Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In the Midst of a Raging War


Sometimes, when we zero in on relatives’ life stories, we get so caught up in the details of the individual timeline that we forget about stepping back and taking in the bigger picture.

At the point when Samuel William Bean finished school and entered the work world—as challenging as that may have been for him—there was, indeed, much more than job hunting going on in that bigger picture.

By June fifth of 1917, Sam had done his civic duty and appeared at the local draft board to complete his draft registration card. All the information seems to agree with what I’ve discovered about him through family history research. His address showed the home at 1807 Santa Clara Avenue in Alameda, just as the census record of a few years later would confirm. The date of his birth—one hundred seventeen years ago, today—jived with my records. The registration card showed that Sam was a natural-born citizen of the United States, and provided the confirmation I needed that he was actually born in Redwood City instead of the mere label of “California” that I had previously been able to retrieve.

As far as occupation was concerned, the registration card confirmed what we had discovered only yesterday—that Sam was a magazine salesman, working for someone affiliated with a company out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

At the time of what was then dubbed “The Great War,” Sam was single and free of any obligation to provide sole support for any dependents.

We learn that he stood five feet, ten inches tall and was of slender build, with black hair and hazel eyes.

There seems to be one great disconnect in all this record-keeping, however. And it is the last line on the first page of the form that finally provides any disclaimer for the potential success of this one Sam Bean to serve successfully in the American Armed Forces.

In answer to the question, “Do you claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)?” the explanation divulges the root of Sam’s dilemma. Someone has marked in the answer, “Yes, being both blind and deaf.” And yet, as if that message didn’t come through loud and clear, line three of the Registrar’s Report observed a doubtful, “Seems to be deaf and blind.”

I don’t know…maybe a draft dodger might have concocted an elaborate ruse to evade the draft for the nastiest war going at the time. Perhaps these draft board employees needed to be on their toes when it came to fraud of that manner.

With the name “Samuel William Bean” signed so neatly at the bottom of the card, one could almost miss the significance of the “x” appearing at the end of the signature line. The legend just above that line, however, should have swayed the Registrar’s thinking. The notation? The words, “his mark.”

Was Sam Bean that good at adapting to his disability that he fooled someone into thinking he wasn’t the handicapped young man he was reported to be?

14 comments:

  1. I love your writing, you really tell a story!

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    1. Thanks, Betty! Speaking of telling stories, I stopped by your blog today, and was struck with the similarities between our two experiences. You have quite a story to tell, yourself!

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  2. Hrmph - the Registrar SEEMS to be cynical.

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    1. I know, Wendy! I was wondering: so just how does one go about testing for that doubtful blindness? Snap one's fingers right in front of his eyes and see if he flinches?

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  3. I don't know how many tried to "dodge the draft" back then - I'm sure there are always some - one would assume from this it was a significant "problem" for/before WWI. One web site says:

    "During the World War I draft, between 2,400,000 and 3,600,000 men failed to register for the draft as required. The federal government held "slacker raids" during World War I in which federal authorities (civil and military), with help from vigilantes, would stop and detain draft-age men and find out if they were properly registered."

    http://www.bookrags.com/research/the-draft-sjpc-01/

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    1. So glad you're back, Iggy! You always come up with the neatest links!

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  4. Some cranky old woman no doubt..why would they even write that in the record..Seems to me someone was stupid:(

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    1. Well, based on what Iggy found, apparently there were enough frauds out there that this became an issue. You'd think, though, that just taking a look at Sam's eyes would be proof enough that something was amiss with his sight.

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  5. I agree with Betty, you really tell a story!

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    1. Thanks so much, Grant. Glad you enjoy them!

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  6. Jacqi~
    I love the stories you tell and the flair you tell them with. They are a reader's pleasure indeed! I am a lazy wordpresser though, so I don't comment as often as I should. I do like those easy buttons to "like" on wordpress sites. But I wanted you to know that I really do enjoy reading all that you write:)
    Kassie aka Mom
    Maybe someone should write that down...

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    1. Kassie, I can totally understand...but thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I like to see it as an ongoing conversation, and I'm glad you are a part of it! Please feel free to drop by any time and leave a comment. And I'll do likewise on your blog (as I'm sure others here will, too)!

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  7. Very interesting, Jacqi. You would think Sam's disability would speak for itself, but clearly the clerk wasn't buying it. Perhaps there was a quota to fill. One can only imagine how perplexed Sam must have been when he left the draft board office that day. Nevertheless, 100 years later, it's a great record to find, isn't it?

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    1. Well, I'm certainly amazed, Shelley. Who knows what the people in that office were thinking that day. But you are right: it was a great find, after all those years! Especially coupled with the news article on the draft board's confusion over the twins' similar names. Almost makes it look like an old-time comedy routine. Can you just imagine the Abbott and Costello version?

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