Hello everyone. Today I will be writing about of one of Chicago’s notable weatherman, Harry Volkman. The first time I saw him on TV was when I residing in the South Shore neighborhood in the late 1960s. I was five years old, and he was doing the weather report at WGN-TV Channel 9. During his weather forecast, it was the first time he made that “Whoosh” sound when describing the winds in Chicago. I absolutely loved that, and I looked forward to seeing him in subsequent shows of performing that.
He arrived in Chicago in 1959 after spanning a decade in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and started working at WNBQ-TV Channel 5. The call letters were changed to WMAQ-TV on August 31, 1964. He has worked at every television station in Chicago, except WLS-Channel 7 until 2004. To me, I was often intrigued on why he didn’t work at Channel 7. There must be a story behind this. Here is a timeline of hit meteorological career.
- 1950–1952: KOTV – Tulsa
- 1952–1955: WKY-TV (later KTVY-TV, now KFOR-TV) – Oklahoma City
- 1955–1959: KWTV-DT – Oklahoma City
- 1959–1967: WMAQ-TV – Chicago
- 1967–1970: WGN-TV – Chicago
- 1970–1974: WMAQ-TV – Chicago
- 1974–1978: WGN-TV – Chicago
- 1978–1996: WBBM-TV – Chicago
Harry Volkman was very soft-spoken and a genuine gentleman. Always dressed very immaculately and he was constantly wearing a boutonniere on his lapel. The reason he wore that is because when he was visiting local schools and spoke to the students about the weather, they would present him a flower. On his weather broadcasts he would mention the places that he visited that very same day. When I attended a Greek American parochial school during the 1970s, my teacher mentioned there was a possibility, that he would come to school and visit my class. When I heard the news, I was so elated. I eagerly anticipated every day of him arriving at the school. A few days later, my teacher delivered us the bad news that he wasn’t coming. I heard a couple of rumors on what happened. One was one of the kids at school said he was coming. The other rumor was that the principal who was, in addition, a priest, didn’t want any local celebrities visiting at the school. In my candid opinion and no offense to him but that was the dumbest thing that I ever heard. I don’t know if that was true or not. I wished I had talked back to him and said to him,”You are wrong and making a terrible mistake.”I was so disappointed from the news. When I headed home that day, I told my mother what happened and said to her I don’t want to attend school because of it. My mother told me I was being foolish, and he was in charge. I instantly thought of writing a letter to WMAQ-TV, which Harry was working at the time, pleading and begging to them to contact the school so Harry can visit. But I gave in and went back to school, I haven’t forgiven the principal of doing that. I‘m still furious at him to this day.
Harry Volkman passed away on August 20, 2015. I was saddened to hear the news. I always felt he would live forever because he was on TV all the time even though he retired in 2004. Another weather forecaster in Chicago who was well-known at the time and that was P.J.Hoff. I will write a story about him in the near future. Harry Volkman delivered the weather forecasts so smoothly, like silk. There were others, and each of them possessed an extraordinary quality. My mother remembers Harry quite fondly ever since she came to America in 1962. She was crazy about him. So did most people. This article goes to The Volkman family. We all still miss him. Thank you. Pete Kastanes-Admin to Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.
One thought on “My memories of watching Harry Volkman on television in Chicago.”
Where did he work from 1996 to 2004? I was living in Atlanta by then.
Harry was the complete opposite of John Coleman at WLS-TV, but they were both good. Harry made a lot of personal appearances at schools (mine wasn’t one of them, either) and they would each present them with a buttonniere; he’d wear a different one for each newscast he worked. I don’t remember if any of them had real flowers in them, so in case he didn’t visit a school that day, he had a backlog…