have courage. take heart. bear witness.
Cindy: I'm wondering, what decision-making process did you go through to refuse induction? You know, you could have gone to Canada.
Fred: The process began when I entered school. By just going into college, I was able to get a deferment, so I didn't have to think about the draft. So that was 1965.
Cindy: Was that the main reason that you went to college?
Fred: That was a significant reason for why I went to college. But, you know, at the time, college was cheap, so it was easy to do, in terms of that.
Cindy: And did you ever think, "I can go to school for four years, and that's a long time, and by the end of four years, maybe the war will be over?
Fred: Oh, sure. Those kinds of thoughts went through my head—that maybe I could just kind of wait it out. In 1965, the war wasn't quite what it was later on. And it didn't really start building up until, what, '67? And so then it was really pressing that if you had a deferment, you pretty well kept it, 'cause there was a distinct chance you were going to get drafted and go somewhere.
My brother was drafted in, what, 1966, I think. And he did well enough on tests that he went into missiles and was shipped to Germany. So, you know, there was also the possibility that, if I had been drafted, I would have scored high enough on tests—'cause I'm fairly smart and fairly good at tests—that I might not have been shipped to Viet Nam.
I really kind of stuck with college as a mechanism of keeping out of the draft, more than actually having anything that I was working towards. And so at first, I was into, like, a history major, and then after that, I ended up being an English major. And, really, it was, like, okay, what's the easiest route here? I mean, it had nothing to do with any desire to do any particular job in my life, or anything. It was just, okay, what's the easiest way to stay in college, but still get through it and graduate?
And then, maybe in, like, the winter of 1968, I actually dropped out for a quarter. I only had a quarter left. I have no idea why I did it. I was just, kind of, completely burned out. And I just dropped out, started doing some other things.
I guess another thing that I had done in that time frame was, in 1968, I had met a friend, Stan Mills. He had heard about this guy named Kirby Hensley, who was giving out minister's licenses. And so we went down to this place in Sacramento and got a minister's license from this guy. So one of the thoughts in my head was that, well, you know, I can at least try, you know, that this is my religion and I'm a minister and so you shouldn't be able to draft me.
And for some reason, even though I probably had already lost my student deferment, I wasn't drafted in that time frame. And then, I thought, well, you know, I might as well just go back to college and get it done with. And when I graduated in, what, June of '69, you know. I knew I was in limbo.
Cindy: How . . . well, how soon after that did you receive the . . .
Fred: I think I was drafted in . . .
Cindy: . . . notice?
Fred: . . . April of 1970. So I knew that it didn't really matter whether I was going to refuse induction or not, the future was already set. The future was something other than going on with a career or doing something else. The future, at that point, was, okay, you're drafted and you go in the Army, or you're drafted and you go in prison, or you go off to Canada.
Cindy: You couldn't continue school?
Fred: No, once you got your degree, at that point, they no longer allowed graduate deferrals. Unless you were in some very specialized field that was aimed at national security. I was an English major, so that didn't play into it. So, anyway, with this being in limbo, I did things that were not focused on the future, really, at all.
So I worked farm labor. I lived in Yosemite for three months and just used it as a place to backpack out into the wilderness and had a great time doing that. And went to northern California and visited friends up there. And worked at the can plant, making tin cans, making good money that I could, then, take time and do other things.
I actually went into Volunteers in Service to America [VISTA] and spent a little bit of time in Colorado with that. But the training was really regimented and, really, it seemed more militaristic than what I had expected, and so I ended up dropping out of that and just stayed in Denver for a while.
It was right around March that I hitchhiked back from Colorado and then, in April, is when I got my draft notice. It was sometime right in that area where anybody who was nineteen years old or who had had a deferment up to then, was thrown into the lottery, and they picked the day of the year, by number and date, and so mine ended up being, you know, 108 or something like that, so, I mean, everybody knew that up to, you know, 200 or whatever, during that time frame, was going to be drafted at some point.
Fred: The other thing that I did in the process of all this was, before you get inducted, they have what they call a pre-induction physical to determine whether or not they think they want you. And that right there is a really bizarre experience. So you go down to Oakland, and you're in the military induction center. You're dealing with people who are sergeants, and whatever, in the military. And you're not in the military yet, so they can't just order you around. But they are who they are. And so you get to deal with those people beforehand and get a sense of what these people are like.
So, you know, one of the experiences I had was, there was . . . there was an intelligence test that they passed out. And so, you're in this room and there's forty people in this room, in eight rows of five, or whatever, and I was sitting kind of behind this pillar, but I was visible. And this guy says, "Okay, I'm going to pass out this information."
The first thing he passes out is the answer sheet. And he comes to our row and he counts out all of them that he needs and they get back and he's one short. So I raise my hand and I go, "I need one here." So he comes back over and he passes it back. So he did the answer sheet, the test booklet, scratch paper, and a pencil. And he miscounted all four times.
So I'm thinking, "Here's this guy who's going to be telling me what to do, and he can't even count. Not only can't he count once, he can't count four different times." You know, and so my thought process is, "Jesus Christ, do I want to be a part of this?"
There was another situation where they have this doctor, and he's in this room, and, you know, you go in there and you stand up and you drop your drawers and they check out your asshole, and they, you know, do all these different things. Well, this guy is this little squirrelly little guy, and he's kind of hiding behind the door, like this, and it's, like, "Who is this person?" you know. And this guy, he's a doctor, so there's no question he's an officer. Again, how could you ever let yourself be ordered by people like this?
So that the thing on these situations, where if you're thinking about refusing induction, is if you want to be able to make any case for an appeal of your situation, you have to go through what they call all of the administrative remedies. So that means you had to go through all the physicals and all of the different steps, up to their finally saying, "You're drafted. You need to step forward." Then when you go to court, you have . . . then at that point, you may have some grounds of appeal.
But if you don't go through all those steps, if you avoid them—if you don't show up your physical, or whatever—your court appeals are no longer a possibility. That was what I was told at the time. And so I went through all of those, all of those administrative remedies. I went through all of those processes.
So then in April, went down to the induction center and went through the same process, another physical. And one of the doctors—he was talking to me and he said, "You know," he said, "One guy came in here and, you know, he bent over and grabbed his knees, and he had a tail sticking out of his asshole." And I asked him, I said, "What the hell is that?" And he says, "Well, that's my rat." He goes, "What do you mean 'that's my rat'?" He says, "What?" "What's it doing in there?" He says, "It's my rat, I'll put it where I want to."
I mean, this is one of the doctors telling me this story, and so they got rid of this guy. I mean, you know, you figure he's crazy enough to stick a rat up his ass, then, you know, you don't want him in the military. And I guess I wasn't willing to go that far, you know? And so, you know, again, made it through this ridiculous physical process.
And, basically, what they say is, "Okay, now it's time for you to volunteer to step forward." And so you say, "Well, I'm not really going to do it." And they say, "No, you know, this is . . . you have to do it." And I said, "Well, I'm not going to do it." And they said, "Now's the time for you to volunteer to step . . ." I mean, they kept using the word volunteer, as if it was a voluntary effort.
And so I refused to do it, and I remember feeling strongly committed to that. And I remember feeling really apprehensive about what it might mean, and, you know, those were always thoughts, 'cause five years in prison, $100,000 fine, or whatever it was. I mean, those were the possibilities that you could have been facing.
And so I had no idea what the actual consequences would be. You know, my parents were saying, "No, just go," you know, "you probably could get into missiles like Bob did. Just think of what it will do to the rest of your life. You'll be a fe . . . I mean all of those normal kinds of things that I was hearing, so . . .
Cindy: You'll be a what?
Fred: A felon. And so, you know, you won't be able to vote. You know, you won't be able to get a job, all of those kinds of things. So, I mean, all of that's kind of in the back of my head as I'm, you know, saying, "No, I'm not going to volunteer to step forward."
And, you know, I think, for me . . . I was twenty . . . I was twenty-three in 1970. You know, you're not through a lot at twenty-three, but you've at least had some going to college, you've thought, you've dealt with other people who are pretty intelligent, and kind of discussed all of these issues and gone through these issues and . . .
You know, I think if I remember right, after I refused induction, I went over and hung out at Hayward and then hitchhiked back up to Davis, where I was living at the time and went about my life kind of waiting for things to happen, and, so what was it, 19 . . . late '71, or something, when they finally called on me? We got a letter from my mom and she said, "The FBI showed up and kind of jumped in the front door and were looking for you, and I told them you weren't here but I'd figure out some way to get a hold of you."
And it was really odd to have done this thing that is against the law and then have them say, "Well, we'll get back in touch with you when we get around to it, you know, and just ship you off." And two years later, or whatever it is, they're starting to think about you, you know? It's just odd.
So we hitchhiked down to Sacramento and went down to the courthouse there, and I think the first thing they did was say, "Okay, we're going to give you another chance. If you want to go in the Army, you can go in the Army." And, again, I said, "No." And they appointed a lawyer for me. And he did these pro bono, you know. I mean, the guy was a really nice guy, and he was really committed to this and he did the best he could, trying to keep people out.
And he had some good advice about. . . basically, one of the things he said was, "If you can get a Kennedy-appointee judge, you'll get probation. But if you get a Nixon-appointee judge, you're going to get prison time." And I got a Nixon appointee judge. You know, I didn't really have much of a case. I could, basically, say, "Well, you know, I've got this minister's license and, you know, so, I'm a minister."
And that was the same argument that all of the Muslims were using. It was the same argument that all the Jehovah's Witness . . . I mean, it was all the same kind of thing—that there was this kind of religious reason for why you couldn't go, and they just weren't buying it for most people. It was a very limited set of people where that worked.
So anyway, they convicted me in a pretty short order, and my lawyer then filed an appeal. So then we went through another, what, six months? Four months? And the appeal was denied. I don't even remember if we showed up for that. And then, my attorney had said, "Okay, this judge that you got, he used to sentence people to two years, and they wouldn't do two years, they'd do six months or nine months, or something, and then get out."
But what he found out was that the parole boards weren't letting draft dodgers out early. They weren't letting them out on parole. They were making them serve their whole time. And, so, he's now changed his sentencing, so that it matches what he would expect for a bank robber who was sentenced to two years to get out on x number of months of parole and serve the rest on parole. So . . . so he told me that.
And so then they sent me to this presentencing meeting with my parole officer, and he said, "Well, you know, the guy's just sentencing everybody to two years, so that's what I'm going to recommend. And I said, "Well, that's not what I . . . my attorney told me that he's changed his sentencing guidelines, and this is what he's doing."
And he said, "Oh, okay, well that's what I'll recommend." I mean, it's just like, if I hadn't said something, you know, this guy's recommending two years, and since I said something, he's recommending, "Oh, six months and eighteen months probation." Great! So that's what the guy ended up giving me. And so it was, I think they gave me, like, didn't they give me, like, a month or two to show up after that?
Cindy: They didn't even . . . they didn't give you a timeline. They just said, "We'll . . ."
Fred: "We'll get back to you.
Cindy: "We'll get back to you." And what they did, eventually, was to send a letter saying, "You need to report to the San Francisco County Jail on October the tenth." I remember the day.
Fred: Yeah. Yeah. So, again, this whole period, so much of it is just kind of this limbo thing, but then, you know, I met Cindy, as well, and her presence through all of the court stuff, and all of that, was really important to me. I mean, it was some hard stuff. And, I guess, at any time during that time, since the Canadian border is open, we could have just . . . and we discussed . . .
Cindy: Yeah, we considered it.
Fred: . . . you know, just going to Canada, but it was, like, okay, my whole family is here. Everything I know is here. I don't know anything about Canada. I don't even know if I'd like Canada. So I'll . . . I'll just see this thing through and figure out where it takes me.
After I'd been sentenced and we were thinking about what was coming up—maybe even after we got the letter—we thought, "Well, I wonder if Cindy could even come and visit me unless we're married." And I went to . . . I went back to my parents' house and just told them, "Cindy and I are going to get married." And my mother just leapt up from her chair and went off into the bedroom, and she brought out this ring that was her grandmother's ring, to have. So, you know, we weren't even thinking, at all, along a kind of a traditional approach to marriage and ended up with an engagement ring anyway.
Cindy: Yeah, I was pretty surprised.
Fred: Kind of fun. She was shocked.
Cindy: It kind of brought me closer to Fred's family, knowing that his mother was so pleased that he was getting married and, you know, sometimes I wonder if we would ever have gotten married had Fred not been going to jail. Because the reason we got married was so I would have rights to know where he was. It seemed very important, instead of having . . .
Fred: Important to both of us!
Cindy: Yeah, important to both of us, and so I never looked back. I think it was a very good decision.
Fred: And so we got married on October 5th and on October 10th, I was in prison. We had this five-day honeymoon, hitchhiking around California in our overalls and long hair, and had a pretty good time, you know?
Cindy: Yeah, I think we did.
Fred: And then, you know, I left Cindy at the bus station in San Francisco and both of us cried our way in opposite directions.
Cindy: I just didn't have the heart to hitchhike home.
Fred: So then, from there, I went into the San Francisco County Jail. And it's in downtown San Francisco. And so they walk you into this thing, and they've got these rows of cells on tiers. Each one of these is a twelve-man cell. And they're long enough for three rows of bunk beds on each side. And then there's a toilet on the end.
And then there's another cell that's next to it that, during the day, for twelve hours, they open that cell up. And it's the cell that you get to actually move around in. And it's the same size, it just doesn't have any beds in it. And then there's a tv in there, bolted to the wall, and there's a shower there that's an open shower.
I didn't really have any problems with any of the people that were in the cell with me, and I didn't really experience any, even animosity from anybody. And, you know, there was even kind of some camaraderie in the cell. I had long hair, and I had . . . I was wearing overalls and, you know, it was kind of probably a typical kind of San Francisco hippie kind of guy to them.
And I was in there, about, I think two or three days, and then they shipped me to another cell. It was a two-man cell, but there wasn't anybody else in it, and they had me there overnight.
The next day was when the US Marshals came and, you know, loaded me up in their car with another guy. They couldn't ship me to Lompoc, which is southern California, nearer where I am. They couldn't have shipped me to McNeil Island, or whatever it is, in Washington, which is even, still, nearer. They had to ship me all the way to, you know, Safford, Arizona—out in the middle of bum fuck nowhere. There's a little town of Safford and there's just . . . there's nothing there. Probably to try and make it so it was more and more difficult for family, or whatever, to come visit.
So they loaded me up in the back of this car and we headed off down to LA—we had to pick up a guy in LA. It was October of 1972. And these two US Marshals were, you know, they were hip cops. They were wearing bell-bottom, you know, uniforms and, not really uniforms, even. They were . . . they were kind of plain clothes. And we were in a, like, a Thunderbird or a, you know, just two doors and two guys in the back seat and driving down to LA and the World Series was on—the Oakland A's were playing somebody, I can't even remember who they were playing—and so we'd just drive down the road and listen to the World Series in the back of this thing.
And the marshals were real decent guys. They talked to us like we were normal people and treated us like normal people and, you know, just . . . they handcuffed us and shackled our feet together and just on down the road we went, you know, rootin' on the A's and they won. I mean, it was a bad experience in the sense that you're, you know, you're going off to jail, but, you know . . .
Cindy: You're shackled.
Fred: And you're shackled but, you know, the people that you're in the car with aren't weirdos or strange people, or treating you weird, or anything.
So then we got to Safford. And Safford is what a lot of people call, you know, country clubs. They don't have big walls, or anything. They're minimum security. There are these huge dormitories, so there's, like, you know, six or eight dormitories with fifty guys in each one of them. And they're just big, open rooms, with a short wall—maybe three feet tall—down the middle, with beds pushed up to it and then beds on the walls. And so, you know, you all just sleep there and you've got this little, like, two-by-three locker—next to your bed—that you've got a padlock for, and that's where you live, with all these people.
Probably two-thirds of them were Mexican aliens, busted for jumping the border a bunch of times, or for smuggling, or whatever, but most of them were not even American citizens. They were Mexican citizens serving time in a US prison and they actually would make some money and send the money home from the prison. And I can't remember what we got paid but, you know, it was two dollars a day. It was some ridiculous amount of money, but you had an account there, and there was a place that you could buy cigarettes or candy or crackers or something other than the normal food, or normal things.
So, you know, I enter Safford and start my life there, with no idea about, you know, who's what or what's going on. And they start talking to me about, "Okay, so we need to get you a job. So tell me something about yourself. Have you been to college?" "Yeah, I went to college—graduated from college." "Okay, so, we've got a job on a survey crew, working for the Bureau of Public Roads."
So they're building this huge road all the way up to the top of Mount Graham. And Mount Graham's 10,700 feet high, or whatever. What I found out later is there's these several high-tech observatories up there. And so they're blasting rock and, you know, it was all stuff that I . . . it was completely new to me. I had no idea about it. And so that's what I did for the period of time I was there was, I'd go up on this mountain in the morning, and we'd survey for the road, and in the evenings, after we'd get off work, we'd play Ping Pong, or on the weekends, we'd play Ping Pong. We played thousands of games of Ping Pong. I mean, there wasn't anything else to do, so . . .
But while I was there, I met a whole lot of really interesting, decent people. Federal crimes aren't, generally, violent crimes. They're usually bank robbery or, I mean, that's as, you know, as violent as it gets, normally. But most of the people that were where I was were there for lesser crimes, or they had committed a major crime and had done six years in prison and were now being prepared for release. So they were kind of on their best behavior, as well. There were a whole lot of Jehovah's Witnesses in there, and other kind of religious faiths were in there for refusing induction, who were, you know, gentle, kind, caring people, who, you know, wouldn't hurt a soul.
And then there were all of these Mexican aliens. One of the things they would do is they would use Scotch tape and cigarette pack wrappings, and they would put Scotch tape on these and fold it over and make these long strips—it's all this bright colors in different patterns. And then they would fold them into boxes or purses, you know, that had, you know, lids that were made out of Scotch tape and paper, but when they were done, they were really pretty cool things, you know. It was pretty amazing. So there were a whole lot of guys that were doing that. And they'd ship them out of there. They'd ship them home and people would sell them and make money for them, you know.
So when you're there—when you're actually in the prison—if you're good, you get days off for good times, which means days off the end of your sentence. And so I ended up spending, what, something like four months and thirteen days, instead of six months. It was something like that.
Most of the Muslims got two or three years, and they were serving, you know, the whole time or, you know, eighteen months or two years, two-and-a-half years. They . . . and, you know, here I am, coming in after them and getting out in four months, you know? And there was a guy there from Texas who actually got five years, you know? He refused induction in Texas. They gave him five years, you know?
And so, I mean, there was this range of sentences for people who did the exact same thing—based on things that had nothing to do with what they did, you know? It had to do with their, you know, Black Muslims, you know, Nation of Islam, you know. These guys were un-American, you know, whereas I was just some white kid who made a mistake, you know? I mean, who knows how people looked at it, but, you know, it was that kind of thing. There was inequality in terms of the draft because, until the lottery, it was just poor people, who couldn't go to college, who got drafted.
Cindy: My brothers.
Fred: Yeah, and so Cindy's brothers—both her brothers—you know, got screwed. And any number of . . . millions of other people got screwed. And then, you know, here's the other inequality, is if you did refuse induction, then depending upon who you were, you got sentenced differently. Or where you were or, like my attorney said, you know—was it a Nixon appointee or was it a Kennedy appointee?
You know, there wasn't any equality or equity to the sentencing, at all, and, you know, I was certainly glad enough to get out of there in four months and thirteen days, but Peter, who is now a good friend—Peter Markovitch—I think he got two years. And he ended up doing most of the two years, and he was sentenced before me but had gone to Safford, found out that his appeal had been taken all the way to the Supreme Court, and so he got out, and then had to come back.
They would have these medical trials, and they would come to federal prisons and say, "Do you want to . . . instead of being in prison, you could be a part of this medical trial." And so he ended up being in a medical trial in his hometown of San Francisco. He told me the other day that when he, when he first came to prison—I'd been there maybe a month, 'cause it was actually on election day, when Nixon got elected—and so I was sitting out there, and I was playing a song, and he was just feeling like utter shit. And he said, "I walked into the yard and I heard your voice, and I said, "I can do this." You know, and that just, that was really cool to hear that, you know, that I'd kind of had that impact on him just at that moment.
So then, Cindy and I would trade letters regularly. Pretty much every day I wrote a letter. Pretty much every day she wrote a letter, and so . . . but the letters, I don't know how frequently they came out of the prison to you. For me, it was, like, they would come in clumps. It was clear to me that, you know, they were reading them.
And Cindy's life, while I was in prison, was intriguing. I mean, you know, she worked nights, 'cause she was trying to save up money to come visit me, and we found out that I could actually get conjugal visits. So she could actually come and get me, and take me out of the prison for twelve hours. And that was, like, "All right! I'm glad we got married," you know.
You know, she'd come and pick me up on a Saturday and we'd hop in the car and drive to a motel in Safford and just have a gay ol' time for the day, you know. She'd bring all this food and, you know, we'd have sex however many times we wanted to have sex, and eat food all day, and just, you know, really enjoy the heck out that one day.
And so then, you know, after twelve hours, she'd haul me back to prison, and they'd, you know, do a strip search of me and double-check that I wasn't bringing some drugs back in with me. She's come back the next day and we'd hang out in the yard, or whatever it was . . .
Fred: . . . and spend another twelve hours together eating food and talking and holding onto each other, and then she'd go away and, you know, four months, thirteen days, and I had three conjugal visits, you know? That was pretty fortunate.
And one of the things I really remember about that was I also would get a phone call—maybe it was every couple of weeks, something like that. Cindy would go over to my parents' house and I'd call over there and talk to all, you know, both my parents and Cindy.
And I remember really clearly one time, my dad, over the phone, saying, "You know, I'm really proud of you." You know, and that really meant a lot to me, you know. And I knew he, you know, I knew he felt that it was a good thing I did, but, you know, it was really nice to just hear that over the phone while you're there.
So about a week before I got out of there, there was a riot, a full-blown riot. And people are throwing things and beating the crap out of each other. And this guy in front of me picks up this chair and swings it at me, and I stopped, to avoid being hit by this chair, and this boulder hits me in the back of the head and knocks me to the ground. And, I mean, I've still got a dent in the back of my head. And I remember thinking, "I have to get out of here."
And so I just took off running, as fast as I could, just streaking for this door, and on my way, I got hit again, in the side of the head, in the ear, and in the back of the arm, and finally made it into this door. I mean, I was in shock and just had the shit knocked out of me, you know?
So I had this Band Aid and stitches on my head, and my ear was all fucked up. And I didn't even bother to tell Cindy. It was just, just before I got out. And so, I said, "Okay, I get out on February 14th, or whatever it was, February 13th." I said, "Midnight, I want to go to the airport." And they said, "No problem," you know? I mean, I'm sure they were ready to just "Don't sue us."
So then, Cindy got me a ticket, and midnight, they drove me off to Tucson or Phoenix, and away I went and flew home.
Cindy: Could you give me a little bit more information about your family's reaction to your choice?
Fred: As I recall, I spoke, now and then, to my parents about, you know, wishing I didn't have to go to college, but knowing that otherwise I would be drafted. And I know that my mother was very concerned about that, 'cause my brother had been drafted.
My dad had a stroke when I was seventeen. So, at least in those years before I went to UC Davis, there probably wasn't much from my father, because it was almost impossible for him to talk. But I thought I'd read this thing that he wrote.
He was on a battleship in World War II, and he was a very, you know, a real sensitive kind of person. He was 4F for part of the war—at first, in the war—and then was able to enlist in the Navy and was a Lieutenant JG on a battleship. So he wrote this, and it's dated 7 August 1945, at sea:
"We've just received sketchy, flagrantly boastful news of the new atomic bomb. The superlatives that are used in describing it seem, when we think about the little we know of its nature, to be either inadequate as anachronisms, or typically boastfully exaggerated. If the former, I am terrified. Man needs to break the bonds of his soul and release its power long before he should be permitted to break the atom and exploit its power. They say the power can be creatively used, but I fear its original destructive use might be the prophetic. Tyrants, oppressors have had their Cossacks, police, Gestapo. Now what have they got? Incidentally, I wonder what will become of the soul of the hero when his body, instead of rotting or burning, is vaporized in death. The question would trouble the Egyptians more than the capitalists."
So that was kind of who my father was, I think, in a way. My mother was kind of a . . . the typical motherly response was, "Do what you have to do to avoid being drafted, and if you get drafted, the likelihood is that you will probably do well on tests, just as your brother did, and probably not have to go to Viet Nam."
But, of course, my perspective on that was, "Yeah, but we don't know that. I remember, my brother had gotten back from the Army then. He'd gotten back in 1968, so, you know, he wasn't opposed to what I chose, at all. In fact, he was supportive of it. But he chose something different and he would have . . . he would council me to choose something different.
So then after I got through to the point to where the decision was made for me—I was drafted and I had to do something—none of the people that I hung out with were, at all, opposed to my choice.
Cindy: You know, everybody that I worked with knew that you were in prison, and why you were in prison, and I don't remember reactions one way or the other from the people I worked with.
Fred: I think a lot of it was, was, like, people would rather not think about it.
Fred: People would rather not deal with it.
Cindy: And by that time, my dad had come around to the belief that Fred was doing the right thing. Before that, he would not have accepted that.
Fred: Yeah. After I'd gotten convicted and after I realized I was going to have to go to jail, and I remember telling him that, "Time's coming." He says, "Well, you dance, you gotta pay the piper." I remember his saying that real clearly. "Yep, I guess you're right."
Cindy: And, of course, both my brothers had already been to Viet Nam and came home, so, that's a whole 'nother story. But I was so happy when I heard that Fred had refused induction and I wouldn't have to think about him going over there. Because that was a . . . that was a terrible time for me when my brothers were gone, and worrying about what they were doing and if they were okay and would I ever see them again, so . . .
Fred: You know, I was around both Mike and Tim a lot—more than around my family . . .
Cindy: Well, that's true.
Fred: . . . because I was being around with you, and their being the same age . . .
Cindy: Mm hmm.
Fred: . . . and both of them were completely supportive of my having refused induction, from the first they knew about it. Both of them had been to Viet Nam. Both of them had seen a whole lot of crap. And both of them just thought it was a perfectly fine thing for me to do, and a smart thing for me to do, actually.
So, let's see—what happened? When I got out, I had to come home and report to a parole and probation officer, and then I had to do eighteen months of community service. I was a maintenance man for the halfway house in town. And Cindy got pregnant within two months of when I got home. We wanted a baby. And so just before she gave birth, the guy said, "Listen, I'm not going to hold you to this anymore. You're wife's pregnant—you need to go get a job. You're done."
And so I ended up doing, you know, four-and-a-half months in prison and about a year, I think, of community service. And, you know, I mean, the community service part was really pretty straightforward. It was, you know, not a whole lot different from just living life and . . .
Cindy: Regular job.
Fred: . . . regular old job, or whatever. And we were living in a place in Sacramento—downtown Sacramento—and we had moved into this little house that was about the size of a railroad car. It was just this, you know, what they call a shotgun shack, where, you know, it's just had a front room, and a middle bedroom, and a kitchen, with just a kind of a hallway down the side, and a bathroom off of one side. And the guy that lived in the very front house was pretty much the same age as me, and his father . . . his family owned this box-making company, where they made boxes.
So, this guy's a good friend, we know each other really well, a job comes up in his factory, his dad's factory, and so I get a job in a factory—union wages, making decent money. And it was hard work, and it was kind of strange work. But, you know, it was a good job and, you know, here I am, a felon and all of these things, all of these horror stories about what's going to happen to you when you get out. You won't be able to get a job. You won't be able to do this, that, or the other thing. It's going to be a problem. But, you know, the transition's kind of seamless.
And got a little bit of money saved up and when Josh was . . . our son was eighteen months old, we moved up to Oregon and started building this house—built a house by hand, up there in the Coast Range. And, at that time, in terms of work, the work that was to be had was things like tree planting, or cutting slash—cutting down all the remaining trees that weren't of any value once they'd logged an area—those kinds of things.
And Oregon is always a kind of a depressed area—regularly goes through these depressed cycles. And so there was some federal money available at the time for job training and those kinds of things. And so I got a couple jobs with the state forestry, after awhile, to cut timber or clear brush, or fight forest fires. And they paid okay, but I mean, we lived up there in tents, built this house with hand tools, and didn't need a lot of money. Everything was paid for, and so it was, you know, enough money to buy gas and food and whatnot.
And so we pretty much just kind of got by until I went to work for the city of Newport, I guess. And that was a CETA [Conmprehensive Employment and Training Act] job. So that was one of those government jobs and they didn't care who you were or what kind of record you had, if you had some experience doing different kinds of things.
Cindy: Were there questions on the application about . . .
Fred: I don't recall.
Cindy: . . . were you a felon or have you ever been arrested?
Fred: A lot of times there are questions like that, but I really don't even recall if there was a question . . .
Cindy: Yeah, I don't remember.
Fred: . . . or how I answered it. When Jimmy Carter became president, one of the first things he did was grant amnesty to everyone who went to Canada, and pardoned everyone who went to prison. So from that point on, I just kind of figured, I'm not a felon anymore. And so whenever I would answer the question, I'd just say, "No."
I always joke with people that I've been rehabilitated by my prison experience, because they, basically, trained me how to be a surveyor. And so I was looking for work. Josh was, what, three-and-a-half? Caleb was . . .
Cindy: Months old.
Fred: Caleb was months old, so I was looking for work. I needed work. So I would go down to the employment office, and there was this job that was there that was a surveyor. And I kept thinking, you know, some local guy is going to get this job—I don't have a chance in hell. But it just stayed there on the board. And so, finally, I applied, and we just talked over, you know, my experience working for the Bureau of Public Roads. And I didn't bother to tell him it was a prison job. I just told him I worked for the Bureau of Public Roads. And he hired me.
And so I got this job as a rodman/chainman, and from that then, after about three years there, I think, they said, "Okay, now you're city engineer," so I became the city engineer and, over the years, have worked my way to a senior planner and, now, to the manager of the planning division in the city of Corvallis. And so all of that started as my being hired as a rodman/chainman in federal prison. I was trained by the federal prison, and I'm doing the job, ultimately, that I was trained for.
So, I guess, really, the bottom line is that, as a result of having refused induction, and having gone to federal prison, and being a felon, really probably didn't change my life much, in terms of "you'll never be able to get a job, you'll be a felon"—all of those things. It never worked out that way, at all, for me.
You know, in terms of the value of having done that and not of having, you know, been to Viet Nam, or whatever I might have been through in the military, you know, I think, in that sense, it's, to me, it's all positive. I mean, the whole decision had its tough points, had its hard things to do, and all the rest of it, but, you know, in all reality, I know for a fact it was easier than it would have been for me to go in the military, no matter what route that ended up being.
Saw the dark night cover them
The cloud of ash and smoke
I knew it also carried
Flesh and blood and bone
I knew their suffering
I never heard a word they spoke
It's true that crying
Is a language all its own
I saw no politics
No religion in their eyes
I saw no nation
On the ground to which they fell
Their haunted faces
Wore no cheap disguise
Was it New York City, Karbala,
Jerusalem, or hell?
I might not be strong enough
To withstand such a night
May not hold out long enough
To feel the warm new light
I might not be strong enough
To swim that tide of tears
May not hold out long enough
If you're not with me here
If I should lose it all
What hatred would I feel
For those who took my wife
Or the children I have raised
What prophet, god, or savior
Before which could I kneel?
When in their names, all I see
Is the devil being praised
I see them on the streets
These veterans of war
My homeless brothers
Their stories never told
With every battlefield
Nations create more
Once just nineteen-year-old kids
Too young to be so old
I might not be strong enough
To withstand such a night
May not hold out long enough
To feel the warm new light
I might not be strong enough
To swim that tide of tears
May not hold out long enough
If you're not with me here
I might not be strong enough
I might not be strong enough
I might not be strong enough
If you're not with me here
Written and performed by Fred Towne.