Courson was born in Weed, California. Her father, Columbus "Corky" Courson, had been a navy bombardier (becoming a commander in the U. S. Naval Reserve) and became a junior high school principal in Villa Park, California. Her mother, Pearl "Penny" Courson, was a homemaker who did interior design and was described as a "connoisseur of the arts". Pamela had one sibling, a sister named Judith. She attended Orange High School in Orange, California.