I’m a bit of a weather freak. I love weather forecasting and knowing about the weather. When I was a kid in Chicago, there was a weatherman by the name of PJ Hoff, who was the weatherman (we didn’t call them meteorologists in those days) for WBBM-TV in Chicago. PJ was a fun guy to watch, because although he took the weather seriously, he didn’t take himself seriously, and he used cartoons on his weather maps with characters like The Vice President in Charge of Looking Out the Window, Mr. Yellencuss, and a wizard-like character who didn’t have a name, but who would hold the forecast on a scroll under his arm. PJ even figured out a way to make the cartoons move, by pulling a string concealed along the border of his weather map.
We thought that was the coolest. If you wrote him a letter, he’d write back and send you one of his old weather maps, along with a bunch of pages produced by the US Weather Bureau (now part of NOAA) that he would get that helped him draw his weather maps. He’d also send along a handout that explained clouds, fronts, high and low pressure, barometric pressure, and other handy weather things to know. So it wasn’t just fun, it was educational, and I learned a lot about weather by watching him, and by looking at the weather maps in the paper, and hearing the forecast on WLS radio at the top and bottom of the hour. They would always quote the temperatures at the three airports, Midway, O’Hare, and Meigs Field, probably because they had the weather equipment there; I know of no one who actually lived at the airport, although, when I was traveling, sometimes I felt like I did. Eventually, they changed the Meigs report with the temperature in Grant Park, then with the temperature along the lake. I don’t know why they kept changing the name. Meigs was right near Grant Park, and all were along the lake.
At the top of the hour, WLS would do a brief local news report, then turn things over to one of the reporters of the ABC Radio Network, later called the American Contemporary Radio Network. The national and international news would be presented by someone like Don Gardiner in New York, Joe Templeton in Washington, Alex Dreier in Chicago (his newscasts always started with “Colonel Bogey’s March”), or Bob Considine (“On The Line With Bob Considine”). Howard Cosell used to do the sports early mornings and early evenings, allegedly from the studio in his home, where he’d do the report in his pajamas and slippers. Paul Harvey was also part of the American Contemporary Radio Network; he would do his “News and Comment” from the WLS studios.
I thought Paul Harvey was the best, though there are those who speak of him with contempt. “Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey! Stand by for news!” And, no matter how dire the news was that day, he would always end his show with a funny story, followed by “Paul Harvey….good day!”
A guy named Jeff Roteman has a web page dedicated to American Contemporary Radio, and to the men and women who read the news for them. I see their names now, and think of what giants they seemed to be to a kid still in grade school. You’ll need the Real Player to play the sound bits, although I’ve discovered it’s simpler to convert the .ram files to .mp3’s using a service like Zamzar than it is to download and install the Real Player, because no one actually uses Real Audio anymore. If you remember the ACRN, you’ll enjoy the page. Even if you don’t, it’s worth visiting.
This is another entry in Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. She has all the rules over at her place, as well as link to the other participants. Why not join us?