One of the White Coats stopped behind The Kid. "What's that on your shoulder, " he asked.
The Kid had no idea to what he referred. he tried stretching his head about to see, but not being Plastic Man his neck only went so far.
"This red spot," said the White Coat.
"Oh, I have psoriasis."
The Kid had discovered he had this disease one spring day when he was fifteen. Out between two tree along the gravel drive was a hammock. He and a girl named Suzy, the little sister of a friend who was visiting were sitting on it swinging back and forth when it tipped too far and flung them off. The Kid had landed first and Suzy came down rear-end first on his face. It was fortunate his glasses didn't break.
He lifted her aside and began to pull himself up, which bunched his short sleeve against his shoulder. Suzy said he had some kind of rash under his arm. The Kid went inside and looked in a mirror and sure enough there was a strange circle of red splotches lining his arm pit. (Suzy pictured on right.)
The 1950s were sometimes innocent and sometimes ignorant days when it came to certain subjects. The Kid felt some panic. He was in Tenth Grade and once a week he had Health, taught by the gym teacher, a former Marine Drill Sergeant. Boys and girls were segregated for health for one of the issues touched upon was, dare I say it, sex.
There were two things The Old Goat still recalls from that Health Class. One was the Gym Teacher telling us if we ever felt overpowered by our feelings for a girl, we should go out behind the barn and take care of it ourself. The Kid was so naive he didn't know what the man was talking about. (Now, just because The Kid had been getting men's magazines to look at pictures of naked ladies didn't mean he knew much. He was like the dog that chased cars. If it ever caught one, it wouldn't know what to do with it.)
The other thing was the Gym Teacher talked a lot about catching a "Social Disease". You didn't want to catch a "Social Disease". That was a pretty dire and dirty thing to happen to you. The Kid stood looking at that rash in the mirror and thought he had a "Social Disease".
Why or how didn't occur to him. He'd never had sex, scarcely had done much kissing of girls, and even if he had been engaged in any such promiscuous activities, what were they that he was afflicted under his arm?
None the less he kept it secret from his parents until one day a splotch appear on his wrist and everyone saw and he ended up diagnosis with Psoriasis.
The Kid didn't have it bad in those days. It'd become pretty extensive for The Old Goat, but for The Kid it was only an occasional spot that would pop out here or there. At the time of the Physical he thought he was completely clear, but it turned out there was a small splotch upon his shoulder blade he hadn't noticed.
The White Coat made a note on a clip board he carried and the group was dismissed. It was proving a long day and rigorous day at 401 North Broad Street in Philadelphia and he was just wrapping up phase one, the Physical. The Kid stood at the last station, totally naked (except socks which some how make it worse), after various pokings, probings and being stared at. So far all he heard was, "passed". No one had tested his hearing and apparently only total blindness was considered a fail at the vision station, if even that, and no one had detected a blip of his heart murmur.
The kid was told to get dressed and take a lunch break. He was instructed to report to room such-and-such at 1:00 Pm for the Mental Exam.
He mulled this over during lunch. It looked like he had aced the physical and he didn't think he'd be flunking the mental test unless he faked it. It wasn't in his nature to do that nor was he interested in dodging the draft. The Kid didn't want to go to Vietnam, but it didn't look like there was any way around that trip. The war was growing into a quagmire and if a guy could walk and chew gum at the same time he was bound off as cannon fodder.
After eating there was time on his hands. He wandered about the lobby of the building. Over to one side was a group of guys surrounding a young African-American who was talking animately. The Kid guessed the fellow was in his teens and as he came closer he heard the guy saying he was still in high school and tired of it.
"I'm sick of that school stuff, man. I gettin' out. Already got my parent's permission. I'm not taking that [expletive] no more, man. I'm tired of people tellin' me what to do all the time. Do this, do that. I leavin' that [expletive], man. I'm not gonna have nobody tellin' me what to do."
"What are you joining?', one of the other men asked him.
"The Marines," said the teen.
And The Kid walked away laughing and laughing.
At 1:00 The Kid took a seat at a desk in another room. A booklet was passed down the aisles and they were instructed to answer as many questions as they could. Next to him was a large fellow, rugged, greasy hair.
"How many [expletive] pages in this thing," the guy grumbled. He reached over and tapped The Kid's arm. "You help me out if I need it. I wanna get in, go kill some of those [expletive] [derogatory term]."
"Start," said the instructor and The Kid flipped open to the first page.
The questions for the most part were multiple choice and not exactly rocket science. For instance, there was a picture of a Claw Hammer and you were to pick one of four answers:
The kid had been lousy in school shop, but not that lousy he didn't know a hammer from a saw.
Next to him the large guy was moaning and cursing every time he flipped a page. "How the [expletive] would I know that." He would poke across the aisle at The Kid. "Hey, move a little so I can see your paper."
The kid encircled his page with his arm.
The large guy cursed.
"When the large hand is on the 45 and the small hand is on the 2, it is:
"[Expletive]," growled the large guy.
Yeah, The Old Goat is exaggerating the questions a little, but not much. That Hammer question was there.
After the papers were passed back, everyone was directed to a large waiting area full of folding chairs. There was a desk at the front with a couple people at it. Every few minutes one of these people would call a name.
Eventually The Kid's name was called and he was sent down a hallway. There in an alcove sat a man behind a desk who motioned for him to sit. The man flipped open a folder.
"You did very well on the mental test, scored very high."
All the kid could do was nod his head.
"Physical was pretty good as well." That cinched it, Vietnam here comes The Kid. "We did find some slight hypertension. Were you aware of this?"
He shook his head. Back with he was in Junior High a doctor in his home town had found his blood pressure elevated, but that had been the only time. No one since had found any rise.
"This may have been a result of the situation. I would suggest you have it checked out though."
The kid nodded.
"Now..." the man paused to read something in the folder. "We found some psoriasis on your right shoulder. Were you aware of having psoriasis."
The Kid nodded.
"I'm afraid right now we can't take anyone who has psoriasis." The Kid perked up. "It isn't contagious, as you know; however, it is considered a risk in battle conditions. If you should have a situation where you were compelled to scratch, it could expose a position.
"So, you are being classified as 1-Y
"Now what that means is this. You are found to be physically fit enough to serve, but you have a condition we consider could be detrimental to your safety and the safety of others in certain situations. For now, 1-Y classifications are not being accepted for induction. Of course, if troop conditions warranted in the future, you could still be called upon to serve."
And with that The Kid's military career came to an end without a beginning. He caught the bus back to Coatesville with the men he had arrived with. A few of these were pleased that they would soon be in the Armed Force, but more were looking downcast or glum about their current status. The Kid was feeling relief.
Apparently, despite the constant increases in Vietnam troop levels over the ensuing years, they never reached the bottom of the barrel for The Kid never heard from Uncle Sam again.