February 1972: sectioning; draft number

Gene Hackman

PunchcardSome notes from my diaries.

Monday, Jan 31 – My father drove me to the bus station. I took the 9:45 a.m. bus from Binghamton back to Poughkeepsie. (For reasons unclear, I actually taped the Shortline bus ticket to my diary page.) To my surprise, the brother of my high school girlfriend was onboard, visiting his sister in part to borrow money for a motorcycle. I must admit that I took some small pleasure over the fact that he doesn’t like her new beau.

It’s a slow trip, changing buses in Monticello, and then stopping in Newburgh. My bus was supposed to arrive at about 1 p.m. but was two hours late. My girlfriend (the Okie) wasn’t at the station to pick me up. So my ex kindly dropped me off at New Paltz. [BTW, she remembers this; I did not.] It turns out the Okie’s car was inoperable. I didn’t see her until late the following day.

Tuesday, Feb 1 – While waiting for the Okie, Uthaclena, our friend/Okie’s roommate Alice and I turned off the lights and listened to a weird record of Uthaclena’s about the zodiac. Bruce, the resident advisor, came in, thinking we were up to something.

Groundhog Day

Wednesday, Feb 2 – I had to register for classes, in a process they called sectioning. I got into Intro to Black Studies, Basic Economics 2, and European Politics and Government easily enough. But the freshmen always get what hasn’t been closed out by the upperclassfolk. So Intro to Sociology was my third choice. I also got closed out of one General Anthropology course, and Intro to Philosophy, and had to take an 8 a.m. General Anthro class. The process took about 80 minutes, 20 minutes longer than the previous semester.

[As I recall, there were boxes with IBM punch cards, and when the number of cards designated was depleted, you knew you were out of luck.]

My friend Uthaclena and I were sitting in the dorm lounge when Fred came with the draft numbers. Uthaclena and some others had high draft numbers [which meant they were highly unlikely to be drafted]. But Fred got 23, and I got 2! Lengthy conversations about the implication and the options ensued.

[In an odd quirk, March 6 was 1, and March 7 was 2. My friend Karen wrote to me days later indicating that if I were going to get a low number, why not #1?!]

Six of us went in my roommate Ron’s car to see The French Connection in Poughkeepsie at the Juliet Theatre [which I know because I have the ticket stub – the admission was $2]. I had been worried about the violence, based on previews, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. We then stopped at the Plaza Diner.

The songs on WABC were particularly resonating with me:
Get Together – The Youngbloods, one of the very few singles I ever purchased. I still have it.
Dedicated To The One I Love – The Mamas and The Papas
Without You – Nilsson

Eventually, I went to sleep listening to Chicago [II], side three.

Not incidentally, there’s a LOT more detail that I shan’t be sharing.

40 Years Ago: October 1972 – The Draft Board

Since my draft number was so low (002), I thought I would be doing some sort of alternative service in 1973.


After getting a letter from the Selective Service, a/k/a, the draft board, indicating that I was reclassified 1-A (eligible for military service) over the summer, I filed an appeal. Though I was living in my college town of New Paltz, NY, I had to return to my hometown of Binghamton, NY.

There were three men on the draft board. The chairman said that his daughter talked about me all the time when we were in high school; I was president of student government and involved in the theater club, among other things. Did I remember her? I said, “Oh, yeah!” I had no idea who she was, at least by name, though maybe I would have recognized her by sight.

One guy said, after introducing himself, said absolutely nothing.

The third man was Garland Hamlin. This was a man I had known all my life. We attended the same church. His wife was organist at that church, and she had tried for about a year to teach me to play piano, so I had been in the Hamlin house dozens of times. I went to school with his two daughters. So I believe that he found it necessary to ask the toughest questions.

I know that he invoked Hitler. He wondered if a Hitler were attacking my mother what I would do. I said I would defend her, but that was different than initiating conflict by going to war.

Around the same time, I had to go for my military physical in Syracuse, NY, which I passed. even though I have a minor heart murmur which I’ve lived with since I was born; the doctor didn’t even notice until I had brought it to his attention.

It did take them a month to ascertain that I was moral enough to go to war. I was asked if had ever given money to a variety of groups, only two of which I had even heard of, the Communist Party of the USA and the Socialist Workers Party. I certainly spent some nominal amount on an antiwar button or two from the SWP, so I wrote yes re: them.

Finally, the word came from the draft board. I was reclassified 1-A-O, a conscientious objector available for noncombatant military service only. I’m sure it was vital that I had indicated my CO status when I had first registered for the draft a year and a half earlier. My thanks to Jean Hagopian, mother of my friend Amy, who was my informal draft counselor through this period.

Here’s the kicker, though. Since my draft number was so low (002), I thought I would be doing some sort of alternative service in 1973. But since the Vietnam war was winding down, and there were many older people whose temporary deferments had lapsed, they drafted NO ONE born in 1953 before the draft law ended on June 30, 1973. Moreover, on January 27, 1973, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird announced the creation of an all-volunteer armed forces, negating the need for the military draft. So all of that rigamarole had been for nothing, as it turned out.

Those were interesting times.

February Rambling: Military Draft, Muppets and Graceland

“’Soul Train’ was the first and only television show to showcase and put a spotlight on black artists at a time when there were few African-Americans on television at all, and that was the great vision of Don.”


When I mentioned the military draft earlier in the month, I may not have been very clear. Think of a large goldfish bowl with 365 or 366 balls with every date for the year represented. The first date for a particular year pulled would be the first selected for military service, the second date pulled the second selected, etc. There would be a cutoff number, based on the need for the war effort. Check out this article and then this one.

The food stamp President; note that Arthur had this BEFORE MoveOn.com helped propel it viral. He also remembers the first anniversary of the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake, the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s flight aboard Friendship 7, and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.

Rosa Parks Did Much More than Sit on a Bus

The Stories I Tell: “Like most of us I was raised to tell the truth and be honest. This can present a minor dilemma for resellers.”

How a mom used Star Wars to answer life’s questions

Marvel/Disney wages petty, vicious war against Ghost Rider creator. Yeah, there are two sides to this story, but Disney’s treatment of writer Gary Friedrich is still most unfortunate. Here’s a more nuanced piece that links to a donate to Gary site. Incidentally, in the comments to the former piece, someone was complaining that Friedrich was selling the art of Mike Ploog, penciler of Ghost Rider. I don’t know about the specifics of this case, but as former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter explained here and here, art pages, which previous to the 1970s were rarely returned at all by comic book companies, were distributed to various participants of the story; this included the writer, though they usually got last dibs. Shooter does explain Marvel’s likely point of view, and here’s a Marvel rebuttal.

I swear I had the same problem as Mitch O’Connell.

I read in Entertainment Weekly about this website that has the feature If 2012’s Oscar-nominated movie posters told the truth. This one riffing on The Help is funny, but so are several others.

I was saddened by the death of “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. From the LA Times: “Don Cornelius’ legacy to music, especially black music, will be forever cemented in history,” said Clarence Avant, former chairman of Motown Records. “’Soul Train’ was the first and only television show to showcase and put a spotlight on black artists at a time when there were few African-Americans on television at all, and that was the great vision of Don.”
But I also remember tuning in when unlikely guests would show up, such as David Bowie performing Fame and Golden Years.

Read about comic book legend John Severin, who died at the age of 90, here and here and here.

The Wicker Muppet and A Muppet phenomenon and REALLY early Muppets.

The film trailer for “Under African Skies,” “the documentary from award-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger. Paul Simon travels back to South Africa 25 years after his first visit, chronicling the creation and lasting influence of his groundbreaking album, Graceland. Simon revisits the making of the record, surveying from the vantage of history the turbulence and controversy surrounding the album’s genesis.”

HOW TO mix a grody-looking Alien Brain Hemorrhage cocktail

Interestingly, on most of these, I don’t get many comments. But I DO get an occasional LIKE on Facebook or retweet on Twitter, so it’s all good. Oh, and speaking of Facebook, I now have but one Facebook account. So if you want to “friend” me, it needs to be this account, the one with the duck logo.

Obviously, we’re still working on that “change the world” thing – also noting Graham Nash’s 70th birthday.


Secrets of the public bathroom

Caring about Multiple Things Simultaneously, which is less about Whitney Houston, and more about people who think other folks shouldn’t care about Whitney Houston’s death

Alan Moore’s Twilight Proposal. Flashmob Fridays’ final outing.

Even a Megaphone Might Have Helped: Albany’s Black History Month bit

Scott Ritter is…complicated

In the spirit of Woody Guthrie. Well, maybe funnier.

The City of Albany didn’t even know the sign was missing until someone – OK, I – pointed it out.

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.

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