Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mayberry R.F.D. Interrupted


December 1, 1969

****CBS News Special Report****

****CBS News Special Report****

****CBS News Special Report****

****CBS News Special Report****

"Because of the CBS News Report that follows, Mayberry R.F.D. will not be seen tonight but will return next week at its regularly scheduled time. The Draft Lottery: a live report of the picking of the birthdays for the draft, will be aired instead. This is Roger Mudd at the Selective Services Headquarters in Washington. 29 years ago, the first, and most famous, lottery number, 158, was drawn as the U.S. entered World War II. Now, 27 years after that lottery ended, the U.S., has again, started a draft lottery, under a bill signed by President Nixon, for the Viet Nam War.

The famous first number tonight, September 14th, is the first birthday--now designated 001. Which means that, 19 to 26 year olds born on September 14th, beginning in January, will be inducted into the Army by their local draft boards. Tonight, 366 dates, one for each day of the year plus leap year, will be drawn out of big glass bowl and matched with numbers 1 through 366."

This ceremony, although designed for television, is much less elaborate than those of the 1940's. Then Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, was blindfolded with a swatch of upholstery fabric which had been clipped from one of the chairs used at the signing of the Declaration of Independence."


I was a junior in high school. I sat in front of the television that night, like families through out the country, with a list of the birthdays of loved ones and friends. My heart, alternately, aching and breathing a sigh of relief as the dates were drawn. The scanned document at the top of the page is the Wonder Husband's draft letter. Many of those letters were, like draft cards, burned. The lottery only served to fuel resentment of the war and the draft. After 40 years, it is hard to read, but under where I've blocked out his name and address on the top left portion of the letter, you can faintly see three digits: 3-1-4. His draft number was high and pretty much assured that he would not be inducted.

Mayberry has become synonymous with idyllic small town life and for simple rural existence. Both the television program and life as we knew it in America, was interrupted that night. It has not yet returned to normal.


Brian Miller said...

i cant imagine sitting there sweating...or if they were to try it again these days what the response would be...happy tt ronda!

Mrsupole said...

The fear that was instilled in the young men during that time was something that I think we have not felt since. The boys in school seemed to dread becoming 18 years old. Then to find out that someone at school was drafted was also hard to go through even though there were so few of them compared to how many were there at our school. They could still bring it back if needed but hope they never need to.

God bless.

Gemel said...

Lets hope that that sort of thing is kept in the past...

Kate Hanley said...

Interesting perspective, I've never read about the draft from someone watching them pick birthdates. Great post you really put me there.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

I do not have an older brother, or would have been there sitting with you. Such a seeming casual process to change so many, many lives. -J

willow said...

Gosh, I remember with dread. Oh, for the sweet days of Mayberry.

Reya Mellicker said...

Wow. I remember that time distinctly. I got a chill and the goosebumps reading this. What a powerful blogpost, Ronda!

TechnoBabe said...

Coincidental that you wrote this and my post for tomorrow is finished and is during Vietnam war era. Hug your Wonder Husband for me.

JGH said...

How interesting and rare to see a personal memento of that historical time - historical moment, even! I hope it never comes again.

Jai Joshi said...


Mayberry interrupted... Oh, the irony.


Baino said...

What a terrible way to conscript. We had the draft here during the Viet Nam war too and my husband missed being on the front line by one day. . .how lucky was I!

Jingle said...

powerful one,
you go pro while reporting...

Happy Earth Day,
Happy Thursday!

Ronda Laveen said...

Brian: Yes, just imagine waiting for your birthday to come up...with all that means.

Sherry: I do so remember the dread and anxiety my friends felt as the approached their 18th birthday.

Gemel: YES! Let's hope it never has to happen again.

Kate: It is really something that, although time dulls the sharp edges, I will never forget.

Jayne: It almost felt cavalier despite the fact that it changed the outcome of life, good and bad, for all of us.

Willow: A return to Mayberry wouldn't hurt one bit, would it?

Reya: Yes, we were (are) the same age. I hope future generations won't have to experience the fear.

TechnoBabe: Really? How synchronous!

JGH: My husband's mother made him a scrapbook of his life and gave it to him when he turned 40. This momento was one she had saved. I am so glad she did.

Jai: Thank you, Queen of Irony!

Baino: I hadn't realized the Australia was drafting for that war too. You were lucky to have your husband for the short, sweet time that you did, weren't you?

Ronda Laveen said...

Jingle: HI! Thank you. Happy Thrusday and Earth Day to you too!

Megan said...

Wow, Ronda. What an interesting thing to have. Brrr. I hope it never, ever comes to that again.

Ronda Laveen said...

Megan: I hope it doesn't come this way again either. Think about how you would feel sitting in front of the TV or computer watching numbers being drawn for your your sons date of birth. Very scary.

Dave King said...

I am both mystified and incredulous.

tony said...

I had no Idea about this.It's Mad.Completly a bonkers Idea!

DUTA said...

Draft and war - terrible notions. Your post is a good reminder of what could happen again. We always hope and say that's the last war, but history nevertheless repeats itself.

Ronda Laveen said...

Dave: it seemed unreal then too!

Tony: The term "lottery" has a whole new meaning here in the states now. But I always think of this when I hear the word.

Duta: Yes, we always hope for the "last" war but it does keep happening doesn't it?

Joanna Jenkins said...

I yiyi-- How scary. I hope this sort of thing never, ever happens again.

joanny said...


What I remember was my older cousin's were both called -- the family tried to talk one of the boys out of the marines, the other one joined up with the navy..

Only one cousin came home. All I remember we buried someone, the body was unidentifiable.

I now have the letters he sent to my mother prior to that describing the situation.
I hope my sons never have to have that experience -- more so I pray for world peace.

Thank you for this post.

Have an enjoyable week end -- spring time is here.

Ronda Laveen said...

JJ: Me too.

Joanny: What a sad tale. But I'm afraid it was an all too familiar one at the time. Wow! You have those letters? They are an important part of history now. I just read TechnoBabe's post which was also on Viet Nam. While serving, her first husband carved a tiki out of a post from his bunker. It is now in the Smithsonian.

Leah said...

This is an amazing post. I'm just reading some of yours that I missed, and I stumbled across this one. Wow. I know that sounds lame, but...

Jingle said...

How are you, friend?

I have a blogger account now,
hope that you pay me a visit and pick up 4 awards posted today...
thank you in advance!

Happy Monday!

Deanna Schrayer said...

Technobabe said it was coincidental for her post. Same goes for me - the flash piece I have planned for this week's #fridayflash is a love story about a young man who meets the love of his life three days before he goes to Vietnam.
I can't imagine how terrifying that must've been for your family Ronda. My dad missed being drafted, but I'm ashamed to say I don't even know how. Maybe it had something to do with me - I was born in August of '69, yes, the weekend that Camille slammed the gulf coast and hippies were partying in Woodstock. I've always been fascinated by how much significant history was happening on the day I was born.
May our children never have to live through such nerve-wracking terror again.