Harry Volkman of
Fox WFLD in Chicago got his start at KOTV in 1950! He was interviewed on
the KOTV 50th anniversary special in November of 1999.
3/31/2005: Harry retired from WFLD in late 2004.
(from Guestbook 47) Erick Church said:
I noticed that Mike dug up a Harry Volkman pic from the WGN site.
I think Harry is a guy that not a lot of Oklahomans know of. Here's some
background info, a lot of which comes from OKC meteorologist Gary
England's book "Weathering The Storm", and from Harry's bio at the WFLD
Harry was Oklahoma television's first weatherman. Some could argue he was
TV's first. He attended TU for awhile, and worked at KOTV for a couple of
years. When he went to OKC in the early 50's, he became somewhat of a rebel.
At that time, there was no weather radar, and tornado warnings did not exist,
except for use by the government. It was believed that issuing these warnings
would cause public panic. While in OKC, Harry issued the first on-air tornado
warning, angering the weather bureau (there was talk of possible charges
against him), but the public reacted in a very positive manner. I am of the
belief that by knocking down this barrier, Harry is single-handedly responsible
for the type of advanced warnings we currently receive. In 1959, he went
to Chicago, where he ruled the weather airwaves for over 30 years. Several
years ago, he moved to the Fox affiliate, and accepted a lesser role as weekend
Webmaster, 4/26/2005: I just looked into this question of who was the
first TV weatherman. Jim Fidler is credited by the Museum of Television and
Radio as having done the first TV weather forecast in 1940 for an experimental
station in Cincinnati.
Francis K. Davis, Jr. who took part in the D-Day forecast effort, began
a regular weather program on WFIL-TV in Philly in November 1947.
Kinnan was an early TV weatherman at OKC's WKY-TV in 1953. But Harry
Volkman was a three-year veteran TV weatherman by that time, so his "first
in Oklahoma" crown appears to be safe.
image courtesy of Rick Rann. See NBC press release below.
(via email, 9/13/2006) Harry Volkman said:
I was quite flattered to read the material about my long-ago times at 302
South Frankfort where KOTV brought me on board on January 16, 1950.
I did the weather around 6 PM from then until late March of 1952, working
with Bob Hower, Cy Tuma, Jerry Johnson, Don Brewer, Dean Turner, Valerie
("Lookin' at Cookin'"), Leon McAuliffe and many other behind the scenes wonderful
I was used as a booth announcer, sportscaster, on-air salesperson, variety
show host, model, switchboard operator and sometimes janitor. For the first
three months I received no pay whatsoever as management claimed they were
losing thousands of dollars a day. Sometime in late March I began receiving
$25 a week which improved to $60 by 1952.
In the fall of 1951, I was approached to go over to Oklahoma City to WKY-TV
to replace their weatherman who had been called to active duty in the Korean
war. They wanted to change my name to Harry McAnn as every annoucer at WKY
used a different name than their own on the air. This was common practice
in those days. I rejected the offer as my wife did not want to move to Oklahoma
City from her native Tulsa and also the money at Oklahoma City was not enough
more to make it worthwhile.
In March of 1952 WKY-TV came calling again and this time they offered the
job at $100 a week and promised that I could keep the name Volkman. This
time I accepted.
The fourth week of March, my first on the air there, two earth-shaking
developments occurred. The first was a slight earthquake in central Okahoma
and the second was a decision by top management at WKY-TV to steal, or perhaps
better said "bootleg", the latest air weather services tornado alerts from
nearby Tinker Field to put on the air. The experts there were the well known
Col. Fawbush and Maj. Miller who devised the rules for predicting tornado
Up to this time the alerts were only to be used for military bases, as the
civilian authorities did not believe that enough was known about tornado
forecasting to make it trustworthy and feasible. There was much official
concern about causing panic among the civilian population.
As I was the new young weatherman on the scene, I was told that it was my
duty to go on the air and announce, for the first time, a tornado risk area
in central Oklahoma. I quickly informed my boss, P.A. "Buddy" Sugg that this
might be illegal and we could be arrested. His immediate response was that
they could arrest him, but not me, as I would only be obeying his orders.
The rumors that I did this on my own as a rebellious act are totally untrue
and this is the matter that I would like to clarify. I'll readily admit that
I have done many strange things on the air in my 55-year career, but this
first tornado forecast was definitely not one of them.
(via email, 10/28/2006) Rick Rann of Oak Park, IL said:
Came across your website.
I saw you had a couple postings on Harry Volkman and thought you might like
this image for your website.
It shows Volkman when he moved to Chicago in 1959 .
The first image is the photo (placed with Harry's own text above).
The second one I'll send is the press release from NBC which came with it.
(from GB 180, 3/31/2005) Joel Genung said:
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with Harry here in Tulsa.
I have been doing some research on the 1955 Blackwell tornado and after sending
him an e-mail earlier this month, he graciously replied to my query and indicated
he would be in town in late March and asked if I would be interested in talking
with him. You can imagine my utter astonishment!
Harry retired about 6 months ago from Fox Television (I believe, WFLD) in
Chicago, ending an over 50-year career as a television weatherman. I watched
him in 1955, when he was on WKY-TV in OKC and later, when he moved to KWTV.
Of course, most of the older Tulsa TV viewers know he got his start here
in Tulsa, as your site has already indicated.
Needless to say, this will go down as one of the most memorable days in my
life and I can tell you he is a wonderfully warm, cordial and humorous
Incidentally, he will be 80 next year. I have included a picture taken of
Harry and me at the National Weather Services office here in Tulsa, where
I took him to meet the staff there following our lunch and at the invitation
of Steve Piltz, the Meteorologist-in-Charge.
Joel Genung and Harry Volkman in Tulsa, 3/31/2005
(from email, 1/25/2001) Ron Volkman said:
I love your web site (found it with Google) and enjoyed reading the guestbooks.
I'm Harry Volkman's oldest son, and find the old stories most interesting.
I noticed you had an old WGN picture of Harry and thought I would send a
recent photo from October 2000 when he was here in Philadelphia for a visit.
He recently signed another(!) 2 year contract as we prepare to celebrate
his 75th birthday on April 18th.
I met Harry at the KOTV 50th anniversary reunion, and can testify that
he is one sharp and personable gentleman...webmaster
Photo from PBS' "German Americans", 8/2001
(from Guestbook 72) Harry Volkman said:
A great discovery for me - thanks to Don Norton. I might never have
made it into the business without his help back there in 1949 at Tulsa
At the 50th KOTV anniversary in November of 1999, I don't recall anyone
mentioning that we had a signon and signoff theme song over which the announcer
read the standard messages that were made in those days. The theme song was
a beautiful piano rendition of
of Olwen". We always signed on and off in those days with our national
anthem. It's too bad we aren't patriotic enough any more to continue that
I've got a lot of catching up to do with reading all your wonderful letters
of memory from one of America's greatest cities - Tulsa, Oklahoma.
(from Guestbook 189, 8/3/2005) John Hillis said:
Harry Volkman sighting: I was down at the American Meteorological Society
meeting in Washington's Shoreham Hotel today, and Harry was present, looking
hale and hearty and getting around well under his own power. Somebody joked
that Harry's AMS Television Seal number was in the single digits. Actually,
it's number 23.
Collect 'em! Trade 'em! Harry Volkman trading card courtesy of Peter
(from email, 6/15/2000) Lee Woodward said:
The Webmeister has gotten me going on this memories gig and I must say in
rummaging around in old photos and memorabilia I haven't seen in literally
it is amazing what and who you forget.
A fellow who I worked with in many capacities at KOTV was my friend
Gary Chew. We also
shared a barber who coincidentally had been a cameraman at 6! (Gary! Help
on the name?) Then we got onto another avant-garde barber who "Styled" hair.
His name was Steve and I rediscovered him a few years back. I was interested
in "Style" while Gary, I learned, was looking to get his hair straightened.
This was the era of the Glen Campbell "helmet" look, and I think a lot of
TV anchors were going in that direction. I personally would have given anything
for Gary's naturally curly hair, especially if it were like Tom Jones'. Imagine
the ease of care.
Gary is still plying the announcing trade in California, as you have been
advised. We shared a great love of the Hi-Lo's, The Four Freshmen, the unbeatable
Singers Unlimited and finally the group, Take Six. The shared wonder is when
they will ever do something? Anything. Anyway, I have dug up some memo-photo's
The one here is of Gary Chew and me circa 1960'-70's.
"...and moving in a northerly direction..."
(from Guestbook 68) Les Biffle said:
I was KOTV summer-help in engineering in '68 and '69...I really loved Gary
Chew and Lee Woodward. They were gracious, smart, and funny and simply marvelous
to watch. I was sad when Chan built them their own production booth in the
back of the news room, and they therefore wouldn't be hanging out with us
in audio...Gary Chew taught me to RUN if The Moose comes after you.
(from Guestbook 7) Hurst Swiggart said:
...I worked for a time as a cameraman on Sun-Up, an early morning show beginning
at 6am and hosted by Chuck Bowman... The first host of Sun-Up was Bob Mills
and he was revered as the king of morning TV. Bowman did a quite admirable
job of filling his shoes. Lee Woodward was a co-host as I remember
and was the host on the Monday after the Beatles 1st USA appearance on the
Ed Sullivan Show. Lee's comments were a hoot and I wish the tape had survived
(the show was live and taped for the archives ). Lee was and is an extremely
creative Soul. When he was host of Lee and Lionel, he was a very articulate
funny man and still is. He also designed and built the castle for King Lionel.
I will never forget the double takes from the King when Lee would make some
audacious comment. Lee is a sales executive with Thomas Cadillac as I recall.
Lee is one of the wittiest people ever seen on Tulsa TV. He retired from
Thomas Cadillac May 31, 2000. Read much more about Lee on the
Lee and Lionel pages!
Watch this 1950s KTUL weather intro (sponsored by
(from Guestbook 1) Bill Hensleyof
We were a Channel 8 family, and I still have two "Gustys" that Don Woods
would draw. One of them I even got to see drawn, and he said my name on the
air! For a 10-year-or-so-old, it was very cool!
Hey, getting a Gusty is cool at any age, as the drawing at the top of
this page affirms.
(from Guestbook 103) John Young of Sand Springs said:
Just wanted to share my memories of Don Woods. I had the pleasure to become
acquainted with Don back in 1990 when he was teaching meteorology at what
was then TJC Metro. He would come down to the cafeteria and visit with us
and tell some of the BEST stories about his TV days.
Don's a great guy and although I was never a member of his class, I'm sure
his students found him to be great too!
(from Guestbook 121) Steve Sherwood said:
Seeing the photo of Don Woods took me back to 1968, when I was a mere lad
of 17. I worked at a gas station at 41st & Yale, business was slow, but
Don Woods drove in for gas. I didn't recognize him until he got out of the
car. What a celebrity and I was seeing him up close and
My mind was racing, wanting to tell him how much I liked his weather report,
Gusty cartoons, etc., but all I could get out was a short sentence on the
weather. He politely answered with a one-liner. I then said, "you probably
don't want to talk about the weather when you're not working, do you?" He
looked at me, smiled, and said, "you're the first person that has told me
that and I appreciate it."
Webmaster Mike Ransom said:
My dad told me that early in Don Woods' career at KTUL, he regularly
did a commercial for iced tea that called for him to show how good the tea
was by drinking some and then smiling. On one occasion, a member of the crew
put salt instead of sugar into Don's tea. He took a big swig on the air,
grimaced and then blurted, "Who put the salt in my tea??!!", which got the
(from Guestbook 101) Richard Wilson said:
I remember Hal O'Halloran telling me once that he had gotten a memo from
Mr. Leake imploring him to stop breaking up Don Woods on the air. As Hal
said, "Hell, half the time I'm not even in the studio...Don cracks himself
up." And you know, it was true...as I witnessed many times on the six and
ten over the years.
(from Guestbook 7) John Boydston of Daddy A Go Go (see
TTM Gift Shop) said:
...I laughed out loud reading that
story about Don Woods and the Ice Tea. I worked with him at 8 and that is
exactly what he would have done. Don was an amazingly great guy to work with.
(from Guestbook 17) Lowell Burch said:
Does anyone remember the promo where the CH.8 cast are dressed in western
clothes and riding toward the camera on horses? Just as they fade out, if
I am not mistaken, you can see Don Woods falling off his horse into the dust.
News Guys" promo was conceived and narrated by Carl "Uncle Zeb" Bartholomew.
In the closing long shot, Woods is seen listing to the right, then careering
erratically to the left. The spot tastefully fades out as if to say situation
normal, no further comment required.
I think everyone who knows Don from TV enjoys that spontaneity of
his which makes him so likable and fun to watch.
Photos by Scott Blaker
Below right is Carl setting Don up for the shoot with Richard Wilson behind
the camera. Above right is Carl with cameraman Bob Welch, and above is Bob
Scott Blaker said via email:
These were taken during Channel 8's "Cowboy" news promo shoot in July, 1974.
Carl (Zeb) Bartholomew directed Bob Hower, Don Woods and Steve Zabriskie
(and then had to go back and re-shoot some scenes with Chris Lincoln when
The Big Z left unexpectedly before the promo even hit the air.) The first
unit cameraman was Bob Welch, and the second was Richard Wilson.
Check out Don's web
pages at Bill Haynes' web site. You can order Gusty merchandise.
Woods interviewed for Tulsa Community College presentation
Courtesy of Marc Hall
(from GroupBlog 214) Bob DeMers said:
In the midst of packing for a move from Portland, Maine to Charlotte, North
Carolina, I found this stashed away. I thought you might enjoy a picture
Thanks, Bob. "Cecil Scoggins" was one of
Sherman Oaks' monikers.
(from Guestbook 21) Former Mayor Terry Young said:
I started as "weekend weatherman" at KTUL in June, 1970, while also working
in news at KAKC radio. Moved into the KTUL news department in August, 1970
as a full time employee. Worked in news and did weather until April, 1975.
Elected County Commissioner in 1976 and Mayor in 1984.
(from Guestbook 21) KOTV's James Aydelott said:
We were sitting around the other day talking about funny things that have
happened during weathercasts. I remember the day after the devastating Memorial
Day weekend floods, more severe weather was moving our way. Dan Satterfield
(c'mon Dan, I know you remember this) was doing a weather update when
a new warning was issued. As all the stations did at the time, Channel 2
took a live audio feed from the National Weather Service office in Tulsa.
About halfway through the bulletin from the weather service, the guy reading
the bulletin at the NWS stumbled and couldn't recover, said something to
the effect of, "disregard." This was followed by a loud crash and some expletives
before the audio feed was killed.
Channel 2 switched right back to Dan in front of the chroma key. Dan, looking
rather stunned, said something or other about getting that information
straightened out and he'd get back to us.
I distinctly remember my parents and me exchanging laughs just afterward.
(from Guestbook 6) Ma Barker (see the Links
page for her TV web site) said:
For three years from about 1957 to 1960 I was a staff director at KTUL-TV
in Tulsa. We rotated shifts but I worked from 4 to midnight most of the time
so I directed the News and Weather at 6 and 10. In those days Jack
Morris was our "ace-in-the-hole." He brought us great ratings and his
secret was his "kicker" on the end of the show. Viewers sent him jokes, and
nobody could resist the big grin on his face when he started to read them
(whether they were that funny or not). We cut to a close-up for this kicker,
and the audience got a good laugh to close the show.
Then it was time for Don Woods and Gusty for the weather. Way back
then practically no weatherman on television was a real meteorologist, but
Don was. And he could draw the little cartoon character he called "Gusty."
Don was a great guy. So were most of the people I worked with in Tulsa. In
those days it was very unusual to have a woman in the control room, telling
men what to do and exposed to all their "bad" language. From what I have
learned I think I was one of the first two or three women in the U.S. to
be a television director. It was a lot of fun and hard work.
It had 2 telephone rotary dialers on it. I never knew it existed for years
till I saw it prepping for a newscast one night and asked what it was.
Don would set it each night before leaving but a couple of times "staff members"
would sneak back in and change the "forecast".
It had 2 colors on the NBT tower and at one time could be seen from all over
Tulsa. Solid green meant fair weather.
precipitation. Solid red meant sudden
temperature change, and flashing
meant - severe weather
Amazingly Woodsy never mentioned this on the air. I guess old line Tulsans
knew what the signals meant.
I can think of several staff members that - on a hoot - changed it to red
flashing on a night of good weather and we were bombarded with calls (which
the night crew had to answer) from folks saying they had missed the late
news and wondering if a tornado was afoot. They had seen the tower flashing.
Once I knew what was going on - I said, "Ooops - Don must have forgotten
to reset the gizmo!" and went back downstairs to the newsroom to reset the
(from Guestbook 180) Edwin Fincher said:
LOVED to dial brother Don's telephone (connected to the lites on NBT) in
the middle of the nite! I could control the world! 3 made it green &
6 made it flash red.....what fun!
Edwin does have a thing for flashing lights...read about his involvement
with the 1973 late-night local TV
Tulsa World story by Bill Underwood,
South Boston": "During the 1930s, at least one Navy zeppelin briefly
moored there. In fact, the Tulsa Historical Society has a large photograph
showing people hanging over the building's uppermost railings to grab ahold
of the lines hanging down from the giant airship."
Another Tulsa-NYC parallel: Tulsa's Williams Tower is a half-scale version
of the World Trade Center Towers, by the same architect.
Zeppelin approaches the NBT tower. Courtesy of the Beryl Ford
Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa
(via email, 7/19/2005) Jo Foster said:
My mom used to work there at the bank (that is where my parents met, thanks
to mononucleosis). They had a contest to name what the lights were to mean
amongst the tellers at the bank and my mom won. I thought she was sh*tting
me, but she has the proof. I just think it is kind of funny how things in
Tulsa come full circle.
Jo noticed a link to the above NBT story on the
"UHF" locations page, where I had just added
a highly pertinent comment of hers from a previous Guestbook. That's what
she means by "full circle".
I really miss working as a forecaster in Tulsa, and
have been looking for a way to come back there, either in the media or with
a private company such as one of the energy businesses, but I don't have
anything nailed down yet. I would be delighted if you would post this on
your site to let all my fans in Tulsa know that I am thinking of them, and
hoping that a door of opportunity would once again open there for me. My
two sons were born there, and really I grew to maturity there myself. You
know I was only 25 when I started as Chief Meteorologist at the old
KTEW back in 1978. I still keep in touch with a lot of good friends
there. I feel like my life's best work was under Tulsa's stormy skies, and
even at times like this....the dog days of August...I still miss the people
2/25/2008: Webmaster: We were shocked and saddened today: former Channel
2 weatherman, Gary Shore, passed away. People are writing in about him in
(from Guestbook 209, 3/2006) Lee Woodward said:
I don't think I saw it mentioned here but the Tulsa World had a small blurb
about Channel 2 weatherman...Mike Anderson, going for the gold! That
is; he has joined the staff of "Tulsa Gold & Coin" on East 41st Street.
Gold is a lot more steady than the weather in this state and likely a lot
more remunerative for Mike.
David George, Jim Giles and Mike Anderson at KOTV in the 80s
Webmaster: Jim Giles passed away December 20, 2006. Read what his fans
and friends had to say about him in GB 227.
KOTV Safe Spot sticker.
Found on eBay: "Speaking of precip, you will be the swankiest cocktail
party or martini bash host with this Ronco Glass Froster! Includes an aerosol
can for frosting the glasses. Stick the glass in the red canister and spray
on the frosting! Hmmm, by today's standards, this technique may not be very
safe, but it still makes a cool party trick!"