View of Dorothy Hurd Chambers
worked for the Weather Bureau from January 1944 to 1948. My assignments
were at Denver Stapleton Field and one year at Lander, Wyoming. I
was always interested in weather and needed a different job. I had
heard that the Weather Bureau was giving tests for jobs so I took
it and passed. They sent me to Kansas City for a six-week training
course. Then I was sent to Denver to my great pleasure. While there
I used my maiden name, Hurd, as I was not married then. My age was
about 29. I left the Weather Bureau in 1948 because I was tired of
working shifts. My previous background experience had included one
and a half years at a teachers' college art school. In 1942 I left
Florida IO go to St. Louis to work for Curtis-Wright Aircraft Factory.
Worked on drawings for new airplanes. In 1943 the work slowed down
and I spent a lot of time in the library. Some books on meteorology
were fascinating, so I thought I'd like to get into that. The airport
(at Denver) was pretty small and not very busy but we had full days
taking the observations and sending up the balloons and radiosondes.
I was received very cordially by the other Weather Bureau employees.
There was no discrimination at all. Working at the Weather Bureau
was fascinating. I was an observer. My duties included taking observations
every hour and half-hour, sending up ceiling balloons every six hours,
radiosonde balloon flight every six hours, and putting coded messages
on teletype. The shifts were 5:30 AM - 2:00 PM; 3:30 PM - 11:30 PM;
11:30 PM -8:00 AM. We worked 8 hours a day, forty hours a week. There
were no lunch hours, we brought our lunch and ate in the office while
working. There were perhaps forty employees at Denver, twelve at Lander.
There were seven of us (women) that I remember in Denver. In Lander
there were four women observers. As pay, it seems like we got $90
for two weeks the first years.
The morale on station was very good. I loved working
there. In Lander, the town people were very friendly and included
us in their activities. The staff were like brothers and sisters.
We went hiking together in the mountains, etc.
I liked doing a RAOB. That was a high point of my
career. Also, we were all sociable. There were no low points, but
some scary times when we observers had to tell the tower they had
to send planes somewhere else or go to instrument landing when the
ceiling or visibility was low. The tower men didn't like us "young
girls" telling them what to do. But we didn't have any crashes at
Denver anyway.Dorothy Chambers (left) and another Weather Bureau employee
plotting weather maps from teletype reports.
My year at Lander, Wyoming, was fun, just sending
in the observations and radiosondes. It was a great town to live in
near the mountains and full of real westerners. By working for the
Weather Bureau during World War II, I felt we were doing something
very important to help keep the airlines and the military planes going.
I would do it again. It was more interesting than a desk job even
when weather was rough. I feel that my major contributions were finding
the jet stream and helping the military planes.
In Lander, on the 3rd of July, I was all alone at
the mesa where the weather station was, a whole lot of Indians camped
and practiced their dances for the parade at night. They were from
Wind River Reservation. No danger, but unusual experience. I think
one woman observer in the northeast was killed in a forest fire. Many
of them had to walk to work in all kinds of weather night and day.
We are all getting pretty old, but I'll bet most are active.
[Ms. Chambers has included a newspaper clipping which
she had written. It is from the Colorado OLD TIMES, dated December,
1986, and entitled, "We Found the Jet Stream". In regards to this,
she gives the following statement.] I believe we did, too. The gasoline
engines couldn't go very high and jet engines were just being developed.
Sitting at that drawing board and plotting the theodolite readings,
it was amazing to me to get readings above 30,000 feet of 80 - 120
mph or more. The pilots were amazed too.
Our ceiling balloon would often start out toward
the mountains. Then suddenly it would come back fast, with us twirling
the knobs as fast as we could to keep it in sight as it sailed east.
Later, when plotting the run on a chart, we would discover amazing
wind speeds of 80-100 mph at 30,000 feet or so. In those days planes
flew much lower so they hadn't discovered the jet stream. Now it is
used routinely and planes often get in ahead of schedule. Also the
jet stream's position determines the weather pattern.
We were told, "Women can't do this kind of work."
That was in 1942, and trained weather observers were desperately needed.
Trainees were scarce as men were drafted or enlisted. The only possibilities
were we women. They had to let us try this technical, rugged, outdoor
work. We tried it. We succeeded! We proved them wrong and practically
ran the weather stations for the rest of the war.
We, girls in our 20's mostly, walked or drove to
our jobs all over the country in all kinds of weather, all hours of
day and night. We learned to make the vital weather observations that
the pilots depended on. Mere girls decided when planes could take
off or land. Sometimes the pilots would come in and try to get us
to change our ceiling or visibility report. Handsome, glamorous pilots
were pretty hard to resist but we stuck by the rules.
We girls showed the world that "man's work" could
be women's work too. We even taught some men from the Air Force and
several foreign countries. Some women stayed on after the war, many
got married, or got tired of working shifts. I left to go back to
drafting with the Highway Dept. It has always been a great satisfaction
that I was privileged to be a part of aviation history.