Out of the military a couple of weeks, I was getting restless. Here I was, one foot out the door heading back to California, and the other responding to a mother’s request to find work in my hometown. Mothers win. Always.
It was early December of 1970, and she had convinced me to make one more try at dropping anchor at what she saw as life's safest harbor—home.
I wasn’t optimistic. So, far, the folks in Arkansas hadn’t been real impressed with either my qualifications or my veteran status. I had been four years away and my puny Bachelor of Arts Degree seemed a distant and impotent achievement. Peers who had evaded the Draft had been learning and earning for four years while I languished, or so it seemed to me then.
The Honorable Discharge, such a proud achievement and sine qua non of my youth was now being pretty much translated as “chump.”
But my cousin Troy, with whom I was very close, worked for the city and knew the Director of the Urban Renewal Agency in Pine Bluff, a nice fellow named Charles Rush. Troy had arranged for me to meet the director and discuss the potential for meaningful work in the state. It was rumored that he knew a lot of people.
So, I bundled up and headed to the city’s new civic center. It, at the time, was a proud new addition to the city, designed by the architectural firm of Edward D. Stone, until then perhaps the most famous architect produced by our state. It was an extremely unfunctional facility that hasn’t stood up well, but that’s another story.
Mr. Rush welcomed me into his office graciously. I didn’t own a suit, and a needy shipmate had stolen most of my civilian clothes just before I left the service. I did borrow a tie from my father. I think he had purchased it for funerals back in the 1950s. I’m sure I made a splendid appearance.
No, Mr. Rush explained, there wasn’t much work for a college graduate with no special qualifications in the area. I had pretty much decided that on my own, but thanked him for his insight. His office, he said was fully staffed and he knew of no positions available anywhere.
We talked, I could almost hear the sounds of foghorns from ships heading west through the Golden Gate and taste the salty fog of my beloved San Francisco. I had tried, Mother, so take that and grant me my freedom.
I thanked Mr. Rush for his time and began, mentally, to assess the route I would take to the West. Arkansas had a new governor who seemed willing to continue the progressive programs started by his predecessor. I wished the best for my home state, but California was a big place and opportunities seemed to grow on trees there. I had even been able to find a job in “The City” while I was burdened with a 1A status (Same-same Goodbye my Darling, Hello Vietnam) from my local Draft Board.
Just imagine what a free man could do there.
I had a hand on the office door when Mr. Rush said, “Wait a minute. Would you be interested in working in Little Rock?”
|I thought I was marketable,|
but to whom?