Article contributed by Jean Miller
How times have changed! Today every TV station has a least two weathermen and every newscast has innumerable weather reports, usually given as fast as the tongues will move and repeating the same information ad infinitum.
There was a time when this wasn't so. Back in 1950, TV stations were still unknown in Denver. KOA was probably the most influential of the radio stations. (KLZ was established two and a half years before KOA in 1922.) On New Year's Day, 1950, a slender young man arrived in town from Des Moines, Iowa: his name was Ed Bowman.
Ed was born and raised on a farm in Iowa City. He loved weather and he loved to fly. Ed was convinced that in order to talk about weather, one should understand the sky, and flying was the way to do this. Ed had cut his broadcasting teeth with WHO in Des Moines (at the same time that Ronald Reagan was the station's sports announcer). In December 1950, Bowman managed to secure a reporting job in the newsroom for KOA Radio.
On Columbus Day, 1952, KBTV (Channel 9) started to broadcast. The following June, KOA Radio was sold by NBC to Metropolitan Television Company, one of the principal stockholders being Bob Hope. That Christmas Eve, KOA radio became KOA-TV, or Channel 4, and for the next thirty years, those were the call letters of this station.
Ed Bowman was picked from the radio newsroom to be the weatherman, supposedly because his name rhymed with weatherman. (A bit of a stretch.) For the following twelve years, he was the only full time weatherman in the Rocky Mountain Region. Ed quickly became "Weatherman Bowman" and his distinctive mid-western drawl was well-known to Denver listeners, who turned to his report every day at 5:05 p.m. Ed was also heard in the mornings, flanked by ads for Cream of Wheat. (It's Cream of Wheat weather: let me repeat. Guard you family with hot Cream of Wheat.)
Weather reports had no quick-moving computer graphics in those days; no mountain-cams, Denver-cams, highway-cams, or ski-area-cams. Fortunately, Ed was a skilled artist, who, every night, created weather maps right in front of our very eyes. His maps were filled with wonderful clouds and arrows showing wind directions; his "troughs-aloft" guided the listener
if figuring out the next day's activity. This was the first time the term "trough aloft" was used to define weather. These hand-drawn maps have become collectors' items.
Ed and his wife Madelyn lived with their family in Littleton. He flew his Fairchild trainer airplane every chance he got. One of his treasured possessions was a Norden bomb sight, a highly secret device used during the war, which he was able to purchase from the Air Force afterwards.
During this time, before the Air Force Academy was completed, cadets were housed and trained at Lowry Field in Denver. One day, Ed lent two of the cadets his plane, to take for a flight "around the patch" south of the city. Something went wrong during the flight; the Fairchild crashed, and both men were killed. Ed never really got over the loss of these young men.
Ed was a congenial fellow, and his no-nonsense approach to weather reporting made him the person to whom everyone turned each day. Emphasizing his background as a pilot and looking more dapper than ever, he sometimes donned goggles and a white scarf, as he gave his report. Bowman occasionally broadcast from his home studio, particularly during severe
storms, when driving to the studio in downtown Denver was treacherous. He related how once, when he overslept, there was no time to research the weather. So he hurried to the door, looked outside and found it was raining. He told his listeners that there was a 100% chance of rain and he held his microphone to the door so that they could hear it pouring down! "Just listen to that!" he said.
We became acquainted with Weatherman Bowman in the late fifties, because he loved to come to the mountains to stay at Ski Idlewild. Old Dick Mulligan was a colorful fixture at Winter Park Ski Area in the early days, and his wife was a Weatherman Bowman fan. She wanted to meet him in the worst way; so once Dwight took Ed over to the Mulligan's house for a chat. This really made her day! Dwight also lunched wi h Ed frequently when he was
in Denver. For six months or so, we sponsored the weather report, which, though expensive, was great fun.
Weatherman Bowman left Channel 4 TV in 1965, perhaps not entirely willingly. His fans felt that nobody else ever matched his skill. Ed continued reporting for some time, however, broadcasting for a Kansas radio network from his home studio.
Ed Bowman died on July 4, 1994, and he was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneer Hall of Fame in 2001. The Hall of Fame, established by the Broadcast Professionals of Colorado in 1997, is dedicated to preserving Colorado's rich broadcasting heritage, and honoring those who had made significant contributions to this field.