Regarding the first draft lottery in 1969, I remember it well. I was working at The Missourian when the lottery was initiated that December night. The draft lottery numbers were released over the AP wire after each group of 20 numbers was drawn.

The wire bell would ring to signify that important news was to follow. So, when the bell rang that night, one of the editors tore the release from the machine, got up on a chair, and began by calling out to the newsroom that he was going to read the numbers. Immediately he was surrounded in the normally humming, noisy room by what seemed like 100 people to hear the numbers. The room was the quietest I had ever heard as he began to read. As numbers were called, one staffer after another would turn away and either groan or simply leave the room. (As an aside, the Missourian later ran a story about a student who was picked No. 1 and whose roommate’s birthdate was not called until No. 365).

It seems that the numbers, in groups of 20, were read out about every 20 minutes for the rest of the evening. As the reading went on, the room began to empty until very late. It was believed that the people who were in the first 120 or so numbers would be called to service immediately. And, indeed, friends of mine were gone soon after graduation.

Normally, the later it gets in a countdown like that, the sadder are the ones still standing, waiting to be picked last. It worked in reverse that night; as the numbers were reaching the 200s, people were relieved and happy that they had to stay late to get their individual good news.

I was on the clock that night, so I was stuck there until deadline at 1 a.m. We all stopped our work every 20 minutes to listen for the numbers. I was very lucky as my number ( for September 17) did not get called until there were very few people left in the newsroom. I returned home relieved with lottery No. 255. I completed my degree in photojournalism in 1970 and continued with my plans without interruption by the military.