Tulip Time in the Skagit Valley

You know that spring has arrived in Washington’s Skagit Valley when blossoms open in the tulip fields. The blooms were late again this year, but judging from the hordes of people oohing and aahing from the sidelines this weekend, the spectacle was well worth the wait.

 Rows of bright tulips stretched across rolling fields, striping a living quilt in rainbows. Another rainbow of nationalities mixed together in the crowds that moved along the edges of the fields. People from all corners of the earth, all ages from infant to ancient, called to each other in a kaleidoscope of languages. Because children are admitted free, at least at the farm we visited, there were many families: Asian, Hispanic, East Indian, American Indian, girls and women in bright saris or the native dress of Bangladesh. We saw every shade of skin color, black to brown to cream-in-your-coffee tan; blue-eyed blondes, redheads, some with hair as black as crow’s wings. But on every face was the same happy smile.

 The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs through the month of April, with the tulip crop scattered over hundreds of acres throughout the Skagit Valley and festival activities scattered throughout the valley as well. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come from all fifty states and as many as fifty-one foreign nations.


Photos by Joan Husby
Taken at Tulip Town, Mt. Vernon, WA

"The Old Man’s Draft"

Thomas Manford Rawlins in about 1942

    Cousin Jackie, our family genealogist, recently sent a document that rocked me back on my heels. It was a copy of a 1942 registration card for my then 63-year-old grandfather, Thomas Manford Rawlins. It brought back memories of poorly-understood events and conversations from that time in my life.

    In the spring of 1942, I had been in my 1st grade classroom when the mailman brought my father an envelope from the U.S. Selective Service. It was an official summons from the draft board to serve in the United States army. My younger sister, still at home, remembers our mother weeping in despair. Our parents had five small children to support, the youngest only a few months old. How would Mom manage by herself if her husband had to go to war?

    Fortunately for all of us, Dad found work as a logger about that time and received an “essential worker” deferment. But Grandpa? His shaky signature on the card indicates that he was already sick and unable to work. Was America so desperate for fighting men that they actually drafted senior citizens?

    Not really. This was the fourth of a total of seven draft registrations initiated by the Selective Service during World War II. Known unofficially as the “Old Man’s Draft,” it was meant to provide the government with a pool of men aged 45-65 who could help out on the home front by taking the place of young men who’d been drafted to fight.

    On April 27 1942, the official registration day for the Fourth Draft, long lines formed outside local draft board offices around the country . Many men waiting to register voiced their regrets that they were too old to fight. Feeling that this was one way they could serve their country, they registered willingly.

    I don’t know how Grandpa felt about it. And I don’t know if any of the men who registered for the “Old Men’s Draft” were actually called to serve. But it was a measure of our country’s spirit that everyone, young and old, felt a sense of being in the war effort together, whether we fought, collected scrap metal, planted victory gardens, or saved for war bonds.

    Some were drafted. Many volunteered. But almost everyone had a part in winning the war, including America’s “old men.”

Grandpa’s draft card. Reverse side holds physical description. His eyes were blue, like mine.