Pauline Rogstad Allison was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on 29 June 1918, the oldest of six children. Allison was raised in Winchendon, Massachusetts, and graduated from Murdock High School in 1936. She then attended nursing school at Hartford Hospital. After graduation in 1939, Allison stayed on and worked for two years in the operating room.
Allison was commissioned in the Navy Nurse Corps in November 1942 and sent to Parris Island, South Carolina, where she did general duty nursing at the base hospital. In 1944, Allison was sent to Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, where she also worked in the small base's medical facility. She served briefly at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois before being transferred to the Naval Training School in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where she and another navy nurse ran a dispensary for the WAVES. In the summer of 1945, Allison served for a short time at Oregon State College in Corvallis and in San Diego, California. From 1946 to 1948, Allison served on the navy hospital ship Repose in China, near Shanghai.
She met her husband, Bill Allison, while in China. They were married in 1948 when they returned to the United States. They were both stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, but Pauline Allison was discharged in January 1949. Bill Allison remained in the navy and the couple lived on military bases throughout his career. In 1961, the Allisons and their four children settled in Cleveland, North Carolina. Pauline worked at Rowan Memorial Hospital for twelve years.