Archive for November, 2009

Thank You Dave Roberts!

November 19, 2009

John Kosich & Dave Roberts "Live on City Line" January 1987

As Broadcast Pioneer Dave Roberts prepares to call it a career I simply cannot express in words the thanks I owe to this man who, especially in the early days of my career, was always just a phone call away with advice, support and a positive attitude that was nothing short of contagious.

Dave Roberts at the old magnetic 5 Day Forecast board.

I first met Dave in January of 1987 when I became an intern in the sports department of WPVI-TV, he made a point to go out of his way to say hello and strike up a conversation with the quiet but inquisitive Temple University student, just overwhelmed by actually being in this place he had daily watched his whole life.

It was actually the night the above picture outside was taken.  I brought my camera into the station that day and while taking a picture of Dave he asked me to help build a snowman in between his weather hits.  I was ecstatic to help and even more happy to capture the end result on film.

 We quickly hit it off and whenever I could, I would sneak away from the sports department and take advantage of the opportunity to pick the brain of this man who had done it all in this business.

When I took my first job at KQTV in St. Joseph, Missouri, Dave was one of the first I called and when I returned on my first vacation home from St. Joe, Dave was one of the first I visited. 

Tape in hand he sat down with me and one by one went over a handful of my first stories. 

Looking back on them today they were absolutely brutal but not to Dave, he let  me know everything that I was doing right and what I might want to try differently.  Note it’s not what I was doing wrong, you see Dave always stressed the positive.  He might say  ‘that was good but next time why don’t you try it this way.’  

Dave Roberts & John Kosich August, 1987

Before long I was home from Missouri working as the 11 p.m. anchor at WMGM-TV in Atlantic City and one of the ways that was great for me was the fact Dave was now just up the Expressway and believe me I took advantage of that.  

After four years at the shore I was offered a job at WNEP-TV in Scranton.  As I drove back to the shore from the interview after accepting the job the first stop I made was WPVI, I couldn’t wait to tell Dave.  I would now be working with Nolan Johannes, who together with Dave, helped shape Buffalo television at WKBW-TV.  

Dave was as proud as a father at that and even more so when I was named to replace Nolan as 11 p.m. anchor when he announced his retirement.  The positive reinforcement was always there and before long Dave wasn’t just singing my praises to me but to his bosses and trying to get me a job at Channel 6.

Rob Jennings, Scott Palmer & Dave Roberts in a break.

That was something though that never happened and from WNEP I retraced Dave’s footsteps to Buffalo when I joined WKBW-TV as morning anchor.  I was there about a year and a half when Dave was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.  During his time there Dave Thomas, as he was known, became a household fixture for kids in Western New York and Southern Ontario for his role on Rocketship 7.

 Many in Buffalo knew Dave but there was nobody else that I was going to let do the story on his return and honor.

This was that story.

After all the accolades Dave will be remembered by most for his work in television, I will remember him though for the person he was off the air.   Anyone who likely ever received a card or letter from him had included on it the same smiley face that appeared nightly on his hand drawn weather clouds.  That was just the positive attitude of the man, there’s no question to him the glass was always more than half full.

A favorite memory for me was one Friday night when I was an intern and my father came to pick me up.  My mother was out of town and my Dad, who had to rise early for work during the week didn’t have to get up the next day so I asked him if he wanted to come in to sit in on a newscast.  Jim Gardner and Don Tollefson couldn’t have been nicer to him but it was Dave who came over and made a fuss over my Dad telling him how proud he must be.   My Dad sat there that night with a smile a mile wide.  Years later Dave would still ask ‘how’s your Dad?’   And when my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary Dave was one of the first to step up and send me a video greeting which I included in a special video I put together for them.

The best Dave Roberts story I heard isn’t one that involved me.  It came, oddly enough, from the funeral of a very good friend’s mother.   In a eulogy her daughter told the story of a Birthday card she once received. 

Her mother it seems was writing out the card while watching Dave’s weather one night.  Well instead of signing it “Love Mom & Dad” she accidentally  signed it “Love Mom & Dave.”

Like so many Dave was like a member of their family and I’ve been so very proud to count him in an extended way as a member of mine.   And retirement to me Dave means your just easier to reach when I need some advice!

Jim Gardner, Don Tollefson, Dave Roberts in a commercial break

The old weather magnets

If you look closely you can see the weather info written out on the white board since the sun glare on City Line made it tough to see the monitor.

LAKE EFFECT NIGHTMARES

November 16, 2009
Me on CNN, December 28, 2001

Me on CNN, December 27, 2001

In the interest of full disclosure, I love Lake Effect Snow.  It is the most unpredictable of snow storms hitting one area with 3″ an hour blizzard like conditions while the sun shines 10 miles away.   My love of Lake Effect was born in Buffalo where I lived for three years prior to moving to Cleveland (a move which was the result of Lake Effect snow – more on that in part two.) In the three years I was in Buffalo I experienced three of their five biggest snowfalls of all time, two of which occurred during Christmas week of 2001 when we had 7-feet of snow in five days. 

When Cleveland gets Lake Effect Snow, the winds tend to be out of the NNW so the moisture they pick up is limited.  When Buffalo gets hammered it’s because the winds are out of the SW.  That means those winds travel the length of the lake, all 250-miles of it and when they hit Buffalo watch out.

November 20, 2000

Buffalo November 20, 2000

NOVEMBER 20, 2000:

The first biggie was November 20, 2000.  It was a Monday and it just snowed about 10″ the day before.  The forecasters were calling for additional Lake Effect but nothing major.   Around 11 am. the winds set up out of the SW and the snow started falling and falling hard at about 3″ an hour.  My wife and I were done work at WKBW-TV after the noon show at 12:30.   We were lucky, we were able to navigate the quickly snow filling roads on the 2.5 mile trip home.   We slid into a spot across the street and went into our apartment thinking this can’t last.  It did.  

Because it caught everyone off guard the schools didn’t let out early.  So at 2:30 the loaded school buses hit the street at the same time the city and county governments shut down and just about every business let their employees go.  All of a sudden the streets were gridlocked,  the plows couldn’t get anywhere, the cars couldn’t and the buses couldn’t.  Bottomline where you were at 4 in the afternoon is where you would be at 4 the next morning.buffalosnow2  

That meant there were school kids stranded on buses throughout the city.  They ended up spending the night at whatever Hospital, Church, Fire Station or fast food restaurant they were near.

What made it so neat when it got dark was the thunder and lightning that accompanied the snow.  After it got dark at 5 the lightning would reflect off the falling snow looking like the world’s largest flashbulb.  The snow stopped around 6:30  p.m. but by this time the damage was done and the plows were stuck with the cars many of which now sat abandoned. 

I anchored the morning show at WKBW-TV and in order to get to work at 3 a.m.  I had to walk the 2.5 miles down Delaware Avenue, a four lane road lined with cars.  The atmosphere was one I’ll never forget, those who stayed with their cars bought every ounce of beer they could find and made a party of it.  I was offered the equivalent of a six pack by the time I made it to work.  (I didn’t take any – at least that’s the story I’m sticking with.)

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Delaware Avenue, these were the cars I walked around going to and from work that day.

The city remained shut down all of Tuesday.  When I walked home along Delaware Avenue the tow trucks were still removing the cars but they could only go so fast.  I got home to dig out my car.  As I rounded the corner it dawned on me it was towed because it wasn’t there.  As I got closer though I saw the rear view mirror sticking out of the white, crap it was plowed under.

The state of emergency was lifted on Wednesday morning which was also the day before Thanksgiving.  The supermarkets were unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life and likely will never see again.  People looking to not only restock after the storm but get everything they needed for Thanksgiving the next day.

What made it awesome was the way people came together, opened up their houses and went out of their way to help each other out.