Weather to a ground person and weather to an air person are two completely different things. The ground person feels temperature and wind and precipitation and looks out the window or up at the sky at clouds. The ground person has to wait patiently for the weather in his location to change. Those of us who fly are literally part of it. The fact that we are x-feet high and moving relatively rapidly within a weather system means that we are in effect completely embedded in whatever is going on.
Most of the pilots who get into weather trouble are those who do not go beyond the required knowledge of the subject. A weather-wise pilot is completely curious about what is going on and why it is going on. Every bit of wind and turbulence and cloud begs to be understood.
As I have said many times before, when I got my private certificate the written test was 25 questions, true or false. There was no ground school. There was thus little or no training on weather. Our lessons were learned in flight and we were self-taught. There is no better place to learn about weather than in the cockpit of a light airplane. There you learn a whole lot more than the theory.
The first lesson that I learned was that it is quite important to know where the fronts and low pressure areas are located, the nature of the phenomenon and the flying weather it is creating. Why? Simple. If you are flying toward a front or low, the weather will get worse as you go along. If flying away, it might get better. How much worse or better depends on the strength of the system.
When we didn't have anything other than the basics we used surface wind to gauge the nature of weather. Strong wind, strong weather. A barometer was also useful to measure the atmospheric pressure and the rate at which it was changing.
We could get terminal forecasts by calling the Weather Bureau, or that day's equivalent of an FSS, but most weather information was gleaned from listening to scheduled broadcasts of sequence reports at 15 and 45 after the hour. From the reports we could put together an idea of where the weather systems were located and how they were affecting the flying weather. We would usually write down the sequences so we could have an idea of trends.
Before flying away we used a look out the window plus that rudimentary knowledge of the basics to decide whether or not to start out.
The VFR/IFR deal was different in the '50s, too. It was perfectly legal to cloud fly in uncontrolled airspace. It still is but there was a lot of uncontrolled airspace then and not much now. As is true today, we had a burning desire to get as much utility as possible out of our airplanes. We knew, though, that we were pretty much on our own to figure out the weather and not fly the airplane into something we couldn't handle, or into the ground. There would never be a way to tell, but I have often wondered if we did any worse on weather-related accidents per 100,000 hours than pilots are doing today.
One thing that took a while to grasp was the slope of fronts. I remember when I first read about frontal slopes. I was amazed that they are so shallow and this explained areas of turbulence behind cold fronts that had come as a surprise. In retrospect, it is pretty simple. There is wind shear along the slope of a front, thus turbulence. I recall one day getting really pounded in my Piper Pacer when flying parallel to the surface position of a front, behind the front, looking for a place to sneak through. At the time, I did not know that I was flying on the slope of the front, and the turbulence was caused by wind shear associated with that slope.
Wind shear was always there but understanding was a long time coming. One airline pilot who spanned the DC-2/747 age said he was glad they didn't invent wind shear until after he retired.
With an understanding of wind shear comes an ability to anticipate things that will affect the airplane, be it related to turbulence or performance. When flying an approach, if you know the wind at the altitude where the final descent starts and the wind at the surface, you can anticipate how the airplane will be affected as it descends.