Warren Culbertson has been retired from his work as a meteorologist for about 15 years and is enjoying his retirement years in his hometown of Waxahachie.
He lives in a neat but modest home in Gingerbread Village and makes a daily trip to the Whataburger every morning for about a half-hour to catch up on the news.
Asked what other activities he enjoys during a recent interview, he quipped, “I’m working pretty hard at just staying alive.”
Claiming Boyce as his first home, Culbertson attended grade school through the fourth grade at “Dog Neck,” which was located near the present location of the Texas Motorplex.
“My daddy tried cotton farming and raising sheep back in those days out at Boyce, but the cotton eventually dried up and the sheep began to start dying. That’s when my daddy bought a filling station on Elm Street, and we moved into Waxahachie,” Culbertson said.
After graduation from Waxahachie High School, Culbertson attended Trinity University, where he received his degree in physics and chemistry in 1940. He attended graduate school at the University of Texas, but in 1942, when World War II began to escalate, Culbertson joined the Army Air Force.
“There were only four schools in the country that taught weather forecasting, and there was a shortage of people in the Air Force who were in that field. The schools were Cal Tech, UCLA, MIT and Chanute Field, Ill. I spent a year at Cal Tech,” Culbertson said.
He said he felt fortunate to attend Cal Tech because there were several Nobel Prize-winning meteorologists who were on the faculty and he learned from them, earning his master’s of science degree in meteorology in 1943.
After Cal Tech, Culbertson worked in the field of meteorology - a new field in the early 1940s - in the Air Force.
“I was involved in working to improve weather data-collecting. It was wonderful duty, because being such a new field, we were given freedom to be innovative and use our own ideas in the process,” Culbertson said.
“We also used radar for charting trips, and radar was fairly new back then. When I was stationed in North Africa, we would chart trips for the soldiers who were released from service,” said Culbertson, who spent about four years in the Air Force, reaching the rank of major. Besides North Africa, he served in Italy and Germany.
After his release from active duty, Culbertson returned to Texas where he taught physics and chemistry at Arlington State College. While he was there in 1950-1951, he received a call from WFAA in Dallas saying it needed a weatherman.
“Harold Taft was already at WBAP, Channel 5, when I signed on at WFAA, and for several years, we were competitors,” Culbertson said.
Culbertson’s WFAA broadcasts using radar were among the first in the country. In 1958, Chicago’s WBKB television station hired Culbertson to set up and present “Weather by Radar.”
In 1960, Culbertson was the fifth television weatherman ever given the American Meteorological Society’s seal of approval.
Culbertson worked at WBKB for five years while also presenting weather broadcasts on radio station WLS and creating a science segment for a morning children’s television show.
“I was robbed by two men one evening while I was in Chicago. I had just pulled up in front of my apartment, got out of my car and was met by these men,” he recalled. “ I got a couple of teeth knocked out, but fortunately, they picked the wrong pocket and didn’t get much from me.”
After five years in Chicago, Culbertson returned home to Texas and helped run his father’s oil distribution business on Elm Street. But it was not long before he received a call from station manager Eddie Barker at Channel 4 about a meteorologist position. Culbertson worked both jobs for several years.
He retired from television in 1982 but continued broadcasting the weather on Dallas radio station KVIL for several more years, enjoying his work with Ron Chapman.
Asked what he missed most about being a weatherman, Culbertson said, “Well I miss that drive to Dallas every day like I miss a toothache. But I guess what I miss most is the great people with whom I worked all through the years.”
When Culbertson first commuted to Dallas, U.S. Highway 77 was the only route available.
“But I watched the progress of Interstate 35 construction every day,” he said.
Culbertson said he is especially proud of his two daughters. A framed photo hangs on his dining room wall of him posing with them. Margaret is the head librarian at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and Kaye is a veterinarian in Giddings, Texas.
Culbertson loves children. A tribute to him that brings him much delight is when his neighbors declared him “Honorary Grandfather.”
“One of the reasons I moved to this neighborhood was because of the kids who played in the streets and sidewalks. The street belongs to them,” he said.