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M-R-Cocoa 2-2 Black

Photo curtesy Vashon Heritage Museum
Photo curtesy Vashon Heritage Museum

As my mind soars over things that happened a long time ago, I find myself using these thoughts to write a story that may be mostly true.  My strongest memory was the time Mom caught me carving my initials in the rail of the Ground Observer tower on Sunrise Ridge.  She told me that I was defacing government property and never to do that again.  Those were her words and it scared me.  

The tower was a shifty old thing because it had been old Elijah Morgan’s water tower with a big wooden tank on top. He kept chickens and that is how they got their water.  The tower was on Morgan Hill and sat on the top of one of Elisha’s brooding houses and fed by a 100 foot well, the walls of which are in the basement of what they now call the “fairy house”. The next house to the East was built from one of Elisha’s chicken houses.
Elisha got out of the chicken business and was the first to plant peach trees on the island and had 1,100 trees.  The old water tower was used by the Ground Observer Corps during WWII.  

The tower up Elisha Lane turned out to be an earlier tower than the one on Sunrise Ridge where Mom and I served in the 1950’s.  That tower could have been about where the baseball diamond is,near the Food Bank.
The Ground Observer Corps was a band of civilian volunteers who manned wooden towers clear across our border with Canada and down the West coast, scanning the skies for aircraft both day and night.   We were told that we were back-up for the DEW line (Distant Early Warning line) that was clear across Alaska, protecting our skies to the North.  We were called Ground Observers.

As a 10-year-old volunteer, I wasn’t allowed to make use of the phone to the plotting table at Seattle Tacoma Airport, 8 miles to the East, where they received our sightings. Mom would have to do that and then I would listen in as she gave our call sign and the particulars of the sighting: “To the North, 20 degrees above the horizon, probable military,” was her report and then they signed off.   Mom was very cool and business like. We identified the aircraft using the “wheel” which was a plastic circle with black and white silhouettes of all the aircraft that we might see. The “wheel” can be found today at the Heritage Museum.

M-R-Cocoa 2-2 Black was our call sign, at least that is what my cousin told me and he’s a lawyer in Tacoma.
Sometimes it was cold outside on the rail, as Mom asked me to identify a plane we were watching. When the night was black with lots of moonlight, it was easier spotting. On a night like that,I was outside on the rail, the one I had carved my initials in, when a strange light appeared over to the East about 30 degrees above the ground.  Mom saw it too and called it in as a UFO  (unidentified flying object). Then two more lights joined the first, moving slowly, then they all shot off into space at an alarming speed.  I thought it was neat and told the story at school.  Nobody believed me. My friends said I had seen the search light at the airport bouncing off the clouds in the night.  I know what I saw and there were other confirmed reports.  The government doesn’t tell us about what they hide. I guess it doesn’t matter.

I was proud to be an observer and they gave us small silver wings that read Observer Corps.  I know an octogenarian in town who has different wings because she served before my time.

Sean@vashonloop.com