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women in the weather bureau during world war 2


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Personal View of Mildred Sprung Gholson

I worked for the Weather Bureau from August, 1942, to June, 1953. I was stationed at Beaumont, California, and Tucson, Arizona.

Picture of Mildred GholsonI did not know the Weather Bureau needed new employees. I was in Los Angeles and decided to start looking for work at the Civic Center. I started at the top floor of the building. The Coast and Geodetic Survey took my application. The next floor down was the Weather Bureau. They hired me on the spot. I worked for the Weather Bureau because I needed a job and I always enjoyed clouds and weather.

I started working as Mildred Sprung. In 1948 I was married and became Mildred S. Gholson. In June, 1953, I left the Weather Bureau to become a full-time homemaker and to see what it was like to have regular hours.

My previous educational and practical experience were as follows: The Federal Bureau of Investigation hired me to work for them in Washington, D.C. immediately after I graduated from high school. Also I worked for the University of Arizona Extension Service. When I started work for the Weather Bureau, my pay was approximately S1220.00/year. When I resigned I received around S3380.00/year. The amount varied because of overtime and continually rotating shifts. I went to the Weather Bureau training school at Pacific Palisades, California.

The Weather Bureau employees were very kind and friendly to me. My first impressions of the Weather Bureau were favorable. The office was between Bonning and Beaumont, California. The boss was very helpful. Even found a place for me to rent before my arrival, and met me at the railroad station. The morale on station was usually very good.

My duties were taking weather observations, cutting the tapes and filing weather reports on teletype (no CAA in Beaumont,) filing flight plans, taking PIBALs, plotting and analyzing surface and upper air charts, plotting pseudo-Adiabatic Charts, giving radio broadcasts of the weather, recording climatological data, taking samples of atomic fall-out and sending them to the Atomic Energy Commission, briefing pilots and answering the telephones.

I worked continually rotating shifts. Each day I normally worked nine hours; and 45-54 hours a week. In Beaumont, two other women and one man worked with me. In Tucson there were three women and three men.

The high point of my Weather Bureau career was when I got the highest score in the western United States, Alaska and Hawaii on a Weather Bureau test. The low points were caused by a particular male employee who consistently made himself unavailable to answer phones or brief pilots when I was going off the midnight shift. Since we were required to complete the surface chart, I worked up to four hours of unpaid overtime because I was doing his work also! Looking back, I feel that the Weather Bureau was an excellent place to work. If I had my life to live over, I would definitely do it again because I truly enjoyed the work. The variety of duties was a big plus and time usually flew.

I believe my major contributions were punctuality, accuracy, conscientiousness, and enthusiasm. A few of my memorable experiences are as follows:

    a) Great balls of lightning of various colors tumbled off the line, I was knocked back into the building and struck a metal cabinet. We had an immediate cloudburst and water flooded through the office while I was writing up my observation. (My joints ached for a couple weeks after the incident.)

    b) During another severe thunderstorm, I was kept very busy filing special observations when a dust storm severely reduced the visibility. Moderate rain followed and I reported "blowing mud balls" which were pelting the windows. And then we had a cloudburst. Many light aircraft were tom from their moorings and flipped over.

    c) A DC-6 AA [American Airlines] westbound transcontinental flight #211 landed below limits which I was requesting at the time. A CAA inspector was on board monitoring the radio communications and heard the many special weather reports covering the rapidly changing weather conditions. As a consequence, the Captain was fined and severely reprimanded.

    d) On another occasion, I was starting the six-hourly 1730 report and spotted a dirigible-shaped object just beneath a 6500 foot overcast at the west end of the Catalina Mountains. It was moving slowly to the WSW. At that altitude, the winds aloft were from the West at 60 mph. I called the Central Tower operator and asked him to monitor it while I filed the weather report. I returned to the roof to watch it. It would disappear briefly into the clouds and then reappear further to the SW until it hovered over the city. I watched it until it got too dark to see it. There was no gondola. The controller called Davis-Northern Central Tower and they reported that there were no known aircraft in that area and they too saw it. Our surveillance lasted 45 minutes. We decided not to report it to Wright Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio because no one would believe us and/or we would be labeled "kooks."


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