Dan True is an Amarillo celebrity, World War II veteran, scientist, author of four books, and a father and grandfather. But most Clovis residents probably know him as the short guy in a khaki shirt riding his bicycle around lunchtime.
True, born Dec. 8, 1924, in Nashville, Tennessee, has copies of “Flying Free: The Story of a Golden Eagle” in 16 translations on his bookshelf, along with pictures of the family and a lifetime of various awards — along with items that represent the normal clutter of life like lip balm and loose change.
Be it weather, nature, the infrastructure of Clovis or countless other topics, True can weave long, interesting stories. What follows is a condensed version of a morning talk with True at his home in Clovis.
True spent seven years as a TV weatherman with KGNC, and moved to rival KFDA when it offered him a raise and became the second station in the country to purchase radar equipment. After 10 years there, he was briefly wooed back to KGNC but quickly dismissed by new ownership before he worked at a few Albuquerque stations.
Where did you grow up? They tell me I lived in Nashville six weeks. My dad was a driller for Standard Oil. Beginning in Nashville, I moved I don’t remember how many times. But I remember how many schools — 34 to go through the 12 grades.
So where did I grow up? A lot Oklahoma, Holdenville is where my memory begins. Duncan, Shawnee, Seminole, Oklahoma City. Then to Hutchinson, Kansas, we poked holes there. Terre Haute, Indiana, we poked holes there. Great Bend, Kansas, we poked holes there. I have a list in the safe, but I grew up in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana and New Mexico.
How hard was it always being the new kid? Fortunately for me, my brother 18 months older than me had asthma and missed a grade. He ended up in my grade, and this helped a lot. You would think somewhere, I would be bullied. Aren’t I the perfect bully victim? One time, I remember, but I’d think it would have been more common. I’ve found out that bullies prey on the weak. I may be 5-foot-3, but I’ve never been perceived as weak.
How did you decide on weather as a career? I started television weather with KGNC in Amarillo. I celebrated their first birthday with them.
I crop dusted through college in the summers between semesters. I was crop dusting corn and soy beans in Illinois. I happened to be in northern Illinois. There were only three television stations in the country, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The FCC had frozen all other applications while they figured out this TV deal. Clint Eule did a weather broadcast I watched in Chicago. I was in a tiny little town where an electronic genius lived. He had a TV and I saw Clint do weather, probably about 1948. I said, “Self, I could do that.”
I had the federal license to teach meteorology to pilots, so I had the experience. And as a pilot, you shake hands with weather all the time.
How did you get to Amarillo? I went back to the University of Arkansas, and that next summer I was crop dusting again. I met a girl, we married and moved to Fort Worth. While I was there, I needed a job. I applied to the airlines, and Central Airlines decided they’d like to have me as a pilot. They didn’t have an opening, and said the best way for me to be a pilot was to be with them in some capacity. They put me on as a ticket agent, then elevated me to Amarillo as a district sales manager.
How did you go from that to weather? The television stations were all brand new, so I applied for weekend weather. Chief pilot called and said they had an opening. By that time, I really liked television. I was earning $1 a program, so I made $4 on the weekend doing the 6 o’clock and the 10 o’clock. But I had grown to like it. Since I was 6, I wanted to be an airline pilot, and here I had it. I thought about it three days and three nights. I had to decide if there was a future in television weather. I decided there probably was.
They offered me a full-time job, more than a dollar a program. I had turned the station around, and I didn’t know it at the time. Translators were being established at the time. They went into Clovis and all over. People chose translators to get my weather broadcasts, and the station boomed.
The station is doing great. My dad taught me if I make money for somebody I should be able to share in that. I went to the management, and I gave them my dad’s philosophy. They gave me a raise higher than the news director. I didn’t know this. I was resented by fellow employees because I hadn’t paid my dues, with dues being working in radio. Station management cooled that resentment.
What’s your greatest regret? That I didn’t take up ABC-TV when they offered me a position in New York. The people I worked with never knew that.
I regret, now looking back, that I didn’t take that job. I probably should have. I didn’t even ask them how much. I was so happy at the time, nothing could make me happier. I lived on a ranch that had a 60-foot waterfall outside, deer, coyotes and bobcats in the backyard.
What brought you to Clovis? I sold insurance, made more money than I did in television. But I didn’t like it. I went to Albuquerque and got a job doing weekend weather. The station across the street talked me into full-time, but I was happy doing weekends. I was writing during the week, and I was getting paid for weekend work what full-time people made in Amarillo.
My family still lived in Amarillo. I commuted. The marriage suffered; ended in divorce. I’m coming out of a divorce. A person I knew in Clovis, a good friend, her husband was in the military and going to Korea for a year. She had health problems. They decided maybe I could stay with her for the year he was in Korea.
I came to Clovis. I wrote, maybe finished the hummingbird book. Near the end of that year, I met the widow of Dr. Peter Goldbaum. Diane had been an eight-year widow. I rented a house, Diane and I became an item, and five months after we met we were married.
What’s your favorite way to spend the day? I can give you the highlight of almost every day. I have lunch at the senior citizens center. I meet Diane, she changes jobs between the morning and the afternoon. We meet for a couple of minutes, she goes on to her (afternoon job) and I go to lunch. The stops often include the post office, grocery store, bank sometimes the hardware store. Clovis is a perfectly-sized town for a bicycle. There’s nothing out of bicycle range in Clovis that’s in my lifestyle. My average ride is two-and-a-half miles, it’s 14 minutes. A car takes nine minutes. I see people whizzing by and I think, “You’d be better off on a bike.”
— Compiled by staff writer Kevin Wilson