Bill Steffen marks 44 years doing weather in GR

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Bill doing weather circa 1975_1541400397119.jpg.jpg

Bill Steffen does a weathercast circa 1975.

Another year!  Yippee!  It was on Nov. 5, 1974 that I did my first weathercast in Grand Rapids.  When I started at WZZM, Gerald Ford had been President for 12 weeks.  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tiger Woods and Ryan Seacrest hadn’t 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 was hired by Jack Hogan (who is still alive, retired and living in Florida – I’ll guess around 85 years old?).  I remember him saying “I can teach someone TV, but I can’t teach them weather.”  Jim Rummel and Cal Wierenga were the evening news anchors.  Craig James had replaced David Compton the year before in 1973.  Henry Capogna and Anne Doyle did sports.  Buck Matthews was doing the weather on WOOD.  Craig and I did the weather on WZZM-FM with the likes of Gary Hunt, Lee DeYoung and the late Rick Beckett.

I’m guessing this pic. was in 1975.  I had hair over my ears.  We wore the same tan coats for every newscast – ties were wide, kind of like wearing a bib.  We wore the “Skywitness Balloon” stickers on our coats.  I’ll guess I’m 24 in that pic. and Craig might be 30.  We had the state map and the national map.  They were covered by a sheet of plexiglass and we drew our highs, lows and fronts with Magic Markers.  Craig and I hand-plotted surface weather maps and analyzed DIFAX weather maps with a nice variety of Venus Paradise Colored Pencils.  The radar was an old black and white RCA AVQ 10 radar. We had two teletypes (typewriter hooked up to a telephone line) that gave us weather data printed on large yellow rolls of paper. 

We did so many fun events…parades (I’ve hardly missed a Tulip Parade or Coast Guard Parade)…we took the Skywitness Balloon to county fairs…and every year we did the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon.  It was hosted by (now 80-year-old) Dick Richards.  Over the years, we literally raised millions of dollars for Jerry’s kids on Labor Day. 

By my count, I worked for 7 different owners at WZZM and now 3 at WOOD.  Words cannot express the gratitude I have for everyone who has watched me, listened to me or read my words on the internet, 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.   

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