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August 19, 2009

Children’s Host Bill Stulla Dies

L.A. TV’s “Engineer Bill”

In the 1950s and ’60s, millions of young television viewers throughout the Southland knew “Engineer Bill.” Bill Stulla, the man who embodied this beloved character, passed away at his Westlake Village home on August 12 at age 97.

Engineer Bill was born in 1954, when Stulla and his wife, radio producer Ruth Franzen, created the program Cartoon Express with Engineer Bill, which aired on Los Angeles station KHJ-TV. Among its highlights was a game called “Red Light, Green Light,“ which encouraged millions of children to drink their milk. In 1955 Stulla received a Nurse of Mercy Award from the City of Hope for his “Christmas Express,” which brought a huge train layout to the children’s wing of the hospital. He earned Emmy Awards in 1960 and 1961 for Outstanding Presentation in the Field of Children’s Programming.

Stulla, who was born in New York City, first moved to Los Angeles in 1939, from Denver, where he had been an announcer and program director at radio station KOA. In L.A., he was an on-air personality at KFI radio, and later on KFI-TV and KNBH-TV, where he hosted a program called Ladies Day, which was later renamed Parlor Party.

During World War II, Stulla served in the Army Signal Corps in India and Burma, setting up radio stations for the troops. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service.

After leaving television, Stulla became a stockbroker. He served on the Board of the Holy Cross Hospital, and was an honorary lifetime member of the National Charity League of the San Fernando Valley. He was also a founding member of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters and in 1991 received the organization’s Diamond Circle Award “for many distinguished years in radio and television.”

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