Robin Swoboda
Special to the Beacon Journal

Dick Goddard’s big announcement didn’t turn out to be a ratings ploy after all. Did anyone see that coming?

Sure, he’s around the age of retirement but he’s a Cleveland icon. A legend. One of the most recognized and beloved meteorologists in the country.

He’s also my longtime friend.

It’s hard to believe but 30 years ago, when I first came to Cleveland, he was about the age that I am now. Despite our May-December age difference, we developed quite a friendship.

Was it because we worked together, ate dinner together or got in trouble together? Who knows? All I know is that it worked.

There are so many Dick G. stories, I could write a book.

I’d begin with my first year, 1986. I arrived in January and by May, anchor Tim Taylor and Dick and I already had established a routine of going next door to Howard Johnson’s for clam strip dinners every Friday night. While passing a basket of hush puppies I casually mentioned that I was going to Wooster, to spend the weekend with a retired couple. I’d met the wife on the plane flying to Cleveland for my initial interview with WJW.

“Do you know these people?” Dick asked incredulously.

“Not really. I just know that she and her husband have horses and they invited me down to ride. She seemed nice on the plane and on the phone.”

“Do you have money, you know, in case something happens?”

“I have a couple dollars but what do you think will happen?”

He never answered but when we got back to the station, Dick slipped me a $20 bill and his camera. “Take pictures,” he said. “And use the $20 if you need it.” (The couple ended up becoming lifelong friends.)

For Dick to give up his camera was a really big deal. He took pictures of everything.

Just ask my sister. She was staying with me and almost called the police because she thought there was a flasher in my backyard.

“He’s wearing a trench coat and holding an umbrella,” she whispered into the phone. “Oh golly. His back is to me but I just saw a flash of light go off.”

“I don’t think that’s why they call them flashers,” I said.

The mystery of the man and the flash was solved that night on the 6 o’clock news when Dick presented a couple of Polaroids of tomato plants in my garden.

During the show the night before, I had mentioned that my neighbor commented on my cherry tomatoes and I had embarrassed her when I told her they were beefsteak tomatoes. He wanted her to feel better and make sure she wasn’t the only one who would think they were cherry tomatoes.

Dick and I have almost gotten arrested together. (Relax! It was just him obliviously blowing through a speed trap on our way to a charity golf outing, and calling the Highway Patrol later to confess he belonged to the dangerous “Robin Swoboda gang.”)

We’ve traveled to Las Vegas for Jerry Lewis Telethon meetings and gotten in plenty of trouble together, too.

The two of us made for a very dangerous combination because we both thought the same things were funny, on and off the air. Tim Taylor, too. I don’t know how we all didn’t get fired.

When Tim or I would have to read a news story that had an element of humor in it, I knew that Dick found it hilarious because he would stiffen up and freeze in a way that was funnier than anything we had read. That would start me giggling, which would then force me to bite the inside of my lip so hard that I’d draw blood, and while I was doing this, I knew Tim was pinching the inside of his thigh. (His own, not Dick’s.)

To boil all the stories down for one column isn’t possible so I’ll leave you with my favorite.

We had been called in to the general manager’s office for some minor admonishment over our ratings. The GM was pointing out that while we were doing a full hour, Channel 3 had split their hour, sandwiching it around the NBC Nightly News. Except he didn’t say sandwiching. He pronounced it “sand-liching.” Over and over. The harder he tried to get it right, the louder he said it and the more I wanted to laugh.

Unfortunately, I was seated directly across from him so I put my head down, almost between my knees, and my shoulders bobbed up and down as I tried to muffle my laughter.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dick frozen in that comical pose and it was then that I heard his tiny snort. Just as I was about to lose it, and quite possibly my job, Dick leapt to his feet and with great exaggeration pointed out the window and yelled, “Look! A flock of honkers.”

Everyone but the GM laughed harder than we should have at a dozen Canada geese flying by the station but I truly believe Dick saved my job that day.

It’s hard to believe that, come November, Dick won’t be doing his weather job anymore … but he will always be the most recognized and beloved local meteorologist of all time. He will always be my friend.

And his vast knowledge of meteorology pales in comparison to his compassionate heart.

Robin Swoboda’s column runs every other week. Contact her at Robinswoboda@outlook.com.