98-year-old WWII Sailor still going
Strong and Singing Cadence Songs!

by Raquel Roybal,  (LCDR., Ret., US Navy)

Albuquerquean Sally-Alice Thompson likes history, and as a 98-year-old former World War II (WWII) Seaman, I’d say she has made history. Some details have grown dim, but she does remember being a nineteen-year-old from Davenport, Iowa, excited about going to boot camp at Hunter College in Seneca County, New York. The camaraderie she had with her fellow WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) is one of the things she has carried forward through the rest of her life. She and her classmates had a lot of fun singing and joking with one another, but what she liked most was singing the cadence songs as they marched together.

WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) is one of the things she has carried forward through the rest of her life.  She and her classmates had a lot of fun singing and joking with one another, but what she liked most was singing the cadence songs as they marched together.  

At this point in the interview, she actually broke into song!  Here are her favorite songs she sang on cue:

Gee, Mom, I Want to Go Home 
“The coffee that they give us, they say is mighty fine
It’s good for cuts and bruises, and tastes like iodine!
Oh, I don’t want no more of Navy life;
Gee, Mom, I want to go home!
 
The blouses that they give us, they say are mighty fine,
But I need Elsa Maxwell to fill the front of mine.
Oh, I don’t want no more of Navy life;
Gee, Mom, I want to go home!”
 
Don’t Make My Girl a Sailor 
“Don’t make my girl a sailor,”
A weeping mother said,
“Make her a WAC, or send her back
To Lockheed School, instead
She’s always been a home girl,
She’s never been to sea.
A man in every port is NOT
A life for her to lead!”

She also loved to sing the Navy WAVES Song, which is featured on the Navy WAVES in WWII website, along with other interesting information about the WAVES.  

WWII Poster

Women Accepted for Volunteer
Emergency Service (WAVES)
 
Until WWII women were not allowed to serve in the Navy except for nurses. That changed with the WAVES. 84,000 WAVES, including 8,000 officers, served throughout the war. Photographers, Intelligence, Aviation Mechanics, and Control Tower Operators were some of their jobs. 
Read more about the NAVY WAVES in WWII – Click HERE…

 

Sally-Alice joined the Navy in 1944 because she was poor and unemployed, but also patriotic. Her father had been a conscientious objector during WWI, but she doesn’t recall needing her parents’ approval to join. She thinks the recruiter came to see her.

Upon completion of boot camp, she was assigned as a postal clerk at Sampson, in upstate New York. She had wanted to be a hospital attendant, so she was disappointed to be a postal clerk; but her assignment there was brief. The war ended in 1945. After that, she used the G.I. Bill to go to school. Sally-Alice returned to the Midwest to attend the University of Iowa. She was interested in psychology but was not completely comfortable with the program, so she decided to study general science and get a teaching certificate. She taught for many years, eventually retiring after teaching elementary education for 20 years in Albuquerque.

Sally-Alice met her future husband, Donald Thompson, after WWII. When asked how she ended up in Albuquerque, she said when they started their return trip to Illinois after the Korean War, they stopped in New Mexico; they’d grown tired of the long trip home. They looked at housing costs here and found they were much more reasonable than Illinois. Since neither had ever owned their own home, they applied and stayed.

Donald was very seriously injured serving in WWII, so when he was assigned to a ship shelling off the coast of Korea, he came to realize something needed to be done to prevent wars. Sally-Alice became a peace activist after the Vietnam War. So, years later, in 1988, the couple formed the first Veterans for Peace Chapter in Albuquerque. Donald was the first president. At this point in the interview, Sally-Alice became very animated — talking about this organization and its causes. (See related article about Veterans for Peace.)

Sally-Alice took her personal anti-war crusade on the road, so to speak, becoming known for her hunger strikes, long-distance marches, and many demonstrations for peace. Some of her more notable protests included the Great Peace March in 1986, when she walked from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., and a 450-mile trip from Leningrad to Moscow by foot and by bus (1987). She and Donald devoted much of their time to Veterans for Peace until Donald passed away ten years ago.

Sally-Alice is continuing the work they started. Now, she seems content to keep active with her involvement in Veterans for Peace. Just three years ago, she spoke at a Candlelight Vigil in Estancia, in conjunction with Lights for Liberty. She’s also been a stalwart at the Albuquerque Peace & Justice Center, involved in Move to Amend, and a member of the Raging Grannies.

She is still singing her cadences from her time in the Navy. Singing them still lights up her life.