Bob Ryan on being part of the Channel 4 Dream Team ~
“People would say, “Oh, what was it like?” I said, “Everybody loved what we did and didn’t want to do anybody else’s job.” I didn’t want to do sports! I didn’t want to be an anchor, and sure as heck nobody wanted to have my job.”
Bob Ryan with Trumbull and Core from the Good Ole’ Days
Bob Ryan: … cold tomorrow night, and the weekend’s going to start off nice. Sunny and pleasant on Saturday, about 60. I think we’ll see a fair amount of clouds in here on Sunday, and maybe some rain by late Sunday or Monday.
Bill Trumbull When you were a kid, were you called Red Ryan?
Bob Ryan: Oh, I was called all sorts of things. The one I remember most was … sort of diabolical friend of my father’s called me peckerhead. You know, for Woody Woodpecker and things like that.
Bill Trumbull Yeah, well, nice talking to you, Bob.
Bob Ryan: Never liked that one.
Bill Trumbull Thank you. You want to get the lights? I’ll lock up.
Chris Core: Well, turn off the mic now.
Bill Trumbull I asked him a simple question. You’re going to make this place a warehouse. Okay.
Chris Core: I didn’t know we were going to be able to-
Bill Trumbull No.
Chris Core: Okay. We’re still on-
Bill Trumbull Breaking new ground.
Chris Core: Yeah.
Bill Trumbull Okay.
And speaking of heat pumps.
Chris Core: Yeah, what’s the best combination you can think of, huh?
Bill Trumbull I’m sweating my live spot coming up. You’re on your own here.
Chris Core: Well, let’s talk about the heat pump then.
Bill Trumbull Alright.
Chris Core:: Metro Washington Heat Pump Association wants you to know that the energy efficient heat pump …
Bill Trumbull Loud and clear. Yes, no guessing, no guessing. Plays the slot for his television…
Andy Ockershausen: Now, that is Washington radio. Several years ago with unbelievable Trumbull and Core and Bob Ryan, and we’re so delighted to have Bob back here in the WMAL studio. This is Our Town, and this is Andy Ockershausen. We’re all laughing because that could not have been planned, Bob. That was an ad lib of the greatest thing I’ve ever heard on radio.
Bob Ryan: Live radio. It was…
Andy Ockershausen: Live radio. Trumbull and Core had so much that they would make something out of nothing like that. What was he called? Bill? I always think of Bill. What was he called?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen Jackie Bill?
Andy Ockershausen: Huh?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen Jackie Bill.
Andy Ockershausen: Jackie Bill, here comes Bob Ryan, the man who made Washington weather fun, and the forecast fun, and WMAL fun for 33 years, Bob.
Bob Ryan: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s incredible. You got a-
Bob Ryan: Time marches on.
Andy Ockershausen: … great career, and you’re missed. Bob Ryan was important to this town, Our Town, and he knows how important weather is and what it means to us. Bob was one of the originals of the four … we called it the Channel 4 Four Dream Team: Vance, Gentzler, Campbell, George Michael. I mean, it was just incredible, and he also was doing Harden and Weaver, and Trumbull and Core. I used to say, “Does this man ever sleep?” No, he’s always on the air on WMAL. Bob, welcome to Our Town.
Bob Ryan: Thank you. Thank you. It is great to be in Our Town, and wow, what a town. What a fun place, and what great fun it was and still is to do-
Andy Ockershausen: It is.
Bob Ryan: … and you’re still doing what you always loved to do. You don’t imagine how that feels.
Andy Ockershausen: We loved-
Reminiscing – First Snow Falls, Calendars, Almanacs and School Visits
Bob Ryan: How lucky we are.
Andy Ockershausen: … Our Town, and you’re such a big part of Our Town and our life at WMAL even though your home was channel 4 and NBC, and everybody remembers Bob Ryan who’s ever been around Washington radio. And their calendars when you used to have when the first snow falls come-
Bob Ryan: Yeah, and 25 years we had the almanac and-
Andy Ockershausen: Almanac. Right.
Bob Ryan: … the school visits, and the school cam and … One of the funny stories that somebody related to me on that bit in the afternoon, he was on the beltway. A guy called me. He says, “I was laughing so hard I had to pull over, and pull into the breakdown lane.” I think Trumbull says … first words were, “I was still on the air?” But it’s a true story. I did tell a … it was a diabolical friend of my father’s who-
Andy Ockershausen: But that’s the humor that our guys gave to … even Tom Gauger, and you worked with him to.
Bob Ryan: Oh yeah. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: They had so much humor, and of course, Harden and Weaver-
Bob Ryan: Harden and Weaver in the morning-
Andy Ockershausen: The humor.
Losing Track of Time On-Air | WMAL Fined by the FCC
Bob Ryan: … and we’d … I don’t know how anybody kept track of the time, and the spots should be going, and the commercials should be going in. It just was sort of open-ended and…
Andy Ockershausen: Bob, you know and you were around at that time, but WMAL got changed with the FCC with Harden and Weaver doing a commercial over one minute because we had said in filing for our license we’re going to do one minute commercials. Technically, somebody ratted on us and said, “It went like two or three minutes.” So, we went down and played a tape for them of Harden and Weaver doing their commercial, “Well, you tell us when they stop doing the commercial.” They couldn’t do it because it was all over the line about everything. They would talk about everything during the commercial. We never paid the fine, incidentally. We got fined $5,000 and never paid it, and they never collected it.
Bob Ryan: Those were the days when the FCC, when you’d apply for license, too, you had to show how much you’re serving the community-
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
A Good Start in Boston
Bob Ryan: … had to have a news content. I started my real first full-time job in Boston at the time when WCVB was starting, Channel 5.
Andy Ockershausen: I know that, Channel 5. . . . that story.
Bob Ryan: Famous case where the FCC took away the license … a TV license from Channel 5 because … and WCVB promised they’re going to be doing local programming, local news, expanding the new … which they did. I mean, that was … now it’s a different world.
Andy Ockershausen: But you started in New England, but you were Boston born. Are you a-
Bob Ryan: I was in Boston … I was born actually in the Hudson Valley, and then I just went back there for a trip. It was great. And then was in Boston in research, and happened to get into TV as a moonlighting job at a UHF station that was starting a 10 o’clock news. A 10 o’clock news.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow. Revolutionary.
Bob Ryan: Revolutionary, and it lasted for nine months. I got a call at my regular job, which was with AD Little doing something, different research, and they said, “Don’t bother coming in tonight.” I said, “Why not?” “They canceled the news.” So, that was my introduction to TV news.
Andy Ockershausen: You went to college in New York State?
High School in Northern Westchester and College at SUNY, Albany
Bob Ryan: Went to college at SUNY, Albany, and degree in Physics, and then Atmospheric Science.
Andy Ockershausen: Physics. Aha.
Bob Ryan: Well, then I got my Master’s in Atmospheric Science. My advisor was Kurt Vonnegut’s brother.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my god.
Bob Ryan: Bernie Vonnegut. That was sort of good.
Andy Ockershausen: But Albany is where you went to college, and you went to high school in New York City or-
Bob Ryan: Went to high school, and just went back … I went to high school in Northern Westchester, near Peekskill across from Bear Mountain. Great area to-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, my, I know . . . there on West Point, right?
Bob Ryan: Yeah, and great area to watch the weather. Watch the thunderstorms over the skies.
Andy Ockershausen: Watch the leaves change. This time of year I’ll bet it’d be gorgeous, huh?
Bob Ryan: Yeah. Although … up there everything is still green. Here we are, middle of October, and it’s hard to tell that the leaves are staying up.
Andy Ockershausen: Still a lot of them around, aren’t there?
Bob Ryan: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that due to the summer, or is that due to the … everything changes?
Bob Ryan: I think the seasons, the summers getting a little bit longer, the changing of the leaves. You talk to the farmers, and they’re the ones, whatever their politics are, there are the ones who are out there and saying, “This isn’t the weather that I grew up with.” So, yeah, they-
Andy Ockershausen: And it does change. I mean there’s-
Bob Ryan: I mean, in November now-
Andy Ockershausen: … weather’s changed for hundreds of years, right?
Bob Ryan: Oh yeah. I was just up at the Skyline Drive, took a drive up there, and still green. Still pretty much green, and here we are in the middle of October.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah, so it’s going to be a couple of weeks at least before they get to colors.
Bob Ryan: At least a couple of weeks.
Andy Ockershausen: Let’s get back to Bob Ryan in upper New York State. It’s a wonderful place, obviously, Albany, and growing up and going to school there, but you weren’t in weather?
Weather Research at AD Little – Missile Plume or Cloud?
Bob Ryan: No.
Andy Ockershausen: You were a physicist?
Bob Ryan: Well, I was in … Through Vonnegut I got a job in Boston in research, and-
Andy Ockershausen: Is it Little? AD Little? Is that-
Bob Ryan: Arthur D Little.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah.
Bob Ryan: Arthur D Little was a big-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, huge.
Bob Ryan: Huge company that … actually, they developed … they’re one … few claims to fame, filters for cigarettes before-
Andy Ockershausen: They must have made a fortune with that.
Bob Ryan: And they would work for different clients. And then they had a room, much larger than this, they called the smell room where all these little fragrances and essences. So, they had a commercial side, and then I was in the government contract side. Back then it was … interested … is it a missile plume or is it a cloud? So, that’s what we were working on.
Andy Ockershausen: Is it an earthquake or military shock?
Bob Ryan: My first job, I get there and a month later I’m in Patrick Air Force Base working with a group that put instruments in a U2, and flying up with the U2 looking at any missile launch from then Cape Canaveral. Then to see if there was a way to distinguish between a missile plume and the clouds.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you ever fly on the U2?
Bob Ryan: I never did. Boy, it was something to watch them take off.
Andy Ockershausen: It would take a long time to get them wings up, doesn’t, and flapping?
Bob Ryan: Once they got off, boy, they just went vertical. Then flying up to 60 … Those pilots are a little bit, you know…
Andy Ockershausen: Where does Boston TV come into this picture, Bob Ryan?
First Broadcast Job – Boston TV and the 10 O’clock News
Bob Ryan: Well, I saw in the newspaper, the Globe, that they were starting this 10 o’clock UHF news program. So, I called the fellow listed as the News Director, Jim Thistle, who-
Andy Ockershausen: I know that name.
Bob Ryan: … was a legendary news director in Boston, and I said, “Are you interested in having a meteorologist do the weather of all things?” But back then the Boston weather was very … Don Kent was … Bob Copeland were … so, had a history of meteorologists doing the weather. So, who knows? For whatever reason … I practiced a couple of presentations on a shirt cardboard in front of my girlfriend, now wife, and she critiqued me. And then I went down, and back then-
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, did you? You hadn’t done radio then. You-
Bob Ryan: No, I hadn’t done anything. No, but I had big red hair. Those were the big red hair days, and plaid suits, and who knows why. I was in my 20s, and it was one of those days … The candidate, “Congratulations, you’ve got the job.” “Now what do I do?”
Andy Ockershausen: What an opening. That’s incredible, Bob Ryan:
Bob Ryan: And so, I would go to my regular research job, 5, 6 o’clock go home, have dinner, have a little beverage. Go down, do the, get there maybe 8:30 or so-
Andy Ockershausen: For the 10 o’clock news.
Bob Ryan: … for the 10 o’clock news. Prepare. I had a teletype, and I had a facsimile, and that was it to get my weather information.
Andy Ockershausen: Who was doing the-
Bob Ryan: The news?
Andy Ockershausen: The air? The regular TV guy? Did they have their own-
Bob Ryan: No.
Andy Ockershausen: You were it.
Bob Ryan: That was it, because it was just a 10 to 10:30 news.
Andy Ockershausen: On one station, right?
Bob Ryan: Channel 56, and back then you had to have a special antenna to get-
Andy Ockershausen: Right, because the big power was channel 5.
Bob Ryan: Channel 5-
Andy Ockershausen: 7 was a powerhouse.
Bob Ryan: Channel .4.. BZ was the big-
Andy Ockershausen: BZ yeah. Yeah. 4, 5, and 7.
Bob Ryan: Channel 4. 7 was … and then 5 was then HDH I think before they lost-
Andy Ockershausen: I knew that story very well.
Bob Ryan: … their license. Before the license. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Also, Bob, there was a great university station, I don’t know whether it was Harvard or who, was a UHF.
Boston Radio Broadcast – WBUR – PBS
Bob Ryan: BUR, I think.
Andy Ockershausen: They were nationally known. They were producing stuff for…
Bob Ryan: Yeah. For the radio, sure, yeah. And I think it was BUR for Boston University. I think they were a number in the … was it the ETA, was it? No. The UHF, PBS …
Andy Ockershausen: Powerhouse UHF up there, the PBS station…
Bob Ryan: So anyhow, the anchor was Arch McDonald who had been an anchor at WBZ for years and years. Fred Cusick did the sports. Fred was the Boston Bruins, voice of the Boston Bruins, and I did the weather.
Andy Ockershausen: And that was the 10 o’clock news.
Bob Ryan: 10 o’clock news. 10 to 10:30 that lasted for eight, nine months.
Andy Ockershausen: Why did it not take off.
Bob Ryan: They, I don’t know.
Andy Ockershausen: They couldn’t change the habits, right?
Short Stint in Providence Broadcast TV
Bob Ryan: Yeah, who knows. And now … And then, from there, I said, “Well, that was interesting.” And then Providence was in the middle of a terrible strike. Everybody had left. One of the anchors in Providence was a famous, a great anchor, Mort Blender, I don’t know if you’ve…
Andy Ockershausen: I’ve heard that name. Absolutely.
Bob Ryan: And so I got a call from a news director, said, “I heard you did some television up in Boston. And we’re in the…” Basically, they’re in the middle of looking for anybody that could fill in for everybody that was on strike! So I…
Andy Ockershausen: Was it an AFTRA strike, or union strike, or maybe a, maybe an engineering…?
Bob Ryan: No, I think it was IBEW that the on-air people had joined. So everybody was out. But it had been going on for months, so when I got down there, there wasn’t even a picket line, they were still … so, they were desperate to have anybody, so they said, “Well…”
So I went back and told my head of the business section, you know, some of the contracts were winding down, I said, “I’ve got this project I’m working on, and I can, I’ll come in, but then at three o’clock I’ll leave and go down to Providence and I’ll come back, and then I’ll…”
Andy Ockershausen: 60, 70 miles away?
Bob Ryan: Yeah, I just zipped it back down. And he looks at me, seriously, he says, “Do you know what you’re doing?”
Andy Ockershausen: That’s an incredible story. Obviously you didn’t know what you were doing!
Bob Ryan: No!
Andy Ockershausen: That’s why it went over so big.
Bob Ryan: And my poor father, that’s the end. You know, “He’s given up his education.” He said to my girlfriend, “Can’t you talk some sense into him?” So that went on for a few years, and then I went back-
Andy Ockershausen: You were commuting? Back and-
Bob Ryan: Yeah, well, about a year and a half in Providence, and then when CVB got the license-
Andy Ockershausen: Right, I knew that story very well…
Back to Boston and WCVB – From Nights to Mornings
Bob Ryan: Then they were changing to mornings and they were starting a lot of different programming, and I knew about Copeland, and then I’d worked with Thistle, Thistle was coming over there, so they offered me a … Copeland and I were splitting six days a week, because we only had two people. They didn’t have anybody else. So I would do the mornings and a noon news with Natalie Jacobson, who was doing the noon news then, famous-
Andy Ockershausen: In Providence?
Bob Ryan: No, in Boston.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, it was?
Bob Ryan: No, I came back to Boston.
Andy Ockershausen: On Channel 5?
Bob Ryan: On Channel 5.
Andy Ockershausen: CVB?
Bob Ryan: CVB.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s Bob Bennett’s station.
Bob Ryan: Yes, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: I know the whole story because I was kind of in the middle. My brother was the attorney for HDH, and they fought for two years not to lose that license, and then the people, they were all educators, you know, knew nothing about Broadcast. They hired Bob. He was running New York.
Bob Ryan: Leo Beranek was-
Andy Ockershausen: Leo Beranek, right.
Bob Ryan: And wonderful people.
Andy Ockershausen: He was an audio engineer, too, did you know that?
Bob Ryan: Yes! Yeah, MIT, MIT scientist.
Andy Ockershausen: Right! A genius. Knew nothing about broadcasting.
Bob Ryan: Started Bolt Beranek and Newman. BBN.
Andy Ockershausen: They did a great job.
The 20 Million Dollar Lunch
Bob Ryan: But Bob Bennett was the … but all these people signed up, also, never knowing for 100% sure whether they were going to get the license.
Andy Ockershausen: They were right up to the wire.
Bob Ryan: And midnight, boom. It switched.
Andy Ockershausen: The Supreme Court had to rule in that, you know.
Bob Ryan: Switched over, and there it was.
Andy Ockershausen: Bob, we know a lot of history, but I’m involved in it from, my brother wrote a book about it, and Bob Lee, the commissioner, he wrote a book. That was unheard of in the broadcasting industry, to lose your license and get zippo in return.
Bob Ryan: Zero. What was that, the 20 million dollar lunch?
Andy Ockershausen: That’s what it was called, right!
Bob Ryan: Something like that.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, and this is Our Town, and we’ve been talking about Bob Ryan, about his town of Boston, and probably we’re going to come back and talk about Our Town.
Bob Ryan: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: And we’ll be right back with Robert Ryan.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen, it’s Our Town, and having a very lively discussion with Bob Ryan, who is such a big part of the success of WRZ, and certainly the success of WMAL.
Bob Ryan: WMAL! Sure.
Andy Ockershausen: Worked for both. You know, everybody got something out of it, Bob. That was a time when you were involved and we were involved…
Bob Ryan: Chris Core gets to play that audio about once every six months when he gets bored…
Andy Ockershausen: They never, never, ever stop laughing about that. I think they’ve mentioned a name, they break up. They did that on a couple other occasions with things, because Bill would play the role … Chris would play the straight man, and Trumbull was the comic. And it worked. But tell us about, how in the world did you get from the great radio … I mean, the great TVs … and people thought that what WCVB was going to do was impossible. They were going to have so many hours of public service, and the industry said they’ll lose. They did not lose.
Bob Ryan: They did it.
Andy Ockershausen: They proved if you do it first class, you’ll make money at it.
Bob Ryan: They had a children’s program, an original children’s program called Jabberwocky. They had The Good Day Show with Janet Langhart and John Willis, who was…
Andy Ockershausen: Who was here! Washington, right?
Bob Ryan: He was from Washington, and that was the beginning of a talk show. We had, I would, we had an hour news, starting at 7 o’clock in the morning, eye-opener news. So I was getting up at 4, 4:30, and getting … and then, the network took over, ABC took over that seven to eight block, which was the precursor for Good Morning America, or…
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
WCVB – News Hour Gets Earlier and Earler
Bob Ryan: And so, we decided, then the station said, “Okay, we’re going to have an hour news from six to seven in the morning.” And I thought, “That’s the end of my career.” There is nobody up at six o’clock in the morning to watch an hour of news, eye-opener news!
Andy Ockershausen: Little did you know.
Bob Ryan: Little did I know! So now…
Andy Ockershausen: Six o’clock has become four o’clock.
Today Show and Willard Scott
Bob Ryan: Yeah! Now it’s four o’clock. And, three hours of news in the morning, so … but it worked, and then I did a Copeland and I switched, I did the six and eleven for a few years, and then got a call from Today Show. And then did Today for a few years, and then changes in NBC and with the head of the news division, and Willard came up to New York and I came down to Washington. And the rest is, there we are. There we are!
Andy Ockershausen: What a history!
Bob Ryan: And everybody was happy.
Andy Ockershausen: Talking about news … there was a time when radio, there was no radio station on the air 24 hours. I think we broke the bonds when a show came on called Music Till Dawn, was sponsored by American Airlines. And we said, “We can’t get by with that,” so we hired a guy named Bill Mayhew, who put people to sleep.
Overnight on WMAL with Bill Mayhew and Larry Krebs
Bob Ryan: Yes! No, he didn’t … sure.
Andy Ockershausen: We did 24 hours of news, and one thing, we had a reporter on the street named Larry Krebs, and you phone in all night long, and it was unheard of, and it worked. We suddenly became very popular, and we were not a news station. We had been music. But we shifted and got into news and weather.
Bob Ryan: And weather! And the times, and I think I did some late, late night when we were in the middle of a snowstorm or something.
Andy Ockershausen: They would always call Bob Ryan. Well, that’s what we started with, Ric Edelman. When it was financial news, we’d call Ric Edelman.
Bob Ryan: And when you’re young … you know, I was doing the morning, I’d get up, if it snowed, I’d be up about four in the morning. And we’d do Harden and Weaver in the mornings, rather dry. And then I’d go into “Four”, and we’d start there. We had a radio hook-up there…
Andy Ockershausen: You had your own hook-up there, you could get on with Gauger.
Bob Ryan: Yeah, Gauger, and
Andy Ockershausen: And the guy’s all about the weather because of you, you made it so interesting. They became part of you and vice versa, because they were interested in what you were saying.
Bob Ryan: And we have great weather here. I mean, anytime it snows, as you know, it still is mayhem.
Andy Ockershausen: Even heavy dew is mayhem.
Bob Ryan: Bill Mayhem in the night, right?
Andy Ockershausen: Well, maybe… Bill was a unique talent. He could work all night, which he did for years and years and years, and yet have a full life. You know, he played golf every day. He just reversed his life, you know. When we were sleeping, he’s out working, and then we’d wake up and go to work, he’d wake up and go to play golf.
Bob Ryan: And now, I … great friend and former colleague, Veronica Johnson, is doing mornings at Channel 7. The poor woman is getting up at 11:30 at night, because she’s got to be in at 1:30 in the morning, because they start at, I don’t know, 3:30 now, with people…
Andy Ockershausen: Veronica’s something else, isn’t she.
Veronica Johnson and Leon Harris
Bob Ryan: Oh, she’s wonderful. She’s wonderful.
Andy Ockershausen: She was with you years at 4.
Bob Ryan: Yeah, at 4. Now she’s at 7.
Andy Ockershausen: There’s been a lot of moves of people around. And, who was the guy? The anchor now, he’s at 4, had been anchor at 7. He’s…
Janice Iacona Ockershausen Leon Harris.
Bob Ryan: Leon Harris. Yeah. Leon is terrific.
Andy Ockershausen: Leon Harris does a great job. He’s part of the community.
Bob Ryan: And that’s the thing that, WMAL and all of the stations and everything that was successful, is such an integral part of the community.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s Our Town.
Bob Ryan: Yeah, Our Town. And it’s a challenge now, with everything else. You know, with Facebook, and Twitter, and…
Andy Ockershausen: Bob. Everything that…
NBC4.com Dave Jones and Bob Ryan
Bob Ryan: Allan Horlick – When we were first starting, we started a digital weather … we got the NBC4.com with Dave Jones. It was under a NASA program. And so we got the NBC4.com before LA got it and before New York got it.
Andy Ockershausen: Right, because you were here.
Bob Ryan: And we were here. And we started in 1995. And we were doing a lot of digital things, and then showing it on television.
Andy Ockershausen: Way ahead of the world.
Bob Ryan: And I remember Alan said, “Well, imagine 500 channels.” There are 15,000 now!
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah! There’s no limit, there’s no limit.
Bob Ryan: And the remote control. I was trying to use my remote control to see something the other night. And it’s got, you’ve got 25 buttons, or I think 35 buttons! And every time I go back, I’m coming back to somebody trying to sell brass candlesticks. You know, it’s bizarre, trying to keep up with this anymore.
Andy Ockershausen: He’s laughing, and he knows … you know, radio, we used to sell baby chicks at night. You know that don’t you? You know, it was all kind of mail order stuff that went on in radio.
Bob Ryan: And then Willard would come in and sell the eggs.
Andy Ockershausen: Willard was such a big part of Our Town and everything we’ve done, and nobody is bigger than you, Bob Ryan. We’ll be right back, we’ll talk about the recent Ryan! This is Andy O, and this is Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen, brought to you by Best Mark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town and Andy Ockershausen, and we’re having a conversation with the inimitable Robert Ryan, Red Ryan, and Bob has been such a big part of Our Town, and his days at Channel 4 and still his days at Channel 7! I forget about those things.
WRC-TV Channel 4 and WJLA-TV Channel 7 – A Wonderful Life
Bob Ryan: Yeah, I went to … wonderful 25, was it 25 years, I guess? At 4, and the team, course, George … George came two weeks after I started, so we were essentially starting at the exact same time!
Andy Ockershausen: Contemporary, absolutely.
Bob Ryan: In 1980, and then Vance, and then of course Doreen came 10 years after that.
Andy Ockershausen: Right after that, right.
Bob Ryan: Arch, and so that was the team. And you know what it was? People would say, “Oh, what is it like?” I said, “Everybody loved what we did and didn’t want to do anybody else’s job.” I didn’t want to do sports! I didn’t want to be an anchor, and sure as heck nobody wanted to have my job.
Andy Ockershausen: No. Except Louis Allen, but that guy passed away.
Bob Ryan: Well, he’s gone.
Andy Ockershausen: We used to have Louis on Channel 7, you know.
Bob Ryan: Gordon Barnes went and left after all. Gordon was, yeah…
Andy Ockershausen: Barry ZeVan, the weatherman. We’ve had some looloos, baby.
Bob Ryan: You hired some of them!
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, God. I remember them auditioning Barry ZeVan. I said, “This is a mistake,” but Marvin, said, “Let’s give it a shot.”
Bob Ryan: But that nucleus of the team that was there for 20 plus years is just…
Andy Ockershausen: It’s still built today, that’s the same team that’s … they’re all Vance people, like all them. Vance was the catalyst.
Remembering Jim Vance
Bob Ryan: And great fun. Great fun. And the story at Vance’s memorial, and it was a wonderful celebration of a extraordinary life. He did moon me, you know, not once, but a number of times, a number of times. I could see it coming. You know, the first time, he caught me a little bit, and I had to, I had to catch my … what the heck is the…?
Andy Ockershausen: The only that saved you, you didn’t have Gordon Barnes, I mean Gordon from Channel 9.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen Gordon Peterson.
Bob Ryan: Peterson, yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Peterson was supposed to have come … but who is it that’s doing the sports on Channel 9? That missed Channel 4?
Janice Iacona Ockershausen You mean Glenn Brenner?
Andy Ockershausen: Brenner, yeah, yeah, would have . . . , because he drove people crazy.
Bob Ryan: Oh, yeah. Yeah. There would have been a double moon. They would have double mooned me, I think.
Andy Ockershausen: I don’t see that much humor in the news anymore. There used to be. Maybe guys were just doing that to get ahead, but the world has changed so much, Bob.
Bob Ryan: Well, it’s … everybody is afraid of losing. As soon as you make a change or try to do something different, you run the risk of losing the small audience that you have now, so…
Andy Ockershausen: They’re all crazy about the numbers, too.
Ratings Ain’t What They Used to Be
Bob Ryan: The numbers. And the numbers keep going down, because of all of the different…
Andy Ockershausen: When I said something to the General Manager of Channel 9, sitting right where you’re sitting, we’re talking about Our Town, he’d been here, went to bigger jobs and came back big. It’s sort of like Jackie and people that move around the company. I said a remark about, I said, “I can’t believe, how is that show is still on the air with a three rating?” He said, “I’d kill for a three rating! I had no idea that that was the way it was.”
Bob Ryan: In Boston when we’d get snow, we’d have a 25 rating and a 35 share.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. But no more, because of all these channels.
Bob Ryan: Oh, that’s right. And I said, “We, if the numbers, we had the numbers back then than now, everybody would have been fired.”
Andy Ockershausen: There wouldn’t have been anybody left. You had to live through that change, too.
Bob Ryan: But the times. But how fortunate we were, and everybody that I worked with, to be during that period when the technology was greatly advancing-
Andy Ockershausen: Exploding.
Bob Ryan: … and things like chroma key, and live radar … in my end of things, and it was really exciting and fun for me one, professionally, but then on the air and to be able to communicate that and have that team where we could go in and basically have fun, every day. We couldn’t wait to get to work on a Monday!
Andy Ockershausen: I remember Channel 7, when the movies were run by a big reel of tape, but it was run out of the studios at American University, not downtown, but the thing on … that was TV. We had no tape. We had no, what do you call it, any recording device. There was no cameras. It was a mess, but it got by, because that was the early days.
Bob Ryan: And I got out before high definition-
Andy Ockershausen: Channel 4 had a hotel. That was unique, they were all living in a hotel, the station was. And that was the beginning of television in Washington. You know, 4 and 9 had their offices downtown when they built that new . . . So Bob, you really lived through a lot of broadcast, and I’m sorry that we don’t see you every night now, but that happens.
Bob Ryan: Well, I did everything that I wanted to do. It was great fun…
Andy Ockershausen: You had a wonderful life.
Bob Ryan, Former President of the American Meterologist Society
Bob Ryan: And professionally, I served as president of the American Meteorological Society, and I’m still involved with that, and…
Andy Ockershausen: And he didn’t study meteorology, so he…
Bob Ryan: I did! I didn’t study broadcasting!
Andy Ockershausen: No, he just studied life, though, didn’t he? You know a lot about life when you came into that job.
Bob Ryan: Well, yeah, I learned a lot along the way, that’s for sure.
Andy Ockershausen: You used to show up every event that WMAL had. You’d be there, and your wife usually came to most of them. You were part of our family.
Bob Ryan: And we’d go out to school visits. And then I had a crew come to record the school visit, and then I, we jerry-rigged a little, so it looked like a video tape recording, and we put it on the school cam and get the kids to say something at the end. It was great fun.
Andy Ockershausen: And you did your calendar? And the almanac…
Bob Ryan: We did the almanac for twenty-five years. And we did that…
Andy Ockershausen: You didn’t predict the first day of snow, did you? That’s-
Bob Ryan: No, no. We didn’t do that, didn’t do that. But we had a wonderful relation with Giant, for years. They were a great community sponsor.
Andy Ockershausen: Alvin Miller.
Bob Ryan: And then Barry…
Andy Ockershausen: Barry Wright?
Bob Ryan: No…
Janice Iacona Ockershausen No, Barry from Giant food.
Andy Ockershausen: No, the little guy, he’s talking about, little Barry.
Bob Ryan: No, no, no. No. Yeah, Barry that was at Giant, the vice president for-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen Your friend!
Andy Ockershausen: My friend is Alvin Miller.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen No, Barry, from… Barry.
Andy Ockershausen: I’m losing it, Bob.
Bob Ryan: And his wife is also Olga. Anyhow, they were-
Janice Iacona Ockershausen Yes, Olga! Olga and Barry.
Bob Ryan: And anyhow, they were…
Andy Ockershausen: I thought they owned a restaurant.
Bob Ryan: No, no, no. They were great to … and 25 years … and, from the sale of the almanac, we would donate everything to local children’s charities.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, I know. You did a great job, Bob.
Bob Ryan: And so, over the years . . .
Andy Ockershausen: But that’s so much community that you were involved in that makes Channel 4 when it was great, when it was great, and it’s great now, because their people are out all the time. Fortunately for the community, the other stations are doing it too. It’s not a one-man band anymore.
Bob Ryan: But, you know, but this thing in the . . .
Andy Ockershausen: You changed the world, Bob.
Bob Ryan: And I wonder, how, are they really making any money on this, or just saying, “Go to our app, go to our app, go to our app?” And so maybe a couple of cents. I could get-
Andy Ockershausen: Cell phones!
Bob Ryan: … let’s get an AD on… the app! Our Town!
Janice Iacona Ockershausen There you go.
Andy Ockershausen: But Bob, having you on the air here was such a delight for everybody, because we could all relate to it, and we miss you, but there’s weather, and there’s weather, there’s so many people doing great things on TV now, and it’s part of life.
Bob Ryan Takes Time Out in Retirement Just to Watch It Snow
Bob Ryan: But for me, I can, yeah, people say, “Don’t you miss it?” I say, “You can’t take the weather away from me!” I mean, the most fun I’ve had, I think the last few years, since I haven’t been completely working 100%, is having a snowstorm two years ago and just watching the snow. Oh, it was great!
Andy Ockershausen: Did you predict it? Of course!
Bob Ryan: Oh yeah, of course. But the most fun was sitting at home and just, you know…
Andy Ockershausen: Watching it and sitting right in there with them, you know.
Bob Ryan: Watching it, yeah, not running back and forth and sending out a tweet every 30 seconds. “It’s snowing.”
Andy Ockershausen: Or being there, or WMAL, all night long talking to Bill Mayhew.
Bob Ryan: And I did that. It was fun.
Andy Ockershausen: It was so important, though, Bob.
Bob Ryan: Younger and a bit more energy, but it was a…
Andy Ockershausen: A great, great day. You know, we say this, there’ll never be another Jim Vance and there’ll never be another time of him. There’ll never be another Harden and Weaver. But those things were an important part of our lives. But that all changes.
Bob Ryan: Yeah. And move on, and things-
Andy Ockershausen: And you proved that.
Bob Ryan: Radio and TV will still be here. And I think the, everybody is struggling to see, whatever, but when important decisions and big news comes, people tune on to see somebody that they know and trust-
Andy Ockershausen: Correct. All the way.
Bob Ryan: … especially with the weather. That’s it. You can’t get through an app. You can’t get that through a two-second or two-sentence headline, which … but when there’s anything big, people will still watch live.
Andy Ockershausen: Where they believe.
Bob Ryan: Where they believe, where they trust…
Andy Ockershausen: Where they hear and they believe.
Bob Ryan: And the trust element is there.
Andy Ockershausen: Bob Ryan, you are a delightful man, and such an important part of Our Town.
Bob Ryan: Just like they trusted Andy for years and years to be an integral part of the community, and…
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely! And you always will be. You can’t get rid of that, Bob. You can’t get rid of the weather. You can’t get rid of Bob Ryan.
Bob Ryan: We don’t want to get rid of Andy Ockershausen, either…
Andy Ockershausen: They can’t get rid of Ockershausen. They tried for years, though. Look, I never knew what a podcast was till Janet said to me, one day, “You oughta do a podcast.” And I said, “A what?” Now we call it radio without a transmitter, and it worked. Bob Ryan, thank you so much for being a big part of Our Town, and all the best to you.
Bob Ryan: A delight to … great fun to be here.
Andy Ockershausen: Great fun. If we hear any more Trumbull and Core tapes, we’ll call.
Bob Ryan: There are a few others floating around out there.
Andy Ockershausen: Andy Ockershausen, this is Our Town.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season 3, presented by GEICO, our hometown favorite, with your host, Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook, or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL Radio in Washington D.C, for hosting our podcast, and thanks to GEICO. Fifteen minutes can save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.
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