40 Years Ago-February 2, 1972: punch

March 6 was #1 and March 7 was #2


When I was in college at SUNY New Paltz, the way one signed up for courses was to go through something called sectioning. You went to various tables representing the different departments, and you got an actual IBM punch card representing that class. Once the cards for a particular class were gone, it was closed out.

As a freshman, I was in the group that got the last choices. I could make up a tentative schedule of what I WANTED to take, but I wouldn’t know until I got into the gymnasium where this took place whether a particular class was closed out.

I recall that I got three courses I wanted right away, but the next two took forever, with my first (and second and third choices, et al.) unavailable to me. Ultimately, it took FIVE hours, and I ended up with some 8 a.m. anthropology course that I really didn’t want, though I ended up enjoying it.

I walked back to Scudder Hall, exhausted, and visited someone on the first floor (my room was in the basement). I had totally forgotten that the draft numbers were being picked that day. College student deferments had been ended by then, so it was possible that people could be drafted to go to Vietnam. I asked one friend what his draft number was – don’t recall now, but it was very high. I remember, though, that Fred the gnome’s draft number was 23, which was not good news. It was only then that it occurred to me to ask what MY number was; it was 2. As in 002. I think I was in shock, and too tired to think about it at the moment.

A few days later my oldest friend Karen wrote that, if I were going to get a low number, why not #1? As it turned out, March 6 was #1 and March 7 was #2, so I understood the source of the gallows’ humor.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

13 thoughts on “40 Years Ago-February 2, 1972: punch”

  1. Being from the UK, I’m afraid I don’t understand how the draft numbering system worked and why a low number was a bad thing. I would be genuinely interested in a fuller explanation.

  2. SP-

    The draft folks were only going to need a finite number of folks. So each date in a given year was assigned a number, and only the first 100-150 were likely to actually get inducted. Actually, now that I think of it, our jury system works the same way, though not tied to birthday. They’ll pull 300 people, and each will be assigned a number. On Sunday night, you call to see if you need to report Monday morning; maybe it’d only be 1-30, or 1-50. The higher the number, the less vulnerable one was, though if there were a lot excused, the higher numbers would be more vulnerable as well.

  3. Check out this link: http://www.landscaper.net/draft70-72.htm. This determined the order in which men born in 1953 were called to report for induction into the military.
    So for my year, they would call the people born on March 6 1st, then March 7 (my birthday), August 3, etc, until the quota was filled. If you were born on July 23, your number was 365, and you were virtually sure that you would NOT get drafted, barring a conflict in which EVERYONE was drafted.

  4. Yeah, I was anxiously wondering whether I would be emigrating to Canada or try joining the Navy where there was less a combat role. My birthday wound up at #261, but I felt VERY badly about the Green Man. Fortunately the sincerity of his beliefs seemed to work well for him.

  5. Draftees ended the War Against Vietnam because they refused to fight anymore. Too bad we don’t have draftees fighting against Afghanistan today.

  6. It was also folks like those in Vietnam Veterans Against the War who were instrumental in the antiwar movement.

  7. Well, I’ve been meeting plenty of Vets For Peace who were veterans of Iraq #1, Iraq #2 and Afghanistan at various rallies. But when Vietnam vets go out to protest they tend to downplay or not advertise their veteran status.

    Not sure why that is. Perhaps that’s an age thing, or maybe that has to do with how vets returning from wars were treated. Or maybe that’s the difference between draftees and “volunteers.”

  8. I lived in Scudder at that time, but upstairs, and remember watching TV with folks as the draft numbers were read. Fred was a close friend of mine, if it was the same Fred. He did look like a gnome.

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