Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
— Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1913
CLAY COUNTY — It looks like more floating clouds in blue skies, beautifully colored sunsets and clear weather forecasted for former weatherman/farm reporter and local celebrity Wayne Mason Jenkins.
Many may wonder “What ever happened to that Wayne Jenkins guy who was on WTHI-TV 10 for so many years in the ’50s?”
Well, now at 85 years old, life has taken on a serene pleasant existence still filled with fun, new things, educating others and enjoying the simple pleasures of life, according to Jenkins, all while he endeavors to reach that 100 year-old mark.
During the 1950s, Jenkins could be seen daily, forecasting weather and eventually giving the noon day farm report for WTHI-TV 10. He was quite a local celebrity.
How he got there is quite interesting. His first time on air was on radio when he was attending Purdue and was an announcer for WBAA radio. “The bug hit me,” he said, even though at that time he was a mechanical engineering student.
Not realizing how hard he was bitten, he transferred to the Butler-Arthur Jordan School of Music. Neither the engineering nor the school of Music would bring employment to Jenkins, but that on-air “bug bite” would bother him for the rest of his life — and provide a nice living for his family.
Don McCarty of the old WBOW radio station one day told Jenkins in passing, “You have a pretty good voice — you should be on radio.” It happened that WBOW had an opening; remembering the announcing days at Purdue, Jenkins applied and became an on-air personality at WBOW for several years.
In 1956 WTHI TV 10 came on the scene. “I had gone with a friend, Phil Smith, to the TV station to pick up some 16mm film of local the local high school football team,” he explained. They ran into channel 10 program director Ben Falber who asked Jenkins, “Have you ever done television?”
“I said, ‘sure’!” Jenkins said, widening his eyes indicating that he hadn’t. “I was asked, ‘Can you come to work in two weeks?’ Talk about burning the midnight oil. I watched every weatherman I could get my hands on,” he said. “Back then it was almost like memorization — there was no free style. Not much different than being on the radio.” But you were seen.
When asked if he was afraid of that first time on TV 10, Jenkins grinned. “Remember in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ when the balloonist was telling Dorothy how he came to be in Oz,” he asked. “He said the balloon escaped from the Kansas State Fair and landed in Oz. Dorothy asked, ‘Were you scared?’ The answer was ‘I . . was . . petrified.’ And there was my answer.”
Jenkins explained that TV people in those days came from radio. There were no news anchors, but only news readers. “You did radio news sitting in front of a camera.” For 24 years Jenkins became a familiar fixture in Wabash Valley homes delivering his weather messages, which were far more than reading news.
Upon being appointed farm director at TV 10, which sounded like a great promotion, Jenkins said he figured his days were numbered because farm directors were in their final stages due to the first satellite, the Bonneville 4, which could be rented for $40 for a half hour and could present a taped show two times each night where stations could pick it up when they wanted to. Farm directors were to become a thing of the past, so he went where the satellite was: the only station nearby, which was WFYI channel 20 TV in Indianapolis that offered the “earth link.”
For 10 years he would experience big-time television, producing a farm report program that was carried in 64 states coast to coast. Jenkins even traveled abroad to France and Italy to FOA (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nations conferences hobnobbing with government high officials, including every agricultural atachee who existed from all over the world, and he talked bi-weekly to then Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butts for the WFYI Farm Report.
During his ninth year in Indianapolis, Jenkins’ wife, Mary Leigh, died. And like U.S. quotation anthologist Terri Guillemets has said, “Weather is a great metaphor for life — sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.”
“I just wanted to come home, play with the dogs and think about things,” Jenkins said. Within a year, he had sold out the program and returned home to Brazil, where longtime friend Jack Pickett asked him to come work in advertising and public relations for First Bank and Trust where Pickett was president. Jenkins served in this position for some four years before the bank consolidated and major changes were made.
Not ready to retire, he found himself taking on a job as resources historian for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at the Mansfield Roller Mill. From 2002-2009 he served, teaching visitors about the milling industry all the way back to the Assyrians.
During this time, Jenkins’ lower back was presenting some physical problems and pain and retirement looked imminent.
“People probably remember me most as a weatherman,” he said. “But I think my best work was in the farm reporting.”
Everything he’s done, he’s spent time in study learning all the ins and outs of the subjects. One thing Jenkins is especially proud of is being the main instrument in starting the area championships for 4-H showmen.
Today, Jenkins spends his days at home with a big black Labrador grand-dog called Bella, and time at his daughter and son-in-law’s 28-acre retirement home and farm, which he says has good fishing, beautiful forests and lots of grass to mow. The family is working on a nature trail for the grand children to teach them names of trees and so they can study the flora and fauna. And several flower gardens are being planted and tended in memory of those the family has lost.
Jenkins’ days are filled with enjoyable experiences and, always being on the leading edge of technology and no fair-weather friend, he keeps his “friends” on Facebook up to date on his escapades, telling stories of grand-dog Bella, the Black Lab Sprinter, and her encounters with Backyard Bunny and Speedy Squirrel (a.k.a The Backyard Bandit), while still educating us all with bits of historical information, weather comments and fascinating facts each day.
“My parents lived to their 90s. I’m shooting for 100,” he said. “My doctor’s nurse told me I have the blood pressure and pulse rate of a 20 year-old,” he smiled. “Apparently God thinks I should be around for awhile. I’m blessed and I know it.”
Some recent posts on Facebook by Wayne Jenkins:
So there we were … Bella and I … she on the backyard grass while I stood on the deck. Bella was staring intently at something … AHA!! it was the Speedy Squirrel munching on the Cardinal bird seed … very slowly and very carefully Bella advanced paw by paw until she was about 6 feet away from old bushytail. Then.... they had had enough of stealth … and Away They Went … the box score now stands at Speedy Squirrel 3 … Bella the Black Lab Sprinter 0.
At 7:35 PM radar shows a very long line of precip from South Padre TX to Ontario and Quebec Canada with a mix of R, ZR and S on the north end of the line. Our rain here is chilly … rats!!!!
Bella and I spent a good part of the afternoon at the Lake Property … she is a regular “run into the forest and know her way out” dog. It was rather windy. Steve and Al made good progress building the new deck extension … Melissa has a green thumb, her Rose bush in the Memory Garden has the sweetest little pink blossoms showing … The Country Garden, The Irish Garden and the Italian Garden are great … and the grapevines are ready to be “trained.”
My next job is to get a forester to do some tree identification, so I can get signs up for when the children go on the nature trail for a hike. And Mary’s gift of the night coloring Hummingbird is in the Memory Garden … Yes, the work is hard and I wish I could do more, but the results are beyond all expectations. Earl Butz, former Secretary of Agriculture for the U.S., told me this: “There’s no free lunch” … but when you work for it … it sure tastes good!!
Hello Thursday 4/19/12 … Here’s “Those were the days”
First, in 1775 the American Revolution starts with fighting at Lexington. MA … 1897 First Boston Marathon and in 1982, NASA names Sally Ride as first female astronaut. 1989 #2 gun turret on USS Iowa explodes … killing sailors. 1924 Chicago Barn Dance started on WLS … became the National Barn Dance. In 1925 Grand Ole Opry started from WSM Nashville, TN … Birthdays … 1832 Lucretia Rudolph, President Garfield’s First Lady … 1897 Ole Evinrude invents the first successful outboard motor and in 1903 Eliot Ness … Treasury Agent during Prohibition. As Garrison Keillor says: Be Well, Do Good Work and keep in touch.
Te Amo … Papa … J.
On usual nights … about this time … I reflect on what I have done during the day …
Have I been kind? Have I helped someone through a hard passage? Have I remembered the past and looked forward to the future?
And, as always, for all … sleep well … may your dreams, if any, be untroubled.
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