May 1970

Mellberg meets Uncle Sam
Tells of experience with draft
by Bill Mellberg

   A few months ago I celebrated my birthday. I wish it had not been my birthday.
   You see, I was eighteen years old, and that meant I had five days to let my Uncle Samuel know it. Whenever anyone turns eighteen, Sam always likes to tell them, "Well, sonny, you're a man now," time to register with my draft board.
   Fortunately, my friend Jim's birthday was the day before mine, and we decided to register together. I was happy about this for two reasons.
   First of all, misery loves company. But, of even greater importance was the fact that Jim and I looked like Joe Namath and Dan Knotts when we walked into the draft board office.
    Inside the doors of Local 102 was the very latest in modern bureaucratic efficiency. A small section was set off as a lobby with drab chairs and "Enlist Now" posters all over the place. We sat down to wait for the clerk to get to us.
   Beyond the lobby a dozen or so women sporting canes and "Keep Cool with Coolidge" buttons were running around looking busy.
   At long last the clerk said she was ready. I said firmly, "Go ahead, Joe, er-Jim. You're older than I am."
   While he was giving her the necessary details, I took another look around the office. The first thing that caught my eye was a large portrait of President Nixon. "That's strange," I thought to myself. "I wonder what happened to Paul Powell."
   Then I read a list entitled "Delinquents." In almost every case the F.B.I. was looking for guys who "Failed to Register." I suddenly felt I was doing the right thing in coming.
   Suddenly I felt an iron fist grip my shoulder. "Okay, Big Bill, it's your turn," Jim said with a sadistic smile.
   I sat down at the clerk's desk and she asked me for my driver's license. Then she handed me a form to fill out while she typed my identification. I coughed a bit when I read the part marked "next of kin."
   "Just a minute!" the clerk exclaimed. "Do you mean to tell me you're six foot tall and weigh 130 pounds?"
   "Well, that's me," I replied, somewhat astonished.
   "My, my," she said. "You're kind of underweight."
   "Oh, I certainly am," I replied. "That's cause I was always sickly as a child."
   "That's all right. The Army'll fatten you up."
   I finished filling out the form, but I paused at the end. Doubler, who had been looking over my shoulder, asked what was wrong. "You mean you were able to sign your woul away without batting an eye?" I asked.
   I signed my name, and it was over with. The clerk thanked me for my cooperation, shook my hand, and said, "Well, we'll be seeing you 11-102-52-ABC."
   "I hope you're wrong," I replied as we turned to leave. But as we walked back to the car I turned to Jim and said, "You know as draft boards go, I suppose it wasn't too bad."
   "Sure, Don, sure."