9 Feb

John Beckman is a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecast the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV.
In his TV career he was the winner of many awards including two Emmys for his predictions of severe weather. He also writes books and I discovered this “gem” on his blog :

The Price isn’t Right!

“I am reading a fascinating book entitled, “Elsie – Adventures of an Arizona school teacher – 1913-1916.” I love American history. (European history? Not so much.) The great thing about Elsie is that the book is made up of letters to and from her family in California and the entries in her diary. 1913 was just one year after Arizona became a state and much of it was “primitive” by today’s standards. But Elsie was an adventurer and an outdoors-type individual so she made the most of it. Her letters reveal how much she enjoyed the new sites and landscapes she discovered. She never passed up the opportunity to hike to some intriguing place, with no regard for the weather. She never let rain or snow or cold or heat restrain her activities.

What I discovered from reading this true account of another age is just how much we, as human beings, have missed as we have given up personal relationships in exchange for modern “gadgets.” In Elsie’s Arizona people visited each other. They read to each other. They walked everywhere. (Occasionally Elsie will reveal a 30 mile trip in someone’s “machine” as a great adventure.) People intermingled and entertained each other with only the occasional trip to the “movies.” They played the piano and the mandolin and sang songs. They spent much time reading. (How long has it been since you have read anything other than “Oprah” magazine?) Since they ate sparingly and simply and did so much walking there were no obese people, one of today’s greatest avoidable tragedies in America.
(No matter how much she ate, Elsie never weighed more than 100 pounds.)

I have lived in my current neighborhood for about eight years. Only three times in that period has a neighbor come to my door – and I have only approached others the same minimal amount of time. I have only been “in” two of the homes and nobody from my neighborhood has been in my home. It is a novelty to see anyone walking and those are only the most devoted health “nuts.”

What do we do in our isolation? We sit at our computers and send emails and cruise Facebook and write blogs such as this. We idle away our lives with very little interaction with other human beings. Call me an old fogie (which I am) but I can’t help but think that for everything we have gained in technology over the years we have paid a high price. We have never learned the “art” of civil conversation and the pleasure of enjoying the company of other people.

I grew up without the convenience of indoor plumbing or, in my earliest years, electricity so it would not be too difficult for me to return to the simple life that Elsie enjoyed. For you, I can almost see the expression on your face. It is the same as I used to see on my children’s faces when I related my childhood. Yes, iPads and iPhones and the Internet and sleek cars and wide-screen TVs are great. But what do you do if the power goes off and your batteries are dead? Admit it. You are lost. You sit there with perhaps the closest person in your life – and you are just silent, waiting for the power to restore your “gadgets.” This is a sad commentary on contemporary life. Just as Elsie would be lost in our world, sadly we are lost to hers.”

I was pleased that John Beckman read “Elsie” and thrilled that he enjoyed it.  My favorite sentence is his observation about how much we “have missed as we have given up personal relationships in exchange for modern gadgets.” Thanks John Beckman for recognizing  that lesson Elsie wrote for us a 100 year ago.


  1. Cassie Carson February 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    What a great review. Ditto on agreeing how much this new generation has lost by replacing real interaction with real people with TV, computers, cell phones, etc. well said!

  2. ritaroberts February 11, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    While I agree with what this gentleman is conveying about relationships etc., I can’t help saying that although I don’t spend to much time on the computer it has allowed me to make many friends from all over the world which I would never would have before these contraptions were invented.Only last year a friend visited me from Colorado,we had never met only through correspondence via email. we had a great time walking,visiting many archaeological sites including Santorini. However I love your” Elsie to bits “

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