Remember When: Remembering Betty Doubleday Frost

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 7, 2018

I remember walking out with Betty Frost after a Polk County Historical Association meeting in the Stearns School auditorium back in the early ‘90s.

I said something about the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress being my favorite airplane (don’t ask how that even came up) and Betty said it was hers, too. 

I did not know anything about Betty then, so I was quite surprised by that. She explained that when World War II ended, Col. Frost had put her in the nose of a B-17 and gave her a grand tour of Europe at low altitude. Col. Norme Frost was on Gen. Doolittle’s staff.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Definitely not your typical single female school teacher of that era, Betty had left her teaching job in Tryon to join the Red Cross. She was assigned to serve coffee and donuts to returning bomber crews overseas.

I am not acquainted with the timing of their romance and marriage, but they obviously got together. Frost’s last duty assignment was in Hawaii, and they enjoyed a happy honeymoon there.

A man bought a large 16 mm movie reel at a yard sale and recognized Col. Frost on the film, so he offered it to the Historical Association. We converted it to a DVD and returned the empty reel to its owner.

I must say, from viewing the film, that Betty looked great in her swimsuit!

Betty brought her colonel to Tryon when he was separated from the Air Corps. They built a house on Wilderness Road, and became part of the “gang” celebrated by the late Bob Witty in his Foothills Chronicles column.

They both became active in the Tryon Little Theater, as Betty had been in its predecessor, the Drama Fortnightly.

Betty was the grandniece of Gen. Abner Doubleday, said to have “invented” baseball. He is enshrined as such at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Abner was a young officer at Fort Sumter when the first cannon balls came over the walls to start the Civil War. He picked one up. 

Betty gave the cannon ball to the historical association when it was formed, commenting at the time that it had rolled around in a dresser drawer for a hundred years or so and needed a better home. That’s how PCHA came to have “the cannonball that started the Civil War.”  

When the Frosts visited the park service offices on Fort Sumter, Betty was astonished to find a cannonball similarly displayed there. When she started to protest, the young lady Ranger suggested that Betty speak with her supervisor.

After listening to her story, he said something to the effect that since she had a direct line of custody, she should stick to her story. So it is here in Polk County, folks. 

When I was reporting on a fundraiser tour of our county that I had planned and executed, the late Jim Jackson said he could not continue as president of PCHA. Betty pointed to me and said, “You are our next President.”

All present nodded in agreement, and so it was.

Norme had been doing the newsletters, but soon the Frosts turned everything PCHA over to me as their community involvement was winding down.

Now Fran and I are doing the same thing; our successors are picking up the ball as we hand it off.

As we are moving into our new digs at White Oak, we are also preparing to coast down the gentle slope of the rainbow of life toward a soft re-entry into the earth from which we sprang so many years ago.