38 yearsNovember 5th, 2012 at 4:50 am by Bill Steffen under Bill's Blog, Weather
Thought you’d like to see a couple pictures from the old days. Click the pictures to enlarge. It was 38 years ago today (Nov. 5) that I did my first weathercast in Grand Rapids (technically, my first television weather broadcast was done in April 1967 from the gym at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL, when they were testing closed circuit television – eventually cable TV). At the age of 16, I did some sports for WNTH-FM there in Winnetka – the guy in charge thought I had a really good “FM voice”). I was hired by WZZM to do the new morning weather shift for $175 a week, working six days a week. I did Monday-Friday morning and noon, then the 6 PM and 11 PM news every Saturday. Good Morning America started as AM America in Jan. 1975 with Bill Beutel and Stephanie Edwards. I had the entire five minutes at 7:25 and 8:25 AM with one 30-second commercial in the middle and a 10-second open and close. Eventually, there were short news headlines added with Mark Savage, Dan VanderMyde and Tom Saizan doing those segments. There were no computers. We had the state map and the national map – large maps drawn by our 2 artists with a piece of plexiglass over the top of them. Craig James and I drew fronts and put on temperatures with Magic Markers. The radar we had was an old aircraft radar that was only black and white. It didn’t show very light rain or light snow very well. I took a camera and shot about 200 slides that I would show to describe the day’s weather. When there was a tornado warning, we ran to the announce booth and hit a green button, putting our audio on the air. The engineer on duty would put a slide on the air that said “Tornado Warning”. After I read the bulletin, we went back to regular programming – we didn’t stay on the air. We had red flashing lights around the building that would go off if there was a news or weather bulletin. The news anchors at 6 and 11 weekdays were Cal Wierenga and Jim Rummel. Dick Nelson and Henry Capogna did sports. They read from scripts before we had a teleprompter. The station was not on the air from midnight to 7 AM – we ran The Lone Ranger from 7 to 7:30 AM and Bozo from 7:30 to 8 AM. The Noon Show featured news with News Director Jack Hogan and Dick Richards doing the interview segments. Most of our news product was on film, which took hours to develop and get on the air. 2-inch tape was coming out and that went to 1-inch and then 3/4″ tape. We generally did a two – day forecast. Satellite data was more primitive in the ’70s. We eventually built a light box and got NASA images printed out. We would live them up where you could see ocean and land and draw the outline of the U.S. I have more pictures from the “old days” and I’ll have to put a few more on the blog. Note the hair over my ears…it was the ’70s. Some of the most memorable weather events were the Blizzard of ’78, the Kalamazoo Tornado (1980), the Flood of ’86 and the derecho of 5/31/98. We also had a radio station in the building, WZZM-FM (which is now WLHT) and I did weather segments with radio personalities Denny Hunt, Lee DeYoung and Rick Beckett among many others). The morning shift was great when we our kids were small. I got up early, was home around 1 PM and had the whole rest of the day. I went to sleep when the kids did in the evening. I moved to prime time in Oct. 1985. It’s been a wonderful journey. I’ve always said “they pay me to have fun”.