In this interview, the television weathercaster talks about his family's history in Oklahoma, his life growing up in Oklahoma, his career as a meteorologist, and more.
Wendy Gabrielson – Gary, just for the record, can you please tell me your full name and birthday?
Gary England - First name is Gary – G-A-R-Y; middle name Alan – A-L-A-N; last name England, just like the country. October 3, 1939.
WG- Where were you born, Gary?
GE- Born in a small yellow house just east of Seiling, Oklahoma. Seiling; about a mile southeast of Seiling. Seiling is in Dewey County, OK, which Taloga is the county seat. I can’t imagine why (laughter).
WG- …and did you grow up there? How long were in you Seiling?
GE- I was born there and then ... we moved to Enid, Oklahoma. I just remember being in Enid, Oklahoma in the first and second grade. We moved back to Seiling and basically I was raised in Seiling except for a brief aberration to Enid. Seiling was a great place, born and raised there and graduated high school there.
WG- And for the record can you please state your parents’ names?
GE- My father’s name is Leslie Elwood England and my mother is Hazel Wanda Stong. And Stong is a name originated in Pennsylvania. They were Germans; came over from Germany; was Stern or something – have it somewhere – when they came over on the ship that group of people were mistreated so they changed their name to Stong, so Hazel Wanda Stong.
WG - Excellent. So how did they get to Oklahoma?
GE - Both sides both my father’s family and mother’s family, as I recall there’s a book on it somewhere, but I haven’t read it in a while (laughter). But uh… they both came out of Missouri; were in Kansas, my great grandfather Stong actually made two of the land runs and basically ended up with nothing. One of the pieces of land, he settled on and moved off of because he couldn’t grow crops or anything because it turns out there was a lot of oil. So he was gone and gave it to someone or something like that. But they made two runs; he made two runs, but the England side made one run. You know you always hear of the great stories, well these were stories that the run didn’t work out.
WG - What were your parents like? What did they do in Seiling?
GE - Well my did a little bit of everything some of it I was told about he ran.. well worked for his father on the farm.. in those days they had lots of kids, and first story I remember about dad he was running a creamery, and ya know that where people bring the milk in and they separate and that stuff bring the eggs in and they sell it to the stores, and such they lived on main street of sieling, main street of sieling ya know I wasn’t born yet, in the back of creamery was an old bank from when the land was first settled out there and what was left out of that was a gigantic safe, ya know the safe was only 10x10 they lived in that safe, that was were they lived chickens in the front eggs and all that stuff, fortunately I hadn’t been born yet, at that point but he ran an ice route ya know they had to make ice in those days they put it in the truck and refrigerators existed when ya put it in the truck and close the doors, help keep things cool had an ice delivery outfit did lots of things always trying to succeed..and… for a long time didn’t’ really work and like a lotta people in those days just work work work, moved to Enid worked for hmars cleaning chickens like so many people, chickens were big business.. and he always wanted to be in business for himself, had the ice route the creamery, he and a buddy had a gas station and that didn’t work then he went to work for the bus company driving draftees from world war two to where they had to go and through that he and another guy decided to start a bus company so they got them a couple buses and that didn’t work out too well either so then dad went by a company called Martha Anne bread a bread company and they hired him cus they wanted to start a bread route in western Oklahoma to sale bread.. Martha Anne bread, good bread made good pies, so anyway when we were back in sieling, guess we moved back to sieling at that point, so anyway and he had the bread route and drove throughout western Oklahoma and since I talk, if you could talk you could work, and so I always went with him on bread routes when I could and always went with him, left at 4am, but he loved people, ya know just did everything possible, mom didn’t work much she just took care of all of us. which was big business
WG so you weren’t in the safe at this point?
GE no no they were In the safe they were in the safe when they had the creamery, and the they left the safe and I was born right after that, they probably suspected I was gonna be born by that time so they could lock me up, didn’t have a door, but uh no, he worked a lot of things out too mom went to work when I was a junior or senior I high school, at the grocery store, then they eventually bought that grocery and came successful after I left. So I still didn’t get any money
WG Darn it
All work and no money
GE yea that’s it
WG well, were there some profound ways in which your parents influenced you?
GE my dad really I that he had that work ethic, I didn’t really care for that work ethic, but ingrained it in me, like everyone in that part of the country ya had to work or ya didn’t really survive, but gosh what I learned from him was get the job done I remember so many times before he'd whip me telling me I told you to never halfway to anything cause I’d always do halfway did everything, I’d always halfway feed pigs never feed all of them, then I’d get in trouble when he'd come home I finally learned to do the job and do it right, in those days alotta people had lawnmowers we didn’t we had a swing hoe, and then uh if I didn’t go with on the bread route that day he’d say when I come back at one pm I expect that field out there to be cut and ya'd cut it with the swing hoe, and if I
didn’t I got in trouble I guess I learned discipline from him, I learned handwork he was tough he was a tough guy, mom I learned to run fast she was always chasing me with a flyswatter (laughter) by the time I learned to outrun the flyswatter that was the highlight of my life. No I really learned from mom you can always do anything you can always be what you want to be learned a lot from my mom actually
WG and so basically you started out on your own at seventeen and joined the navy, so basically how did that work out and come about?
GE- well like all the kids in those days I’ve seen all the movies, ya know with the sailors in them those white hats tailored blue suits had a girl on each arm *whew they looked good
WG right so it was about the girls
GE it was about the girls it was about the girls there weren’t too many girls in sieling, me and two other guys joined the navy was to see the world and meet with the girls in short order found out it wasn’t that way don’t even think I had one girl on my arm, joined at seventeen and my mom signed the papers and he was happy to have me out get me outta town and my mother will tell ya cus I have her on tape somewhere someone asked about me for a story and she said she was the liveliest of my children and that was an understatement uh I was in trouble all the time I was wild I was crazy I things today that would get you into serious trouble like we all did back them
WG like what can you give me an example? We wont publish it
GE well when I was in the.. in sieling in the first grade I knocked 52 windows out the schoolhouse that summer little tiny windows we were throwing rocks and one accidentally went through the window and someone said look it looks like a teacup and I’d throw rocks and everyone would guess what they look like 52 of em, one night, wouldn’t you like that to be your son, one night the sirens all the fire trucks going so we got up, all the people in Enid, Enid is about 40 thousand in population we drove down and it was at the high school on fire and I’d never seen a fire like that I was really impressed so next day I set fire to my landlords garage, that was a bad move, I remember the police came, policewoman came, and one of my aunts my aunts had a lot of aunts and she was there and this policewoman was trying to interrogate me and I’m kinda standing half behind mom and I was in first or second grade I just wanted to see the fire trucks and when my aunt walked out and said see ya in jail Gary, isn’t that mean? I did a few other things cut some wires to the school sets some alarms I think I was bored, I did other things I don’t even wanna discuss, but uh I uh was just uh
WG that’s the g version then
GE yea that’s it, ya know and uh alotta kids are well behaved and did things I was just uh its in the genes and if your wild and crazy it just takes time for someone to shake it outta ya just a long time, but uh it was interesting time growing up, it was a time when you were quiet free it ya know it was the 50s you walked down the street it was the atmosphere of the summer time being fantastic were you didn’t have to work, walk where you want go where you want to, you know… when we went swimming, the swimming pool in sieling get 10-15 in the back of the pickup truck drive us to Fairview, god it was exciting, spent alotta time fishing out of the river, the stong family I was close to my moms family, had a alotta crazy uncles, spend Friday sat sun at the river, all the little kids would sit trot lines and get up at 1am and 4am and go out in the dark and go check those and ya ate out and just uh,, was kinda uh a wanna say a soft time it was a soft wonderful
time its hard to do that anymore especially if ya get 30-40 people and the family were big was great fun, uh.. went.. I’m kinda bouncing around a lil bit, when I was in the second grade in sieling I can remember my uncle curly and I, curly and I were the Sunday afternoon entertainment call the uncles and all the kids would gather, and would see how many people could get on the bicycle and the main attraction was uncle curly and I would box, put boxing gloves on, and we would box each other for the benefit of the adults, slug each other (laugh) I was in the second grade and curly was in the fifth, it wasn’t a fair fight but it was very entertaining, those were great times when you think back, wild and free
GE boys in trouble
WG so when did you leave the navy and how did you get into ou
GE you know, I always loved weather, you one time my dad and I were under a bridge, in sieling, I love clouds, I love pigs I raised pigs, always had pet pigs, I went down the uh… drug store and I got me a brownie high kite cam, charged that thing for sixteen dollars and that was alotta money and quickly put some film in it to take some pictures cause they wouldn’t take it back in those days after it was used, so my dad got back that was on a Saturday and found out that I charged that camera, was heck to pay but I had me a camera, I was really young but I took pics of the clouds and I still have some of those pictures and pigs and I had chester white pigs some poland china pigs, and some cumulus and had no idea what they were then big thunder storm in the distance always loved weather, always wanted to be didn’t know what a meteorologist was couldn’t of spelled it anyway if I had known.. uh… a guy was on television here by the name of harry fokllown he just got off the air in Chicago 8 or 10 years ago, and in this business, my business you work forever, he was my idol he worked at channel 4 and 9 and he made weather so fascinating on the air and talked about troughs and told stories about his family and things and I fell in love with weather first with my camera then watching harry we were at grandmas house one Sunday ‘cus we lived in the country and we didn’t have a TV set and went out to town every Sunday and watched harry do a fifteen minute weather program and I remember saying to daddy I wanna be one of those and he said and what is he and I said I don’t know but I wanna be one, so anyway all through school I thought about weather so anyway I would not of joined the navy but they promised I could go to navy weather school if I qualified, so that got me into navy weather service was in there in 2 years 11 months and 22 days of active service and 3 years of inactive duty, came home went to school in southwestern and ya know been on an island for a year, been in the navy, here from Seiling, Oklahoma, just a wild hair. So, uh, that semester didn’t go real well, I met the gal that’s gonna be my wife, the way I met her, as I said now a days you’d probable get in trouble for this, they were building floats for homecoming, and I was standing out in the street with my date had this girl I was on a date with and I see this little redhead walks out of this building and she walks right in-between these two cars we are standing behind, navy, sieling, island for a year, I just grabbed her and kissed her, my date hauled off and slapped the daylights outta me, but that’s how I met marry, and so I used to go down to the dorm every night around 1q, I lived with a guy named harry Gordon from Wichita falls Texas, he and I had a few Coors and one am or so we go get a ladder from someone’s house and slap that up and try to beat on the window and try to get mary to come to the window and she would never
come to window, she was the biggest prude I ever seen in my life, so one night me and harry couldn’t find the ladder, and harry said I’ll be your ladder, I took my shoes off and on his shoulders, I just got high enough I could hug my elbow on the window side and I beat on it and I was standing on my toes on his shoulders, I'll never forget the campus police came around the corner, and my best friend harry Gordon ran out from under me, and.. (laughter) so I got, I’m in this, hanging on the window of the girls dorm so I left there right after that at southwestern went down to ou got married about a year later, went down to ou and uhhh.. and enrolled there which was a miracle cus my brother my was down there to get his masters degree and I think that’s the only reason I got in cus my record from weatherford was awful never went to class never did anything I was supposed to do. I remember sitting outside the advisor place with my older brother, told em he just got out of the service he’s a little wild but he’ll be alright, so anyways got down there to ou and, mary my wife took me a retraining program which I’ve been in ever since, we first got married, I didn’t know it for 30 years, but anways went down there they were just starting the meteorology office at ou, dr ? had just come there as professors to start the department and I came as a student, I first started engineering physics, I remember thinking what am I doing in engineering physics?? But that was a part of the program but the first program they started out was a PhD program then a masters program and then finally the bachelors program was the third, I ended up, when I went in you had to choose a degree in math, uh, engineering, physics, with what was called a meteorology option, by the time I was a junior senior they offered a program in meteorology, was an exciting time was just starting good I look back now I didn’t know how great it was. One day I came home we lived browns apartments, I was having a good time my wife was working, I was going to school and drinking lots of beer. She came home and said dr ? would like to meet ya and she said you have a meeting with him at 2pm whatever day it is and I went ou there and he hired me as an assistant at the research lab, my wife set it up for and got me the job and said retraining program, finally graduated from ou in 1965 and uh, I wanna be TV weather guy. And….. try to get a job and nobody would hire me, (laugh) kind of a disappointment. Couldn’t find a job so I decided do you want me to go ahead with this? Ok my hair was about that long and I looked like military and I talked, I was, I mean I was a warm friendly person but I practiced I was real stiff this storm blah blah blah ya know I still have the letters were I was refused, anytime I speak at ou I take all those rejection letters with me and say hey kiddos here’s what your in for, but anyways another guy and I went into business called southwestern weather service Oklahoma’s first commercial weather service we’re in that about 2 years after that mary and I were about to have a baby, I was like I gotta get a real job, so got a job down in new Orleans for a company called ? we were consulting oceanographers for the offshore petroleum industry four years down there came back up here to Oklahoma didn’t find a job for a year, got on with ktok radio, god that was fun, that was so much fun, I was the great and wonderful weather wizard, my buddy was an 805lb thunder lizard, and ya know on the radio ya can work people's imagination, did alotta of that, one July day it was really boring so I sounded the tornado beeps, it was clear skies, like a 100 degrees outside, no a days ya go to jail for that, did you hear that crazy guy on the radio, I was having fun I was there for about a year, they fired me, he fired me four times ‘cus every time he’d go through a season where there was weather like, we’d go through the winter season and he didn’t need me and he hired me for spring seasons and then I went to calculated how many people went to the lake with their boats and he hired me again, he hired and fired me 4x, one day the phone rang it was jack delare the gm of channel 9 he said hey uh my name is jack and I’ve heard ya on the radio, you sound a little crazy but I’d like to talk to ya, so I went out to here, came out here and uh, did and audition and uh now I was excited but I didn’t realize that, I didn’t think, I was reaching my lifetime dream, did the tape and god they hired me! And uh it was oct 16 1972 been here ever since, ‘fraid to leave ‘cus couldn’t get a job anyplace else, but uh it's great
WG and how was it when you first started, what were those first days on TV like?
GE o gosh, uh, ya know
WG I read you were a little nervous at first
GE I was very nervous and to this day I am very naïve and get mixed up things I should, I was naïve then I was excited and scared to death and it was the end of the Vietnam war,, and you can imagine the population of any business of people that worked there, they had hippies non hippies bible thumpers it was really you know a cross section, you know most businesses I say most businesses I assumed they were that way, and this business here everyone in the media business was smoking pot they smoked it between shows, and in the service I had never really heard of pot heard bout it a little bit when I worked at ktok, but didn’t know what it was, came out here and people had boxes full of drugs, any kind of color of pill you want, I came lunch or dinner between shows walked up to control room there was a big ol boy with purple hat long purple coat and asked what ya got and he said anything you want, I thought holy crap, I tell ya between shows it looked like the trucks outside were on fire there was so much smoke coming out of em, those days you saw more of the floor and the walls than of the show, I mean a little ole Johnny was always just stoned and couldn’t get the camera only weighed 90 lbs and could get the camera it was everywhere my first show early morning was on the farm show and I remember it was a hippie and he said standby I thought man I don’t wanna be here it scared me to death, pointed a finger, shook his finger, I did the show could hardly talk, I think I used the word fantastic about 50 times how fantastic the weather was that was kinda the beginning it worked for whatever friggin reason it worked, amazing when I look back alotta ifs ands and buts, certainly coulda gone the other way, only other thing I didn’t ever learn from my daddy was bowing down to authority all through the service I didn’t bow down to authority when I got out here I didn’t like people telling me what to do, so I constantly fought with news directors and probably in the first x number of years, I don’t know how many I’ve had total but probably 30-35 news directors have come through and I didn’t like them telling me what to do, last 15 years I’ve got in my contract that they are not my boss, there have been some great ones, and super ones that knew what they were doing, other ones that just weren’t qualified for the job, I fought with them constantly they are always trying to fire me I don’t know why I didn’t get fired anyway it worked out
WG we are sure glad it worked out
GE my wife sure is too
WG well her training worked off I guess
GE well she has always been there she has been the most influential person in my life ‘cuz she really took really guided me and did it in such a way that yeah I didn’t really know I was being retrained didn’t know I was being retrained, think it happens to most guys as soon as they get engaged the retraining begins right there, she’s been a guiding force in my life always been there, one daughter molly raised her basically by herself ‘cuz I was busy building this business ‘cuz when I first came I thought ya know all these kids in these schools are gonna grow up and have television sets so I started out by going to one classroom then I did a classroom morning, classroom afternoon, pta, lunch at noon it was just constant and if you needed me at noon in elk city I’d get out to elk city at noon and do that talk at a rotary club and be back do my show 4 or 5 o’clock whatever time I had to be back, just do the entire schools and did I did talks with ya know large audiences and all I did was tell a story of my life, all the crazy things that have happened the ones ya can tell the funny ones on television there have been alotta funny ones, now I have been in most schools in Oklahoma several times, various generations and they grew up and have kids and have grandkids, it’s worked pretty well, I’ve built the audience by going to the see the kids and the parents, the business, the rotaries and all bring in tons of people the key was the schools and the ptas and things like that, parades are good I’ve been kicked by a horse, thrown off a horse, flipped out of a car at the Watonga cheese festival you name it, all these things happen to ya, I had to do em to build, they call me up one time, this is pretty early on, I, all the time I have been at channel 9 up to the last few years have also worked at a radio station same time, they call me up one day, they call me up one day and say listen, the Purcell rodeo is coming up would you like to ride a bull? I say no, I do not wanna ride a bull, I think I’ve been on the air one or 2 years, the guy said wait a minute we have a trained bull, I say how does that work, I toldja I was naïve, he said we get the bull in the shoot, get you on it, and open the shoot and it walks out and you blow a whistle and it starts to buck and you blow a whistle and it stops, and I said you got a deal ‘cuz we always had the promotion I promoted that thing for about 3 months first sell out in history of the Purcell rodeo, about a week before the rodeo I get a package, I lived in Orlando in the village, and I open it up and it was a book on bull riding and I remember thinking why in the world would I need a book on bull riding, and I fanned through it and all I remember was a thing that said violent random motion, so I tossed that thing to the side, and my wife and I and a couple went down to Purcell and the guy that uhhh that we went out to visit before the rodeo who was a judge or something down there and I begin to get a little concerned and I get to go down to look at my bull in the afternoon and I went down and the bull spotted me and he knew I was brand new, and he started, he was 1500 lbs two horns, matching horns, and he saw and started thrashing around and bellowing and snot throws of their nose, and *cow noises* holy crap! And so we go back to his house, and I drank 6 Coors beers, didn’t affect me, and so they , got on my (laugh) red white and blue shirt, cowboy hat pulling my ears down, look like a bat, and I didn’t have regular levis or blue jeans, I had blue patent, bellbottom, bellbottom pants, forgot the name of the place they’re from and I had blue patent leather boots from napoleon didn’t have cowboy boots you can imagine and they put those bull riding spurs, at a 45 degree angle, and that’s why those boys walk with their legs out, they will trip on themselves, anyway comes time for me to get on my bull, my photographer by the name of ray bee and he’s still with cbs, he was a combat veteran Vietnam wounded 3x and he’s the guy gonna shoot all this, I get up and this sucker is all over that shoot, and every time I try to sit he’d try to hook my left leg with his left horn, I think I will never get myself cause I couldn’t back out, and there’s ray shooting all this, and he goes, Gary! Don’t do it!! And I’m thinking here's a guy who has been shot 3x and he’s telling me not to do this, but anyway, ya know they tie yer hand down I didn’t realize that, wrapped so tightly your tied down you get that hand down and that hand in the air I remember this guy a real cowboy was helping me old dirty hat on couple teeth missing tobacco between his lips mouth, and I remember goin where I do look, where do I look? And he held his hand up in front of me and he went you look right there, no when I get out there? And he had this big old toothless grin you aint gonna have to worry bout that, and I found out when you get your hand tied down and they open that gate we went quiet a ways most of mine was in the air (laughter) I landed on my head and I was running when I got up and uh that ya know took me a long g time to learn that lesson, been around quite a while was 33 years old
WG did they even give you a whistle
GE no whistle wasn’t a trained bull, bull was brand new and so was I, bull was brand new and never been out before. They just stuck that sucker with a hot shot and away we went, but uh, anyway did a lot of stuff like that uh… I will just tell ya if yer interested, one other quick one they invited me to the Hinton parade, now Hinton pretty wide main street, but it's only bout a half mile long, it’s not too long they called would you be in the parade be the parade marshal ride with the parade queen I said ok I want a nice horse, I’ve been kicked, thrown off all these things I said I want a nice horse they said ok, so I ride, do you remember the movie cat ballou? Where the horse is drunk leaning against? Well that’s basically what they gave me, I drove up and he’s leaning against the fence, this isn’t good, big old sway back I get on him I have to ride him about 4 or 5 blocks downtown he just clomps along I say this is crazy, we line up for the parade, the band is getting all tuned up, I don’t remember I guess the girl the queen is right here and they start the parade and everyone starts moving my horse wont move, so anyway they marched down a lil way and all the sudden my horse just bolts straight forward runs forward to where this girl is slams into her horse, drives it into the back of a car, and no one seems to bother bout it they line the whole parade up and this happened 3x and we finish the parade, and and uh,, I ride that horse back down to the corral and we got back down and I ask what in the world is wrong with that horse? I was so darned mad, he said nothing wrong with that horse, that’s a rodeo pickup horse, that’s one of those that goes out and when they are riding that horse that goes up and hits the side of the bronco and the rider jumps off on it and rides away… he said that horse is just doing its job (laughter) it was just (garbled) oh gosh! Ya know at some point, worked with a guy, I don’t think anyone succeeded without the help of a lot of people, if I had of these people around I never would've made it this far. I guy by the name of Jerry who started as a camera guy who ended up as the executive vice president, somewhere along the way and I had been holding these meetings and I took this film and I would get 500-600 people to show up at the gym and he and so its lights up for jerry he goes AHA so hey says he really built the terrible twister show he was the Barnum bailey guy and great guy he and I had a love hate relationship we hated each other but we loved each other at the same time he was a mean son of a gun he created the twister show and we had the first in Stillwater Oklahoma, so we go up there and I don’t know whether it was 750 seats or 1500 seats but we get up there and we light, and we hooked all the, we took TVs and wired all these TVs together, and Patti tores is up there and roger cooper with me and about 10 before the time 10 to 7 there is nobody there I am goin “I knew that was a mistake we shouldn’t be doing this!” and make a long story short people were just getting off work and flooded in and filled the place and I was just happy we did our thing we went back 2nd year Stillwater same thing happened, an so by then the GM said there is something to this, so he bought up this huge screen all these video things, but I still didn’t know and I said we got one at the campus in Enid, so jerry I drive up there and he’s always with me my protector my leader all that stuff we drive up there walking along the side of the road I said jerry there is people everywhere there must be a darn basketball game around here, where all these people goin? They were goin to the twister show and it was amazing and I brought my mom in from sieling which was a surprise and did that for her, we got that, the largest crowd we ever drew was uh… the one at the myriad, I think it was 7000, 7500 to the myriad it was sectioned then we drew 4000 out in Norman at the Noble center. It was just crazy we'd do tornadoes we scared the britches right offa them, then we would come back to the comedy and some stories, ya know people came from everywhere to see, we didn’t charge, it was a good thing they wouldn’t of come it was building the audience building the audience building the audience and it really really worked I got alotta people to thank for that
WG how long did you do that for?
GE we did them for almost 20 yrs, we stopped about 6 years, the last one we did in Enid at their center out there the largest crowd they ever had at that center, doesn’t mean that much but shows we had some success but it took the entire station and took alotta resources to put it on, by that time 6-7 years ago, people looking to cable channels seeing tornado stuff on there, really ran its course it was it was amazing, can't tell ya what it was like, and with the music, lights would go down, ya know ya had a great crowd when the lights went down the audience cheered and they would cheer the music was, it’s the best, (makes music noises) and the lights would dim and hit ya with the spotlight and it was, fly patty in on the helicopter and shoot her beautiful gal, dressed in red, and he would come in as close as he could to where we were and he'd land spot lights on her and wed show her on the screen coming in and it would just go nuts, it was, it was really really something, that is very special the uh.. it will probably never exist but my gosh it was incredible I didn’t know enough to enjoy right then but it was alotta work but I look back and it something special and so we built audiences all those different ways, we got involved with the schools so we would go to Enid and we go to school in morning elementary, and afternoon mid schools, mid schools awards to top students in science and math, bring the seniors in to show what they had done ya know it was it was really and then at noon we did with all the clubs around town and the cities would do signs all over Gary England Gary England Gary England building the audience building building the audience it was really quiet a machine
GE I don’t know if I am answering your question or just blabbing here but it was just uh absolutely incredible
WG sounds wonderful well listen, when you weren’t out building up the audience and doing all these exciting things and getting bucked off of bulls tell us a little about what a day in the office would be like, what’s a day in the weather room like?
GE well I did, nowadays, in the past it was totally different, as time went along here at news9 I become more involved in the management of the station and what was going on, so really on a lets just say on a calm day I would come in at 1oclock 1pm and there may or may be not be a meeting at 2 budget meeting or whatever there might be there’s some type of meeting like that, like tomorrow I am going to internet planning meeting in Tulsa at our station over there, come in around 1 do some type meeting of some kind, two times a week on the average maybe 3 x there’s a tour or someone here that we did a charity deal for and they agreed to, they bought this charity item and so they get there 15 or 5 minutes of fame on the 4 o’clock show there’s always something like that goin on, you
come in work forecast, and you do a 4-5 o’clock show and and a 5 o’clock show and you do a 6 o’clock show, and everybody thinks we just go home between shows, but now days with all the technology you had to more analysis than you’ve ever done, so you work there, don’t do as many talks as I used and uhhh didn’t do the ten o’clock show, on a stormy day depends on when its gonna storm uh you know like the may 3rd ‘99 looked out it came out the day before looked like it was gonna storm, in those days you had to come to work to look at and now you can look at it from home, and it was a stormy day like then or many other ones you come in whenever you needed to be like that day I came in about 9am and stayed till after midnight and so a real wild day its just a high stress high pressure god I hope I don’t make too many mistakes kinda day, and to , it's fun but you don’t realize it's fun, but you realize people can die based on what ya say, so on those days its pretty darned fast, if you step back and look at it, cuz there’s alotta pieces that have to work and it's just not Gary England there’s all these other people do all sorts of things the phones working, the camera’s working, the helicopters in the right place it’s a major operation
GE it is exciting but it isn’t exciting till ya go back and look at it and see what happened, what went on.
WG well what about your different type crews and i'm thinking in particular maybe some storm chasers or something, what’s your relationship with them how do you work with them
GE first of all I think crazy (laugh) uh no, I give ya an example we have 6 teams we require a driver and a shooter, ya gotta have a shoot that shoots and also runs the computers does gps and maps and all that, we have 3 husband and wife teams that’s interesting the wives basically run the show, they run all guys just going LOOK AT THAT STORM and she’s over doing all these things. They been with us a long time, I think the most recent is the retired police officer Allen Brosey (sp) been with us 3-4 years now, but Val has been with us since 91, it’s a very close good relationship ya know, we , we, we get hot we yell at each other, we scream, we're all friends when it's over, here in the station and also with the storm trackers. Stormtracker its really difficult to take those guys and gals they like that thrill it’s difficult to get them out by the storm and keep them to remember we are doing this for TV not for your own personal thrill. If you turn Val loose he will get where he can smell the tornado he’s right besides he’s too close to shoot it. But our relationship is good, I think it says something that they’ve been together this long. And we meet a couple times a year and go over things and show tapes and have a good time. They are different each one of those people are different but they are sane, they like to serve they do like to help, see what we use them for is called ground truthing if they hit a video that’s all the better but what we really want we say Val or Moby or Hank we have a strong circulation just 2 miles sw you what do you see? That helps us in our warning. In the old days we just see a circulation and go OH MY GOD do the warning! Now its check it out and how does it look, not much there just some rotation a lil wall cloud and all that so we use them to help in the warnings that their primary function
WG talk to me a little bit about the relationship in weather between your reporting on the destructiveness of nature often, and finding beauty in it, ya know you talked about initially in Sieling growing up as a young boy taking pictures of the sky and seeing so much beauty and also it can be so destructive
GE not all nice but you an just look at it, lemme tell ya what gets me excited a beautiful sunset, after the storm, beautiful sunset, and then there’s the spring or fall days with just the skies are clear it’s a nice blue…and ….. uh.. ya know in the spring it's starting to turn green there’s no wind and then the fall the leaves have turned its those things that really get me excited, sometimes just coming to work seeing the cloud structures is just absolutely amazing what’s going on up there, the interesting thing we still don’t know too much what’s going on up, we know a lot, but we don’t really know for sure what makes a tornado develop we got good ideas but no one has been able to prove it yet, beauty is just, I guess depends on your perspective, my wife looks at clouds all day and doesn’t see them all to pretty, my daughter lives in California and goes ballistic over the sunsets cuz she forgot she’s been gone 15 years what it's like here, for me how the clouds look, the colors, and during the days when the wind is really blowing, but I like that when everything is really green trees is bending some, I don’t mean like with a tornado, it's just so beautiful and so magical, do you think like when we had the floods. Terrible, think that all that water came out of the sky isn’t that amazing? Just absolutely amazing ya look at a hurricane, a hurricanes purpose in life is to take heat from the equatorial regions spread it to the north, spread it to the polar regions that it’s job, it tries to equalize the temps and energy around the world, so all these things have a purpose. That’s why I’m hesitant when someone says, “Yeah, we need to go out there and modify that hurricane,” yeah, and you might kill us all if you’re not careful. The tornados have a function we haven’t figured out yet what it is, buts a transfer of a lotta energy alotta heat, but to me there’s beauty in all of it, and some nice thunderstorms are beautiful and a tornado viewed from a distance is pretty darn majestic. You don’t like what they do but they are beautiful sometimes, now sometimes they are so terrible angry they can’t be beautiful just gnarly things spinning and going and there not…..alotta times they are
WG well have you ever been in any dangerous weather type situations as a result of your job
GE well there probably most significant was uh…. Was it may may may may may 9th, we uh did a special, 3 days, may 9 2003 we did some tornados in southern Oklahoma on the 7th the big f4 south OKC on May 8 during the afternoon just west of moore came across it was ugly, ugly ugly, ugly storm, and only way you could see was to get on the nw side of it, amateur photographer got over and it was gnarly and ugliest thing ever seen in your life, looked scarier than some of the may 3rd stuff of 99, on the night of May 9th 2003 that afternoon came to work, looked like tornadoes, and we waited, finally about I don’t what time it was, thunderstorm formed near Hobart, which is close to the end of the world, and moved 30mph towards okc, about 140-150 miles, it like to never got here, immediately developed mesocyclone, all the characteristics of a tornado, produced a super cell, we have storm tracker Tom and Rob riding beside, nothing happening, comes towards OKC and it keeps coming about 10 o’clock gets out here just sw of Union City just sw of OKC a little ways, we watch it the entire way, not a darned thing your tired, your worn out, your sick of that storm, and BAM one tornado in the road in front of the storm tracker, power flash, radio it in and go with the warning and all that stuff. And it comes into Bethany and it found out later the warning about 110 and Bethany does quiet a bit of damage and it was really fascinating and we was ready to call MOAR but you look at it minute by minute and they just.. and it wasn’t a big circulating and they wobbled around and just migrate and it's like they are alive and it would 3 blocks north without touching and down and come back down like it’s alive, were looking at it, at it keeps coming and were following it, we got a city cam at integris nw highway and we scan out that way and you see POW POW POW power flashes and then sparks and we had this live mean, really incredible stuff we were watching this thing and it is strong. Ya know it is impressive and we are wrapped up do this do this take your tornado precautions and it was doing this, right over here, so we got a live truck right over here, the live truck guy is set up has a live set up probable extension 63rd and he says Val caster pulled up besides and said this is not a good sign. Cause wherever a tornado is that’s where Val is. He goes OH NO! and we so busy do our thing it was coming directly towards and Val shouts IT COMING TO THE STATION and bout that item live you just the sky lights up and it's coming to power line stuff he just, and you see and I’m watching it too. Ya know? I see our engineer run through the picture and Val is yelling it's’ coming to the station its coming to the station and I say Val you keep talking cuz we gotta get everybody here so I turn and say get everybody outta here, get outta here, Jed castle dives under this desk, the desk is flimsy all you see if his rear end sticking out, I say Jed that’s not gonna help to be honest with ya there were alotta people in the station that night there were no gentlemen. Everybody for themselves. Best story I can tell ya about we had some guests here that built MOAR the engineers that built moar they had their video shooting stuff and they shot the control room and there’s a male producer and there’s a female producer sitting there and you see the male say to Jenny I forgot the guys name and he says, cuz everybody is heading for shelter, and he said Jenny you go ahead and the roar is loud by this time, he said I’ve got it I’ve got and about 30 seconds he ran up her back in the hall… we have a safe room and safer room cuz its safer than the other ones and did you see the penguin movie? That’s what we were like, I’m the last one to walk in, I thought I could stay, but that’s really stupid cuz if it hits I’m dead. So I’m the last one, I walk down the hall and there like that, and by then basically, Val said it’s just east of you on the ground, it came right over the station and landed in this field over here about 150mph, that probably the closest we been, had one in 98 big one came across lake hefner, the water was rising off the lake and flowing into the storm it was frigging un believable and as it came across Nichols hills it spun alotta cyclonic tornado swing up small ones you just see em.. it was right over the daily Oklahoman building it goes across this lake and the water starts going horizontally towards the storms it was wild, the engineer at this time ran to where we were at that time and yelled OH MY GOD OH MY GOD cause the wind the wind noise was phenomenal we had some close, but that was close as we have ever been, I wasn’t here in 70, in 1970 or 71 it knocked down the public television tower right here. Uh so but anyway that about as close as we have been
WG that’s pretty exciting stuff (laugh) well maybe, luckily you guys were a miss, but tell me a little about the may 3rd tornado was like here
GE you know, we have preset procedures to go through, priority system, priority one means we expect significant tornadoes, risk to life, and the the the day before it looked like it was gonna storm on may 3rd like so many other days.. thunderstorm few tornados that morning when I came in looked the same darn way, didn’t look like anything special so we were at a priority 2 and sometime in the afternoon, early afternoon I walked outside you could just smell the gulf, that smell, you ever been down on the gulf coast, just the moist smell of whatever it is from the full waters, the sky was chaotic, the wind was blowing a little bit and I smelled that and felt that on June 8 1974 we had tornado outbreak, so I just turned it scared me, I walked back in priority one and so at that point everybody works the news for the weather so we launched all our storm tracker, all helicopter, satellite stuff and still didn’t know it was gonna be like it was, just that it was gonna be tornadoes, we took something with the configuration of a football and we put to the south one up here and put em around the edges and spotters in between this envelop of where thought it was gonna happen, alotta times this is just guessing we just guess they are in the right position, and got the helicopter out in in Lawton and we waited and we waited and it was a thick cirrus, cirrus are ice clouds, and they are high and sometimes they stop storms from going up and it was pretty thick down that way. The one I remember on one of the satellite photos 3:30 4 o’clock, cuz yer just looking down, your looking through the cirrus and there was a huge mushroom coming up south of Lawton and next picture this thing just blew up boom real fast, it was that one and there might a been one before that was just east of Altus. But they all went up rotating now alotta time they don’t do that, these things just went up rotating but still had a couple rotating thunderstorms, felt pretty good, helicopter up, got it about the time it was and inch tall to huge but he’s on it storm trackers are on it and everybody’s on this thing and still feeling good and then pfth there’s another on and then 3 and several tornadoes well that’s alright it still they got up, because what we had seen in the helicopter was typical tornadoes, we got up to umm got up to Chickasha and by this time thunderstorms going up everywhere they didn’t look organized cuz there here and here and here and uhhh ya didn’t know they were coming to town, but Mike Armstrong who works for us and a storm tracker then shot a still shot of one just west of Chickasha and sent it to me over over cell system, we called it the ponytail system, and it was just you know you seen the picture just a huge tornado, elephant trunk right to the ground, but a satellite tornado coming around about the size of most Oklahoma tornadoes, and that was probably was my first inkling this is different and uhh so were dealing with that.. it’s what 40 miles away from okc moving NE about 30, but it was at that point well…..no… not exactly… but it was pretty close at that point. That open came up and what it did was it recycled, it started down near…… Sterling, down in the Lawton area but one tornado was gone, weakened, gone. Comes back little bigger, weakens, gone, comes back, they usually only come back once or twice that it. This sucker keeps doing and every time bigger. So it’s out by Chickasha, goes to the Chickasha airport does some damage and then bam its gone, were going holy crap and we look again and there it is it’s a mile wide ya know it’s just,.. its so big I remember Val said it's so big I can't get it in the viewfinder, course he was probably to darned close, but we had that thing between Chickasha and just north of Chickasha came about a mile and a half wide, and Val was saying Gary you know it's headed in a bad direction. And so ya know.. its goin through my mind, it's coming to town. So at that point I started…we got it all on tape but all the phrases.. cuz I’ve always said take your tornado precautions lowest level. Stay at news9 well keep you advised so I knew I had to do something different so I started by saying don’t go outside and look at this thing cuz it will kill you. Then I said most structures are not going to survive this. Then at some point I started saying you need to be below ground level to survive cuz we seen some pretty ugly stuff by then. This is before it got to OKC and we said “ya need to be below ground.. you people still have time to move to a place of safety” and a alotta people did but that’s a dangerous thing you can get alotta people killed but I felt like most of Oklahoma’s gonna stay in their house if they don’t have a cellar and I had to get them out, so it was you know… it was uh… it was a little chaotic in our department we had probably, I’d have to look at the old tape, we probably had I don’t remember how many people but I remember Joyce reed who is now the vp reminded me of bambi bounding through that room her eyes so darned big I didn’t realize till later that a lot of people though it was coming to channel 9 cuz there were tornadoes all over, I didn’t realize everybody else was going OH OH OH ya know. But uh. Uh it was uh it was.. I don’t think I….as it was happening I knew it was pretty darned bad but ya know when you go back.. I figured when I got up the next morning that would be untold numbers dead…. But ya know. 40 is bad enough but I thought it might be in the hundreds severe storms lab at Norman did a study around 800 would have been killed if they stayed where they were
GE so ya know, but uh I have never used those words that I used since. May have to sometime that storm will return there will be another one like it. It was pretty fascinating.. ya know its.. I think in many cases until then tornadoes, what we were doing with tornadoes were quite a bit of fun. Wasn’t much fun after that..
WG that was a rough one. I had only lived here for about 9 or 10 months and I never been through a tornado and I was freaked out (laughter) I was scared. So, I wanted to talk about the fact that because you did stay in Oklahoma city and have been here and you’ve become beloved and trusted by so many citizens and you become quite a I would say kind of a pop culture, around Gary England why do you think that is, what do you attribute that to?
GE I am from Oklahoma and I am who I am, and I think along the way been serious when there are storms, but I think a lot time just tried to have fun, cuz I had the thunder lizard and all that stuff and it was all crazy things I don’t know the answer to that uhhh I’m happy it happened but I don’t know how it happened umm ya know my wife has asked me something similar to that recently because I’ve gone through most my career really thinking people really like me and I didn’t know if they really watched me, I didn’t think a lot about it, we went to a restaurant down in brick town and all the kids who work there were coming over and people from the booths were getting up and coming over and I thought this is kinda weird maybe these people do like me, I guess I never thought a lot about it through the years, but uh ya know you take the Lost Ogle or they will grab those things and help shove it along I don’t know
WG what about the drinking game?
GE you know It was a surprise to me
WG have you played it?
GE no, they will play a version of it, cuz on your iphone you can have that beer, but I never played it, just thought it was something else that took off, one of the big things that came out of May 3rd for all of us personally as far as promotion, was maybe a little before that was talk to me Val, is Val on the getner? And that part of the drinking game, is Val on getner drink this, I think its pretty wild,
WG Trent Lawson was asked if you have seen it
GE Yeah, I’ve seen it. There's a guy that doesn’t have enough to do. No I think it's very nice, very nice, he did that, it was wild, don’t understand it,
WG alright well it's fun everyone’s enjoying it right
GE yea I think they are
WG um let me say when you’re not working what do you do for fun?
GE ya know I used to fish, I used shoot alotta pictures, umm I play golf a little bit I like that some, ya know, in Oklahoma to darned hot to play golf all the time, uh, ya know I like being with my friends, I like going out to eat, and uh I don’t have that many friends, ya know, number wise, alotta people I know but as far as true friends very few and so we go out and eat with our family husbands and wives and have a good time and drink some wine and eat and have a heck of a time, that’s what we do
WG you mentioned a few earlier on but are there other lessons you’ve learned in life you wanna share with our audience
GE one thing I gradually learned at least in business unless you have really have something to say speak only when spoken to or asked to speak. I tried to train the mp that worked with me the boss guy that owns the station last week and one of em and came in and was like a little puppy the meteorologist (noises) when it was over I said you know what the man that came down the stairs he came down down to talk he didn’t come to listen to you, so you have to be able to analyze the situation, blah blah, ya have to look what it really supposed to happen so speak when your speak when you're spoken to or don’t speak unless you have something really good to say and get to the friggin point. You know ive learned alotta lesson most of em the difficult way, uh one time I was sued back in 1973 over a weather book and a coloring book and we kicked this guy out of our little group I started hearing Oklahoma weather, what it ended up as, be he was a partner or supposed to be a partner but he wouldn’t do any work or do anything and we said were not to put it together if your gonna be a part of it and he say ok, gathered up his stuff and left. So we went ahead and 2 years later put the little tiny book together and anyways he sued us, saying he deserved a 1/3 of the profits and I remember the trial and all that and they said you gonna pay him and I said this is just not right, he lied and we told the truth they said he’s willing to settle for like 5000 dollars, shoulda done that. But he’s willing to settle over 5000 dollars and I said well screw him. He lied and we told the truth and we're gonna take it to the supreme court and we did and lost. State supreme court. There wasn’t enough money, wasn’t nothing there, but I think you have to stand on principle. It wasn't right. I have learned don’t ever go to court, don't ever get involved, don't ever get sued. Jerry Adams used to be an anchor guy, great good looking guy, he came up to trial, told me one day to debate the verdict he could hear one gal in the jury pool yell it's not gonna hurt him he’s a big TV star. Ya learn. And I’ve avoided encounters like that
WG I hope I’m not completely interrupting this line of thought but I just realized that we are getting towards the end that I forgot to ask you about, you’ve been sort of a pioneer in these radar systems and I was wondering about your contribution to the first warning system and the color coded state map
GE yeah, uh ya know all that happened by accident. The system where you know it shows the storm projection? This used to be the way you did it. You took a regular pencil, an eraser on the radar scope that’s about 30 miles, and we'd look at the storm down sw Chickasha we’d go one hour, two hour, two and a half hour, you measured it with just your thumb and pencil just held it up. That’s how you did it. When personal computers came along you know cuz we always always talked with Jerry how can we do this better? I said Jerry lemme tell ya get these computer things around here should be pretty easy so found a kid at OU. Forgotten his name and its good I can't remember his name cuz I’d still be after him to this day, brought him up here said this is what I want, I wanna tell you where that tornado is and at what time it's gonna get to this town this town this town pretty basic mathematic but programming was a different deal so he come up looked like a race track it was an oval just the inside of a quarter mile racetrack and would light up every town in that its moving NE of 40 and would light up all those and give you timed arrivals was pretty neat pretty exciting well we used it. I have the tape on it, I forgot the year. 82 that was it, and ya know after there was a tornado and it worked and it worked! And uh looked around the next day he was gone. He had taken that and was gonna become a wealthy entrepreneur. We didn't know you had to make a contract with the programmer that it was yours not his. I was just hey Henry come in on in here do this and well pay ya. So he went, what was so ironic was, he went to Tulsa and our sister station, wasn’t sister station then, bought the from him called Pathfinder the only station he ever sold it to. What we had to do, never did find him, but we had to find another programmer sign the contract bring em, we couldn’t show em the code, we pointed to the screen this is what we done and asked the guy, the chief engineer was the girl, Julie Cameron ended up writing it in basic, and uh that it was uh chunky little thing but it was fantastic first time we could ever project it was the forerunner of all the fancy ones you see now, and uh David Griffin sold those for $40000 a system and I tell ya they sold for years and years because it was simple and easy simple and easy. So but you know that was.. we gotta be able to work this better. Let me do you one other quick thing here. The little map that comes up in the corner screen. Here's how we used to do it. Used to be a map of Oklahoma. And it's kinda green color and behind was red cardboard you couldn’t see it if there was a tornado warning for Oklahoma county I grabbed an exacto knife and cut that sucker out and in the green there was a green county right there and that’s how you did it. When computers came along it was just a matter of putting it in computer language. We did the first one and not once did we ever say can we do something great today we never ever thought that way. The Doppler I just followed the research down at Norman I knew , didn’t know much about it , studied it and the result and knew it was gonna be a big deal, and we talked to the Doppler company into building one for us, first one ever for private industry so it was , it happened by accident and somebody would done if we hadn’t of done it. But um, when I look back it was pretty exciting stuff man. Years ago, I’ve got the date somewhere Roger Cooper when the macs and apple big computer came out big sucker, anyway he got with a programmer Roger Cooper was the anchor and he got with this guy who was a programmer and ya know they programmed stuff into to send pictures of the cell phone first ever. And this guy did this right there in the back room right there, and they put that sucker in the truck and drove that truck out to Clinton and dialed our numbers and they sent back a color moving photo was what they sent, a video. And we kinda went WOAH that’s great and just forgot about it. Later I we got a uh it was a .. a security system they had names for all these things and got and got our engineers worked through the telephone stuff and some fancy ones now but several years ago like I said I’ve got all the details of these if you need it and a guy came in here, Iranian, long ponytail so I nicknamed him ponytail his name was mansour, neat guy programmer. He said “tell me what you need,” I said, “I need video, live video,” this was years ago, and so we worked and you can't understand a word he said. He can't tell how long a pencil is and he can tell how to was manufactured and what was used to put it together, but he can tell ya 5 inch, 6 inch so that’s something I had to deal but mansour built it this system we nicknamed it ponytail to send, and that’s how all this stuff around the country the video pictures coming across started right here.
WG that’s exciting
GE it was outta necessity because we were blind most of the time on doing things like that you know. But anyway go ahead
WG no that was excellent. That’s pretty much all we have I just wanted to say, has your life been different in anyway than you imagined it
GE well when I think about it yeah, I, uh, I’m surprised (laughter) cuz yea I’ve been very fortunate lucky to have a great life cuz this was my lifetime dream to do what I’m doing today. Always really was a went along. I wanted to be a television meteorologist and how many people get to realize their lifetime dreams. It’s a friggin 'miracle it proves miracles still happen.. ahh but yea a time or time didn’t have a job, like to starve to death I was not about to leave, had chances to leave here but was not about to leave cuz what I'd do was work here and work any place else in the world so it.. it yea. My life, we were married talked about ya know… we talked a lot about being on television but you know but nobody would hire me, but uh, I’m not sure, I knew what we wanted but I don’t think we knew for sure where we were goin ya know and ya know I look back now and we were living in new Orleans. I detested New Orleans. I worked with this guy by the name Ed Sclin. He was my PhD lemme tell ya he was disciplined and brilliant and he drove me, but it was great I learned more from him in 4 years than I did anyplace else. But he was tough, and I didn’t like New Orleans. I quit down there and didn’t tell him I was quitting, I didn’t like him so he had a villa in Switzerland, see I never quite get over this. Way I am. And I waiting cuz yea he was a mean guy. One of the guys in the office, small office, had offended him so Mr. Glen wouldn’t give him his check one time. He withheld it for like 2 weeks and in those days you could things like that it really upset so I waited. And so I sent Mary on home, got everything pulled up and packed and waited till he went to Gstaad Switzerland in 2 months, January, February I ran his office during the time frame. He got on the airplane, got settled over, I got my U-Haul truck and came back to Oklahoma. That was my way of getting even with him but when ya look back what if I would have not of quit. What if I would of stayed there with him which would have been ok but I wouldn’t of been able to of do what I have done. See I believe that life is a series of decisions and alotta item we have no idea where that decision will take. And every decision you make takes ya a certain direction and I think I happened to make the right decisions and there wasn’t alotta though that went into many of em, and I just just made the decisions and kept going the right way. You know people that make decisions that are not good and they take wherever they take them. So it's just a series of decisions, it. is. Anyways yea they said we wanted to do this and wanted to be on television. I’m surprised it all happened. And uh sure happy it did but uh so its turned out well.
WG Gary thank you so much
GE thank you