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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW: Dick Preston, 50 years of doing it his way

Dick Preston (Kettenbrink family)

Dick Preston did it his way.

And for half a century, he’s done it all at KRCG 13.

“I guess I like jobs where I can sit down,” he joked about his career in broadcast news.

“It beats working out in construction.”

Richard Preston Kettenbrink, whom you probably know as Dick Preston, celebrates 50 years this month at the news station.

He’s served as an on-air announcer, producer, editor, writer, reporter and most notably - an anchor.

In his time at KRCG 13, he started a career, got married, had children and now has grandchildren—and his career continues.

“I always planned on being on TV,” he said.

Preston said he can remember when most people bought television sets for their homes.

“TV was brand new,” he said. “I told my mom and dad ‘I’m going to be on TV’ and they always remembered that.”

And though the path to TV had not yet been laid out, Preston always had a knack for writing.

“I used to write stories in grade school for my friends,” he said.

His most popular stories were about Max Bubble Trouble. He wrote satire, describing Bubble Trouble’s cool car with a windshield made of diamonds and car seats made of whale blubber. He’d read about Max’s adventures to his friends at recess and kept the stories in his artillery ready for an audience.

“I was a day camp counselor when I was 17 or 18,” he explained. “And I took the Max Bubble Trouble story and I read it to those fifth graders, which was how old I was when I wrote it—and they loved it.”

The St. Louis native said he remembers much of childhood this way—writing and making up stories and sharing them with others.

“I could be an author,” he said. “I would have fun writing a comedy book. I might just do that.”

And his whole life Preston has been writing. It was in high school he realized how much he enjoyed it.

“I was in a journalism class and the teacher encouraged us to submit, to write something,” he recalled.

“And I did.”

It was a St. Louis area contest. He took it upon himself to submit an essay about advertising in the free world.

“And I won second place,” he said. “I won a little transistor radio.”

At Webster Groves High School, he wrote for the school newspaper. He wrote for the sports page his junior year and in his senior year, he became the managing editor.

His interest in journalism wasn’t sudden.

“The first thing I would do when I got home was read the newspaper,” he said.

“I would lay it out on my living room floor and read it.”

After years of reading the newspaper, he decided to venture out of the St. Louis suburb and continue his career as a student journalist at the University of Missouri.

“While in school, I did some work for the radio station,” he said describing his experience.

“Columbia only had one other radio station at the time.”

He remembers working for The Missourian. There he covered city meetings and remembered how challenging it was for every student at the journalism school to find a story to write for the paper.

“Columbia was just too small,” he said. “They didn’t have enough stories for us to do.”

Yet, he said the experience was valuable.

“You had to know how to write to work for a newspaper,” he said. “Whether it was advertising or TV. And then you learned how to change it for broadcast.”

It was at Mizzou while working for Channel 8 KOMU-TV that he changed his name to his current "TV name."

Four years later, TV personality Dick Preston graduated with his Bachelor of Journalism degree with no solidified job plans.

“At the time I had the army hanging over my head,” he said. “It wasn’t time to get a job if they thought you were going to the army in two months or something.

So he ventured deeper into mid-Missouri.

“I heard about an opening at a radio station in Jeff City,” he said.

He interviewed for the position and agreed to work there.

Lee Gordon, the program director for KRCG 13 at the time, was in desperate need of an announcer. Gordon heard the radio station was interviewing Preston and reached out to him.

“They were owned by the same company,” Preston said. “And he offered me more money so I took the job.”

Preston began his career at KRCG 13 as an announcer and worked that role for almost two years. He worked 4 p.m.- midnight, writing commercials and every half hour going live as the “voice” of KRCG 13.

Then, he left.

“I joined the army reserves,” he said. “It was either that or get drafted back then.”

It was Vietnam.

He left for five months for basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, then later advanced training in Illinois. Though he received the same training as every other member of the military, he worked as a clerk typist.

“I could type 85 words a minute on a manual typewriter,” he said. “My typing speed is not that fast anymore.”

After a brief hiatus, the KRCG 13 news department invited him back.

He would become the first weekend anchor on the first KRCG 13 weekend newscast in April 1970. He’s been in the news department ever since.

“That means I’ve been an anchor for almost 48 years,” he realized.

I Get A Kick Out of You

Preston returned to KRCG 13 in 1970—the year he met his life partner.

“I met my wife on a blind date,” he said.

He had a friend that wanted to go Christmas shopping in St. Louis. They made a trip to Preston’s parents’ house and he ended up on a date.

“He told her I was some blonde guy on TV and she thought I was somebody else,” he laughed.

Preston said he enjoyed the evening and thought Nancy, an undergraduate student at Mizzou at the time, was someone he’d like to see again.

“I didn’t hear back until after Valentine’s Day,” she said.

“He said it was because he didn’t want to buy me a gift, that should have been red flag number one,” she jokingly sassed.

And about three years later, a week after Nancy graduated with her journalism degree, the two were married.

“I clicked with him,” she said. “We have the same kind of sense of humor.”

The two have been married for almost 45 years. When asked the secret to their marriage, Nancy takes the credit.

“Because I’m a saint,” she declared.

She also credits their long marriage to their similarities and their ability to appreciate their differences.

“We’re very into words and writing,” she said.

They both love a good lyric but sometimes sing to a different tune.

“I tolerate Frank,” Nancy said about Preston’s obsession with Frank Sinatra. “I’m Bruce Springsteen.”

Nancy enjoys singing in her choir and exercising. Dick enjoys watching "Antiques Road Show" and "Finding Your Roots."

“We don’t have hobbies together,” Nancy said.

They said their dynamic is traditional and their relationship filled with bickering.

“I like to hand out a lot of guff,” Preston said. “It’s almost too easy to tease her.”

And she recognizes it.

“I just give it right back to him,” she said. “It’s what we do.”

What’s evident in their relationship is their support for one another. Nancy sings in a choir in Columbia, and her husband is often in the audience watching her.

“Sometimes we’re out until 10 p.m.,” she said, concerned about Preston’s work schedule for the morning show. “I really appreciate that about him.”

And Nancy remembers visiting her husband during his time on the weekend shifts.

KRCG 13 has been part of most of their marriage and part of their parenting. Their children Anne and Andrew, now in their 30s, grew up with their dad on TV.

“They did a promo when the kids were itty-bitty that took all day with Andy,” she recalled.

“That’s when they learned the hard way,” she said about the tedious nature of news. “Some people still don’t understand that a two-minute story takes a long time to put together. But we know.”

She also remembers when Preston worked nights.

“Nancy had to do a lot of parenting by herself,” Preston said. “I would miss out on PTA meetings and Boy Scouts.”

Preston remembers taking a vacation day just to take his children trick-or-treating.

“He’ll rarely take a sick day,” Nancy said about Preston’s work ethic.

Through the years, they learned how to overcome the challenges of a newsman's life.

“A lot of things that drive me crazy about him are the things that I like,” she said.

Preston is still on TV and Nancy still works more than 30 hours a week. They like their lives.

“I’m not quite sure what I want to be when I grow up but it has to do with words,” Nancy said.

Dick Preston echoed a similar sentiment entertaining the idea of writing a book.

“I’m enjoying being a grandpa finally,” Preston added.

With granddaughters in St. Louis, the couple said they hope to get even closer to the family.

“We both hope to retire soon,” she said. “He said he’d like to retire but I think he’ll miss it.”

And though Nancy may not watch her husband habitually on TV anymore, Preston knows she will still be there for him.

“Just the other day she mentioned my crooked tie,” he said. “That’s how I knew she watched the noon.”

All The Things You Are

Preston’s obsession with Frank Sinatra is no secret. He owns every Sinatra song ever recorded on CD or vinyl.

But his interest in music goes beyond the legendary musician.

“I used to visit my grandparents and they had a piano,” he said.

In his grandmother’s house the instrument was mostly furniture, but for him, it was a new venture.

“I would sit there and play.”

When his grandmother moved, she gifted him the piano. And for his 35th birthday present, Nancy gifted him piano lessons.

“I never got very good and never practiced as much as I should have,” he said. “But I have a good ear for music.”

Preston said after work or on weekends he turns on the music channel on cable TV and plays along.

“I can play octaves with either hand or play something in the background that kind of goes along with it,” he explained.

“That’s kind of my therapy I guess.”

He enjoys his hobby - listening to the greats like Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Barbara Streisand.

“You’d call it easy listening,” he joked about his preferred genre.

His interest in music is evident, owning about 1,100 albums.

“I never went past CD,” he said. “You know, I don’t have anything ‘smaller’.”

He said his interest stems from his childhood. He collected and took careful care of his records, but never got any formal musical training.

“I would have liked that as a kid,” he said. “And I might have gone into music as a profession instead of news.”

Though music is one of his passions, he also shares a love for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I will watch almost every Cardinal baseball game that’s on cable TV,” he said.

“And that’s not good.”

As the morning anchor, Preston often gets to bed at 8 p.m. When there’s a good game going, who knows when he’ll get to sleep.

“It’s better if it’s a blowout one way or another,” he said. “I feel like I can go to bed.”

All the Way

When Preston wakes up, it’s 2 a.m. He starts his day with the news and ends his workday with the news.

“I’m at work, it takes up about nine-and-a-half hours of my day,” he said. “I do some errands in between and do the noon.”

He goes home around 1 p.m. and goes about his day until Nancy gets home at 5 p.m.

He said he likes his schedule and his work.

“I get a lot done,” he said.

He remembers working the afternoon shifts and working late into the night. He’s done it all.

“Broadcasting, it sounds romantic,” he said about the industry. “I mean, the hours, holidays or when the weather’s bad—it’s when you go to work.”

But he says the industry also has its benefits.

“One thing about it, it’s almost like every day you start from scratch,” he said about the experience.

It’s a highlight, every day is something new, he added.

“In the Army, it was ‘hurry up and wait;’ this is sort of like ‘wait and hurry up,’ he said. “Because you know something's coming, like a certain meeting or a certain event and you can’t do anything about it until it happens, and then go like crazy to get it done.”

He still likes the rush of his career. And though he’s worn many hats as a producer, reporter and anchor his favorite one to wear is his writing hat.

“I’m pretty good with words,” he said.

We think so, too.

“I’m not overcome with fear when I have to write something. I have confidence that I can come up with something that makes sense and is easy to understand.”

Preston said he really likes making a show flow. The anchor enjoys editing scripts and then adding his personality to them.

“On the morning show [viewers] just feel like they’re your friend,” he said. “It’s informal, and that’s nice.”

He also likes working on a team. Though most of the KRCG 13 Live at Sunrise team are co-workers his junior, he said it’s one of the best parts of his job.

“I don’t want to work with a bunch of old people,” he joked. “Working with young people keeps me young.”

The anchorman still likes waking up in the morning with the rest of mid-Missouri and plans on doing it while he can.

“I see myself on that TV and I’m thinking ‘I rapidly have a face for radio,’” he said. “I don’t know how much longer people are going to put up lookin’ at me.”

He added with a smirk, “If they move the camera back far enough it’ll be alright.”

If not, he'll move it himself.

Seen in an old promotion, Preston hit a robotic camera that was out of control in the studio. How times change.

Preston remembers celebrating his 23rd birthday at the station. It was his first on the job. He’s sure he’ll celebrate his 73rd at KRCG 13 as well - in May.

In his 50 years, he’s had 13 news directors, 13 co-anchors, and seven station managers—it’s safe to say he’s seen a lot of change.

In the business, he's learned a lot about himself.

“I came to the conclusion, very late actually, that the stories I was interested in are the ones that I should put on there and not try to figure out what somebody else was interested in.”

He still covers feature stories and focuses on storytelling. It’s what he likes to do.

“Pick something that you like and stick with it,” he said.

“I mean, I guess that’s what I did.”

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