was as versatile, successful and long lasting as an attractive blonde named Betty Stoddard.

Born in Minnesota the daughter of a General Mills executive, she was educated at Northwestern University.

Eventually she found herself in Reno, working as public relations director for the Mapes Hotel where she met and married veteran radio newsman Bob Stoddard.

Her broadcasting career began on Stoddard's station on the hotel's mezzanine, but like other radio personalities she soon gravitated to the new game in town, KOLO-TV.

In time she would be seen in a number of roles, even once making an appearance in character on the Rocky Jones Space Ranger Show, but ask anyone who was watching at the time and they will remember her hosting an afternoon movie.

"Betty Stoddard had to be the centerpiece of the afternoon," remembers local historial Neal Cobb.

The program originally had a different host for each weekday and was called Quintet.

In time Betty emerged as the sole host and she gave it the name of her radio show, "Be My Guest." The talent and the brand were inseparable and during. Together they would be a staple of local television for the next 18 years.

She was a capable interviewer, her show often featuring visiting celebrities, even political figures. She handled those assignments and her commercial work, shifting between the two with effortless charm, never losing her enviable connection with her audience.

Anyone who might have mistook her for a pretty face, soon learned otherwise.

"She like it her way, says former KOLO salesman Don Thompson.. "And her way was usually very, very good."

No story about her tells more about Betty Stoddard than the day that found her preparing to do a commercial for a local market with a display of Thanksgiving turkeys while across the studio a supposedly tame mountain lion lounged on the set of an outdoorsman show.

Durward Yasmer was behind the studio camera when it happened.

"It took off from the set walked across right behind my camera.
And I looked back and here was the lion with a turkey in his mouth.
Do not try to take a turkey away from a lion. She ended up with I think it was 14 stiches."

And even though she was wounded she went ahead and did the commercial.

"And then they called an ambulance," says Yasmer..

That's being a trooper.

"That's it," says Yasmer. "Betty was a great person."

Eventually the afternoon movie fell victim to syndicated offerings, but she remained a presence on local television for decades longer and active in local affairs for the remainder of her life.

She was a singular figure, literally the face and voice of Reno television in its early days and beyond.

Another figure from the same era also began his career filling a number of roles, but went on to create the KOLO News Department. His story next week.