A Memoir       
Don Lehman

Chapter 5
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Foreword
1945-1950
1950-1957
1957-1961
1961-1962
1962-1966
1966-1973
1973-1977
1977-1983
1983-1988
1988-1991
1991-1996
1996-2002
2002-2012
2012-2014
2014-2016
2016

1962 - 1966

When I left school in January, 1962, I had a job lined up as a hired hand at a local farm located near Maugansville. This was a farm owned by a wealthy Mennonite and leased to a tenant, the man I was working for. There were about 100 acres to be maintained, heifers and calves, pigs, a pedigree bull for breeding, and about forty registered milk cows. The heifers were fed in the lower level of the traditional barn. On the second level was the loft for hay and straw storage and large equipment like tractors, wagons, bailer, etc. Attached to the barn was a tall silo with silage.

The cows were milked twice a day in the separate dairy barn. The cows would know when to come to the dairy barn and wait for the gate to be opened. Then they would file into the barn and step over the manure gutter and into their stall. Each cow knew their own stall. They were then fed and they would eat grain and hay while they were being milked. There were other, more modern farms that had “milking parlors.” In those, the cows stood on a second level and milkers were attached at eye level. Those milkers fed the milk directly through pipes into the refrigerated holding tank. This farm was not equipped with a pipeline system.

We stepped between the cows, knelt down, washed the teats, threw a strap over the cows back, hung the small tank on the strap so that it was placed under the utter and attached the four suction milkers to the teats. When the cow was milked the milker was detached from the strap and the milk was poured into open buckets and carried to the milk house that was attached to the barn. The milk was hand poured from the buckets into the refrigerated tank where it was stored until the tanker truck came and pumped it out and hauled it away. It was not an entirely sanitary system.

While the cows were in their stalls they would defecate into the gutter behind them. The gutter had to be hand shoveled out into a manure spreader and pulled by tractor to the fields to be spread. There was a lot to do but I do not recall minding the work. I did not like the slow time during the first three months before spring. Often during the day the farmer would disappear between morning and evening milking, leaving me with little to do. I did enjoy farming when we were busy.

When spring came the real work of plowing the fields, planting, cultivating, mowing, raking, baling, stacking bales into the lofts and a hundred other little chores. All this in addition to the regular caring for the livestock. In the fall there was refilling the silo with chopped corn stalks. I liked the physical work and the animals. I was less fond on the farmer I was working for.

He was one of the conservative Washington County Mennonites. My first shock was the way he beat the cows with a shovel when they did not move fast enough or he was otherwise annoyed with them. He would complain and shout obscenities. I guess it was my first experience of spending time with an adult Mennonite in a work environment. I’m not saying he was typical but my next employer had a similar temperament but without the obscenities. It was shocking to me because Daddy was a patient and kind man and I seldom saw him angry. He was never abusive to an employee or a customer.

I jumped right in and was an enthusiastic worker. I climbed up into the silo and shoveled out the silage. He just told me how much to feed the animals and how to add straw for clean bedding. The bull was huge and had long horns. His pen was a concrete block building with a small yard fenced with high heavy timbers. Each day I fed him and took a bale of straw into his pen and spread it around while he stood and watched. About a week in, during casual conversation with the farmer I was describing how the bull watched me spread the straw around his pen. The farmer’s eye bulged and the blood drained from his face. He choked out the question, “you are actually going into the pen?” He was amazed that I was still alive. So I never went back into the pen. I guess the bull didn’t attack me because he was confounded by my innocence. There may be a lesson there that represents what was going on in my life at that time. I was innocent and generally unaware of life’s dangers and complications. After my previous jobs on the milk truck and the years as a daily paper boy I was used to the hard work and eager to take responsibilities. My employer was willing to exploit that. That summer, he piled on the work. In addition to milking the cows, we worked the fields, and bailed straw and hay. Late summer we filled the silo. In the early fall, he took a short vacation and I took over the feeding and milking while he and his family were gone. Soon I was ready to try something else. When I told him I was leaving he became even more of a jerk. I learned that he was spreading lies about me at my uncle’s John Deere dealership. We did not separate on especially good terms.

Having been fascinated with cars for years and having just started driving, I thought I might like working as an auto mechanic. I found a job quickly. The employer was another conservative Mennonite who was just starting a car repair garage. He had rented a building wide enough to park two cars with space in front for a long work bench and tool cabinets. One side had a work pit. That’s where we worked under the cars replacing exhaust pipes, etc. It was winter and the garage was cold. There was a big heater that blew out hot air but when the doors were opened to change cars, the temperature also changed from hot to freezing. When it snowed, cars came in with ice packed around the wheels. Working under them was pure misery. Bolts were rusted and we sprayed them with Liquid Wrench and busted our knuckles. My hands were chapped and dried by the special, sweet smelling soap that cut the grease. I can smell that soap in my mind after all these years My employer went from joking to temper tantrum, tool throwing, angry in five-seconds flat. He went on to build a thriving auto repair business. I was done with it within six months, done with rebuilding carburetors and replacing brake pads! I had just turned seventeen and the family business started looking like a good option.

In October 1962, many Americans, including us, were frightened as we listened to the radio. Were the Russians going to fire nuclear warheads at us as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, game of chicken? Would Khrushchev back down? That night we all realized that the world had changed and the “cold war” had become a very real threat. We would always have the possibility of global war since nations were stockpiling nuclear weapons. Two years later Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove" was released and while I was not permitted to see movies at that time, it later became one of my favorite black comedies. That movie helped the baby boomers laugh at the terrible dangers and futility of modern warfare.

Daddy had grown up on a farm where there were guns, however, he never had guns or hunted. He did permitted me to buy a gun. Some of my friends hunted rabbits, squirrels, and deer. I had shot bow and arrow at targets for several years and I wanted to hunt with my friends, with a gun. I got a twenty gauge shot gun and later, a twelve gauge. It was dangerous and we were fortunate that we were not hurt on some of our hunting experiences. I was never a good shot and having a gun was more of a macho phase than anything authentic. The most dangerous thing occurred when I was with some friends in my bedroom, with the gun. I had it in my hands when it went off. I did not know it was loaded. I put a hole in the wall and made a dreadful sound. Mother was downstairs and she must have been terrified. I do not remember my parents making much over it but shortly after that incident, I got rid of the weapons. Another factor in my disinterest in guns was due to a discussion I overheard of some neighbor men talking about Mennonites who would not carry a gun into war but kept a gun at home. I realized that my guns were supposed to be for hunting and had no connection to war or self defense, but I just lost interest.

In many ways, Daddy was generous with me. Shortly after I got my drivers license, I was driving his big 1959 Desoto. On a winter Sunday afternoon I was on my way, driving a short distance, to a friends house. I turned a corner and the car slid on ice. The front right side hit a tree. I was not going fast but I was inexperienced and did not anticipate the effects of icy streets. I was worried about telling Daddy. When I got home I parked in the garage to buy myself a little more time. When I finally did have to tell him and explain what happened, he was not angry and made very little out of it.

Early in 1963 I started working for Daddy as a full time employe. Daddy was busy building the insurance agency. He had many new clients in addition to the Mennonites. Mother was managing the “dry goods” department and I had grown up with the business so I was comfortable becoming full time in the grocery department. Soon I was managing the grocery store while Daddy remained in control of finances. This was an arrangement that worked for the next three years.

In the late fall of 1963, just before I turned eighteen, I purchased my first car. It was common for the Mennonite boys that I knew, to buy cars, near the age of eighteen. I had been saving money and had enough to make a sizable payment toward a new model. It cost $2,700.00. I remember Daddy encouraging me to buy a use model but I pushed for something new. I’m not sure why he didn’t insist on a used model but he may have taken some pride in my purchasing something new. There was some competition among my friends for cool cars and powerful motors. Drag racing was popular at the time and we were interested in speed! I chose a 1963 Dodge. It was more powerful than I expected but that did not displease me. It was a beautiful car. A dark metallic blue, two door Dodge Polara. I remember the night I picked it up at the dealership. It was raining and Galen went with me. I wanted to “floor it” and feel the power but I resisted for two reasons. I knew it was not good to push the engine until it had a few miles on it and it was raining. I point to this small detail because it is an indication that I was not entirely lacking in self control.

Choosing a Dodge was due partly to Daddy’s preference for Chrysler products and partly because I always had a desire to be different. My early school mates liked the Yankees so I chose the Brooklyn Dodgers even though, without a TV, I knew almost nothing about professional baseball. My friends were buying Chevys. This of course meant that we needed to test our cars against each other. Late at night and occasionally on Sunday afternoons we drag raced on back roads. There were stretches of road that were popular for racing. So popular that the designated quarter mile for drag racing were actually painted on the pavement. By the time anyone called the police and they had time to arrive the race was completed and we were back at a local hangout to argue about the outcome! I was stopped and fined by police many times in those days but never for racing. That would have been a serious offense and my license would have been immediately suspended. My license were eventually suspended during that period but it was for accumulated lesser offenses.

I was living at home and working in the store for Daddy. It was a small world, getting up in the morning and walking across the driveway to work. When I had a few hours off I would wash my car and go for a drive. My social live consisted of approved, church related functions. I met with my friends at church youth meetings and after Sunday night church services. Sometimes we would meet informally on weekday nights at local hangouts like “Red’s Twin Kiss” on north Pennsylvania Avenue and Richardson’s Restaurant on Route 40 east of Hagerstown known as “Dual Highway.” My parents expected me to be home by 11pm, midnight was a definite curfew. I remember coming home once well after midnight and Daddy was sitting in the dark on a chair inside the door. I just handed him my car keys and went upstairs to bed. I was trying some “dangerous” things like drinking beer. It was legal to buy beer in West Virginia at the age of eighteen, so I would take some friends across the Potomac River and to the first liquor store and buy beer. I didn’t like the taste but drank for the experience. I drove too fast but I was lucky and did not have serious accidents. The West Virginia beer was lower in alcohol content and we were not drinking enough to get drunk. While I did things they disapproved of, I was generally obedient and kept a proper facade. I didn’t want to disappoint them but in my head there was a constant argument going on and I was biding my time before I would be my own person. I was unaware that their influence would continue to follow me and they would more or less be in my head forever.

I am embarrassed to admit that I hardly noticed the political and social changes that were occurring in 1963. The summer of civil rights demonstrations in Alabama and the famous, “I have a Dream” speech on August. I was washing my car when someone told me that President Kennedy was shot in Dallas. It was shocking. I was able to watch some the funeral on our neighbor’s, the Brewer’s TV. I knew these things were important but I was insulated. I was not in school. I was focused on working, my new car, hanging out with friends, in a small world, a small town, with small ideas.

I used to like going to record stores and browsing through 45s and LPs. Shortly after I got my car, I was in Waynesboro, PA, in a tiny record store. The woman working in the store said, you should listen to this 45. It’s the latest thing from a group from England called “The Beatles.” I put it on the turntable and listened to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I was vaguely familiar with Buddy Holly and this song sounded to me like a pretty simple throw back to early Rock and Roll, "That'll Be the Day" and Elvis’s “Hound Dog,” and the Everly Brothers, music that I liked but was already a bit passé. I learned to enjoy Beatles music later but I was not a big fan of those early pop songs. I preferred the folk music that was becoming popular starting with the trios and quartets like “The Kingston Trio” and “The Four Freshmen” I also liked Peter, Paul and Mary, and Simon and Garfunkle. I listened to the lyrics of popular folk songs and discovered Bob Dylan. That’s when I started thinking about social issues like poverty, the war in Viet Nam, and civil rights.

I was still Immature and focused on myself as a middle class teenager with limited academic and cultural influences. Two of my friends and I went together and bought a small, used, outboard motor boat. It did not have a lot of power but could pull a skier. For two summers we did a lot of water skiing on the Potomac River. I became quite good on one ski and we cut a round disk out of plywood that we were able to stand on. I had been swimming occasionally when I was younger. Another Mennonite parent sometimes invited me to go with him and his son swimming in the Conococheague Creek. Having a boat and learning to ski was lots of fun. I felt that I was beginning, in small steps, to have a life beyond the limits of my religiously restricted parents.

I spent a week in Indiana with friends working on a church related volunteer project. Low cost houses were being built for people in poverty. We slept and ate in a dormitory and worked long hours in construction. I mixed cement and carried it to the masons who had experience laying concrete blocks. It was hard labor but I loved it! It was a different experience and I was beginning to step outside the local religious cocoon.

Shortly before Janice and Galen were married, Galen and I had a little side business venture. Galen was raised on a farm and had experience with animals. He and I decided to put money together and raise some pigs. I knew someone who had a barn they were not using and we rented some space and bought about 20 cute little pigs. We would be raising them to sell at auction. I had a lot to learn about raising pigs. First and very important is castration! Male pigs being raised for market must be castrated. So I held those little boogers while Galen slit their sack with a razor and snipped their nuts. While they kicked and squealed we splashed some antiseptic on, then left them run! They all survived that process! They say pigs are smart in fact Roger Miller wrote a song about it, (How about a Hand for the Hog.) These pigs were escape artists and several times I got calls from the landlord to inform me that the pigs were running free. Pigs are hard to catch. They don’t run away from you, they run full speed right toward you. They will go between your legs and they will knock you down. By the time they were ready for market we had a lot of pork. The price of livestock fluctuates and it fluctuated right down when we needed to sell so it was not a very successful endeavor. It was however, an adventure!

Having drivers license and a car permitted me to get together with friends on a more regular basis. Three friends and I formed a quartet to sing hymns and gospel songs. We liked listening to southern gospel quartets and folk groups that were popular at the time. We mostly sang songs that we performed in church. We played around with guitars but no one was good enough to perform at that time. We sang a cappella in four part harmony and I took the high first tenor part. I enjoyed the sensation of harmonizing voices, especially with friends.

Southern gospel quartets were popular with my friends and me. Sometimes there were concerts in local high school auditoriums. They were usually held on a Friday or Saturday night and were billed as “all night concerts.” They would feature three or four groups and would start at around 7pm and end at around midnight. The groups would feature four part, close harmonies, often with a very high tenor and low bass voice. At that time they only used piano as accompaniment. Daddy thought the concerts were too worldly and disapproved of the entertainment aspect but still permitted me to go to some of the events. It was also an opportunity to meet girls!

Getting a car was a signal that I could start dating. In the winter of early 1964, my first girl friend was only fifteen and we never really dated. She was attractive and her parents went to a much less strict Mennonite church so she did not dress like the girls at our church. She dressed in clothes styles that were generally popular. She was related to Nate’s wife, Kathy who I idolized. I did not know her well as we only talked when we could arrange clandestine meetings. We would mostly just hold hands. We were both shy about being together and even though we were together many times over a period of several months I never had the courage to kiss her. I think I wanted to, but didn’t know what to do. In those winter months, I used to pray for freezing temperatures, because when local ponds would freeze, I would ice skate with other kids. We were all bundled up in heavy coats but it was exciting to skate with girls. I met up with that young girl several times in the winter of 1963. On some occasions I went to the high school at lunch time and she came out to sit in the car with me. I don’t know what we talked about but we liked being together. My parents didn’t approve of the church her family attended. It was a different and less strict branch of Mennonite. One day when I was working but not particularly busy, Daddy made a point of suggesting that I may want to consider a different girl. I didn’t even know that he was that aware of her. He gave me, what sounded like good reasons, to consider other girls. That’s all it took for me to decide to end the limited relationship. The difficult part was telling her I wanted it to end. I wrote her a breakup letter and didn’t see her again except a few times in public. Fifty-one years later, since she was related to Kathy she was at the funeral of my nephew, Jeff Lehman, (Nate and Kathy’s son.) I did not recognize her until she introduce herself. She told my wife, Gwendolyn that I was her “first love.” It was an amusing if somewhat awkward conversation with me in the presence of my family. Doris, my former wife was also there.

In my late teens I began considering some of the big questions. What role did religion play in Mother’s depression. Did Daddy really believe our neighbors in Maugansville who were not Mennonites or the right brand of Mennonites were destined to a literal eternal Hell fire or did they just believe we knew a better way to live life? Why was I so obsessed with the temptations that I had been taught were sin. The first movies I sneaked into were not nearly as exciting as I expected. The alcohol I drank made me dizzy and sick. A married man who I became friends with bought alcohol for me tried to get his hand in my pants! Girls were sexy and provocative but, real people with complex personalities. Was life really a big candy store where eating the candy would send you to eternal hell fire? And why wasn’t the “candy” as great as you thought it would be? And why, the more you ate the more you wanted and the less satisfying it became? I was unprepared for life outside the simplicity of the church society.

I had some important decisions to make and asking the questions was only the beginning but certainly the right place to start.

Soon in early 1964, I started dating a girl from our church. This was someone my parents approved of. She was smart and fun loving. We had regular Sunday night church dates and church youth activity dates. There was lots of hugging and kissing, in fact that’s what I remember most because I think I was aware that it was a pretty shallow relationship. She was running the show and I was having fun until she indicated that we may one day get married. That’s when I knew I wanted out. Once again I did not know how to end it. I knew a breakup letter would not be sufficient this time. I must have been giving her nonverbal signals. I remember the night we were sitting on her sofa. I was not in the mood to talk and didn’t want to do the typical make-out stuff. She came right out and said, “do you want to break up?” I think I said something like, “yes, I guess so.” Soon she was dating one of my friends and they got married. I believe they are still married after fifty years. I did not have contact with her after that break-up night.

My next relationships were short flirtations that were never intended to last and were unknown by my parents. There was a neighborhood girl who was young and pretty. She had matured physically into a terrific body with especially long legs. She knew she was sexy and wanted to share it with me. I enjoyed it a point, then I would get scared! Even though she was younger than me, I found myself in the awkward position of trying to slow her down. I had limits that had been planted in my brain about sex that in spite of my curiosity kept me inhibited. She actually scared me when she tested those limits. We had some exciting times together in spite of my limitations. My interest in her was focused on her body. I know that I was unfair to her and hope she did not feel that I rejected her for any reason other than my religious and moralistic indoctrination.

There were other, non-Mennonite, neighborhood girls that were attractive flirtations. On one occasion, I made a date with a young, pretty girl who lived with her single mom in a small trailer. She was a friend of a girl that had a reputation for being permissive. I knew she was impressed by my new car and I anticipated an opportunity to enjoy a pretty hot date! I admit, I felt like a rich boy going out with a girl from the “other side of the tracks.” She seemed happy to go out with me. When I pulled up to her place she came running out, dressed up for a “night out” and her mom waved from the door. We went to “Jim’s Always Restaurant”, on the dual highway. We chatted during the meal and eventually she started telling me how her parents were separated, and about how hard her mom worked, and how much she missed her dad. My feelings changed from opportunism to empathy. Later I was impressed by how she did that! We only had that one date but I learned that she was strong. She wanted me to know her as a person. She told me what she was experiencing and she clearly knew how she wanted to spend the evening. Happily, later she was up for some teenage physical exploration but she was clearly the director of the drama. I have often wondered how her life turned out. The strong and pretty girl from, “the other side of the tracks.”

Shortly after that there was a hot and tempting opportunity with a young, unhappily married woman and fortunately I was smart enough to limit the experience and ultimately resist her offers. This arrangement was set up my a married man who bought me liquor and encouraged me to drink it when his wife was away. On one occasion I discovered that in addition to trying to set me up with his married neighbor and arranging meetings with her, he was also interested in physical contact with me. The day I made that discovery, I had a lot to drink but had the presence of mind to run. It was unexpected but later I saw his “friendship” differently and had minimal contact with him. I refused his offers.

One weekend, some of my Mennonite friends and I went to Harrisonburg, VA. We went to Eastern Mennonite College, to their performance of the religious folk hymn, “The Holy City.” Of course we did attend the concert but the big event for us was staying in a motel over night. The motel had a TV, something none of us had at home. We bought cigarettes and watched TV until around one o’clock in the morning when the TV station showed a flag waving and played “The National Anthem.” We then, finally fell asleep with stinging eyes and raw throats, from all the smoke. Sometimes we went to Lancaster, PA, to music programs at the LMS, the Mennonite high school. It was fun to eat shoofly pie at the Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants and flirt with Amish girls who walked the country roads, rode bicycles and horse drawn buggies.

I was testing limits and doing some dangerous things. I was driving too fast and racing on the roads. One race in particular continues to haunt me as it could easily ended in a fatal crash. My car had front suspension that included “ torsion bars.” These bars could be adjusted to raise and tighten the front suspension. I had adjusted them to completely raise and tighten the front end. The effect was to keep the front of the car from bouncing during take-off and gear changes. I believed the rigidity provided improved traction giving the car added quickness. This was not a problem while the car was going in a straight line as in a normal drag race. However on one occasion, a friend who had just bought a Chevy wanted to race. We started at the Pennsylvania/ Maryland line heading south on I-81. We were side by side and instead of stopping at a quarter mile we kept going. By the time we reached the Showalter Road exit at Maugansville we were still side by side, a few feet apart and my speedometer was buried beyond 120mph. I-81 curves to the left at that point and the front of my car started losing traction and jerking to the right. I realized I was about to lose control and leave the road. I quickly reduced the speed and regained control but it was a close call! I was unhappy with my behavior and I was aware the feeling was now my own, and was not based on my parents expectations and rules. Shortly after that I received a letter from Janice who had just married and moved to Philadelphia. She had heard about my wild behavior and expressed her disappointment. I remember reading the letter and crying. I’d like to say that I changed after that but I was confused and feeling rebellious. In retrospect it is difficult for me to understand how I could have been so reckless and immature.

A friend and I learned of a weekend youth event at a christian camp. The camp was near Pittsburgh , PA. We decided to take my car and go just for the last day, Sunday. Somehow we manages to hook up with two girls who called their parents and got permission for us to take them to their home near Lancaster, PA, a four hour drive. We took turns driving and occupying the back seat with our respective girl! We got home pretty late because we had another three hours of driving after dropping them off. We made another date with them a few weeks later but that was the end of it.

One night, at church, in the summer of 1964 I saw a girl that I knew but had not seen for several years. I was in front of the church leading the a cappella singing when I first saw her. She had grown up! I was attracted by her beauty and the clothes she was wearing. She was rejecting the strict Mennonite dress code required by our church. Her father was a bishop in our church conference. His name was Merle Cordell. He was taking his wife, two sons and two daughters to Harrisonburg, VA during the week so that he could get his college degree in theology at The Eastern Mennonite College. He was bringing his family back on weekends to perform his duties at the churches under his jurisdiction. He had been a farmer. He made the radical decision to leased his farm and pursue higher education. For a Mennonite bishop or anyone with a family, this was an extreme decision. The college had made Harrisonburg a more progressive Mennonite community. One of the likely unintended consequences of his decision was that his wife and kids were influenced by that community and were no longer willing to dress like the Pennsylvania Mennonites. His wife found ways to accommodate the restrictive dress code for his benefit but his children never accepted the restrictions. Doris, the oldest sibling and the girl I noticed that night, was the last of her siblings to leave the Mennonites, when she and I left together ten years after we were married. During those ten years we stayed with the Mennonites by going to a church affiliated with a conference that made no dress requirements and while teaching basic Mennonite principles, tolerated different views.

Back to that night in 1964, I stood with my friends after church debating whether to ask to take her home. A friend was also considering her. Neither of us had much courage but somehow I accepted the risk of public rejection and took the long walk toward her as she headed to their car. I introduced myself and asked if I could take her home. She smiled and said she would go to ask her Dad. As I stood there waiting for her to return with the answer I was reassured that at least she seemed willing. I had recently met a girl at a social function and she gave me clear indications that she liked me. I went to her house the following week and knocked on her door. When she answered, I asked if she would go out with me and she flat out said no. I was rejected and embarrassed. I don’t know what changed her in those few days but years later I was grateful because it was not uncommon for Mennonites to marry the first or second girl they dated. I soon learned that Doris was just fifteen. I knew it was uncommon for a fifteen year old girl to date . It was another indication that her family was untraditional, her Dad gave his permission. I was thrilled! We dated through the remainder of the summer. In the fall, her Dad returned to college and she was going to the parochial high school affiliated with the college. She would be in the tenth grade. We wrote letters almost every day and dated when she came back on weekends.

Somehow we managed to stay together. I occasionally drove the hundred miles to Harrisonburg when she did not come home on a weekend but sometimes we would only see each other two or three times a month during the three school years until she graduated. I don’t know what she saw in me when she was surrounded by guys who were pursuing their education, heading for college with bright careers ahead. I was in love. She was the smartest and most attractive girl I knew and she loved me!

I continued to work in the store. I lived for the weekends and summers when we could date and spend time together. When she was not in Harrisonburg, VA, she was in Greencastle.PA, just about fifteen miles north of Maugansville, MD. I still had my friends and my beautiful car. After the summer of 1965, Doris went back to school for the eleventh grade. Another school year of writing several letters a week, telling her about the trivia of my work-a-day life and hanging out with friends. I anxiously awaited her letters informing me of the stresses of school and her antics with her friends. I looked forward to the summer.

It was February 1966 when Doris was in the 11th grade in Virginia that I entered the alternate service and moved to Philadelphia to work. Daddy hired someone to take my place in the store. Doris and I continued to write letters and our dates became less frequent and more difficult to arrange. When we could get together at her home, I would stay with her as late as possible on Sunday night, then drive back to Philadelphia, arriving after midnight, to get up early for work on Monday morning. On weekends when we were together we took day trips to places like Skyline Drive, VA, or we would go to City Park in Hagerstown. Late at night we would listen to records, Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary or Frank Sinatra. A series of three records combining Anita Kerr singers with Rod McKuen were popular. We wore out the LPs, The Earth, The Sky and The Sea and a fourth album called, “Listen to the Warm.” They were sexy and romantic. My parents had planted messages deep inside my head and I somehow technically remained a virgin. Not something I recommend!

I had been drafted and required to get the military physical exam. That day was surreal. I got on the bus in Hagerstown and went to Baltimore to a military base. I filled out papers to request CO, (conscientious objector) status. I had four options. Join the military and go carry a gun in Viet Nam, hide in Canada, go to prison or apply for conscientious objector status on religious grounds. A few weeks later I went before the local draft board and was accepted as a CO into “Alternate Service.” At that point, I knew a few guys who were going to Viet Nam but like my Mennonite friends, I would leave home and work in a service job for two years. I packed up to move to Philadelphia for my minimal wage job at the Presbyterian Hospital. No problem, I was used to minimal wages. Later I had a good friend who did not have a religious affiliation but chose to resist the draft. I learned that the FBI came to his house and he went to prison. I don’t know how long he served because we did not discuss it much. I wondered about the comfort of my choice. The complicity with the government provided an easy choice for me in exchange for my quiet acquiescence.

All these years and wars later I am convinced that if civilization survives, war will someday become unacceptable. The idea of governments or militia killing human beings will become unthinkable. There will always be differences of opinion on politics and religion but these differences must be resolved without resorting to killing. One group of parents sending their young to kill the young in another country - how can governments continue to do this and perpetrate this cruel and primitive activity? This does not even address the suffering and mass murdering of civilians! I didn’t know the people in Viet Nam and I had no reason to dislike them. How could I take a gun there and participate in human slaughter. Our economy is heavily invested in weapons and the technology now allows killing to be executed from opposite sides of the earth. I find this unthinkable and it ignores the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue with understanding. War is a failure of political creativity. All weapons must be destroyed and children must be educated in peacemaking and creative resolutions. I do not believe that healthy people are inherently violent. Violence is an anomaly. Slavery was also once acceptable. It was endorsed by politics and clergy. It was an essential part of the economy, but it became unacceptable worldwide. Of course there are violations and people who will do bad things. But slavery is universally condemned. That’s the way the thinking of war will change. Some day, it will be rejected.

 

 

Magazine tear sheet for my first car, 1963 Dodge, Polara
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Chapter 6, 1966 to 1973

 
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