He does not circulate those volumes, nor does he speak at length of other tragedies he has endured. Naval combat in the Pacific--"Attu, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa," he recites--scarred him. His hands shake when nervous, and he's nervous when he's with more than a couple of people.
He retired from the military on a disability pension in 1951 and settled in Orange County as a manager for a beer distributor. His 22-year-old son died of leukemia in 1962, and his wife died nine years later.
Memories on Wall
Their pictures hang, along with a stained-glass schooner and a hand-tinted satellite weather photo, in an immaculately ordered study. A lighting system Pilchard built behind the stained glass can set the schooner in dawn or dusk, or subtly highlight a range of marine hues.
Folders are arranged and boxes perfectly stacked in a closet that could be a shrine to the concept of filing. Red labels denote materials on "Astronomy," and "Space" as well as "Blank Forms" and "Lettering Pens."
But Pilchard's passion for order is not confined to the closet. In an apartment festooned with ships' clocks, barometers and thermometers, he spends hours measuring, charting and disseminating weather information. He keeps a log of the temperature and barometric readings he takes three times daily. His continuing "Analyzation of Precipitation Historicity"--a name in which he takes some delight--charts rainfall at the Los Angeles Civic Center every day since 1900. He corresponds regularly with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a host of other government agencies responsible for monitoring mercury and moonbeams.
Each month, Pilchard sends out what he calls "The Cumulus"--a compilation of weather articles, anecdotes and statistics both local and national--to a small but avid band of fellow weather-watchers.
"I've got the latest copy on my desk right now, and I've got a file drawer full of old ones," says KABC-TV weatherman George Fischbeck, a longtime friend of Pilchard's. "You never know when you're going to need it. Like 60 of the last 87 years, we had less rain by October than we had by last October. I find those tidbits fascinating.
"Elliott's material is phenomenal," he adds. "He's a badger when it comes to digging up information."
Pilchard figures he probably could get compensated for his painstaking research, but somehow the joy of discovery would fade. He ignores copyright restrictions that forbid reprinting articles without permission, but he takes no credit for work that isn't his, and says he has never made a dime off anyone else's words.
"Anytime you take money for anything, it becomes a chore," he said, peering through his trifocals and puffing at his briar, and looking every bit the Captain. "You cease enjoying it."