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women in the weather bureau during world war 2

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Personal View of Betty J. Reo

In the spring of 1945, I met a friend that had just completed training as a weather observer. When I inquired about her training, she told me that the Weather Bureau was hiring women to replace the men that were going off to war. It was then I decided I would also like one of the positions. I went to the Federal Building in Kansas City, filled out an application, took the entrance exam and was accepted into the war service training program. The training began with a three month course in meteorology. A professor from the university of Kansas City would lecture on certain days and on other days we were detailed to the municipal airport for observer training.

At the end of the training period I was given two choices for a duty station. One station was Norfolk, Nebraska and the other was Washington, D.C. I chose Washington as I thought it would be an interesting place to be during war time. My duty station was located at the analysis center in the northwest portion of the city.

I had hoped to be placed at Washington National Airport, but there were no observer positions available at the time. The duties were varied, but I mainly worked as a chartist. Most of the employees were young girls like myself and we worked rotating shifts of forty hours per week. The salaries were very low in 1945, and the usual starting salary was $1700 per annum. Trying to live in Washington on such a small salary was a challenge. We all lived in a boarding house near the office and two meals a day were provided with the rent. For the record, my name at that time was Betty J. Madison.

After two years, I decided I needed a change and transferred to the daily map unit. During the night shift, we prepared the daily map for publication. On the day shift I would pick up the printed map at the office and travel to the U.S. Capitol Building. There I would draw the current weather map for the senators and the House of Representatives. After five years with the Weather Bureau and the war had ended, I married an Air Force officer and decided to leave my position...I resigned in June of 1950.

After raising my family of three children, I decided to return to the Weather Service in 1970 and was reinstated at the Los Angeles Forecast Office as a meteorological technician. For a while I worked weekends as a relief observer on the mountain station at Sandberg, California. Now Sandberg is automated and my main station is Los Angeles.

I have enjoyed my time with the Weather Service and am now in my 25th year. The technology has improved tremendously since the forties and promises to be more interesting as the modernization plan develops. One last observation, the salaries have greatly improved since those war years but the cost of living also increased along with the impossible traffic conditions here in beautiful Los Angeles.

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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