From dog to watchdog with Clubhouse 22’s Joe Smith

By Jim Bucher

This gentleman is an award-winning journalist, TV host, writer, producer, news anchor, and executive producer; but no matter what his accomplishments in life, he’ll always be remembered as the host of Clubhouse 22.

Sorry Joe Smith, but Duffy the Dog would be proud.

Let me explain to those not old to remember (and for the rest who say, “I remember Joe!”).

Back in the day, local TV stations produced a ton of local content. A kid’s show fit the bill at WKEF-TV 22 and Clubhouse 22 was born. Before Joe, Malcom McCloud handled hosting duties, and when he departed, Joe took the reins of the now iconic television broadcast.

It was full of fun, with a live studio audience, a puppet named Stan the Man, games, giveaways, cartoons, and of course, the 6-foot costumed mascot, Duffy the Dog.

So, how did Mr. Smith end up in Dayton, Ohio, hosting a kid’s show?

“I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and when I was in junior high school, we had an assignment to write to a local company,” Joe says. “I chose WWLP-Channel 22 in Springfield. The founder of the station, William L. Putnam, wrote back and suggested I visit the station some time.”

Joe took Putnam up on his offer.

“Fast forward a bit…I started working more and more at the station,” Joe says. “After high school and prep school, I joined the Army. After three years of service, there was an opening at Channel 22’s other station in Dayton, WKEF. It was a production job…switching master control, directing, etc.”

He bought his first new car, a bright yellow Toyota, and headed west to Dayton.

“I got there just after Clubhouse 22 started,” Joe says. “As I recall, my first job at the station was in master control, also directing the show. Oh, and I played Duffy the Dog on occasion, as well.”

How ’bout that? Exclusive, breaking news, right here in the City Paper: Joe was Duffy!

“After several years behind the scenes of producing and directing, I knew I wanted to do something on-air,” Joe says. “I remember one day telling Johnny Walker [longtime broadcaster and news director] that was my goal. Believe it or not, the next week I was. Johnny had been co-hosting 22 Kiddo with Jo Corey. He didn’t want to do it anymore and I think he told George Mitchell, the general manager, that I would be a good fit.”

And the rest is local broadcast history.

“The name was changed to Clubhouse 22 and I loved doing it,” Joe says. “I’m sure all those kids are grown, with kids of their own. My time in Dayton are some of my best memories. It was there where I really learned what I wanted to do in television. And the best part, I met my future wife Barbara Kerr. She was working at WDTN.”

The two have been inseparable ever since.

After doing Clubhouse for so many years, Smith thought it would be nice to try his hand at something a bit more adult. He took a co-host gig of PM Magazine in Richmond, Virginia, for a year, returning to WKEF as VP of production. Next, it was off to greater things, without a big dog standing next to him.

“After Dayton part two, I went to Milwaukee Public TV where I was executive producer and host of Smith & Company, a nightly topical news call-in program for seven-plus years,” he says.

After stints in Tallahassee, Florida, and Vegas, Smith says it was a long drive to Portland, Oregon, where he worked at KGW as a business reporter and anchor for more than 13 years; but he couldn’t sit still.

“Off to Burlington, Vermont,” he says. “I was the main co-anchor for the ABC/Fox stations. After two years, I decided I wanted to return to Portland. Barbara was holding down the fort there for two years.”

Since returning to Oregon, he’s enjoyed a much-need break…for a little while anyway.

“I am now volunteering at the local cable station doing some public affairs programming,” Joe says. “And just a couple of week ago, I began a new adventure as evening executive producer for KPTV, the Fox station in Portland.”

Folks, broadcasting is in his DNA, and speaking of, Joe is in the newest class of the Dayton Area Broadcasters Hall of Fame, class of 2017.

“It was my time in Dayton that was the blueprint for what was to come,” he says. “My experience on-air at WKEF taught me the most important thing…be yourself.”

Joe, here’s to your continued success and, from this “kid,” thanks for the countless hours of entertainment as my TV babysitter every day after school—oh, and Duffy too, of course.

Cheers, my friend, and best to Barbara!


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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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