One of my first jobs was shining shoes in a barbershop. The going rate was 25 cents a pair. I was convinced I was going to be rather busy and purchased a change machine that mounted on my belt. I was only 12 or 13 years old and the change thing was pretty big.
My only rent was sweeping up hair under the barber chairs. Mr. Aub McClain cautioned me not to sweep under the feet of customers in the chair because it would bring bad luck.
A coin-operated machine with electric shoe buffers eventually replaced me. To the best of my knowledge, the machine could not sweep up hair.
There was a regular crowd of men who would come in and chat about the news of the day. Some customers would bring a newspaper and comment on what was in that day’s edition.
It never failed that at some point the conversation would roll around to the weather. Everyone wanted to weigh in with data from their back porch, or wherever the thermometer was located.
“It was 17 at my house this morning,” one fellow would say, only to be topped by a 16 reading by another. If it had rained, the same scenario played out from rain gauges.
If the conversation rolled around to the forecast, it would be a contest between “The Old Farmers Almanac” and the TV weathermen. That usually came down to Johnny Beckman, who was on Channel 2 and Guy Sharpe, who was on Channel 5.
Both men had their detractors.
“Guy Sharpe said it’s going to rain tomorrow,” someone would say. “Ah, he’s never right,” another would shoot back.
Bear in mind, this was in the era before Super Doppler HD Pinpoint Lightning Tracker Radar. Forecasts were drawn with felt-tipped markers and were based on maps that came over on a wire service machine.
I went back and looked at the long range forecast issued prior to the beginning of the most recent winter. The headline was “Another Brutal One.” That just didn’t happen.
Peter Thomson is a friend of mine from New Hampshire who has a bunch of maple trees that generally produce fine syrup.
I’ve heard Peter talking about being up to his backside in snow when it is time to tap the trees. This year, he told me they were wearing shorts. Maple trees only produce sap until they bloom. That was only days after the taps were set. The bottom line is the production will be down.
It finally snowed up there about two weeks ago.
Everybody has an explanation ranging from something unusual in the tropics to the much-debated global warming.
All I know is that my big coat, which I wore about half the days in the winter of 2011, stayed in the closet most of this year.
The warmer weather has yielded a good harvest of Vidalia onions and strawberries this spring. The peach growers are predicting that they’ll have a bumper crop and it could come in a little early.
I haven’t heard the long range forecast for summer, but if they say it’s going to be extra hot, you might want to keep a sweater nearby.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.