View of Shirley E. Kodalen Buhmann
After six weeks
of training in Seattle for meteorology and surface observations, I
began working at Great Falls, Montana. There I received on-the-job
training for RAOB. When I started work at the Bureau I was using my
maiden name, Shirley Kodalen. I was married in 1947 and could not
transfer to Seattle. Also, after I married an Aircraft Controller,
shifts were very difficult. That was the year I first left the Weather
Bureau. I worked again in 1951 during the Korean War, and have been
with the National Weather Service from 1976 to the present. My educational
background included being High School Valedictorian. I especially
liked science and math...and loved geography.
I'm not sure how I learned that the Weather Bureau
needed new employees, but I applied for the Weather Bureau and CAA
[Civil Aeronautics Administration] - the Weather Bureau answered first,
and I passed the test. It was WARTIME and girls were needed. (I didn't
like secretarial work and the Weather Bureau sounded much more exciting.)
"Those were trying times," probably best describes the world when
I graduated from high school in the spring of 1942. It wasn't too
long before most of my friends and relatives were in some branch of
military service or working at a shipyard.
Before long word began to come home: One friend was
badly wounded by a bomb at Clark Field in the Philippines. Two of
my classmates were killed at Bougainville. Another was shot down over
Africa and ended up in an Italian prison camp. My best friend's brother
was on a B-17 that disappeared over Europe. A friend was badly burned
on a mine sweeper. My cousin parachuted out over Germany and spent
three years in a German POW camp. And the list goes on and on... I
felt so inadequate, studying Secretarial Science. I needed to do something
to help win the war. When I heard that young women were needed in
the Weather Bureau and CAA, I put in applications and took tests.
When the Weather Bureau offered me a job Asia trainee Junior Observer,
I was ready.
I believe the young women who worked for the Weather
Bureau during those wartime years made a major contribution to the
war effort...and I was very proud of us. Since Great Falls was a B-17
Base, I felt my job was extremely important. As a Junior Observer,
my duties included doing surface observations, PIBALs, RAOBs, and
map plotting. I worked rotating shifts, and often it was necessary
to put in unpaid overtime because RAOBs were very fragile and required
many releases. Normally eight hours a day were scheduled...and six-day
weeks were necessary. Often days were ten hours long and days off
were only a dream because we were shorthanded. The personnel at our
duty station included the MIC, 1st Assistant, PAWS [Flight Advisory
Weather Service] OIC, about four senior observers and six or eight
junior observers. (At times, four Jr. observers.) Pay at that time
was as follows: SP-3 - $1440 annually; SP-4 - $1620; SP-5 - S1800.
They were shorthanded at the Weather Bureau, so I
was very welcome. The morale on station was usually good...but RAOB
balloons and instruments were very temperamental. A shipment of reconditioned
instruments meant troubles.
I felt very proud of my job...and believe girls did
some very good work...at a very important time in America. Would I
do it again? Yes. I liked the work...it was exciting and I felt very
useful doing what I thought was very important work, and still think
so. I feel that one of my major contributions was simply being able
to do the job well. The high point of my career was when I was first
hired. Low point - when my 1976 status was questioned. (The personnel
director thought I was "illegally hired" because of my wartime appointment.)
One Christmas Eve I had to work and was feeling pretty sorry for myself.
When I walked out to the instrument shelter to take an observation,
it began to snow...big, beautiful, lazy snowflakes. The lights from
town sparkled in the-distance. I lost my lonesome feeling and was
happy to be able to be outside on such a beautiful night.
girl and I were ready to release our radiosonde from the roof of the
terminal building at Great Falls but had to wait for a B-17 that was
on final approach. The B-17 touched down on the end of the runway
and we released the balloon. To our horror, the balloon didn't rise.
The wind carried it out toward the runway...barely skimming across
the ground. It seemed like forever...but just before it reached the
runway and the B-17, the balloon began to rise. The B-17 rolled on
down the runway...unaware of two speechless young ladies on the roof.