Tales of Vashon

There were UFO’s spotted over Washington D.C. in 1950.  UFO is an Air Force word meaning “unidentified flying object.”  John and I both belonged to the Ground Observer Corps and were very proud of our pins in the shape of wings.  We kids were excited and grew aware of everything in the sky…including suspicious Soviet looking seagulls.  Heightened awareness produced a large number of spurious sightings including tricks we played on each other, such as hot air balloons with candles inside rising slowly or flashlights beamed toward low flying clouds.  We also participated in an early weather “modification” project whereby under direction of a phone call; a burner was lit under a device that put silver iodide vapor into the air and was supposed to produce more rain, east of the Cascades.  We kids were fully engaged in the hysteria.

We were on our backs in the peach orchard eating bruised windfalls.   We weren’t allowed to take the peaches that ripened on the trees; those were for canning for the winter.  “I can split clouds with my mind,” John said.  “What do you mean,” I asked?  “Do you see that long low cloud in the West,” John asked?  “Keep staring at it, right in the middle” My ears began to twitch as the cloud separated itself into two parts and I was a convert to the art of “cloud splitting.”

Mom was a certified “ground observer” and I begged to go with her so I could earn my “wings” as an official observer.  Our post was the wooden tower on Sunrise Ridge where I was “grounded” for carving my initials in the rail around the little building on top.  It was government property that I had defaced and this ten year old caught hell for it.  If an aircraft made it through the DEW line in the far North, we would report a sighting to the people that manned the plotting tables near SeaTac airport as a four engine bomber, possibly military.  Our call sign for reporting the sightings was M-R Cocoa-2-2 Black.

It was cold outside on the rail, the one that had caused me so much grief; this ten year old was starting to shake in the north wind that blew past the tower.  Mom, her friends called her “Corb” which stood for her maiden name, Corbaley, was the boss and manned the plotting and the telephone.   I moved to the leeward side of the tower to get out of the wind, only to see a strange sight rising up above the Cascade Mountains to the East.  “Mom, come see this.  I don’t know what it is,” I said.  About that time, whatever it was began to rise above the mountains until it was 20 degrees above the horizon and stopped.  Mom went to the telephone to report the incident to the plotters at SeaTac airfield.  “This is M-R Cocoa-2-2 Black reporting a UFO to the East, possible military.  The craft is over the mountains and appears stationary.”   Mom did all the reporting, since ten year olds weren’t allowed to use the military phone line. About that time, I saw two more ships come from different parts of the sky to join up with the first, and all three sped upwards at a tremendous speed to disappear into the night sky.

I took my “UFO sighting” to school the next day, only to be teased by student and teacher alike that UFO’s don’t exist.  Had I seen something or was it just a combination of searchlights playing off the low clouds, probably army surplus lights that towed their own generators.  In the 1950’s these searchlights could light the skies of Burien, easily seen from Vashon.  These lights were commonly used to light up a car lot to boost sales as they drew people’s attention to the location of the car lot.

I know what I saw and there were other reports confirming the sighting, Mom told me afterwards.  The government doesn’t tell us about what they hide for security reasons.  I guess it doesn’t matter.

After finishing this story, John and I retired to the deck to try to repeat “our cloud splitting days” and found that the peculiar abilities of ten year olds do not extend to “old duffers.”