When we were in school between 1969-1973, if someone mentioned the word "draft" they usually weren't referring to a sudden gush of wind coming into your dorm room.
They were talking about receiving a "Greetings from Uncle Sam" letter and the opportunity you couldn't refuse (unless you went to Canada) to go into the U.S. Armed Forces and see the world (especially a little place called South Vietnam).
For the first year or so we were at Vanderbilt, the draft offered exemptions for those in college full-time. It was called a 2-s deferment. Most of us kept the card granting the deferment in our wallet with our regular draft card.
But the draft began to change December 1, 1969 (see the photo above) when the Selective Service System held a lottery by birth date to determine the order of the draft (induction) into the Armed Services for all eligible men (18 years of age or older) born in 1950 or before. That, of course, included almost every undergraduate or graduate student male on the Vanderbilt campus at that time.
It did, however, exclude from the first lottery most, if not all members of our VU Class of 1973, (our lottery, for men born in 1951, was held July 1,1970). That's 38 years ago now.
Neverthless, I'll bet there is not a male member of our class reading this blog who doesn't remember that day of the first lottery in 1969 and his ultimate lottery number (mine was 151). I also suspect lots of the women remember their boyfriend's lottery number from that time as well (you are all welcome to post your thoughts and memories below!)
None of us were on campus when our 1970 draft lottery was held, but what I remember so clearly about the 1969 lottery was all the folks who descended upon or called WRVU that December day to find out what had happened and, most importantly, what their draft lottery number was!
The station became the place to go or call because it had a United Press International wire machine, and in those days, long before the Internet or the 24-hour, wall to wall news coverage of today on CNN or FOX, it was apparent the radio station was about the only place to quickly learn your fate.
At one point, we had people lined up all the way down two flights of steps coming up to the radio station in the south tower of Neely Auditorim. To be able to continue to operate the station, we finally posted the information down at the foot of stairs leading up to the studio, which helped clear out some of the crowd.
However, it didn't stop the phone from ringing, as our two lines (7424 and 7425) stayed jammed with people demanding to know what date their birthday fell in the lottery pool. Things got so frantic that when I answered the phone, the conversations went something like this:
"Hot damn!" (click)
"Oh my God..."
Class of 1973 member and WRVU Station Manager Steve Womack also relates the story of one student who came by the radio station that day and asked about his birthdate, September 14. It was #1. The student fainted.
I am not sure any future drafts ever went above 125 in calling up inductees and the draft was then suspended in July, 1973, right after we graduated from Vanderbilt and the War in Vietnam ended. But that doesn't mean, we didn't have one more queasy moment about the draft while we were students.
It occured a few months after our 1970 draft lottery. As I remember it (and I could be wrong) if you already had a 2-s deferment you could stay out of the draft as long as you stayed in school and passed your classes.
But in the fall of 1970, some kind of administrative paperwork glitch occurred that resulted in all the men on the Peabody campus (as few as there were in those days) receiving notices from their draft boards that they were about to reclassified 1-A (and then drafted).
Yikes! You can imagine the tumult and angst that resulted when those notices were received and how quickly all the draft-eligible men on campus (including me) descended upon Peabody officials to get that changed. Fortunately, it was. I am also told by Steve Womack of our VU Class of '73 that a similar incident occurred at Vanderbilt that same fall semester.