Born on April 25, 1922 in Tyrrell County, North Carolina, her hometown was listed as Raleigh, North Carolina. She was the daughter of Frank O. Goodwin Sr. (1895-1976) and Madelyn B. Goodwin (1900-1976), both of whom are buried in Concord, Contra Costa County, California. She was also survived by a brother, Frank O. Goodwin Jr., who is now deceased. Calla was a 1940 graduate of Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she was a member of Latin Club, Glee Club, Typing Club, a staff reporter for the school radio, member of Girls' Athletic Association (GAA), German Club, and the RHS Glee Club, and participated in school operettas and the State Music Contest.
After high school graduation she received her nursing degree from Rex Hospital School of Nursing in Raleigh in 1943. She joined the Navy Nurse Corps on January 6, 1944, and reported for duty at NNH in Ports, Virginia on February 16, 1944. She left there on May 15, 1945 and on May 20 reported for duty at the Naval Hospital in Bainbridge. On July 23, 1945, she began duty at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, and remained there until May 1948. On May 13, 1948, she reported to the Naval Dispensary at the Charleston Naval Shipyard Naval Base in South Carolina, where she remained until July 6, 1949. On August 5, 1949, she reported to duty at the US Naval Hospital in Long Beach, California, where she remained until going on duty at the US Naval Hospital, SMR, Oceanside, California, on February 18, 1950. She remained there until receiving overseas orders to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan.