Long before Geo-stationary satellites, computer technology and the 24/7 weather channel, weather reporting was pretty primitive relying on paper maps, pins, Plexiglas, and markers.
Not only that, but in the 1950s it was broadcast by a bunch of silly clowns, puppets and cartoons.
But in my house, the weather was no joking matter.
Since my father had been a meteorologist in WWII he took the weather seriously.
Every night after Dad had taken out the trash and walked the dog, his nightly ritual was tuning in to the TV weather forecast.
When a big storm approached, both my parents would stay up late anxiously tuning in to Mom’s favorite Tex Antoine and his cartoon helper the mustachioed curmudgeon Uncle Wethbee to get the nightly reports.
Perhaps to avoid a potential “cold front” moving in his direction from Mom, Dad acquiesced to the antics of Antoine.
Somehow, my ex-meteorologist father put his faith into a cartoon drawing (whose mustache drooped or curled according to the climate), not trusting such important news as the weather to come from a busty woman in evening gowns or some goofy clown.
Like TV artist Jon Neghy, Tex would start his weather segment standing next to an easel covered by blank papers and with a thick black marker he would proceed to draw the weather systems that were relevant to the nation and the local area.
But deep down Tex was a bit too show-biz for Dad.
Weather news was treated seriously in the early years of television.
WWII had trained thousands of enlisted men in meteorology and dozens of those vets showed up on local new programs in the late 1940s.
In the first few post-war years, somber, non smiling vets, and egghead professors of meteorology standing in front of maps, droning on about occluded fronts, thermal fronts and pressure systems, had been the norm.
And that suited Dad just fine.
The first to present weather on a national news program, was Chicago’s Clint Youle. Like Dad he had been in the Army Air Corp trained in meteorology.
Nationally known as Mr. Weatherman, he was one of several WWII vets who parlayed their meteorological skills into jobs in the new field of TV in the late 1940s.
Dad first caught Youle on “The Camel News Caravan” with John Cameron Swayzee on NBC in 1949. With his folksy manner, Youle reported 3 times a week using a regular 3 by 4 foot Rand McNally map of the US bought at a local store and covered it with Plexiglas.
A pleasant, neighborly man with spectacles and a crew cut he would draw the weather systems on the Plexiglas with a black marker as he gave the forecast. When color TV came in the mid 1950s he spiced thing up adding red and orange markers.
It wasn’t long before weather reports got more show biz. Cartoon characters, animals, stunts, and crazy costumes appeared.
By the 1950s women burst into this male bastion and by 1955 sexy women represented the majority of TV weather casters.
Weather girls became all the rage.
Attractive, sunny and blessed with eternal smiles, the weather girls scrawled weather maps on Plexiglas, donned perky hats to match the forecast or broadcast from bed in skimpy lingerie to deliver the late night forecast.
Dismissing the fairer sex as they wiggled and jiggled before the weather maps in the latest gowns, Dad sniffed that weather girls just pre-occupied us with “their own frontal systems.”
Of course on weekends he just might make an exception for NBC’s sultry Tedi Thurman who used to peek from behind a shower curtain to coo breathlessly ”The temperature in NY is 46 and me, I’m 36-26-36!”
As the East Coast braces for Frankenstorm, I am glad we are taking the weather seriously. Somehow I just wouldn’t want a puppet to be tracking Hurricanes Sandy’s perilous path.
- Prepare for Hurricane Sandy; ignore hype (newsday.com)