I met with my draft board on September 7, 1972, to appeal being reclassified as 1-A, eligible for military service when my initial request for conscientious objector status had been rejected. For some reason, I thought it was later in the fall. And other details I misremembered.
As I sought a graphic, I discovered the current vernacular of draft board involves fantasy league sports. Nope, not that.
There were three men on the panel. Someone asked me if I had a bugging device. (I didn’t and wasn’t sophisticated enough to jerry-rig one.) “The chairman knew me from the fact that I was B.C.H.S. [Binghamton Central] student gov’t pres. He asked me vague and unanswerable questions about my beliefs and asked what I had done for humanity lately.”
(In retrospect, I could have mentioned how I had fought against war, was getting myself to be an educated citizen, and the like.)
“He also said that in trying to understand me thru my letters, he found me rather flippant and is trying to find the real me. I’m not flippant – rather wry but also honest. He said that if a Hitler [or a Nixon, I noted in my head] tried to take over the world, wouldn’t my love of humanity [have me] fight to save them? He paralleled helping countrymen with helping family.”
Garland Hamlin was on the panel. He was a member of my church. His wife tried to teach me piano. I went to school with his two daughters and his nephew. His parents-in-law were my godparents. Yet he acted as though he did not know me, so I followed his lead.
He “asked questions like, ‘Do you think WWI was justified?’ I wasn’t about to justify ANY war, but he kept driving at it.
The third guy bugged me the most – he didn’t say a damn thing. [It all [left a bad taste in my mouth, but no worse than expected.
Hitchhiking back to college
My father gave me a ride out onto Route 17. It took me three rides to get back to college. One from some “freaks” to Windsor; this was a positive term in my mind, i.e., hippie freaks. One ride to Liberty with a guy from Rhode Island. Then an older black man from Ellenville took me to New Paltz. The commonality is that all those drivers either disliked or hated Richard Nixon.
After visiting friends, I hitchhiked to Kingston. The guy drove too fast and tailgated. When he stopped at a bar for cigarettes, the guy stole a pack, then the proprietor took them back. I feared a fight, especially with the driver’s “Don’t tell me what to do” attitude.
I hitchhiked a LOT in those days, from Binghamton to New Paltz and back; from New Paltz to Kingston and back – the Okie and I lived there briefly; and especially New Paltz to NYC, though one needed to take a bus out of the city to hitch back.
There’s one particular hitchhiking story that I’m hoping I wrote about.