John Dodges the Draft

John Dodges the Draft

In a previous story, I told about the experience of going for a draft physical, well this story takes place about a month later and also involves the draft board.

After graduating from Rutgers in 1966, I had difficulty finding a job, due to my military status - that is, I was draft-able and companies didn’t want to spend money hiring, training, etc., just to lose the employee shortly after he started. This problem was compounded by the fact that Geri and I were to be married on August 27 and needed to have a second income. 

Hercules Chemical Co. in Delaware had advertised for someone to work in research and though I didn’t have a science degree (a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts, majoring in History), I applied. During the interview, the manager told me that their engineers were good at science stuff but not so hot at seeing potential or after the product was in development, not good at testing. He gave an example, that they had developed a polymer film to be used as a cling wrap. They had tested its tensile strength, stretchability, and so on, but had failed to realize that a housewife could easily poke a hole right through it with her fingernails. So, he hired be to be on a team with the engineers looking for problems, other uses, practical application, etc. Starting salary of $6400 was more than I had dreamed of, since a great salary was $10,000 at that time.

On the my first day at the job, the HR guy bringing me onboard told me that they would not be able to hire me. The reason: I didn’t have military experience. It seemed that for research, they could get exemptions for the engineers, but since I was an Liberals Arts graduate, they were unable to get one for me.

In the meantime, since I had at one point thought that I wanted to be a teacher, I had applied to 5-6 of the local elementary schools (most were K-8, in our county). I had interviewed in my home town, but since I didn’t have a teacher’s certificate, they were waiting to see if they got a ”qualified” candidate.

One night (August 18th), while playing softball (fast pitch church league), I was in the on-deck circle, looking forward to my time at bat, since the pitcher had only a so-so fast ball and he tipped off his curve every time he threw it. My mom comes speeding up to the game and calls my name (I didn’t get to bat!). It seems that the Quinton township school board was meeting right then and wanted to interview me. She told me that I had time to go home and change (10 miles) and drive there (25 miles) since they had said they would wait an hour.

I got there within 45 minutes and they interviewed me for a 7th grade self-contained classroom (teach everything to a single class) position. After the interview, I was asked if I wanted the answer that night or wanted to wait until morning. I told them I could wait and they told me I could go out and have a smoke and did I have cigarettes. In those days, I rolled my own when money was tight, so I said that I had the makings, but one of them game me two Lucky Strikes from his pack. Anyway, after about 1/2 hour they called me back in and offered me the job at $3800. {Not even close to the $6400, but a job in hand is worth one not even in the bush} I spent the next hour talking to the Principal about expectations, etc. and then told him I would be in the next day to start work on class room etc.

I know this is supposed to be about the draft board, just hold on, I’ll get there eventually. Anyway, Geri was working 3-11 at the hospital, so I was unable to tell her until the next afternoon, but since our wedding was only 9 days off this was great news.

To continue, I went to the school the next morning and set up my room, talked to the Principal, filled out application for a provisional teacher’s certificate (which had already been approved by the County Superintendent ), etc. 

As I was preparing to leave for home, the secretary, Kathy Fogg, asked if I was traveling through Salem on my way home. Normally, I wouldn’t, since it added a couple of miles to the trip. But, I asked why? and she said she had a letter for the draft board requesting a deferment for me from the draft. So, I said, sure I’ll take it.

If you read the previous story, you know that I know exactly where the office is, so finding it was not an issue. When I got there, I approached the clerk and told her I had a letter from Quinton School. She asked what it was about and I told her. So, she asked me to wait while she read it. After reading, she kind of said to herself “Nipe, Nipe” then to me she said “Look through that stack of outgoing mail and see if there is a letter whose addressee was familiar”. Sure enough, there was one to me. She said, “Do NOT open it! Tear it up and put in trash can”. I complied, then she informed me that if I had read it, I had to report for induction, if it had been my greetings letter. But now, she could report that my request came before the letter was mailed and the board would have to review my request before further action could be taken.

God has always looked out for me, even when I didn’t acknowledge Him. Just think if I had told Kathy, just mail it, it’ll get there in a couple of days!

I eventually received a 2A status and missed the draft until the year of the Lottery, where my number and age never came up and I was exempted for good.

Davdan @ 2008-2018