In the midst of reading newspaper articles congratulating Samuel Bean on his admirable achievement of being the first deaf and blind student to graduate from the State of California’s school in Berkeley, we need to keep in mind that he was not the usual age of eighteen upon his graduation.
Sam was twenty-three.
Sam was twenty-three.
Given the time frame in which that marvelous occasion occurred, we need also to remember the broader perspective of world events surrounding that date. When Sam was twenty one—ripe for the draft, if all other considerations were overlooked—he was still laboring over his high school studies.
Though World War One had been raging on European soil since late July, 1914, the United States entrance into the fray did not occur until formal declaration of war by Congress on April 6, 1917. At that point, Sam was more than two years away from his formal graduation ceremony.
By July of 1917, with an American draft instituted in the form of a lottery, every adult male within the designated age limits had drawn a number, and it was a matter of which numbers would be selected as to who would be required to report for military duty. (All told, the United States would end up drafting a total of 2.8 million men before the war's conclusion.)
As stories poured in from around the country in the aftermath of that first drawing, the Oakland Tribune ran an article on July 21,1917, detailing some unusual anecdotes. In amongst the stories from Cincinnati and Minneapolis, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, was tucked a solitary paragraph about the number two name drawn for Alameda. Can you guess who that might have been?
Evidently, those counties whose quotas were already filled by volunteers did not need to participate in the draft, as the Tribune article explained with the example of the Portland area in the state of Oregon:
As Portland’s quota has been filled by volunteers no man will be called from the list for the first draft, but on the second call the city will have to supply its share. Fourteen counties in Oregon are exempt on the first call.
That, however, was not the case for Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area. In a follow-up article on August 16 of that same year, the Oakland Tribune explained why the local region was not only the opposite case of Portland—not having enough volunteers to negate necessity of the first round of the draft—but also not able to fill its quota.
The Alameda draft board took up at its meeting last night consideration of the claims and physical examinations of the first batch of men called, the seventy-five who underwent physical tests Monday. Twelve were given discharges as physically unfit for military service. Those not given discharge by reason of failure to meet the physical tests came up for consideration later…. By far the major portion of the seventy-five, allowing for enlistments, necessary absences, etc., filed claims for exemptions….The exemption claims brought forcibly to light the fact that Alameda is a “muchly married city.” It has long been the boast, of real estate men, boosters and even the general run of citizens, that Alameda was a city of homes, but even the most enthusiastic home booster never realized that seemingly every Alameda youth took unto himself a wife about as soon as he was able to vote or graduate from the high school. The exemption claims of married men almost match the number of men called for service. A single man of military age in Alameda appears to be the scarcest thing in the world.