It was the 1960s – long before there were fancy weather graphics and computer animations – just the inimitable Art Gould, meteorologist, with a chalkboard, and a fat piece of white chalk.
I’ve been thinking recently about my fascination with the weather and where that fascination comes from. Like many young “baby boomer” boys, I was intrigued by various aspects of science and my parents encouraged these interests by providing educational books. My favorite was a Time-Life series which delved into space exploration, geology, engineering and of course, weather and its impacts on our lives and the world around us.
But what really got me hooked on the weather, as a kid, was watching our local weatherman on the evening TV news.
Art Gould was a true entertainer as well as a qualified meteorologist. Our family would be glued to the black & white TV night after night to watch Art as he wildly scrawled his forcast on the chalkboard weathermap.
I remember watching in eager anticipation as he’d describe a potentially school-closing Nor’easter barrelling towards us.
He’d start by drawing an outline of the advancing system, punctuated with a big “L “in the middle for low pressure. To make sure we knew what we were in for, he’d frantically add a flurry of snowflakes, each consisting of three short, fast strokes, accompanied by numbers and arrows indicating wind speed and direction.
He’d do all this while keeping a consistent eye to the camera (meaning us in our living rooms) and maintaining an informative and entertaining monologue of our impending weather.
Sometimes he’d hit such a frenetic pace you’d see bits of chalk flying as he covered the map with arrows, umbrellas, clouds,and other now-familiar weather icons. He’d wrap it up with a big smile and his signature sign-off – a big swirl of his arm ending with what was left of his chalk pointing at the camera.
Sometimes he’d even throw his chalk in the air for emphasis, if the weather forecast was especially dramatic.
I was hooked.
The weather report is still one of my favorite segments of any evening or late-night news program. The personalities, technology and delivery may have changed since I was a kid, but one thing remains the same – that anticipation of discovering what tomorrow’s weather holds in store.