This weekend marks 49 years of weather broadcasting for me here in West Michigan. I started at WZZM on November 4, 1974 and my first weather broadcast was the next day, November 5, 1974. I made $175 a week and worked 6 days a week, doing weekday weather in the morning and then noon weather and then coming in to do the weather Saturday evening.
When I started at WZZM, Gerald Ford had been President for 12 weeks. Leonardo DiCaprio, Tiger Woods and Ryan Seacrest hadn’t even been born yet. Everyone was talking about the Detroit Lions – they had won 4 games in a row. I must have been bad luck because they didn’t finish the season with a winning record. The Oakland A’s and Reggie Jackson beat the Dodgers in the World Series. Four of the five games ended with a 3-2 score. “All In The Family” was the #1 TV show at the time.
I also did weather on WZZM-FM in the morning and again at 12:45 pm. A few of the DJs that I worked with: Gary Hunt, Lee DeYoung, Rick Beckett. WZZM-FM became WZZR in the late 1970s and then WLHT (W-LITE) in the mid 1980s. Both WZZM-TV and WZZM-FM were owned by West Michigan Telecasters, the first of (by my count) 10 different owners I’ve worked for over these 49 years. The top DJ in Grand Rapids was Bruce Grant, who did mornings on WOOD-AM.
The top pic. shows how we did weather back then. We had 2 large maps, a state map and a national map. The maps were covered by a sheet of plexiglass. We drew high pressure centers, low pressure centers, cold and warm fronts and temperatures on the maps with Magic Markers.
Our radar was an old RCA AVQ-10. It was an aviation radar designed to be used in moving airplanes. The radar was modified to be stationery for use in broadcasting.
Craig James came to WZZM in September 1973, replacing David Compton. Here we are in our standard tan coats that we wore every day. I kept my coat at the station – it never left the building except (rarely) to be cleaned. Note I had long hair and we wore wide ties. The lapel stickers were the “Skywitness” hot air balloon that the station brought out to fairs and festivals. By my count, I flew in the balloon 9 times. When I got married (April 22, 1978), we left the reception in the hot air balloon, with dozens of cars following the balloon.
Here’s a picture showing (a thinner) me with the state and national maps. When I started, the news anchors on WZZM were Jim Rummel and Cal Wierenga. Dick Nelson and Henry Capogna did sports. Our news director was Jack Hogan and the General Manager was George Lyons. Buck Mathews did the weather on Channel 8 (WOOD).
Every year we did the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. This pic. is from 1980. From left to right: Robert Kolt, Ted Gribas (who did weather for us on the weekends when Craig and I went to a 5-day work week), Leila Paul, the late Lee Van Ameyde, Dick Richards (now 85 years old), the late Jim Riekse, Esther King (Williamson), Steve Knight (real name John Keating – you might have seen him on Detroit Tiger broadcasts), Cynthia Kay, Mark Savage (later the spokesman for the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant), Sam Hooks, Craig James, Bill Quiett, Kathy Pyatt, Barry Shanley and me.
This is me at (about) age 10 with my backyard “weather station”, which I got for Christmas. It was made by Lionel (the toy train company) in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
These are weather forecasts I wrote down at the age of 6 – I was in first grade
This is my kindergarten picture – age 5 – I already had that TV smile goin’.
Words cannot express the gratitude I have for everyone who has watched me, listened to me or read my words on the internet and to the amazing, talented people I have had the pleasure to work with all these years and to my family for being so supportive. It’s been an awesome journey.