Sarah Butzin and Peter Butzin

Recorded November 28, 2021 Archived November 28, 2021 36:51 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby021264


Sarah "Sally" Butzin (76) interviews her husband, Peter Butzin (77), about his involvement in the draft resistance movement during the Vietnam War.

Subject Log / Time Code

PB and SB discuss how their college studies influenced their political views.
PB shares how he became a military draft resister during the Vietnam War.
PB describes the military draft system that was in place during the Vietnam War.
PB explains how becoming a Protestant minister protected him from the draft.
PB talks about how some of his friends avoided the draft.
PB describes the trip to Chicago during which he met SB for the first time.
SB and PB remember falling in love.
PB and SB describe the demonstration that they attended at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
SB talks about the letters PB wrote her when she was in Europe.
SB reflects on why her and PB's relationship has lasted.
SB and PB discuss the mistakes the U.S. made in Vietnam.
PB talks about the work he has done at Florida State University and Common Cause.
SB explains why she opposed the Vietnam War.


  • Sarah Butzin
  • Peter Butzin

Recording Locations

LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library


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00:02 I'm Sally, but seeing also known as Sarah butzin, I'm Seventy-Six years old. Today is November 28th. 2021, two days after Thanksgiving. We're in Tallahassee, Florida, and I'm here with my husband, Peter, and I am Peter. Butzin. I am 77 years old and it is the 28th of November 2021 where Tallahassee Florida. And I am being interviewed by my wife of 52 years. Sally eye color Sally butts in.

00:42 Well Peter, I wanted to come to talk about when we first met and I was inspired by a recent movie.

00:54 That I watched it was on streaming called the boys who said, no. And it was about the man backs in boys who resisted the draft and protested against the Vietnam War.

01:12 I was drawn to this by a message from Joan Baez. So I was a huge Joan Baez fan back in my college days in the 1960s.

01:25 And her husband, David Harris was one of the protesters and he was featured in this film and he actually went to prison as a draft resister.

01:38 And of our life started together.

01:43 Because you are a draft resister. So my first question is

01:49 What, when did you start to be opposed to the Vietnam War? What was the spark that got you thinking like that? I would swear, I should give some background. So I grew up in a strongly. Republican household. All my relatives were Republican and then I went to Carleton College. Would you introduce me to a whole nother world and I would have become seriously opposed to the war in Vietnam, when I took a course at Carlton in Asian history, and that would have been probably my sophomore year. And that really woke me up to the fact that the history that I had known growing up in Ripon, Wisconsin was very different from what I was exposed to you as a college sophomore.

02:41 And for me, what I remember the spark for me was it? I was at DePaul University and we had a lecture series that Maggie McGovern. They were two senators, one was in favor of the Vietnam War and one was supposed McGovern was opposed, and I went to that lecture and that's when I started to realize that this was just not, right.

03:09 So after you became aware that you were against the war.

03:16 Then what was the next step in your journey to be a draft resister? Well, I became a draft resister. Probably is the thought of being drafted, became imminent. Now that time all those males in college and in graduate school, had draft exemptions educational draft exemptions, and that work for me. Through my first couple of years in graduate school. I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit, but I would say that we had our first protest in Charlton College beginning, probably in my junior year, which would have been 19666. Thank you, Jean, 66, and I remember a parading through the streets of Northfield, Minnesota.

04:15 The home of cows colleges and contentment little town. It with the, with the local population kind of glaring at us, all of us who were protesting, but my roommates. And I and my friends, we were sure that we were right to protest and, and I did made me very politically aware. I voted for the first time when I was 21, which would have been about when I was a junior. And I was starting to become so active against the war in Vietnam. I remember that I even made the mistake. Fortunately. I was never called on this of bribing. My conservative congressman from Fond du Lac Wisconsin. I said, if you will oppose the War, I will come and work for you for free for a year at the time. I didn't know that would be illegal to even make that proposal, but I was so a

05:15 What's the war in Vietnam that I felt energized to act? Well, you know, for some of the younger people that may be listening to this someday go back and just talk about the draft because that's something that young people today. Don't even appreciate. So true talk about. How did that work? So it's a Time eligible males had to register for the draft. They still do you actually even though we haven't had a draft since I think 19. I don't know what 73 or 74 but I came out in favor of the way because I felt that you could only have a war if it was supported by its citizens. And one way to ensure the citizen supported war was to ensure that their youth, they would be comfortable with their children. Going to war to fight for some good cause but it was very apparent during the war in Vietnam that those are draft eligible age.

06:15 At least many of us were opposed to the war in Vietnam and therefore at the time of post of the draft but subsequently, of course the draft is no longer and as a result, I think we've gotten into a lot of needless war is recklessly because everybody assumed well that some other family going to war that some other families young children being slaughtered and wore that doesn't affect me personally. And so for that reason and again, I'm getting ahead of myself. I think probably we need to bring back the draft so that we have a more conscientious decision with regard to whether a war is worth it. Again, I want you to be more granular, talk about the draft number. You had it. Everybody had a number and and talk about how that work. And it was very scary. It was just men at that. Time with women didn't have to give me

07:15 Washington University in St. Louis, they were running out of draft eligible males.

07:25 Who did not go to college? Who did not have the draft deferment? So I remember corresponding with the Fond du Lac draft, Selective Service committee. The head of that said we're going to get you one way or another or you or you're going to be drafted. And this was when they imposed the lottery and we'll talk about the not like everybody had a number or the other number. Although that was a little bit later for me. I wasn't really affected by that as people about 2 years, 3 years younger than me, but the bottom line was that they had a lottery in the lottery was based on your birth date. And if you had you could end up having the lottery number one, which meant you were sure to be drafted or a lottery number 365 which means meant that you are very unlikely to be drafted. I can't even remember what my lottery number was.

08:25 Because it was later. I had already avoided the draft and I'm sure you're going to ask me how I did that. A lot of people don't even understand when you say the lottery was, did they like put all the numbers in a bin and roll and they pulled out a number, A Day of the Dead. And they did. They do that every year, there was an annual drafter. Do you remember? I think it was annual. So what was your number? I can't remember. But it because by that time it was obvious. I was going to get out of it, but you at the at the time you were concerned. Apparently that your number was pretty low that you had a pretty good chance of being drafted, right?

09:14 Yes, if I hadn't followed some other protocols, Okay, so,

09:20 And some of our friends did get drafted. And in fact, one of my very dusty rose friends was killed in Vietnam. So can you add friends or drafted? But you chose a different route?

09:36 So, what did, what did you decide or because you definitely weren't going to serve. So what did you do? I have three choices. All of us. Maybe four made one wasn't even an option for me. One was your drafted. You go. You serve. The other option was to Worcester flea, the Canada that was risky because at the time, there was no guarantee you'd ever be able to come back. And I was unwilling to take that Rod simply because I didn't want to face missing my family for the rest of my life.

10:18 The other option was to go to jail and I had friends who literally went to jail. The, the, the, the the other option for some people was to stay in school. As long as they had that draft exemption. We did that for as long as we could. But for me, I learned that there was another option than that option, was to come under the care of a recognized religious denomination, go to Seminary and receive what was a, it was called a 4D exemption from the military and it was for conscientious objection. And I chose that Rod. I went to Eden Theological Seminary in my second year of postgraduate education. I was a full-time doctoral student at washing University studying history. And at the same time. I was a full-time C.

11:18 Eden Theological Seminary. Now it would sound at it. This would all sound very, you know, I was just trying to avoid the draft but it wasn't quite that simple. In that. I had a dear friend and colleague Mentor at Carleton College. Who is the assistant. Chaplain his name was Joel Tibbetts. And Joel, Tibbetts, always was trying to recruit me to become a minister and and he succeeded in that for 2 years. I think maybe it was even three years ago. There were ten of us who performed the ministerial functions at the Zumbrota Congregational Church, and it was a church that simply couldn't afford a full-time minister. So they arranged through Joel Tibbetts. They have five of us rotate. The responsibilities of Minister including pastoral care preaching, all the kinds of things of ministers do and I did that for three years and when I went to

12:18 Washington University, I remember Joel Tibbetts a napkin. I want you to still consider going to Seminary because I think you'd make an outstanding minister in the Congregational Church. And and he said, by the way, there's a great seminary in St. Louis called Eden Theological Seminary. I hadn't heard of it, but it was a seminary of the oven jellicle Reformed Church, which is part of the United Church of Christ. And sure enough. I always have said, the Lord speaks in mysterious ways because in my first year, when my draft board was saying, we are going to draft, you and came so close that they send me to the physical down in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is another horrible experience.

13:08 But I remember talking to the clerk of the Selective Service Board in Fond du Lac County and I said, you can't get me because I am now under the care of the United Church of Christ Florida conference, and I'm going to become a Protestant Minister. What are you doing? Did you say the Lord speaks in mysterious ways. I want to get a little more Grandma for experiences that like, I'm thinking of our grandchildren and children never had, but you talked about ways to get out of

13:44 At the one that you mentioned about the physical. Because I remember you telling me stories about some of your friends that would go on these wacko diet. So they wouldn't wouldn't be able to pass the physical. We all know there were a lot of different ways of getting the weight restriction that was required in order to be drafted, and he was successful. I using that tactic into that way. It was very, it was hard on him and hard on his head. He weighed like 90 lb or something like that. He was six feet tall. So that was his story, and then I have another friend who is actually in St. Louis. He was teaching at a high school. He hated teaching, you wasn't prepared to be a teacher, but yet he thought he hated it, but there was an exemption for young man.

14:44 Who would be willing to teach an inner-city schools where nobody else would teach? And I know I have another friend. This was interesting. So at the time that the military would not draft homosexuals and I had a friend who is not really a homosexual and that he wasn't a homosexual. But he was a Psychology major. And so he is a homosexual exemption story. He said, well, everybody is a little bit homosexual and when he was interviewed by the army recruiters or whatever that was enough to get him Exempted from the military. They thought he was some kind of terrible homosexual, but he got up. And so we all had our ways.

15:31 So I think let's move on it. So, you now have gotten your exemption, you're in seminary, and then it, that leads us to coming to Chicago.

15:46 And that was certainly a momentous best trip. Ever took.

15:51 So, talk about, why did you come to Chicago? First of all, what was your main reason for coming? And I would say, I was gorgeous. There was a gorgeous Park, overlooking Lake Michigan where well, I'm getting ahead of my story again. Anyway, so the reason for my going to Chicago is because I wanted to be trained as a draft counselor so that I could use all of my collected wisdom and experience to help others avoid the draft. And at the time, the American friends service committee, which is in service arm of the Quakers, the American friends. I had a draft counseling course, would you had to go to Chicago? And that was in your city to Ripon, Wisconsin. You had to go to Chicago, to take this.

16:45 Class that basically certified you as a, as a draft counselor, and I went to the class actually was more of an interview because they discovered that I knew more than the teachers about how to avoid the draft. But it was still, it was a wonderful. Wonderful trip. I went down there with her clothes, high school friend, and we decide to just going to make it a week at meet weekend out of it. And, of course, of the time we have no money. And so we had two friends from high school girlfriends, not romantic girlfriends, but just friends, that happened to be female from Ripon for staying at an apartment on the Northside in Chicago. And so we call them up and said, hey and we want to come down for the weekend. Peter's, got to do this draft counseling thing and we don't have any money. Can we crash at your place? They said, sure. Come on down. So we went down the Chicago and I distinctly remember,

17:45 When when one of these friends opened the door and I stared straight ahead and I saw this lovely young woman.

17:56 She was barefooted. She was reading the newspaper. She didn't even seem hardly bothered to say. Hi. She certainly didn't stand up or anything. But she said, hi. I'm Sally and Peter, and the rest was history.

18:12 Well, as it turned out, I was also very opposed to the Vietnam War and was doing a lot of

18:20 Protesting. And I

18:25 Remember, of course. I was attracted to the fact that you were there for being doing the draft counseling learning about that. And if I could end up, not that, that evening. You were going to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert in support of Eugene McCarthy for president. And of course, Eugene McCarthy was the great auntie War President of the time. So I thought to myself, this is my kind of woman. Well, it turns out that we really hit it off. I went out on a date.

18:59 Then I ditched him pretty early. That was always, there was a great sign because when she came home at 9 from that date, I thought I could have a chance. You're not. So anyway, we spend a lot of time talking about her interest in the the protests and what not.

19:19 And,

19:21 We fell in love.

19:24 For me it was love at first sight me to. So anyway, we spent a lot of time. I remember walking down to the lake and then of course our our big was the party up on the roof on the roof and we still loved Taylor up on the roof from the roof. And then the next day we went and walked along that Park along Lake Michigan. I remember is a gorgeous day and good gracious. The hours went by as though, they were minutes.

20:02 I ended up that it was probably I went home on Monday.

20:08 I told my mother that I think that I'd found the love of my life and you met her and my family shortly there after you came up to it to Ripon. I should go back about a year ago and explained that in my first year, at Washington University. I spent too much time opposing the war in Vietnam. I'm not enough time. I did my studies. I went to Lincoln Nebraska to do canvassing for Eugene McCarthy. I went to other states that had primaries trying to get people to vote for Eugene McCarthy.

20:46 Many times we were thrown off the porches of people because they were calling as communist because we oppose the war in Vietnam. And at that time, I've got to say, you just didn't oppose a war that your government supported. It just wasn't a patriotic thing to do. And I remember I was so happy the next year to be at Eden Cemetery, where we could have a boy cat class boycott that was supported by the administration and professors were, we would spend the day going out into the community, trying to encourage citizens to oppose the war in Vietnam?

21:27 So the other thing I was going to ask about this, kind of came later, we weren't married yet. But do you remember when we went down to Chicago to the National Democratic Convention? That was another very historic moment in the Vietnam era because President Johnson, he was, he had decided not to run because of all the opposition and so the Chicago convention there were Mass protests young people where they're staying at Grant Park and since my parents lived in Chicago, we didn't have to go down there, but we were we went down on the train.

22:16 So talk about a little bit of our experience at the Democratic National Convention. That was quite although I have long hair and I may have looked like a hippie. I didn't feel like a hippie. I wouldn't if it's describe myself as a hippie. I was still conservative in many ways. I mean, conservative in that I was against violence. I was against

22:49 I was against property damage that was imposed by some of the demonstrators, but it was a real eye-opener for me. Mayor, John Daly was the mayor at the time of Chicago. He was a terrible man. Terrible corrupt, public official. And I remember the, there was actually a police Riot and we were close to being involved in that police ride in that. I remember the police shoving Us in the direction that they wanted us to go not a direction that we particularly want to go. But it was a, it was a fairly scary experience, but not, they were. So, we were right there in the midst of it, and,

23:44 The.

23:46 Then we continue to be against the war after we got married. And by the way, we got married 6 months after we met.

23:57 In between, I had gone to Europe because I had promised a friend of mine that I would take this trip. So I remember, we had a long-distance Romance by letters and in fact to show you.

24:16 Your intensity of politics at our 50th wedding anniversary. I've found a letter that are all the letters, I saved. And that you had written me and I had their letters would come to the American Express office. Cuz this, of course, was way before cell phones, her email or anything like that. So you would send a letter. I had none. When I would get to that City. I would go pick up the letter. So we are, we have two daughters and at our wedding anniversary celebration. We were all rolling on the floor because I read one of the letters that you would written to me. And it started out saying,

25:00 How much you missed me and how can you couldn't? Wait until I see we were together again and finally married. And then after about $0.03, if you sit and can you believe what Nixon is doing? You went on most, all the letter was about how horrible Nixon was and you know, they had to end this war and blah blah blah blah blah and then you finally got to the end of that and I will hold you in my arms, but I figured that was very typical of our relationship. And as I think about it, I think the reason we've lasted 52 years.

25:37 Just because we started out as shared values.

25:46 Ask. What do you see in him? Does he like to play golf? No dance. No, he likes Sports and so pretty much as far as our activities. We don't really not very compatible. But I think about friends, who, who got married, because I, we both love the dance that can only go so far, but I think that, you know, I've always respected your values with your mind.

26:20 And,

26:22 So why don't we go on now and talk? I will ask you a little bit more about this. Would have probably been in well right around that time. I indicated that one of the choices was to go to Canada for draft. If I remember the jail, but we were seriously considering going to Canada, right? And if the time you could only emigrate to Canada, if you would lined up, a job in Canada, in Canada and because of my involvement with the YMCA in

27:01 Working at a YMCA Camp near Flint. Michigan. I naturally turn to that as that is an opportunity for career. And so I contacted the London, Ontario, YMCA, and I actually went there, not there on Cherry YMCA have a summer home in Michigan, which is nearby and I went to his summer home to be interviewed. And I remember he was interviewing me for a position, I think is a camp director and it was clear to me. He wanted to see if I got along well with kids and why he had one of his kids there on the kid and I were swimming and going out to the raft when I did and he offered me a job, actually take to go to London, Ontario. And we would have had a very different life in it in Canada. But again, I was unwilling to make that commitment because it would have meant that I faced never.

28:01 Being able to go back to the United States again now. Since then, I've got to say, Jimmy Carter came through, and he did allow people who had emigrated to Canada to come back and visit relatives in the states. We were both willing to do that if that was our last resort, but then the Lord spoke in mysterious ways and the Seminary came through. So that was, that was great. So

28:35 We continue to evolve and still keep working for peace and Justice. And I would say that, looking back, as I said, I started this talking about this movie called the boys who said, no. And it's clear that we were right, you know what? History has shown that the government lied to us and even William McNamara. The architect of the war admit it that they were not telling the truth and that was a, you know, there was no reason and justification for that war. And I think now is I buy clothes that say, made in Vietnam.

29:21 And I think it's in that ironic. We used to be killing these people. And now, they're making our clothes. And I think they must have such a

29:32 Passion her with the word for forgiveness, that they've been able to forgive us coming over there and invading their country and killing killing them for her. Nothing was, it took a long time for this nation to understand the steak we had made in Vietnam. It first came out in the Pentagon papers. And of course, I work for common cause for a number of years. In, one of the reasons, John Gardner, founded common cause was to oppose the war in Vietnam and it's after after. And I remember my my mother shortly before she died. I think it was in 2007.

30:16 She finally said to me, she said, you know, you were right about the war in Vietnam. We should not have been there, and I remember that day and I will always remember that day because growing up in that storm, flea republican-conservative household. My parents were ashamed that I was against the war in Vietnam. They always loved me. But still I knew that that shame lingered and for my mother to finally admit we made a mistake by being in Vietnam, was powerful for me.

30:52 This movie that I saw kicked my interest in this topic because it was you know, unpatriotic and the boys said no, like you were looked down upon and I think it was an act of Bravery to oppose the war with something something wrong. And I think, you know, if I say it I think history has has proven that those of us that did stand up.

31:28 Did make a difference. And I think that it's is Helton, and I think we went on in our careers you with common cause and of course, we came to Tallahassee.

31:41 To you were a minister. You became an ordained minister. Talk about your we have we're running out of time. But talk about your what you did here in Tallahassee. As far as continuing cuz of war was still going on when we came and 73, it was kind of wondering. If you had some things you did. It minister in Florida, State University where we did the all kinds of anti-war and other kinds of liberal causes. And then, as I say, I want to work for, and cars and I did. So because, cause was opposed to the war and opposed to all the aftermath of of that war and I continue to be a strong supporter of common cause to this day. And, you know, I would say over the years, our values have not changed. We continue to oppose unjust Wars and I think all the wars have been unjust since Vietnam and we continue to be active politically.

32:41 You're the head of the legal Moon Motors here in Tallahassee, and I've been active in ethics reform in Tallahassee. So yeah, our values can continue to inspire our lives and hopefully will make a better world for our children and our grandchildren. We have pain. We thought we'd have it mentioned that we have two daughters. Who I think. I also share our values and they have raised are raising its really good kids.

33:14 So we've been pretty lucky one thing. I'd like to add about 20. After you watch that movie. You said that you thought that the people who didn't who refused to go to Vietnam war heroes and I never felt that I was a hero. I thought we all did, what we had to do? My best friend from high school chose to go to war in Vietnam and we have close friends at our church who were in Vietnam and I would have always had the highest respect for them. They were pawns by our government. It wasn't their fault that they were there. But we all did what we had to do. Some of us were resistors, some of us supported the war, some people went to war but all of us did what we felt we had to do and I do think that we didn't do a good job of welcoming back. Those that did go to war. I think they really got a lousy deal because we did

34:11 Make them feel that, you know, they had done something terrible when in fact, they were just doing what they were told.

34:21 And so the other thing I think that we've learned the lessons learned from this hole. That we started together is

34:34 The fact that it has been,

34:39 Kind of disheartening to learn that you can't trust the government. Starting with Watergate with your course, was what brought you to come and cause, and that's a sad thing cuz I think we are patriotic. Can I do, you know, we love our country, but we see its flaws, but we try to correct that usually your career in education, tried to make a difference. So I had a very good chance. I'll get the imminent threat of the draft but you are a woman and if the time and this is still true, women did not have to register for the Selective Service, although now, they can serve in the military.

35:30 But I've got to say, I was very

35:34 What's the word that I was? So happy that I met you because you are opposed to the war in Vietnam that you took your conscience, very seriously. And yet you were threatened with the Eminence of having a service for sweet, I had friends. Like I said, my friend Cecil who was killed in the war and we know we saw what was happening to her male friends and family. And we also you know, it was just something that wasn't right. And you would see the I still can see that picture of those little children who have had been napalmed. Remember that girl. It was just referencing and to think that our country was promoting that.

36:29 Or are you just wrong?

36:35 Are we done?