The Draft Lottery – Sometimes you win

During the cold war, from the late forties through the eighties, the USA fought a number of proxy wars with the Soviet Union. The biggest by far was Vietnam. There are a number of movies about the war if you want to learn more about it. Apocalypse Now is the one that sticks in my mind. There were jungles, illicit drugs, killing, bugs, death, guns, humidity … all things that this North Dakota boy wanted nothing to do with. Needless to say I did not want to go.

The government needed cannon fodder and not enough young men volunteered to go to the killing fields. So they restarted the draft. To make it a little more fair, there was a lottery system. Each year they would draw numbers and assign that random number to a day of the year. The day to watch for was your birthday. That gave you your number. When you were eligible for the draft, your number went into the pool. First they took boys whose number was 1, then 2, then 3, and kept taking them until the infantry was full. You knew exactly where you stood.

The system wasn’t exactly fair, as there were a couple of ways to avoid the draft. My out was college. My number was 96. That was a relatively low number, but I had a deferment. Life was good. I went to school, got married, and generally enjoyed the student life while the other boys went to ‘Nam. That plan only worked for four years, then I went into the pool.  I graduated from college in 1972, so immediately lost the deferment.

There was a chance they wouldn’t take me, as they were drafting fewer people every year, so I didn’t do anything serious. Then I got the letter, sent to everybody with a number below 100, to have their pre-induction physical. The letter said to report to the courthouse in Jamestown for the screening physical. So I drove from Fargo, where we were living in married student housing, to the post office in Jamestown. It was a nice drive. From there they tried to herd us all onto the bus for a trip to the induction center. In Fargo!

It took a little fast talking, but I did manage to convince them to allow me to drive back to Fargo and meet them at the induction center. They probably thought I was trying to chicken out at the last-minute. It was an experience being lined up with all these strange farm boys in their underwear. They did all those things that you saw in the movies.

Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news

Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news

We were more than a little worried now, especially since I had just received an NSF scholarship for the upcoming school year. The scholarship would disappear if I wasn’t in school. We discussed options, including what the job market was like in Toronto. Draft dodging was big business in the seventies. My dad would have been unhappy, but I was ready to ignore that issue.

The draft was big news on the TV. Each month they’d announce how many were being drafted, and which numbers would be taken. I clearly remember being home (53 Bison Court) watching the little B&W 13″ TV set as Walter Cronkite announced that everyone with a number up to and including number 95 would be inducted into the service. Those over number 95 were free to go, thank you.

That was one of the happiest days of my life. How different life would have been had I been drafted and sent to war. Several of my friends were drafted and served in Germany, Washington, DC and other benign places, so there’s a chance I would have survived. Happily, I didn’t have to find out. This life turned out pretty good.Grandpa Guy Havelick


 

the analyst magazine

Mike B and I were both science nuts in the eighth grade. We wanted to do something with that interest, so it seemed a natural to get into the publishing business. After all, I had a typewriter and Hectograph, and Mike had the keen business sense necessary to run a magazine.

Front Cover

the analyst – Front Cover – click for more

So, what’s a Hectograph you ask? It was the cheapest copy machine in the world. The first step to creating a publication was to type it using a special carbon paper. To make copies, we first placed the carbon copy face down on a tray full of a Jell-O like substance. After just a few minutes you would peel off the paper and there would be a mirror image of the page in the gel. Then, just place a clean sheet of paper on the gel, let it sit for another few minutes and voilà! A printed page. The carbon paper was available in colors, and easily made twenty or thirty copies. Blogging, 1960s style. (You may not have noticed that typographical errors are permanent in this process.)

Continue reading

Best School Friend

Mark is on the far right corner.

Mark is in the right corner.

Mark was a close friend even before we were born. My mother was pregnant with me, her first child. Mark’s mom, Esther, was an experienced mom pregnant with her third child. They met at the local store, Peterson’s Grocery, on second street, about three blocks from the Pink House. That store is where my mother, nineteen years old, probably learned the important things about getting ready to have a baby.

Mark and I went to the same grade school and high school. We became very close friends during those years. We had the same teachers, friends and experiences for years. His phone number was 252-3024, somehow that number comes to mind right away as I write this. He had two older sisters, Joanie and Susie. They seemed so much older then. They may have been in senior high when we were in grade school.

They lived in rented housing and moved several times, always in the same quadrant of town as I lived in. No matter where they lived Esther always welcomed me with a smile and cookies. Mark and I enjoyed a lot of the same things, science, radios, music, reading, and whatever it is that young boys do.

They threw parties for us in junior high; overnight pizza parties! They would cook up a couple of pizzas. Mark , our buddy John and I would stay up ’till late, talking and playing games. His parents always had board games on hand for us. That and records. They even had a piano! A favorite pastime was to go sledding in the winter. (Well, not really sledding, but who wants to say cardboarding?) Schwartz’s was always the home of choice to go to afterwards because they would have hot chocolate and cookies waiting. After one particularly long winter event at “Cardboard Hill” we stood my frozen jeans up over the hot air register in their living room and watched them thaw out.

Continue reading

Grandma told a lot of stories, now it’s my turn

20710My maternal grandmother lived through the “dust bowl” years on a farm in the middle of North Dakota and raised a family. She also played a major role in raising me in the middle of the last century. Grandma Fanny loved to tell stories of her successes and trials during that time on the farm.

When I went off to college just a hundred miles away I often came home to visit Grandma and friends in Jamestown. That meant listening to her stories. Again. There were perhaps two dozen stories about cars, chickens, and school. I didn’t want to listen to them again.

Grandma had a way of repeating those same stories too often. She lived in her past. It was a great place to live. There were active people and challenges to face, but I didn’t want to listen to that story about Grandpa Ted selling fencing one more time. She had to tell it again. As my grandmother would talk, I’d do something else. Read, watch TV, anything but listen. How many times did I have to listen to a story that she had to finish, with me in the bedroom, in bed, trying to escape the story by feigning sleep? Continue reading