Alta Corbett Thomas, Sequim, Washington was born on May 26, 1918 in Portland, Oregon.
Early on, my life consisted of horses. My parents believed there was more to life than horses and sent me off to college. After college I “hung out” at Swan Island Airport in Willamette River.
I was working in the Pentagon for Air Branch G-2 when the WASP program emerged. I was granted a transfer and ordered to Houston for training with class 43-4. I was assigned to Tow Target Squadrons, 3rd and 1st, in Camp Davis, North Carolina and Liberty Field Camp Stewart, Georgia. Our mission were high and low tows, IFF identification friend or foe, and now and then flying an officer cross-country to Orlando, Baltimore, etc. We flew the A-24, A-25, B-34, UC78, for night searchlights, AT-7, and AT-ll for cross-country and instrument training.
Many of our planes, especially at Camp Davis, were a far cry from factory fresh. Consequently, we had a high regard for our ground crew. At Liberty Field, we were given the opportunity to attend officers training, but most of us opted to remain in the cockpit and fly missions. Those of us, two years together in 3rd and 1st TIS, have kept a round robin letter going for over 50 years.
After deactivation I wrote every aircraft company to no avail. Pilots were plentiful with the war in Europe winding down. The CAA recruited trainees to take over air, ground, and weather communications in Alaska. I reported to Boeing Field for training and was pleasantly surprised to find three other WASP had too. I shared my first assignment with Lorraine Nelson from class 44-5. At Gustavus, a new auxiliary airfield for Juneau, we were three communicators, each standing an eight-hour watch. At Yakutat, international code – di dah dits – became like a second language to me.
At Gustavus, I met Ralph Thomas, a CAA employee sent from Anchorage to synchronize the engines that powered the Bartow landing lights. We enjoyed each other, his stories, snowplowing the runway, barging to the fan marker, when off duty. He was a married man with family. Neither of us harbored a thought of ever meeting again.
In the Fifties, I lived in a cabin, sort of lived off the land, with a cat and dog in the Willamette National Forest, indulging a lust for writing verse. PM. is one of the last I wrote from there:
“Westward of ApriU Northward of June/ This side of evening/ but after noon! written off the calendar/ it happened all the same/ like Indian summer/ love came.”
Ralph Thomas was working at Cougar Dam in the Willamette National Forest, the south fork of the McKenzie River. We were married at my parents’ home in Portland on June 8, 1961. Ralph was 57. I was 43 and scared stiff.
My husband crushed his shoulder at the dam site, and we moved to Surf Pines, a sand dune on the north Oregon coast. Here our two daughters were born, grew to schoolgirls, and my husband healed. We clammed the sands and fished commercially the ocean. We moved to Sequim, Washington, where Ralph could farm and fish. On 15 acres, we grew hay, raised beef. Here we are at 94 and 80.
We have been greatly blessed by two sons from my husband’s former marriage and by our two daughters here on the peninsula:. Ralph Lee Thomas and family in Georgia, and John Thomas in Oregon. Our daughter Kelly Thomas is a paramedic, and Debbie McGoff is expecting her first child in September. My place this year is here.
From WASP Betty Stagg Turner’s book, “Out of the Blue and into History”