View of Kathryn C. Gray
I was an employee
of the National Weather Service during World War II. My "War Service
Indefinite Appointment" as an Observer SP-3 ($1440 per annum) was
effective March 26, 1945. I was employed under my maiden name - Kathryn
J. Caskey. My resignation was effective June 23, 1947 ($2320 per annum),
when I was married and moved out of state.
at the Airport Station in Houston, Texas. I learned of the vacancy
at the Houston Station from my sister-in-law, Anita Corley Caskey,
who was employed there. My only applicable background had been an
Aeronautical Science Course that included a section in Meteorology,
and a Freshman Astronomy, Maps, and Weather Course(Ottawa University).
of the women on the station had taken a training Course in Fort Worth
before being assigned to Houston. I think I was the only employee
at Houston trained on the station.
were a total of six employees. The other employees were all women
at that time; all were smart, dependable, and dedicated. I was very
well received. I was favorably impressed, and appreciated my job from
the very beginning. The morale on the station was excellent. Employees
were never late, shifts were never missed, and neither were observations.
duties included hourly and special aviation weather observations;
Synoptic Observations; PIBAL Observations; Map Plotting; Pilot Briefing;
and lots of (inquiries) telephone calls. Cloud heights were mostly
estimated, but we had a ceiling light to use at night, and ceiling
balloons to release and time, during the day. Ellington Air Force
Base called in their weather observations, that we filed with F.A.A.,
as we did our reports, to be transmitted.
given tests, (Circular N), before we were authorized to take and sign
for observations We were regularly given eye tests. Inspectors from
the Regional Office made inspection visits to the station. They checked
on the operation of the station, the observations, and map plotting.
All transmitted observations were constantly checked, and employees
were charged and signed for errors when detected.
eight-hour shifts, six days a week. Our shifts were: 0000-0800; 0800-1600;
1600-2400; & 0600-1400. We worked 48 hours each week. The pay for
some of the grades at that time was as follows: SP-3 -$1440 per annum;
SP-4 - S1620 per annum; SP-6 -$2320 per annum.
station was not air-conditioned, and always heavily occupied with
bugs. They liked to reside on weather maps being plotted, requiring
constant bug removal as each station was plotted. Our instrument shelter
was located on a deck one floor below our office. Our Pilot Balloon
Observations were prepared and taken from that same deck.
was one rest room to serve three floors of the building. Since it
was used by men and women, the instructions (although not always observed)
were to lock the door from the hall.
Depression - centered to the east of Houston, invaded our observational
area June 14-16, 1946. All employees were confined to Station. We
lost power, so operated with an extension cord from the F.A.A. emergency
power. We used ropes to safely make our way between the building and
the instrument shelter, to obtain our observational readings. Our
station had a special Hurricane Teletype, but lost its operation as
soon as the winds got strong.
Airport Station at that time was South of Houston. In 1947, Texas
City was extensively damaged, when a chemical explosion in a cargo
ship in the harbor triggered fifty successive blasts on shore and
took more that 500 lives. The blasts could be heard at our weather
station. This resulted in a very significant increase in the air traffic
for a rather long period of time.
had many Oil Companies with private aircraft. Their pilots would frequent
our station, as would the airline pilots, for flight briefings. It
was always a very busy station.
already mentioned Inspectors from the Regional Office. They were always
available for discussions with employees. One day, I had a three-hour
"conference" with an inspector. With our Pilot Balloon Observations,
we had found what later would be found by jets and then called the
Jet Streams. We knew they were there and real, BUT were not allowed
to report them, or even retain (that information for) the observational
information that was mailed to Ashville, North Carolina. If we mailed
in those observations, or reported them, we were charged errorsl We
KNEW that the wind speeds were really up there, so I was trying to
obtain permission to mail in the observations for future investigation.
I LOST. The official contention was that strong winds at those heights
COULD NOT EXIST. We were told that something was happening to the
balloon! We knew better!
great experience, and a good way to start my Government Service. My
career included service with the Weather Bureau in Denver, Colorado,
and Kansas City, Missouri. This led up to my service with the Environmental
Science Services Administration (ESSA) and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Kansas City, Missouri; Norman,
Oklahoma, National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL); and Environmental
Research Laboratory (ERL) in Boulder, Colorado. Most of my Service
time was with Commerce, but I also worked in Agriculture, Defense,
and the Veterans Administration. My most important assignment was
that of Acting Director of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in
Norman, Oklahoma, from September 1975 through January 1976. Would
I do it all over again? Probably. Loved the work, but my only reservation
was shift work!