Draft Two

This is another post that has taken some effort to write. A few posts back you read about my early experiences with the Vietnam era draft. In this post I tell the rest of the tale.

When we left this story I had been given a six month medical deferment after a near miss with the draft.  This was 1970.  By the time I returned for a re-examination the rules had changed again and 2 temporary medical deferments (1Y) became a permanent medical one, what was known as a 4F.

There are many stories about young men doing things to themselves to avoid service in that war.  The self-abuse and self-mutilation were often terrible things. That was not me.

As the six month count down continued I did two things:  I applied for conscientious objector status (a CO) and went to a psychiatrist. 

My CO application was not difficult to write but it was complicated.  Books on the subject warned about the questions the draft board would ask if one got that far.  The critical question would go something like “What would you do if you came home and found someone raping your wife, wouldn’t you kill him? Don’t you really only object to this police action and not killing?”

No, I would do everything in my power to take control of such a situation with limited force. I was clear then, as I am now,


I never got a hearing on my conscientious objector application.  

The doctor I saw every week for the months after my first deferment was a west sider like me with an office on West End Avenue.  He understood the issues faced by potential draftees and looked for an understanding of my mental health challenges at the time.

We started with an administration of the MMPI (the Minnesota MultiPhasic Personality Inventory) a very long psychological test which was partially invalidated by the fact that I had taken psychometrics as an undergraduate (.  

The test identified my overly self-critical trait and my intense emotions.  These were the topics of discussion in therapy sessions.  This was also the first time I took medicine in pill form.  I had never been able to swallow a pill but valium seemed to only be available that way.  I needed something to get through and illicit drugs were not my answer.

After many months of weekly visits the notice came from Uncle Sam to report to Whitehall Street.  

As I recall, I went directly to psychiatry with the letter from my psychiatrist in hand.  The doctor on duty seemed to read it carefully, asked a few questions I don’t remember and sent me away with a second 1Y; my ticket out of that particular hell.

Superman and So Many Others

The Amazing Adventures of Superman, Have Gun Will Travel, Wanted Dead or Alive, Rawhide, Wagon Train; so much violence and so many memories; amazing that we are at all adjusted.

Look, up in the sky; Paladin Paladin Where Do You Roam?; Get Those Doggies Rolling; Wagons Ho!  These and so many others were the words of our childhood.  Our pre-teen and early teen years were enhanced by the work of Rod Serling and others.

I look back now and find comfort in owning some of these series’ and in accessing them on streaming services.  These rough and tumble westerns and fear invoking shows are warm now, not horrifying or scary.  Message laden, not just entertaining, they have a purpose I’d like to pass on.  These characters stood for fairness and fought evil.  I believe they truly influenced the person I have become.

I can still watch episodes of The Amazing Adventures of Superman over and over (I own them all) and say many of the lines before the characters do.  The comic book which inspired the show was a stalwart of my life.  I have a firm image in my mind of Jon* and me sitting on someone’s bed reading comics, Superman probably among them.  Although the early TV series did not feature “LL” girlfriends other than Lois Lane we knew the others too: Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, and Lyla Lerrol.


Paladin was the black clad gun fighter who helped others and Josh Randall, the bounty hunter with ethics and heart.  We talked about these characters incessantly.  While these shows flavored my early years, my late teens were overtaken with Star Trek.  In CCNY, every morning after a new episode, there were discussions about what was possible, what was crazy, what was new and what was downright crazy.

TV was so influential and these series’ carried much weight.  The most important (from ages 10-15) was The Twilight Zone.  Rod Serling, rarely seen without a cigarette, was a story spinner with superb talents.  He brought many younger actors as well as accomplished ones to the small screen.  When I learned a few years ago that I could not see season four on streaming services, I ordered the complete set which includes the season of one hour episodes. I can, and do, watch these shows over and over.  There is often something I did not notice before or after reading one of the companion books I own, some message I did not get.

Of the many memorable episodes was Deaths Head Revisited, the one about the concentration camp guard who goes to visit the old site and is placed on trial by the ghosts of some of those he helped imprison and torture.  Serling brought it home, if it wasn’t already there.

And who can forget the man who later becomes Captain James Tiberius Kirk looking out that airplane window in terror in 1963 in episode 123?

TV was and remains an important medium for the transmission of culture and belief systems all along the spectrum. I do believe that at least some of the me I became was learned from that little box that soon became 19” and is now 55”.


*Jon is a regular reader of this blog with whom I grew up and went to camp.  His wonderful stories can be found at KatzTales.com

Mom and Dad, But Mostly Dad

I’ve now met my fifth grandchild. My father never met his first. Dying at the age of 60 in 1970 he missed most of my life and my sister’s. This was somewhat atypical for West 83rd Street.

My memories of my father include the firehouse, the fire dispatchers’ office in Central Park, building a bed for my sister, baseball in Riverside Park, and getting yelled at. Of course, there are other things I remember but these were the big ones.

The Saturday morning baseball games with other boys from 222 and their dads took place in Riverside Park between 82nd and 83rd Streets in a stand of four trees in the shape of a baseball diamond. I think then trees were London Plain. It was a spring and fall affair, fathers and sons. I recall it as fun. West Side kids in a West Side Park with their West Side dads.

Since my father didn’t believe in corporal punishment he used his voice to express his dissatisfaction with my behavior along with, in the teen years, grounding and withholding of allowance. It’s the voice that sticks with me and unfortunately for many years it was the voice I replicated in my own house.

Dad certainly had things in his life to be angry about: his mother died when he was born and his father soon ran off leaving him to be raised by a maiden aunt, my great aunt Betty. She also lived on the West Side in the 80s and later in the Hotel Breton Hall on the east side of Broadway between 85th and 86th Streets. And, he lost an eye as a child. I never knew what the disease was but it was a medical matter not other trauma. He had a glass eye and a spare. I only saw him once without it, when he was failing and coughed so hard it came out.

I have my own issues. Mom had TB when I was an infant and we were kept apart. It wasn’t until my thirties that I put this together with my abandonment and attachment issues. I don’t remember her and I ever being particularly close.


Images of my parents always include a glass and a cigarette. Both smoked and drank. The alcohol caught up with my dad in the 1960s. He lost his job due to alcohol and later his life to the combination of the effects of smoking and drinking.

Yes, I am the child of two Jewish alcoholics. I believe that I suffer from COPD because I smoked from 13 to 33 and lived my childhood with second-hand smoke and being allowed to puff their cigarettes. I also know I couldn’t drink brown liquors like scotch because they did.

In spite of all this, they gave me a solid Jewish education and a good value system both of which I’ve been allowed to share with my children and hopefully my grandchildren.