35 years – THANK YOU!November 5th, 2009 at 12:01 am by Bill Steffen under Bill's Blog, Weather
<–Bill Steffen and Craig James in 1975. Thirty-five years ago today, I did my first television show in Grand Rapids. I worked 6 days a week and made $175 a week or $9,100 a year. My father sold me a car for a buck, which was about 50% of actual value. We had the tan blazers that the “Eyewitness News Team” wore every night. Notice us wearing the little balloon stickers from the “Eyewitness Balloon” (wonder if pilot Doug Mills is still out there?). I was 23 with hair over my ears (ah…the 70s). I had come from the Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison, where I was living in a sorority house with 53 girls (It was legal. I was the houseboy at Delta Gamma). This was my first TV job. I had done a little sports on the radio on WNTH-FM in Winnetka, Illinois when I was in high school (I had this nice deep bass voice that sounded good on FM. I had to read a long list of football scores and I remember looking in the dictionary to discover new verbs for what one team could do to another). I had received a B.S. in Meteorology and Physical Geography while in Madison. We had two large maps for TV…the state map and the national map. We wrote on them with markers, and had a spray bottle and paper towels to clean them. The forecast was just tomorrow and the next day. Craig and I hand plotted surface maps several times a day and analyzed them with different color pencils (some were real works of art!). The main news anchors were Cal Wierenga and Jim Rummel. Henry Capogna (now sales manager for Clear Channel in G.R.) did sports. I was on at Noon with News Director Jack Hogan (now a city councilman in Claremont, Florida) and Dick Richards, and I did radio on WZZM-FM…which had some decent numbers back then…not in Bruce Grant territory, but we did all right. A high school kid named Rick Beckett had some air time back then…anyone remember…Bill Gamble or Lee DeYoung (or did he use the Dutch spelling, I don’t remember) or Dave Kent? Good Morning America started (as A.M. America – originally one hour) in Jan. 1975 with Bill Beutel and Stephanie Edwards. I had the whole 5 minutes at 8:25 am to fill, minus a 30-second commercial and a 10-second open and close. Bozo ran weekdays from 7:30 to 8 AM. We ran the Lone Ranger (in beautiful black and white) from 7 am to 7:30. I did a quick weather from “the booth” in between those shows with a slide that I would choose of me and Bozo ready for the days weather (I still have those slides).
Eventually, we brought in a 3rd weathercaster, Ted Gribas, who went on to teach at Forest Hills. George Lessens came in (I believe) 1980. You might remember Dave Whitford (still in G.R.) and Mark Massaro (in Cincinnati and out of broadcasting). Back in 1974 we had reporters Alex Taylor, Sue (Bertke) Francis, Jim Riekse…Anne Doyle has done well for herself since leaving Grand Rapids. The late George U. Lyons was the G.M. at the time. We had full-time booth announcers (Dick Reid had “the voice”).
Thinking about it, I might be (or I might be close to) the longest on-air television talent in G.R. history (close to Dick Richards anyway?). I’ve been on the air in G.R. longer than Craig James was (commercials don’t count). I still hear Buck Matthews on Blue Lake Radio on rare occasion. I think Juke Van Oss will keep the radio record for longevity forever. He was on the air before I was born at WHTC in Holland. Hey, leave a comment if you remember early broadcasting in G.R. Let’s dust off a few memories……Bill S.