Weathermen of Yesteryear

I grew up in Chicago, meaning I grew up on Chicago TV. In our house, the local news was a staple, and I’m inclined to believe it wasn’t bad though maybe it was also not as good as I sometimes tell myself it was. Anchor and reporter names I recall include Floyd Kalber, Frank Reynolds, Fahey Flynn, Bill Kurtis, Jane Pauley, Barbara Simpson, and Walter Jacobsen. Some of them went on to work with the national networks, for what that’s worth.

And then there were the weathermen. (Yes, they were all guys.) I think of them not because they were great, although I again lean toward the view they weren’t bad. I suppose there’s a book or at least a long essay on how we have come to see and think of the weather in the electronic meda age compared to earlier eras going back to the time when we guessed at the day’s conditions by looking to the horizon and sniffing the wind.

For better and worse, here are the weathermen who delivered the forecasts to my impressionable young mind:

P.J. Hoff, who cartooned the weather on the CBS affiliate, WBBM, Channel 2. He had a character named Mr. Yellencuss that I imagine he’d draw when bad weather was in the offing.

Harry Volkman, who worked on several Chicago channels and seemed to pride himself on (and was given credit for) the “professionalism” of his forecasting (he’s the first TV weather guy I recall displaying a seal from the American Meteorological Society during his broadcasts).

John Coleman, part of the first “happy-talk” Chicago news team on Channel 7, WBKB (later, WLS). In my book, his claim to fame, which was a pretty good one, was to forecast Chicago’s January 1967 blizzard (while he was doing weather on Milwaukee TV). According to his own account (in the comments to a post about Chicago’s Groundhog’s Eve Blizzard of 2011), Channel 7 hired him immediately after the storm, and I kind of remember him on Channel 7 by the time another storm hit two weeks or so after the first one). He went on to national TV and was a cofounder of The Weather Channel. And today, bless him, he’s a loud voice in contesting the case for climate change.

There were others, but they’ve faded from memory if in fact they ever made much of an impression. I ought to mention Tom Skilling as a great Chicago weather guy–the greatest, for my money–but he is very much of the present era.

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