Milt Hibdon, Mr. Personality
By Lee Roddy, Penn Valley, CA.
I met Milt Hibdon in mid-July 1947 when I arrived at KTRB to begin what became an 8-year tenure and a friendship with Milt that lasted about 50 years, so I knew him well.

Modesto's population was only 17,000 when Milt first became a staff announcer under Program Director Gene D'Accardo, but Milt was far more than a voice on the air. He was like a bottle of soda water that's been shaken well and the cap removed. He thought fast, talked fast, moved fast and went far - very far.

Once during a break in broadcasting at the annual county fair in Turlock we were challenged to draw and fire an electronic pistol to beat an electric "bad man" to the draw. I lost, as did everyone else who tried - except Milt. He outdrew, fired and scored a hit on his opponent before "he" could fire.

Yet Milt's high drive was not so much demonstrated in his speed, but in innovation and achievement in getting a country KTRB microphone in among big city mikes in front of President Harry Truman,  General Douglas Macarthur, and Governor Earl Warren
Milt Hibdon
06-27-1927 - 09-12-1989

Personal History:

  • Name:    Milton Leon Hibdon
  • Born :     June 22, 1927 in Modesto, Stanislaus, California
  • Died:      September 12, 1989 in Fayetteville, New York.
  • Cause of Death: Coronary occlusion
  • Burial:     Acacia Memorial Park, Modesto, Stanislaus, California
  • Wife:       Betty June Schulenberg married August 4, 1946 in Modesto, California. 
                         She was born October 11,  1927 in Inglewood, California.
  • Children: Robert and Dennis Hibdon born in Modesto,  California

  • At the time of his death he was working for the McMillan Oil Company of New York City.

Courtesy of Mike Hardester, Cousin of Mr. Hibdon

who later became chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Milt was not foolhardy, but he took risks that I would not. One winter night when floods hit the San Joaquin Valley, he and I were reporting from the historic Knights Ferry Bridge. The thunderous dirty brown river water, filled with debris from upstream, slammed against the support pillars with such force that the whole trembling structure was in danger of being violently demolished and swept away. It had happened before, and that time it seemed it was going to happen again.

I've forgotten why Milt wanted to get across that trembling bridge to the "town" side when I anxiously turned my flashlight on the turbulent water. It had risen almost to the wooden flooring, making the whole structure groan and tremble as if in agony, so I decided not to cross; But Milt did - running across at the risk of his life to the other shore.

Long before there were tape recorders, there were wire recorders.  The one at KTRB was so heavy and awkward that it took two people to carry it.  To cover special events that could not be broadcast live, Milt and I worked out a system whereby each of us got two fingers under the single handle. I recall carrying it down Hollywood Boulevard for some news event long lost to memory - and feeling very self conscious because it looked as if Milt and I were holding hands.

For about six years, five days a week, he and I did a live "man on the street" broadcast from 10th Street in downtown Modesto. There he and I interviewed everyone from a camel driver and his smelly charges to a character who called himself "Nature Boy." He dressed in a minimum decency outfit which I recall included a bare chest.  He carried   a bucket which he claimed held a special healthy kind of cow's milk. Milt casually interviewed the man who repeatedly showed up for our broadcasts. Nature Boy took a dislike to me and boasted that he would dance on my grave.

He didn't get to do that, but Milt did something that became unforgettable for me. For one live street broadcast, a local bakery gave us some pies to give away. One was a beautiful cream pie.  Milt would do about anything for a laugh from the spectators who liked to hang around watching others being "on the air." Milt surprised everyone - especially me - by suddenly hitting me full in the face with that cream pie.

Milt was a true "people person." He loved people. In fact, he was Mr. Personality, and I mean that sincerely. I never knew anyone who didn't like him. He was always genial, friendly and quick with a joke. He had a natural talent for telling those.  He had one for every occasion, and was always adding new ones, so people around him were often laughing

But he was a worker. He always worked hard, often on his own uncompensated time. He had remarkable vision and the ability to successfully execute whatever he envisioned as a KTRB project. It is my believe that KTRB experienced it's golden age during those years when Milt was program director and I was commercial manager.

When Gene D'Accordo left KTRB, Owner Bill Bates replaced him with Milt as program director. Milt was then just 20-years-old - youngest on the announcing staff.

On the personal side, I've forgotten Milt's birthday, but I'm pretty sure it was in 1927. He was born and reared in Modesto. His parents were Albert and Bea Hibdon. Al played in various local bands and Bea usually took tickets at the door.

As a boy, Milt had a paper route. He and his future wife, June Schulenburg, were high school sweethearts. He used to say she was born before Columbus because her birthday was Oct. 11 They married Aug.  4, 1946, after Milt returned from serving in the navy.

They loved to dance. Both were tall, slender and graceful, so when they took to the floor, other dancers moved to the sidelines and watched as actors did in movies when Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers danced in their films.

Milt and June were building their first house on Blair Street when I came to KTRB. They later had two sons: Robert, born May 21, 1948; and Dennis, born March 17, 1952 - the same year as my son. The two babies often shared the same play pen while the four parents visited.

After leaving KTRB, Milt went on to certainly become one of its most successful staff alumni. He first managed radio stations in Hawaii, and then became a board member of a major oil company which owned various other large corporations. Milt also held high positions in those and continued to be a high achiever for which he was duly rewarded.

On Sept. 12, 1989, Milt Hibdon died young and unexpectedly at home in New York while June was with him. He was an extremely successful businessman and good friend whose memory is forever enshrined in my respect and admiration.

Lee Roddy