Canadian Aviatrix #91 – Sally Kerton (1915-1971)
Mamie Margaret Kerton (who changed her name to Saundria then settled on Sally) was born on 13 September 1914 in Toronto, Ontario, to Charles Napier Kerton and Hattie Myrtle Leech.
In the 1911 census, Charles was living with his mother and brother in a house with another family – Hattie was that family’s maid. They were married in 1912 and had six children. Hattie died in 1920 of puerperal septicaemia (a postpartum infection). Her baby daughter died three weeks later. By the 1921 census, Sally was living with her mother’s youngest sister.
Sally’s grandfather paid for ballet lessons, but she put some of the money towards flying lessons from Violet Milstead. (In the interviews, she knocked a decade off her age and said she started flying at 16.)
On 29 October 1941, Sally passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 91st female pilot in Canada. She was 27 years old.
Photo: The Sault Daily Star (March 29, 1968)
Gas rationing stopped her training during the war, so Sally went back to focussing on ballet. She became the twentieth woman in Canada with a commercial licence on 21 October 1945. A few years later, she became the tenth woman in Canada to get an instructor’s rating.
After qualifying, Sally worked part-time for Marion Orr’s flying school, as one of her seven instructors. She also worked full-time as a hair colour consultant with a cosmetics firm and was a single mother. (She married Neil Wagner around 1942 and had a son.)
Sally’s biggest talent was as an aerobatic pilot. She was owned a de Havilland Chipmunk and the combination of its polished aluminum body with her silvery blonde hair and a shimmery silver flight suit made her “an unforgettable sight”. She was a listed attraction at many air shows and was often billed as “The Canadian Doll”.
Sally died in a plane crash in 1971, aged 56.