The clock was ticking. My days as a civilian were numbered. When I learned of Max’s past that morning after my Washington adventure it was February 2, 1966. Only 7 weekdays remained before my induction date on Monday, February 14th. My partner took on most of my patient care responsibilities as I rushed to set up my appointment for a physical examination in Staten Island the next day.
The uncertainty was killing me. Should I just go ahead and accept a commission in the Army Reserve? I called the Army, and they told me that if I immediately applied for a commission they would allow me to delay my entry on active duty until around June or July. However, if I failed to obtain a commission before February 14 I would be immediately inducted into the Army as a buck private.
I did get my physical examination and passed it. I was commissioned as a US Public Health Service Inactive Reserve officer on the spot, and on February 4th I received a telegram informing me that orders had been issued for me to report for active duty on February 16th. I called the Army and was told that this was not enough to stop my induction. They clarified that I had to be on active duty in the PHS before my Army induction date, and reiterated this with a telegram to that effect, reminding me that I would be subject to arrest if I did not keep my appointment at Fort Dix on the 14th.
After several anxious calls to the PHS I received new orders, to report for active duty on Sunday, February 13th, to commence official travel to San Isidro, California. There I would be working at the border quarantine station as a General Medical Officer. The next day a phone call and another telegram modified my orders, as now I would be stationed in El Paso, Texas in the US-Mexico Border Quarantine Headquarters as Assistant Medical Officer in Charge.
In the meantime, I sold my white 1963 Sunbeam Alpine roadster (a red one is pictured above) and Mary Lou and I put our Glen Ridge house on the market. Happily, the snow hid some troublesome cosmetic defects and added drive-up appeal. We held an open house on February 6 and sold it the next day for $24,000, exactly what we had paid for it two years previously. (Zillow.com lists its present tax assessed value as $196,000.) We immediately put all our furniture in storage.
On Sunday morning the 13th I set off for El Paso in our remaining family car, a 1965 Chevrolet Impala Coupe. Mary Lou, pregnant with our fourth child, stayed at her parents’ house in Wood-Ridge with our three children. I was to find a home and they planned to fly out after the furniture shipped.