The FBI Hears I Run a Communist Cell Block…

Next on my to-do list for joining the Peace Corps was the dreaded FBI security check.

I had been up to mischief at Berkeley, hung out with the wrong people, been seen in a few places where law-abiding people weren’t supposed to be, and had my name on a number of petitions.

“And where were you Mr. Mekemson the night the students took over the Administration Building?”

Maybe there was even a file somewhere; maybe it was labeled ‘Radical!’ J. Edgar Hoover saw Red whenever he looked at Berkeley.

Soon I started hearing from friends. The man with the badge had been by to see them. The background security check was underway. One day I came home to the apartment and found my roommate Jerry there, looking very nervous.

“I have to talk to you Curtis,” he blurted out. “The FBI was by today doing your Peace Corps background check and I told them you had been holding communist cell block meetings in our apartment.”

Jerry wasn’t joking; Jerry was deadly serious; Jerry was dead.

“What in the hell are you talking about?” I had yelled, seeing all of my hopes dashed. I knew that Jerry disagreed with me over my involvement in Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement and probably disagreed with me over the Vietnam War, but I didn’t have a clue on how deep the disagreement went. Or what he based his information on.

My degree in International Relations had included a close look at Communism. I found nothing attractive about the system.

The closest I had come to joining a leftist group had been the Free Student Union. Yes I had held a committee meeting at our apartment but I had also severed my relationship with the organization. The folks behind the Union were more interested in radicalizing the student body than serving it. That was not my interest.

I was not happy with Jerry that night or for some time after. I assumed the Peace Corps option was out and begin thinking of alternatives. They were bleak.

As it turned out, a few weeks later we received final notification from the Peace Corps. We were accepted. The people who said good things about me must have outweighed the people who said bad things. Either that or Jo Ann looked so good they didn’t want to throw the babe out with the bath water.

Or possibly the majority of other students signing up for the Peace Corps from Berkeley in 1965 had rap sheets similar to mine. I suspect that was the case.

Next Blog: If this is the Peace Corps, what am I doing in the naked man line at the Army Induction Center?

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