Was there ever a weather girl in Huntington like Dorothy Jeanne Schroeder?
Never. And there’ll never be another.
WSAZ celebrated its 70th anniversary last week. The television station, which got its start with The Huntington Publishing Company, the same organization that brought you The Herald-Dispatch back then, honored many WSAZ employees who made the station great in the past.
But did they mention Dorothy Jeanne Schroeder? I’m not sure. They should have. She was a star, a “weather girl star” before TV stations decided they really should hire meteorologists and put them on the air to make it appear they were really serious about the weather.
If you haven’t read the online obituary of the woman known to all as “DJ,” you should read it. She was born to one of Huntington’s first families on 1921. Her father was Bert Schroeder, who became Cabell County sheriff. Her mother was a Pancake, a member of the family that founded Pancake Realty.
Her folks sent her to a girl’s finishing school in Virginia, but World War II interrupted her finishing there. Alas, she returned to Huntington to finish her finishing at Huntington High School and Marshall.
Her obituary says she married twice but died in 2013 unmarried at the age of 90. Interestingly, her obituary never mentioned the names of her husbands.
It says she worked in Hollywood and Washington as a publicist for famous people and Hollywood stars and rambled here and there until she finally settled down in Huntington working as a “weather girl” and dating an unnamed golf professional. Word on the street says it was Sam Snead.
I worked as an intern for WSAZ during part of the time she delivered the weather on the evening news. The fact is she had no meteorological training. It’s why I and others called her “the weather girl.”
The station hired a meteorologist to research the forecast, then sit DJ down and tell her what she was supposed to say about the weather, standing before a weather map on the evening news.
I still remember the day she went off script and pointed at the L — low pressure area — on the map and the H — high pressure area — on the map.
“I remember what the H and L mean,” she told her audience. “H stands for happy and L stands for lousy.”
I think Jim Combs was the station’s meteorologist at the time, and I imagined him sitting in his office pounding his head on his desk as he heard the words.
In spite of it all, she was a celebrity. The weather seemed unimportant but the fact she made herself a star was all that mattered.
I still remember the way she prepared herself for her “performance.” She would appear on the set a few minutes before she was to perform. In those days, microphones had long cords on them and DJ didn’t want her fans to see that cord. So, she would bend over, delicately run the cord up the inside of her dress and pin the microphone on her collar.
She would give the forecast for Florida more often than Tony Cavalier gives his forecast for Myrtle Beach. And she had less time to do it than the modern day TV meteorologists who spend 90% of their time giving extraneous information above and beyond the weather. It has to do with advertising I suppose.
In the years following her retirement and my stint as a full-time columnist for The Herald-Dispatch, DJ would occasionally call me from her retirement home at The Woodlands. She was always gracious and complimentary and I felt honored she would call me.
As I said in the beginning, there will never be another DJ, and that’s sad because she put a little humor and style in a subject that could stand a little more of both.