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.”