A Long Overdue Confession from 1968
by Pete Whalon
On August 15, 1968, the day of my Bon Voyage Private Whalon celebration, I was 18 days away from becoming an extremely reluctant soldier in the United States Army. I had joined the Army in hopes of avoiding the draft and being sent to Vietnam as an infantry soldier. The prevailing wisdom at that time was that joining the military for three years would reduce your chances of being sent to Vietnam. Getting drafted for two years usually meant being sent to infantry training after basic training and then shipped off to the jungles of Nam. Vietnam was the absolute last place on earth I wanted to be. (For the record, in 1969, I did end up in Vietnam).
A few days earlier, while planning my “goodbye cruel world” party, a group of friends and I mulled over the perfect place where a sizable group of raucous, under aged teens could chug alcohol undetected. Lenny had lived in El Segundo for a few years growing up and recalled a secluded public park in the city with an isolated picnic area concealed by trees and bushes and conveniently tucked away from busy streets. He also described a quiet, bucolic town where they rolled up the sidewalks at 7 p.m. Although I had lived in Redondo Beach since six, I had only been to El Segundo one time in my life. Growing up in Redondo, with the quintessential beach cities of Hermosa and Manhattan nearby, taking a road trip to sleepy El Segundo never appealed to me. So, with a unanimous vote, on Saturday night 15 of my closest friends would join me to bid a fond, alcohol fueled, farewell. The thought thrilled and depressed me at the same time.
As the caravan of four cars, carrying our spirited pack, pulled into the empty parking lot, I thought this place is perfect for my “last hurrah.” It appeared to be a…