Donn goes to Nam by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By War & Remembrance

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With Donn in the theater at camp, 1969

Camp was a strict place and we were not supposed to fraternize with the staff, but my best friend and I were fascinated by Donn. 1969 was the second summer that he and his sister had come to work as part of the back-stage theater crew, she on costumes, he on scenery. They were several years older than we were. Donn had tussled hair and a great overbite. He looked a bit like Mick Jagger and he liked to hang around with Val and me, though the expression “Camp frowns” clearly was in play here. We didn’t know it, but he was also a stoner…very much frowned on by the powers that be at Camp. Two weeks into the eight week summer, Donn was fired for “dealing pot”. In fact, he had purchased it from one of our theater compatriots. Val and I begged for leniency but it was too late and he was sent packing. He and I said our goodbyes in the wings of the theater with a long, lush kiss. He remarked, “Our goodbye would have been a nice hello”. Indeed.

He promised to write and I’ve always been a diligent correspondent. So we wrote to one another and I learned that very shortly after he returned home, he was shipped off to Vietnam. He never wrote about combat (thinking back, I suppose that would have been censored). He wrote about being stoned all the time, the heat and boredom, and wanting to return home. Once he included a cartoon. It showed a man undergoing a physical exam in a doctor’s office. The man had his pants down, the doctor examined his penis. The caption read, “You’re right it DOES look like Nixon’s nose!” Eventually the correspondence stopped. I never heard from him again.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: stoned, shipped off to Vietnam
Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. John Zussman says:

    With its sweet but doomed anticipation, this is almost “Teenager in Love” meets “Vietnam.” Your story only leaves me with more questions! Were you shocked when Donn sent you that cartoon? Did he make it home? Have you ever tried to locate him online? Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I thought the cartoon was quite funny…not shocking (it certainly made an impression). I don’t know if he made it home. As I said, I never heard from him or of him again. I never thought about trying to find him (or his sister) on-line until I was writing this story today. I’ll let you know if I do find him.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Ah, John, what did we do before Facebook? I do believe I found Donn – he lives in some remote part of Idaho working for a pizza company. There aren’t many posts, but there seemed to be a recent wedding of a male who looked just like him, so I would presume that’s his son (the photo isn’t tagged). I am not curious enough to actually contact him…sorry, too many years have passed. At least I know he came home from Vietnam.

  4. Love this poignant, moving account, BP. And the photo of you both rounds out your account beautifully.

    I think many of us share the experience of having our friends disappear as did Donn, or return from their year ‘in country’ as different people. Great that you found him alive, whether you contact him or not.

  5. Suzy says:

    Sweet story, and how great that you still have that picture of the two of you at camp! Summer camp was the source of many great memories for me too.

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