Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Running away from Linton Hall

I never ran away, because I had nowhere to go. If I had gone home I would have been sent right back, and I had no sympathetic grandma or adult older brother living on his own who would let me stay a few days, much less until I turned eighteen.

Besides, it didn't make much sense to run away from Linton Hall; it would have been much easier to go AWOL: to run away from home while there for the weekend.

So, although I hated that place, I decided early on to make the best of a bad situation, follow the rules, and enjoy the positive aspects of the school -- the oft-cited trio of academics, friends, and camping/hiking activities.

Although I never seriously thought about running away, that didn't stop me from fantasizing about it, or about discussing how best to do it, from a theoretical viewpoint, with one of my friends; how to run away was our favorite topic of conversation.

Although there were no fences to keep us in, there were several major barriers to overcome.

First, there were headcounts at formation, with a "report" that generally was "all present or accounted for" (the conjunction is or, not and.) The term "accounted for" meant that those not present at formation had a legitimate excuse for being absent, typically being sick in bed. Occasionally, the report was "all present." Rarely, one or more cadets were not present and not accounted for, which was when things got interesting. While everyone else stood at attention, whether shivering in the cold or perspiring in the heat, the battalion commander, his adjutant, and the five company commanders would try to figure out if there was a mistake in the count or whether someone was truly missing. In some cases the missing one(s) had run away.

In addition to the headcounts, there were times and places where you had to be present: in the dorms, classrooms, and cafeteria, to cite a few examples, and where your absence would have immediately been noticed and reported. Thus, it was best for a runaway to get as much of a head start as possible before being reported missing. Free play periods were such an opportunity, especially on a Saturday on the weekends when we did not home, since there was a long play period between meals. An even better opportunity was at night, after everyone else had fallen asleep, especially if you could make your bed look occupied by putting something under the covers. You could, of course, leave your bed at night to use the bathroom, but if anyone happened to wake up and see your bed unoccupied and that you weren't in the bathroom, they would have quickly noticed your absence.

Running away during the day presented its own problems, different than the problems of running away at night. My friend and I would often debate the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.

During the day, we were "out of bounds" if we went away from the blacktop or nearby grassy area (or to the bathroom in the basement.) It would not have been easy to leave that area without someone seeing. It was worse than having ubiquitous video cameras; there were over two hundred pairs of eyes ready to rat you out. The easiest route away from Linton Hall and towards D.C. (where most of us were from) was to walk on Linton Hall Road towards Gainesville. The quick drive to and from the intersection of Route 29 and Linton Hall Rd. to the school would have lulled many prospective runaways into a false sense of how close that intersection actually was; I never thought to check the odometer when I was taken to and from Linton Hall, but a quick check of Google Maps tells me that it's 4.2 miles, which Google says can be walked in one hour and twenty one minutes, though I expect that a motivated cadet running away from Linton Hall would cover the distance much more quickly.

But after four miles of walking you'd only have reached the intersection of Linton Hall Road and Route 29. Alumni of my generation would find it hard to believe that there is now a large shopping mall there, just as current students would be surprised that at the time I attended, during the late 1960s, there was only an Esso (later renamed Exxon) gas station and a diner at that intersection. From there, you could have either used the payphone to call a sympathetic older brother with a driver's license and a car (which I did not have) or hitchhike on Route 29, hoping that you would get a ride before being spotted by the Commandant or a local policeman. For someone to come from the DC suburbs to pick you up would take an hour, more or less, and hitchhiking might take just as long, and carried the very obvious risk of being picked up by a pervert or murderer. I have to be blunt about this so any young people reading this are well aware of the significant potential dangers of running away.

Needless to say, anyone reported missing during the hour it took to walk to Route 29 would have been quickly apprehended, since it would not take long for the Commandant to cover that distance by car. I know of one cadet who was apprehended on Linton Hall Road; since this was the easiest route, I would expect that many of those who ran away were caught there.

Public transportation was not an option at the time. There existed bus service to Washington, but that was from Manassas, several miles away.

At the time, Linton Hall Road was a two-lane paved rural road, with no shoulders, ditches along either side, and overgrown vegetation (trees, bushes, thorny brambles and poison ivy often coming up almost to the edge of the road. Many places along the road had a barbed wire fence. The area was sparsely populated (there were maybe half a dozen houses, excluding Bill's and the Commandant's, between Linton Hall and the Route 29 intersection, and traffic was light. Nevertheless, during the one-hour walk, there might have been a couple of cars passing by. There was really not much room to hid along the sides of the road, and you would have had to have really quick reflexes to do so before being seen by an oncoming car; even more difficult to react in time if a car was coming from the opposite direction. Thus there was a strong likelihood of being seen, and with Bristow being such a small town that everyone knew everyone, even if you somehow managed to wear something other than the tell-tale Linton Hall uniform, it is likely that the driver would have stopped to investigate (the term "mind your own business" does not apply in small towns) or reported you to the school as soon as he got to a pay phone. Cell phones did not exist back then, but the couple of extra minutes it would take for someone to make that call wouldn't give you much time.

Running away at night would address many of the risks of being seen; you can see headlights before someone in a car sees you, and there is almost no traffic; Bristow wasn't exactly a hub of night life.

The big risk of running away at night was when you left the dorm. It was somewhat easy to make your bed seem to be occupied (with a pillow and the second blanket bunched up under the covers, though of course at close range it would be clear that there was no face poking out) but once you left the dorm there was a big risk. It would be difficult, but possible, to retrieve clothes from your locker during "rest," hide them under your pillow, then put them on under your pajamas while in bed after lights out, after everyone else was asleep. That way you would be safe if discovered while getting out of bed, or even going down the stairs. In that situation, you could concoct a story about feeling sick and going to the infirmary. Of course, the infirmary wasn't staffed twenty four hours a day, and in an emergency the logical thing to do would have been to knock on the prefect's door, but it was a semi-plausible excuse if nobody noticed that you were wearing clothes under your bathrobe and pajamas. But you couldn't walk four miles to Route 29 in your slippers or in bare feet. You could have put on the boots you wore every day (but that would have seemed inconsistent with going to the infirmary) and the boots would have been a military component that would have been somewhat incongruous with civilian clothes -- that is, if you had somehow managed to have a set of civvies available; more about that later. Tennis shoes (which we used for gym class) would have been less obvious, but if stopped on your purported trip to the infirmary they would have been another hole in your story. And you couldn't conceal a pair of tennis shoes under your clothes, or throw them out the dorm window before running away, without being noticed.

The big hole in my plan was that Linton Hall had a night watchman. I did not find this out until a few years ago, when I read Louie's obituary and read that in addition to maintaining the school's landscaping, he was also night watchman. And I thought my fantasy plan was so well designed!

I've mentioned civilian clothes. When I first arrived, I had, like other new students, worn my own clothes. But once uniforms were issued, we were expected to take our other clothes home on the next weekend home. There was nothing to stop us from bringing back a set of clothes, maybe a lightweight pair of pants and a nylon windbreaker. Those weren't prohibited items and there was no inspection of our belongings upon returning to the school on weekends. Money was prohibited, but easy to conceal and useful when running away. But those items required planning, and anyone thinking about running away so far in advance would have simply gone AWOL during a weekend home, where civilian clothes, public transportation, food, and money, as well as the sympathetic grandparent or adult sibling (which I did not have) would have been available.

Walking on Linton Hall Road was the easiest and quickest way to get away, but also the most obvious and the one with the biggest risk of getting caught. Not everyone left that way.

In Military Science class, we studied the topographic maps of the area which we used for map-reading instruction. While studying the maps I (and who knows whether the same thing was on the mind of others) looked for possible escape routes. There was a railroad line that led to Washington D.C., and I fantasized about hopping on a freight train, like a hobo. I did not know yet of the dangers of trying to do so, which I only happened to read about many years later. Hopping onto a moving train is only possible when the train is moving very slowly (as at railroad yards) and extremely dangerous. Dangers include slipping and falling under the train, barbed wire or baling wire which gets hooked on the train and is almost impossible to see, but will drag you to your death, hobos on the train, as well as railroad security guards, many of whom take a sadistic pleasure in beating train-hoppers. Fortunately I never tried this.

But there were other ways.

Two cadets who attended while I was there took a different route. I only found out about how they had done this a couple of years ago, when one of those cadets shared his experience with me and other alumni on Facebook. On the way to and from Linton Hall, he had noticed high voltage power lines crossing Route 29. On the Linton Hall campus, he had noticed what he assumed to be the same power lines, and his deduction was correct, and brilliant, I might add. The two cadets followed along the power lines through woods and fields to Route 29, then turned their black LHMS shirts inside out, in order to conceal the school seal and name, which would have been a dead giveaway, and then they hitchhiked a ride from some hippies to D.C.. This being the late 1960s, there were hippies around and the Vietnam war was in full swing, and the hippies' antiauthoritarian and antimilitary views would have made them sympathetic to runaways from a military school, though I don't know whether the two runaways revealed that fact to them. Though the cadets made it to D.C., they were sent back to Linton Hall, presumably by their parents, and received a severe beating as punishment on their return.

Another cadet, who should have been the eponym for persistence, attempted to run away many times; I think the total was seven. During one such occasion, the seventh and eighth grade classes were enlisted to go looking for him after school. I was a member of that search party. The Commandant had us comb through a field of tall grass, each searcher about five feet from the other, close enough that we would not have missed him if he happened to be located precisely between two searchers. I was not the one who found him, but at the time I heard that he had been found asleep in the grass. At the time, I took the report that he had been asleep with a grain of salt, suspecting that he had concocted a story about playing out of bounds and falling asleep, which would have been a far less serious offense than attempting to run away. Only recently did I find out that he had actually not been trying to run away on that occasion, and had actually fallen asleep. That cadet, Augustus Cho, has written more about this incident in his memoir, "Great Light Will Shine vol. IV: Linton Hall Military School, which is available on Amazon and elsewhere. At the time, if I had been the one to discover him, and knew that nobody else had seen him, I would have pretended not to have seen him either. But in retrospect, I am convinced that it was better for him to have been caught. Unlike the two cadets cited earlier, who were thirteen or fourteen at the time, Cho was at the time only ten years old, and younger children are more trusting and less street-wise than teenagers, and he faced risks of which most boys that age are not aware. Furthermore, he had just arrived to the U.S. from South Korea and spoke almost no English; the same language barrier that made it very difficult for him at Linton Hall would have also been an obstacle to his being able to run away. Also, being Asian, he would have stuck out from others in Prince William County, where at the time there were almost no Asians.

Another two cadets ran away together, and I was one of the officers at their court martial. The older of the two, a fifth grader, had tried to find another fifth grader to run away with him. Unable to find an accomplice, he had asked several fourth graders, and then the third graders until he found someone in the third grade to accompany him. After running away, they had gone to somebody's house, said they were runaways, and asked for food. While they were eating cookies and milk in the kitchen, the lady of the house went into another room and called the police. My gut reaction was disappointment that she had ratted them out, but then I realized (still at the court martial) that they had done something extremely risky by going into a stranger's home; had they gone into another house they might have never come out alive. The verdict (as usual, we officers voted in accord with the Commandant's wishes) was to punish the older cadet (I forget what the punishment was) and not the younger, who had, it seems, been entrapped into running away. Although I agreed with the verdict for the older cadet, I felt (at the time and now) that some relatively minor punishment for the younger cadet would have been in order, instead of no punishment at all.

The last incident which I recall might not have been a case of running away. There was a cadet who entered as a seventh grader (not a good age to enter Linton Hall, since you have younger, but higher ranking cadets giving you orders, and you feel and, in fact, are, too old to have someone tell you when to brush your teeth or have a nun watch you take a shower.) He went on a hunger strike, refusing to eat, so that he would get sick enough that they would be forced to send him home. At first they let him, then finally Bill force fed him a popsicle. I was there when it happened, when Bill had other cadets hold him down by force, while Bill tried to cram the popsicle into his mouth in such a way that I thought that he was going to break that cadet's teeth, and then when that cadet wouldn't open his mouth one of the other cadets pinched his nose shut until he needed to gasp for air and thus opened his mouth. A couple of days later that cadet was nowhere to be found. It took a long time to find him, and it is not clear whether or not he was running away. To protect his privacy, I will not say more in this post, though I have written about him in greater detail on Facebook, where my comments are visible only to other LHMS alumni.

I never ran away. Others did. I understand their motivation, so I cannot judge their decisions.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My last days at Linton Hall: School is out!

The best thing about being in the eighth grade was knowing with complete certainty that it would be my last year at Linton Hall Military School.

That didn't really sink in at first, since I had a long academic year ahead of me, and was wrapped up in the novelty and demands of being an officer, but, sometime around May, I started counting down the days remaining. Then, a few days before graduation, I started counting the hours until my time at Linton Hall would be over.

One thing I remember about the last few days at Linton Hall is that the NCOs (non-commissioned officers, in other words, sargeants) from the seventh grade were left in charge, probably to give them some preparation for being officers the following year, but possibly because after we had received (or not received) our medals on Military Day, many of us didn't care too much about our responsibilities as officers.

We had more free time, and one afternoon the entire eighth grade got to go swimming. I can still recall us changing in a room in the poolhouse, a bunch of 13 to 15 year old boys as sexually developed as we were going to get before leaving Linton Hall Military School, having Sister Doris Nolte, O.S.B. (then known as Sister Mary David OSB) there in the room seeing us naked (watching is a more precise word) as we faced the wall while undressing, trying to avoid her seeing our private parts.

When we went to the pool she sat in the lifeguard's chair, fully dressed in her nun's habit. I wondered -- and feared -- what would happen if someone were about to drown. Would she be willing and able to jump in the pool in her habit and rescue the hapless boy? Just how important was safety? Why wasn't Bill or Linton Hall's Commandant there in her place?

Coming back to the dorms from the pool, I noticed that my bed had been remade, not as well as I had made it that morning, and my mattress had been replaced by one in better shape. The nun who was my dorm prefect said that it was being done so the graduating cadets would sleep better on the last couple of nights, and we would have better memories of Linton Hall Military School after we left.  She knew what was going on -- just like one of the cadets had observed that on the Fridays when we went home, the school lunch was better, so that if our parents asked us what we had eaten for lunch, we would describe that day's lunch, and not the typical meal we ate on other days at Linton Hall.

Another activity for the graduates was a "High Mass" at the Linton Hall convent. There was some really good musical accompaniment to the Mass; good singing by some nuns whom I had never seen before because they did not teach at Linton Hall Military School, and an especially memorable trumpet solo by a nun playing Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." I had not heard much classical music before, and did not learn the name of the composition until many years later, when I heard it again and recognized it, but I still remember watching the trumpet playing nun's face, her cheeks puffing out and turning red, as she played.

One evening, possibly our last evening at Linton Hall Military School, we graduates had dinner at tables that had been set up in the lounge next to the Principal's office. Some of the seventh graders served as waiters. If any of them are reading this, thank you. Over forty years later, I realize how uncomfortable it must have been to serve the graduates excellent food, when the "waiters" had eaten just another ordinary meal. Since we weren't allowed to have money, we couldn't even leave them a tip!

That was the only meal I ate from a china plate (instead of a metal tray) at Linton Hall Military School, and if I'm not mistaken, we each had a steak, same as those steaks whose smell we had noticed coming out of the nun's dining room so many times.

We had also done a dry run of the graduation ceremony, and the Linton Hall Commandant had said that if anyone was not graduating (because he had failed eighth grade) he would still be called to the stage and would receive a diploma holder just like anyone else, but there would be a blank sheet of paper instead of a Linton Hall Military School diploma inside, so that he would not be embarrassed in front of anyone. That was one of the few occasions I can recall of the Linton Hall school administrators not being concerned about embarrassing someone.

We wore white gloves with our dress uniforms at graduation, and paper is more slippery when handled with cotton gloves than with bare hands. One cadet, sitting near me, opened his diploma folder and found a piece of white paper inside, then struggled with his gloved fingers for several seconds that, to him, must have felt like an eternity, as he tried to lift it to see whether or not his diploma was underneath. I wanted to tell him that the white paper was just a protective sheet on top of the diploma, but of course we weren't allowed to speak. After a few seconds he was able to lift the paper to uncover his diploma. He happened to be the cadet with the second-highest grade point average, but Linton Hall Military School was such an unpredictable place that anything was possible.   Both he and the cadet with the highest grade point average had already arbitrarily been deprived of the honor of speaking at graduation, as I've related in my previous blog post, "How awards were given (or denied) at Linton Hall Military School."

When I left after graduating, I did not look back, literally or figuratively. I made no attempt to keep in touch either with those in my graduating class, or with others. Staying in touch would have meant reliving old memories, which I wanted to set aside. And how could I write to friends who were still there and tell them of how different, and wonderful, life after Linton Hall was?

Occasionally, I had nightmares about still being at Linton Hall, and when I woke up, I would feel my bed in the dark, notice that it was my bed at home and not the one at Linton Hall Military School, and go back to sleep. Such dreams became less frequent as the years went on, and less intense, since in later years I would dream that as an adult I was spending a weekend there (to relive the experience? -- dreams don't make much sense) but as an adult I dreamt that my car was parked behind the building, near the Commandant's Jeep, and I could leave anytime I wanted.

During waking hours I did not think about Linton Hall, but my focus was on all the opportunities that my newly restored freedom provided, from deciding what clothes to wear every day, to walking to school or the store, to what my first school dance would be like.

In 1972, I got an invitation from the school to an alumni reunion in observance of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Linton Hall Military School. I had no interest in going, and didn't.

Then in 1978, I happened to see an ad for Linton Hall in the Washington Post and sent away for a brochure, just to see whether the school had changed.

In 1980 I visited on Military Day. Other than the school having dropped the word "military" from its name, it seemed to be the same. Having grown up during the sixties and seventies, the thought had passed through my mind of picketing the school and handing out fliers on Military Day (I was in my early twenties at the time) but I didn't; I just observed for a couple of hours and did not speak to the nuns or Commandant.

It wasn't until around twenty years later that one day, when I happened to be driving on Route 66 in Virginia near Gainesville, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to make a detour to see Linton Hall Military School. The four or five mile trip to Linton Hall, which had previously been a deserted country road, was now packed with houses and townhouses. I wondered whether the school was still there at all. Then I saw it and drove up to the building. It was summer, and there didn't seem to be anyone around. I was about to get out of the car and knock on the front door to ask for permission to walk around the place, when a flood of memories came back, and I decided not to, but just drove around the building and left.

A few years later, as the internet grew, I found Charles Carreon's description of a typical day there, and later found Augustus Cho's book "Great Light Will Shine III: Linton Hall Military School" and ordered it. (1) Although he had written it decades after having been there, his recollections were crystal clear, as if he had written about everything the next day. I also saw the school's website, and found out that the school was now much different, and much better, than it had been in the past.

But there wasn't much else out there describing the conditions that I, and thousands of others, had experienced at Linton Hall Military School, things that had been actively hidden from parents through the school's long-standing practice of censoring all outgoing mail.

In March 2010, I decided to write about those things. A blog just happened to be the easiest way to share my memories on the web. I said what I felt needed to be said, and thought that would be it.

It wasn't until three months later that I wrote my second post, in which I discussed my experiences from an adult point of view. And I thought that would be my last word, which it was for the following six months.

Six months later, I started blogging in earnest, and have since written around 30 posts about Linton Hall Military School. Two of them I have not put on the web, but shared them just with other alumni on Facebook, since they were about specific individuals.

During the two years since I began writing this blog, I've heard from many other alumni, who attended Linton Hall Military School from the 1940s through the present day. I thank each and every one of you who has shared your thoughts and memories. Some of you view your experience there in a positive way, and although we disagree, I thank you for allowing me to consider your point of view.

There were cadet officers there who overstepped their authority. I forgive you for what you've done to me. At the same time, having been an officer myself, I realize that there were times when I called those under my command "a mess," "stupid," and similar words, trying to make them feel bad about themselves. I ask for your forgiveness, and hope that you did not believe what I said about you.

I believe that forgiveness is appropriate only for those who are truly sorry for their actions. I extend my forgiveness to those among the adults in charge who repent and apologize. Even those who did not mete out excessive punishment, tacitly allowed it through their silence. For example, when children who are seven or eight years old were humiliated and intentionally subjected to ridicule by being forced to wear their urine-soaked pajama bottoms around their neck all day, there was no was that nuns who taught or supervised the playground could not be aware of this. In a school where children wear uniforms, this can be spotted from a hundred feet away.

But no, in its official website the Benedictine sisters of Bristow, Virginia still deny this aspect of the past and claim that Linton Hall Military School "soon gained an international reputation for instilling leadership, integrity and character in its students." (2) Come on, the statute of limitations has long passed, why not do the right thing and admit what you did wrong?

I've since heard from recent alumni, and every indication is that today's Linton Hall School is a pretty good place, nothing like it was at the time I attended. I don't know what brought about these changes. Was it a desire to correct the past, or was it only a reaction to parental pressure and declining enrollment? When I look at my old yearbooks, I see that, without considering those graduating, only slightly more than half the students returned from one year to the next. Sounds like a big sign of dissatisfaction to me. Why did they simply drop the word "military" and start referring to themselves as "Linton Hall School" so many years before discontinuing the military program? Why did it take so long for the school to change and realize its potential?

Although I may have said many critical things about Linton Hall Military School, I've done my best to present a fair, balanced viewpoint and have written several times about the good academics and unique opportunities for camping and hiking that were provided by the school's extensive landholdings (over 1,700 acres when I was there.) With those resources, this could have been a wonderful school.

To my fellow cadets, we had a tough time there, and many of you had it far, far worse than I did. I wish you all the very best, and hope you had many good things happen to you in the years after you left.

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Footnotes:
1. "Great Light Will Shine III: Linton Hall Military School" by Augustus Cho, available at lulu.com
2. Brochure quoted in the June 8, 2012 entry at http://lhmscadet.wordpress.com
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Copyright 2013 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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This blog is not affiliated with Linton Hall Military School and all opinions are those of the author.
Comments are always welcome; please do not use your name or names of others.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The boy who died at Linton Hall Military School: Eduardo Facha García, 1944-1954

Among the graves at the Linton Hall cemetery, one stands out from the others.  It is the grave of Eduardo Facha García, a cadet born in 1944 and who died in 1954 at Linton Hall Military School.  I do not know whether he had already reached his tenth birthday.

It is always a tragedy when someone so young loses his life, made even worse by the fact that he was from Mexico and died so far away from home.

I have not been able to find much information about him, or how long he had been at Linton Hall Military School before he died.  He arrived to Idlewild (now JFK) Airport in New York City on June 14, 1954 from Mexico City.  He had a sister, Raquel Facha García (her name would have changed if she married) who was a year or two older, and probably a younger sister, named Maria Teresa.  His mother's name could have also been Raquel.

If any of his family sees his grave, I would like you to know that it is in good condition and well maintained.

"De sus padres" at the bottom of the grave means "from his parents" meaning that his parents had the grave marker made.

(I have found a different, likely unrelated Eduardo Facha García, on the Internet.)

God bless you, Eduardo.  May you rest in peace.
Que Dios te bendiga, Eduardo.  Descansa en paz.

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Copyright 2013 "Linton Hall Cadet"
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Linton Hall Cemetery Photos

An alumnus has provided me with photos of the cemetery at Linton Hall.  The cemetery is located on the LHMS (now Linton Hall School) grounds, if you're walking from the canteen towards the pool, tennis courts and water tower, by the time you reach the pool you're halfway there, keep walking in the same direction.  Of course, the cemetery was "out of bounds" so most of us have probably never been there.






Right: View of gravestones of sisters from cemetery entrance.
 Left:  Sister Ethelreda, former principal of Linton Hall Military School during the 1960s.


The DuCharme sisters were possibly the Commandant's aunts.




Same last name as Sister Doris Nolte (Sister Mary David.)  Possibly they were sisters in both senses of the word.




Sister Gertrude taught English and History at Linton Hall Military School during the late sixties, and I believe she had previously been Principal of LHMS, as well as a Benedictine school in Richmond.




Sister Irene was prefect of one of the senior dormitories.


Known as "Louie" he attended LHMS as a child, went away to high school and joined the Marines, then returned to Linton Hall where he spent the rest of his life working on lawn maintenance and as night watchman.  Very well liked by LHMS cadets, and fondly remembered.


Bill Farquhar coached sports, taught gym and geography, was auctioneer at school fundraising auctions, and lived right across the school on Linton Hall road.  His wife, Virginia, predeceased him.



Sister Joan Ann taught Art and was prefect of one of the senior companies.







Last but not least, a cadet who died at Linton Hall is in my next post.  Giving him his own post is the least I can do.

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Copyright 2013 "Linton Hall Cadet"
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Monday, June 10, 2013

New Book About Linton Hall!

In his memoir about his first year at Linton Hall Military School during 1968-1969, Augustus Cho has written more than just his autobiography; this is really a biography of everyone who attended Linton Hall that year (as I did) or, for that matter, anyone who went there while it was still a military school, since we were all subjected to the same rules, schedule, and discipline.

Having arrived from Korea less than a month before the school year began and not knowing English, Cho faced unique challenges -- not only in being punished for not following rules that he was unable to understand, but also in not receiving candy from the canteen until he figured out for himself what to do, since he was unable to ask.

At the same time, his inability to communicate through language made him a perceptive observer of others' behavior, as demonstrated by the extreme level of detail with which he is able to describe events which took place at Linton Hall Military School almost forty-five years ago.

His book describes events and emotions with which Linton Hall alumni are all too familiar: his desperate, yet ultimately unsuccessful attempts at convincing his mother to take him out of Linton Hall, the deep contrast between the regimentation at school and the freedom and responsibility he enjoyed during weekend visits home, when, although ten years old, he would often go to the zoo with a friend and without adult supervision, as did many children that age. He wisely observes that freedom is not appreciated until it's taken away, and when one gets it back, he learns not to waste it.

In describing these events, Mr. Cho strikes a good balance between providing too much and too little detail, so that both alumni and those less familiar with Linton Hall Military School will find this book compelling.

One lesson Augustus Cho learned very well was persistence, since he ran away from Linton Hall Military School seven times. In a previous blog post I recounted that on one such occasion, the cadets in grades 7A, 7B and 8 had been made to comb through a field looking for him, and if I had been the one to find him, I would have probably pretended not to see him so that he could get away. (As an adult, I am much more aware of the dangers of hitching rides from strangers, so in retrospect I think it was better for him to have been caught, and am glad I did not have the chance to make a decision that I would have regretted.)

In his book he responds to my blog post, saying that he finds it encouraging that "there actually were cadets who sympathized with my predicament and understood what I was experiencing." If he had been able to speak English when he arrived he would not have faced so many difficulties, but he would also have learned that most of the incoming cadets harbored the same negative feelings about many aspects of Linton Hall, and talked about it quite openly at first. As time went on, we were less open in our criticism because of the danger of being overheard -- not just by a nun or an officer, but also by a tattletale. Tattletales were present at my previous schools, but they seemed to be much more prevalent at Linton Hall. Consequently, many of us at the time ended up thinking that we were the only ones who harbored negative feelings about the school, and it was not until decades later, when we regained contact with other alumni, that we discovered that many others had shared our feelings.

Cho recounts amusing incidents as well. Initially reluctant to take piano lessons, he changes his mind when he notices that cadets who take piano lessons on Tuesday or Thursday end up getting a half-hour respite from the two hours spent drilling in the cold, since piano lessons are given at the same time as drill. When his mother asks him what made him change his mind, he tells her that "Piano lessons improve the quality of life of a cadet."

Reflecting upon the overwhelming challenges of his first year, he says he was stronger and better for it. I do not believe that was the case for me.

"It may sound incredible," says Cho, "but I've had dreams over the decades of being back at Linton Hall Military School as a child, marching in the cold ... even after 45 years later." I don't find this incredible, since I have also had such dreams; frequently at first, when upon waking up in the dark I would feel the wall next to my bed, realize I wasn't at Linton Hall, but think that perhaps I was just home for the weekend, then as I became fully awake realizing that I had left Linton Hall for good and was far from Bristow, Va..  Those dreams became much less frequent as the years went by, but returned when I began writing my blog, and were a factor in my decision to stop writing about Linton Hall Military School.

I found it emotionally draining to read Cho's account, since memories kept flooding back, and I often felt as if I had been reading my own biography. I believe that other alumni will feel the same way, and recommend this book highly.

Great Light Will Shine volume 4: Linton Hall Military School by Augustus Cho, 120 pages, $9.95 is available at amazon.com.
The previous volume of his autobiography, Great Light Will Shine volume 3, covers his last days in Korea, as well as his first days at Linton Hall, and is available in paperback at lulu.com or electronic version at barnesandnoble.com.  I recommend both books.

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This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Linton Hall alumnus in "GI Joe 2 : Retaliation" movie!

Augustus Cho, a Linton Hall alumnus, appears in the "GI Joe 2 - Retaliation" movie that just came out. Congratulations Augustus!



Monday, March 25, 2013

LHMS Alumnus Publishes Fiction Book

Although I have been scooped on this one by the other blogger at I want to share the news that a Linton Hall alumnus has just published a fictional book about a Special Operations Unit.
"Duty, Honor, Country" was written by Ed Schroeder, who graduated from LHMS in 1970, as Company Commander of "C" Company.

Update: I have recently bought and read the book. There is only a passing reference to Linton Hall. However, after the introductory part, the book is a fast-paced thriller with an extremely well crafted plot.

"Duty, Honor, Country" is available both in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com.