The Nonagenarian: Choosing a Vocation

by Glenn A. Flinchum

guitarOne of the most important decisions young people have to make is choosing the right vocation to which they will devote a good part of their lives. Many times, these young people find themselves making decisions prematurely, before they have acquired enough knowledge and experience to choose wisely.

When I was about 15 years old, I was convinced that my destiny was to be a singing cowboy, following the example of my heroes, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. I never failed to catch a matinee on Saturdays when their movies were playing.

To show I was serious about this undertaking, I saved my money and ordered a guitar from Sears & Roebuck, complete with instruction and song books, and went to work. Within a short time, I had learned to play several songs and was well on my way toward realizing my dream, or so I thought. Somewhere along the way, however, I discovered girls, most of whom preferred the more popular types of music, and my chosen career almost faded away from neglect.

Although a few years later, it was revived in a most unexpected manner. When World War II came along, and millions of us found ourselves in the military, it wasn’t hard to find some kindred souls who shared my love of country and western music. We were able to spend some of our spare time gathering in the barracks and doing some harmonizing and guitar playing. This practice continued on and off even when we deployed to the European Theater.

After the end of the war, I found myself in Holland for a short time. The Dutch people were eager to re-connect with all things American, especially the music.

While there, I met a young lady who worked for a local radio station. Through her, I learned that the radio station was inviting American singers to come in and give the guest performances. I immediately recruited one of my harmonizing buddies, and we went to the station and gave them our rendition of some good western music, hoping to make Roy and Gene proud, or maybe a little jealous.

I don’t know what the listening audience’s reaction was to our performance, but let’s just say, we weren’t offered any record contracts. In fact, we weren’t invited back for a repeat performance. I suppose that should have told us something.

Several months later, after arriving back home, I, like many of my fellow veterans, had to make some serious choices about my life’s work. At least I was able to rule out the singing cowboy career. Been there, done that.


Flinchum is a former head of the State Office of Vital Statistics in Raleigh, worked at the National Center for Health Statistics in Washington, D.C., is a retired Army major and World War II veteran. He can be reached at