Saturday, October 30, 2010
Do You feel a Draft in Here
It began, "Greetings..."
The photo to the left was basically The Kid's reaction.
The era of the "Kennedy Husbands" was over. President Johnson had rescinded Kennedy's directive against drafting married men for Vietnam. the Kid's number had come up.
The Kid had never tried to dodge the draft, and at one point very seriously considered enlisting. Things were a bit different at the time he thought about that, so let's jump in our Special DeLorean and do a little time travel.
In was the end of the '50s. The Kid had graduated high school and after a stint in a technical school and a couple of short-lived odd jobs was looking for permanent work. It wasn't easy going. Eisenhower's Presidential Term was winding down with a bit of a recession. Actually, it was to prove to be the most major recession between 1945 and 1970. Employers weren't exactly combing the alleyways and back fields for new hires, especially know-not-much-of-anything high school punks.
The Kid's friend, Ron (of the "Retired in Delaware Blog") was experiencing the same desert of desperation. Nowadays, Ron is an old goat too, so I don't know exactly what his memories of that time are, but here is the way this Old Goat recalls it. (I'm paraphrasing the conversation, I can't remember the exact words, but these are pretty close.)
The Kid's friend said to him one day, "I'm going to join the Navy. I've been talking with the recruiter and tomorrow I'm going to Coatesville and sign up."
"Why the Navy?"
"I want to get outta here, Kid. I want to see the world, travel to different places."
[To the right is Young Ron peering out to distant worlds...or something.]
A couple days later they got together again and Ron says, "I did it. I joined the Army."
"I thought you were joining the Navy?"
"Why didn't you wait for the Navy guy? Why the Army?"
"Better looking uniforms."
"Better looking uniforms? Why didn't you join the Marines!!!"
[On the left is Ron in his "better looking uniform".]
"You know, Lar, why don't you join with me. They got this thing called "the Buddy System". You join with a friend and you go through everything together."
"I don't know...'
"Come on. You join, you get a private physical, you go to Boot camp together, everything."
The kid started thinking maybe it was a good idea. The job search thing was getting old and leading nowhere. There wasn't any war going on. The Kid had dutifully went into the local YMCA on his eighteenth birthday and registered for Selective Service, so why take the chance on the draft. Get it out of the way now and do it with someone he knew. The only thing about it that worried The Kid was his fear of heights. He had seen little clips at the movies of boot camp and all these recruits climbing this tower of logs, all the way to the tipsy-top, then over and down. That scared him some.
But he was a shy guy then and that "private physical" had a certain appeal. He'd talk to his parents. The Kid's parents said "No" to signing their approval (and parental permission was required for anyone under age 21 back then).
In the meantime, Ron ran into some medical problems along the way that delayed his actual getting into that "better looking uniform" and The Kid found a job.
Okay, back to the future. The Kid got married. He wanted Ron as best man, but his friend was in Training and couldn't get a pass home. The young married couple bought a house and lost a child and they had to sell the home, but then their income was improving and they were kind of settled in and comfortable when the "Greetings" and panic arrived.
The Kid didn't want to go in the Armed Forces now. There was a bloody war now! It was called Vietnam and it was becoming a mess. The Kid knew exactly where he was going to be headed once he was drafted and there was a good chance he could be killed.
And then he found himself on a dark Coatesville street with a bunch of strangers being handed a small Bible...
Coming Next: Walk Like a Duck