Follow by Email

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No. 41 "Are you now or have you ever been ...?"

Online Dictionary: common - an adjective (commoner, commonest) ...  showing a lack of taste and refinement supposedly typical of the lower classes; coarse; vulgar ...

For my generation, turning eighteen meant something more than just filling out a card at the post office. It meant having to go to the selective service office in Beaufort and really “registering for the draft.” At the heart of that procedure was an interview with Mrs. Ruby Holland of Smyrna who had been secretary for the local draft board for as long as anyone could remember. And, “if your number came up,” the letter you got inviting you to a physical and then to “join the armed services,” was signed by her.

By the time I turned eighteen the selection method had been changed from a “selective service” to a lottery system based upon your date of birth. “July 28" was number “127” in the lottery of 1971, and that was high enough up the list that my number was never chosen. Several friends were not so “lucky” as me, including my college roommate from Beaufort, Ben Willis, whose number “three" left him little option but to enlist. But prior to 1970 each young man was evaluated based upon several criteria and the local board made a decision as to if and when he might be “selected.”

So it was that one of my older friends from the Island went to register a few years earlier than me and was interviewed by Miss Holland to determine his eligibility. All proceeded rather normally until Ruby came to a question that was a required portion of the examination since the “Red Scare” of the previous decade..

“Are you now or have you ever been a Communist?” she asked the young man as he sat attentively across from her desk. Pausing to ponder on the question for a few moments, the boy finally summoned up what he thought to be the best answer he could offer. “Now, I’m ‘common,’ I’ll grant ya. But I’m not the ‘commonest’ person I know. I think that would have to be [name withheld]. He’s a whole lot commoner than me. Just about anybody on the Island would tell ye that.”

It was then that the local draft board secretary was given to an extended pause. Finally, without so much as a single follow-up question, she thanked the young man for his time and allowed him to be on his way. Just a few weeks later he got his notice of induction.

1 comment:

  1. My draft number that year was 356. I enlisted in the Air Force anyway!