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women in the weather bureau during world war 2

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Personal View of Kathleen McCormack Troy

Kathleen Troy 1942 I worked for the Weather Bureau from March 1942 till 1946. I worked at Gore Field [Great Falls, Montana] in the Weather Bureau office which was upstairs in the airport administration building.

On March 10, 1942, a newspaper article was run looking for women to apply for jobs and to serve as weather "men." There were 100 applicants. I was in college in my senior year. I was getting a B.S. in Chemistry and Physics. The Official in Charge of the Weather Bureau was in my Physics class at college. He found out that I had enough credits to finish at the end of the winter quarter, so I was offered the job. He told me that it was a pilot program and that I was the first girl ever to be a Weather Observer. I took the job and graduated with my class in June. I had no experience in weather, other than getting my degree in science, also, one of my minors was math. The OIC told me later, when I asked why he hired me, that he liked the way I worked and liked the way I did in school. I did not see the news item in the newspaper till later. I was hired for $120 a month. The Weather Bureau provided just on-the-job training. I trained as I went, first as a weather observer - later became a radiosonde technician and record keeper. When I left in 1946, I was head girl in the office.

I started out learning to read temperatures and record them. I sent out the weather to the various agencies, radio stations, newspapers, etc. Then I learned to record everything, do the records books and summaries - all the paper work that used to go on. Learned to send up the "wind balloons," track them on the theodolyte and record them. From there went to learning how to send up and chart the radiosonde readings. The last year I was there, I did mostly radiosonde and trained new personnel to do radiosonde. I helped train a lot of the Airmen from the base, which was then situated on Gore Field.

I worked all shifts, all eight hours - 8 [AM] to 4 [PM], 4 [PM] to Midnight, and Midnight to 8 a.m. For a while there was a morning radiosonde shift from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and afternoon radiosonde from 4 p.m. to 12 p.m. I worked this p.m. shift a lot and hated it. We normally worked eight-hour shifts, and all during the war we worked six days a week. As I recall, on a normal day shift, there was the boss, two observers, and one forecaster. At evening and night there was just an observer, the forecaster, and radiosonde observer.

The office was a very well-run businesslike place. Very efficient with no time-wasting at all, but also very warm and friendly. Most of the men in the office were most cordial and helpful and really made me welcome. There was only one that seemed to resent the intrusion of women and used to send us girls on "fools' errands" at first, but he too finally came around. The morale was tops at that station - I loved every minute I worked there. I think the bosses were super. I left the Weather Bureau in May, 1946. I got married in October, 1945, and worked until the following May, then left because I was expecting my first child in August. My name in 1942 was Kathleen McCormack, now it is Kathleen Troy.

I don't really recall any low points, but remember how great I felt, whenever I got a really great rating. The airport was an exciting place to work, because of all the activity. It was then the training base for the Airmen, and was very busy because it was also the civilian airport. The terminal was always buzzing. I would take that job again in a minute if I were 50 years younger. I loved it, that's why! I felt my major contribution was the others I helped train, and (as my boss said) my enthusiasm for my job.

I really had a lot of great experiences, i.e. learning to inflate the big balloons, hooking the parachutes, the balloons and the radiosondes all together and trying to launch the whole business on the super windy days we had in the Spring and Fall in Great Falls. We used to take them down on the runways and run like heck to get them up. That's when the boss decided we girls better all wear slacks. At that time he wouldn't accept jeans, they had to be nice wool or gabardine slacks.

In my years following the Weather Bureau career, I have raised five children. After 20 years at home, I went back to college; converted to an elementary certificate and taught 20 years in the Augusta grade school. Retired in 1986, and am now enjoying my 17 grandchildren.

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