Thursday, March 18, 2010
I got sent to Linton Hall Military School, Bristow, Va. back when it was a military school run by Catholic nuns. Here are some of my memories:
Academics were generally good. It was easy to make friends since we only got to go home every other weekend so I was with my peers 24 hours a day.
At Linton Hall Military School, mail was censored. We had to leave letters home unsealed so that the principal could read them to make sure we didn't say anything bad about the school, otherwise the letter would be thrown away instead of being mailed.
No phone calls to or from home except for the rare occasions when we were on a field trip and could get to a pay phone and call collect. No cell phones existed back then.
Nuns used to watch us (boys) every time we took a shower. Most of the 8th graders were 13, but a couple were 14 or 15 years old and fully developed.
There were no doors on the stalls in the bathrooms.
Camping was fun unless it got too cold, but if it got under 32 degrees you were awarded the "Over and Under" patch. (Overnight, under 32 degrees.)
Being always hungry. They fed everyone the same amount. An 8th grader needs to eat more than a 3rd grader. Sometimes there were leftovers for seconds but that was unusual. Nicotine beans ... that's what we called them, they were baked beans that usually got burnt while cooking and they tasted pretty bad. Smelling steak while marching down to dinner, getting your hopes up, then figuring out that the smell came from the nuns' dining room and all we got was something like bologna sandwiches. They definitely didn't eat the same food we did at Linton Hall.
Bringing food or candy from home was prohibited and punished. I did it and was lucky I never got caught. I stole food while in the cafeteria line. I admit it. I never got caught. I still have such a fear of going hungry again that I will not say how I did it since the information might come in handy again someday. Some of us got caught and punished for "stealing" food. I have to put that word in quotation marks.
Some of us would put a little toothpaste in our mouths before going to bed since it's hard to fall asleep when you're hungry. We didn't know that swallowing too much toothpaste can be harmful because of the fluoride that's in it.
When I first got to Linton Hall Military School a nun asked me if I had any candy and when I innocently said yes she took it and told me that I would get it back the first weekend I went home. Of course I had to ask for it and only about half of it was left.
I got asked the same question about money. That wasn't allowed either and I was told that it would be put into my canteen account. It never was. Just a couple of dollars, but back then candy bars cost ten cents each, and the minimum wage was around a dollar an hour.
They cut off all our hair, like a military buzz cut. Long hair was "groovy" back then so we looked totally "square" when we went home. No girls. What does not having contact with the opposite sex during childhood and early adolescence do to a boy? Make you shy and totally lacking in social skills with girls? It did for me. Make you interested in girls only for sexual gratification instead of seeing them as human beings? Somewhat for me. Did some boys become gay or have homosexual experiences as a result of having no social contact with girls and seeing each other naked in the shower every other night? I left LHMS before that happened to me, but I wonder about others.
Someone said that not having girls around was good because they didn't distract you from academics. I disagree. Not having enough to eat didn't stop me from thinking about food!
The cold. Being outside for hours in winter with thin cotton pants, khakis or fatigues (same material except olive green color). Some of us had long johns underneath. I didn't. That was our uniform at Linton Hall Military School!
Having to keep your hands out of your pockets while marching in the cold, even if you lost your gloves.
Having to wear your wool knit hat horizontally so your ears stayed uncovered in the cold. Is that why I'm becoming hard of hearing?
Everyone in the dorm, class, or batallion (that's the whole school) getting punished when the culprit wasn't found. Punishments at LHMS included running or marching out in the heat or cold. I remember someone being made to run laps outside in winter in his underwear.
Deep knee bends as a punishment. Is that why I now have knee problems?
Paddlings from nuns.
The "suffer" sign. A gesture that other cadets did, fanning their fingers when you got punished. "Cadets?" We were children aged 8 to 13 and not adult soldiers in the military!!!
About half the nuns at Linton Hall Military School were fair. Mostly the ones that came in just to teach class during the day and had no disciplinary responsibilities.
The Commandant (an ex-marine in charge of the military program) treated me fairly. That's because I never got in trouble of course.
Sister Mary David OSB principal and in charge of all this, may God give you your just reward. That's all I'm going to say.
Lockers had no locks. Stuff got stolen from mine.
The Officer's Rifle Club. Every other Friday, 13 year old eighth graders shooting live .22 caliber ammunition from rifles at paper targets in the basement under the classroom wing. Can you picture that happening nowadays?
Some memories I'm leaving out because they would identify specific people even if I didn't mention them by name.
On the fun side I remember some of the Mexicans teaching one of the nuns a couple of words in Spanish. Except instead of the real words they taught her obscenities. So instead of saying "hello" she would say, ummm, I'll let you guess.
The absolutely best memory was when I left for good after graduating. I don't really remember the moment except that I know that I never turned around to get one last look. I did visit Linton Hall Military School years later on Military Day and overheard a nun lie through her teeth and say that they did not advertise and kept the school full just through word of mouth. In fact, enrollment had substantially declined and a couple of years later Linton Hall School no longer was all boys, or boarding, or military. I hope this means that no more children suffered like we did.
Read more in my book, "Linton Hall Military School Memories," over 200 pages, 7x10 inches, only $5.69 (or less) at amazon.com
Copyright 2010 "L.H. Cadet"
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This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.