View of Susan Sohler
On March 17, 1942, I started working for the U.S. Weather Bureau
at the Seattle, Washington, City Office. I was looking for war work
and saw several flyers in the Post Office for War Service Appointments.
The Post Office advised the work in the Weather Bureau was better.
It sounded interesting and it would help in the war effort.
been teaching in a one-room country school and doing a little nursing
care. The Weather Bureau was desperate for somebody to work as the
staff was going to Boeing and the Seattle shipyards for better paying
jobs. When it was learned that I had a year of Physics from Wayne
State Teachers' College and lived on a farm two miles from Belden,
in northeast Nebraska, I was declared highly qualified. Farm folks
were deemed more "weatherwise." Actually, they were so desperate any
halfway warm body able to breath was acceptable.
on the job for less than two weeks before being given shift assignments.
My training was Circular N and the Cooperative Observing Manual. No
certification test was taken or required. The other employees were
very helpful. However, I was considered somewhat of a curiosity as
the first woman to work in the Seattle office. The others were older
men and did not look upon me as a threat to their security.
work was interesting. I liked it, and was anxious to learn. There
were so few people, only eight or nine, and we kept busy. The office
took observations, plotted and analyzed maps, did climatological work
and briefed the newspapers. However, forecasts were not allowed to
be given out during the war!
measurements, and used the triple register. There were weather records
to be kept and monthly and annual publications to print. The sunshine
recorder didn't work most of the time, so we watched for shadows to
keep track of the minutes of sunshine. The fog climatology was precise;
we were always on the lookout for fog, recording the minute it began.
It seemed like we were always copying records by hand to send to Washington.
I don't know what use they made of them. We were busy all the time.
one weather map each moming. I started on the map at 5:30 a.m., the
beginning of the shift. It was then analyzed by the forecaster. There
were three shifts - 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.,
and 10:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Later, the 1 to 9 shift was abolished
and we had two shifts covering the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. We always
worked six days/week and took turns working Sundays.
morale was all right. There was no socializing and office parties
were against the rules during wartime. However, I did receive a box
of candy when I left. The older fellows kept at their jobs and there
was no griping. Later a college girl joined the staff. I worked for
twenty months until March 1, 1944. During that time the college girl
quit. Also, another one worked even a shorter time, and, a third,
an alcoholic, didn't work out. A fourth woman came just before I left.
paid an annual salary of $1440 as a junior observer. My biggest thrill
was being promoted in less than a year to assistant observer. The
base pay for five days/week (not counting the overtime) was $1875/year.
This compared with salaries of over S2400/year that were being paid
low point of my career was probably when I started. The job seemed
complicated and there was a lot to learn. One of my more memorable
experiences was when one of the men went to adjust the anemometer
on top of a pole on top of a building several blocks away. I was to
watch the office register and when it started working signal him by
waving. He climbed the pole and made adjustments. Meanwhile, I thought
while he was on his way to the pole I could do some work on my desk.
I got so wrapped up in my work I forgot he was on the pole waiting
for me to wave. I suddenly remembered and waved. He took it well.
I forgot to read the weekly crop report to Westem Union. The Washington,
D. C., office called the Official in Charge at home at 4 a.m. and
wanted to know where the report was. I joined the Navy (WAVES) on
March 1st, 1944, for better benefits and the opportunity to travel.
However, the benefits didn't seem really that good with the WAVES
and the travel, after Aerograph School in Lakehurst, N.J., only took
me to Ottumwa, Iowa (which did have the advantage of being closer
back, my impression of working for the Weather Bureau is that it was
an enjoyable experience - very satisfying. I would do it again. I
enjoyed it. I have pleasant memories. I feel my major contribution
was being at work all the time, being dependable, serving the country,
and being part of the war effort.