My Army Anniversary

This is November 22nd, the 50th anniversary of my induction into the Army.  No reason anybody should care. Almost everyone had to go in those days. I was 23 and was working on my first newspaper, a small town sheet in the south. My draft board in Lakewood pulled my name along with a bunch of other neighborhood guys, 22 and 23 years old. I knew some of them. We all thought that we might slip through. Maybe we would not get called. We hoped.

    That hope was dashed in August when the Soviets put up the Berlin Wall. That escalated the cold war and President Kennedy responded. He activated two divisions which had been in mothballs. I was headed to one of them, the First Armored at Fort Hood, Texas, where I spent most of the next two years.

    The civil war in Viet Nam was still a French problem when I was drafted and during the next two years we made it our problem, but it never affected me. The Cuban Missile Crisis was our major concern. In October, 1962, the First Armored Division was shipped to Fort Stewart, Georgia, which was to be the jumping off point for the invasion of Cuba. It never came to that, but it came close. I wrote about this in the introduction to my first book, “Crazy, with the Papers to Prove It.”     

    As my two-year hitch came to a conclusion, I wrote to several newspapers. I needed a job. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote back. They needed a general assignment reporter. An interview with the managing editor was scheduled for the day after I was discharged. The interview was set for two o’clock in the afternoon on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.

    President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas an hour and a half before my interview. The previous afternoon Bob Schweitzer and I had driven through Dallas on our way from Fort Hood to St. Louis. There was no interstate through the city. We drove right past the Texas School Book Depository.

    The assassination changed everything. My interview in St. Louis was cancelled. I flew home and learned that The Plain Dealer had an opening in sports. I got the job and covered sports there from 1964 to 1982. Many people know me only from 25 years at Fox 8 television and have no idea that I was actually a newspaperman by trade. Believe it or not, there are others who still think I work at The Plain Dealer, almost 30 years later. Go figure.

    That’s all for now. By the way, you don’t have to say, “Happy Anniversary.”

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