If I had to do it over…

If I had to do it over, I would not have enrolled in the Federal Government program that started late in 1940 for prospective draftees. Classes were started throughout the U.S. to teach the young men specialized work that might have some higher value to the Armed Forces than just a stupid recruit with a gun. The lectures were given at North High School two nights a week for 2-1/2 hours each night and then the field work was done Sundays, six or more hours, at Mines College, Boulder, Colo. The subject was “Civil Engineering” which was one of many offered.

All my life, it seems, I had been hearing about engineering as being one the best professions to get into. When I was very young, my Uncle Hyman used to regale me with stories of when he was in World War 1 as an engineer overseas. As I realized much later, there engineers and engineers. My uncle was an engineer on a troop train that took solders towards the front in France.

Later when I was going to Junior High and High School, my father would drop remarks, often, of how good the engineering profession paid to those who designed and built bridges, skyscrapers, etc. So, I started to take elective courses that would point me towards engineering, such as: math, mechanical drawing, physics, and mechanical drawing. Some of the subjects were fun, but physics and mechanical drawing were way out of my range. I believe the Civil Engineers must have a lot of artistic talent; I seemed to have nil. I had trouble drawing a straight line even when using a strait-edge. But I persevered even though I got only average grades in what I called “engineering subjects”.

At the time, in the Summer of 1941, when I enrolled in the government class, I was working at the bakery on a wholesale bread route. That was a six day a week, nine hours a day (with an extra hour on Saturdays). I don’t remember how many weeks the class was supposed to continue, but after four weeks I had enough. I told my parents I was dropping out.

“Why?!!” my father shouted.

“Because I have no life of my own these days and that’s not the way I want it.” My God, I was defying my father!

“Then you can get out of this house”, my father shouted.

“O.K., I’ll just go and get my clothes together and ready to leave”. I had absolutely no idea where I was going to go, but decided that I finally had to make the break and leave home.

“Where do you think you are going?” My mother snapped in a voice I had never heard before.

“He wants me to go”, I answered.

My mother turned to my father and coldly announced, “If he goes, I go too, and you can be all alone.”

My father turned and left the room. I looked at my mother in awe. I had never heard her stand up to my father before.

My father did not get into any conversations with me until Sunday morning, December 7th. He then realized that I was finally leaving him and no one could know then for how long it would be.