After I graduated in June of 1968, I went back home and began working at my father’s newspaper.
I was lost, not knowing what would happen next or when it would happen. After the draft physical, things seemed serious, and I began to consider taking truly radical steps. Much of that time is buried in my memory beyond access – maybe it was all too stressful to recall. And my journal entries are little help. Seems that all I could think of, despite being confronted with a deep existential challenge, was when I’d see my current girlfriend next. At least that’s what I focused on in most of the pathetic entries from that time.
When I asked my mother about that summer, she related this to me:
You had been over visiting with friends at Georgia Southern, and I knew you were tense about the whole situation – Vietnam, the draft, what you were going to do – so I had not been able to sleep. I was up when you got home about 2 a.m., and we were talking about your visit. You told me you had been talking with two friends about going to Canada rather than being drafted, and I asked you if you had made any decision.
You looked at me and said, “Mother, I don’t know, I don’t think I can go. It’s a compromise either way, and I don’t think I can do that to Daddy.”
We both cried. It was hard. It was easier for me to take than for Daddy. But he did come around, I hope you know that, John. It was hard for him, but as the years went by, he came to see how right you were… but it was hard for him to express it.
It was Bryan – the main guy I was talking to about going north. Smooth-talkin’ slow-walkin’ Bryan – Bryan from Atlanta. Said he knew somebody in Montreal. Said I could go along. But he also knew a doctor who didn’t think so much of the War, wrote him a medical, so he never went.
I didn’t know any doctors who didn’t think much of the War, so I stayed 1A.
Mom said once that all my “radicalism” came from all those folk songs I listened to and sang. Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez… I loved the music and the heart in it. Here’s one of my favorites from a little-known singer of the time.—– “Let me tell ya ’bout the times I’ve had
Travelin’ up the road to Gilead. Let me tell ya ’bout the times I’ve had some of ’em good and some of ’em bad. —- Ch.: Lemme tell ya ’bout the places I’ve been, Lemme tell ya ’bout the folly in men, Woah, woah, yeah, the times I’ve had. —- Well it’s folks that wanna fight that I’m talkin’ about They’re leadin’ the blind to a timeless drought! I don’t want no drought in my land When there’s peace and love in my right hand. Ch. Well I was in Ohio in a little truck stop when a soldier told me, ‘this peace gotta stop!’ He said, “Think about the economy! I ain’t afraid ta fight fa mah country!” Ch.
–“The Times I’ve Had” – Mark Spoelstra (Verve Folkways)