In Search of Shelby Scott

Outside my window is a winter wonderland. For the fourth time in eight days, it snowed today. Total accumulation in that timeframe: about 28 inches. There are no rants about this in my house: here, we understand that winter in New Hampshire historically, consistently and inevitably brings snow.

Come April, just a hint of one tiny flake dancing its way toward the ground will send me running straight to the Bahamas in a wild fit of lunacy, the final stages of cabin fever long having well set in by then.  But for now, despite all the shoveling, I’m enjoying this soft, chilly, white-hot landscape set against this afternoon’s backdrop of brilliant blue sky.

Snowy days evoke memories in all of us. Soon as the white stuff begins to pile up, my brain plays a slideshow of images it’s collected through the years of similar days… fresh, yummy snapshots of thick, wooly mittens with matching scarves, lightning-fast toboggans speeding down the hill beside our house, mugs of Swiss Miss piled high with heaps of marshmallow, and Shelby Scott on the television.

Ah… I see you’re not from New England.  Who, you ask, is Shelby Scott?

This little powerhouse of a woman began her career at a Boston-based television station in the early sixties, reporting stories on the evening news.  By the mid seventies, she moved to the front desk as one of the first woman anchors in the country and remained there for over decade. Shelby’s pioneering journalism career is certainly distinguishing, but my generation of New Englanders treasured the live weather reports she provided throughout the nineties before leaving the station.

Long before Doppler radar, Boston TV viewers would know how bad the weather was about to get when it was announced that Shelby Scott was ‘heading out to the scene.’ I used to imagine her sitting in that studio, warm and dry, when suddenly someone would strap on a down parka, shove her into a news van and drive like the wind to wherever the wind was blowing. Moments later there she was, in front of the highway or high tide, hanging onto something against all odds while the harsh wind threatened to blow her away in front of our very eyes, covered in whatever weather hell was falling, holding onto that microphone and shouting, ‘It’s really snowing (or raining or windy) out here!’


We never considered Shelby’s reports timely or newsworthy, only because that same weather was often falling outside our own window the very moment her report was broadcasted.  But we loved those reports and – mostly – her gusto.  Every time we watched her, someone in the room would be yelling, hang on, Shelby!

It was these broadcasts that made Shelby Scott a New England legend.  So much so that, one year, the Boston Globe newspaper measured snowfall against her height, referring to the total accumulation in Shelbys.

I often think if she were still offering up those delicious reports, Shelby would be riddled with requests for sponsorships from L.L. Bean and other companies that manufacture winter clothing.  Maybe some Boston-based software company would even create an X-Box game based on her, where Shelby’s parka-donned avatar stands in storm bracing the elements, desperately grasping a lamppost in fear, and you are Father Winter incarnate, armed with heavy winds, blinding snow and blowing debris of varying sizes, with the ghastly goal of toppling her (you’ll have to work hard, though: in real life, Shelby would never let go).

Shelby Scott is as New England as Rex Trailer and Zarex. (You won’t know about them if you’re not from here either, but that’s for another time…)  If there is a New England News Museum, they should retire that trusty red wool cap of hers, much like they did Schilling’s bloody sock.  Both are Boston staples.

Even after her retirement in the late nineties, they would sometimes bring Shelby back if a large storm were a-coming.  But she’s not been reporting for a long time now: these days, news stories of blizzards and hurricanes simply aren’t the same without her.  Maybe she’s just waiting for the big one.  Who knows.

I miss you Shelby.  Wherever you are, I sure hope it’s someplace warm and dry.