Monday, December 5, 2011

What the Linton Hall Military School brochure said ... and what it was really like

I've recently come across a brochure for Linton Hall Military School from 1949 (yup ... 62 years ago!) -- quite a rare find.

The brochure doesn't actually have a date, but it was in use in 1949 and could have been produced as early as 1947, since it includes a picture of the "new" Linton Hall school building which, according to the information I have, was completed in 1947.

You'll notice that the original building is quite smaller than the one most of us remember.
It has only one floor, plus basement. This floor is where the offices, infirmary, visitor's lounge and cafeteria were located during the 1960s. When the building was originally constructed, this floor was used as a dormitory, and the building was called "Ireton Hall" in the brochure (I'm guessing it may have been named after Bishop Ireton.) The second and third floor (the eight dorms during the 1960s) had not been added yet, and neither had the classroom wing nor the gym.

But this post isn't really about pictures. It's about what the brochure said about Linton Hall, compared to what it was like when I was there.

I have to emphasize that the brochure is from the late 1940s, and I attended during the late 1960s, approximately twenty years later. Just as the building had undergone major change, the school might have done so as well. The principal, Commandant, and most of the nuns were different people, and it's entirely possible that the school went from being a "Little Heaven" in the 1940s to a "Little Hell" in the 1960s.

The quotes are from the brochure distributed in 1949 by Linton Hall. School brochures are intended to showcase the positive aspects, and this brochure is no exception. But the school described in the 1940s and the one I attended in the 1960s were so different that it is hard to fathom this was the same school. I just hope that today's Linton Hall School is a far better place for children than it was while I was there.

I will be quoting from the brochure distributed in 1949 by Linton Hall. School brochures are intended to show case the positive aspects, and this brochure is no exception. But the school described in the 1940s and the one I attended in the 1960s were so different that it is hard to fathom this was the same school. I just hope that today's Linton Hall School is a far better place for children than it was while I was there.

"Linton Hall Military School
For boys - Ages, 6-16" (page 5)

I think that the age range was slightly narrower during the 1960s, more like 7 to 15, but I strongly believe that a military school is a totally unsuitable environment for younger children. How can you expect a 6-year old who can hardly tie his shoelaces to be in a military school?

"Religious Training - Every spiritual advantage is afforded to build
up in the cadet a strong, manly Christian character. " (page 9)

I have no idea what a "manly" Christian character is, but "manliness" seems a strange quality to expect from a six year old, or even an older boy. Why not let boys be boys and have a childhood?

"A boy is more than just a boy; he is an individual. ... [I]t is by a
thorough understanding of these qualities that his teachers are best to help
him." (page 10)

Although I agree wholeheartedly with this quote, I saw little if no recognition of anyone's individuality, or any interest or effort made to understand our qualities as individuals. Not that it was really feasible, anyway, with one prefect in charge of a dorm of fifty boys, or a playground of two hundred. I cited this quote in a recent blog post titled "You'll never believe who said this ..." and I still find it hard to believe the source.

"We consider it an achievement of great merit that we have been able for
a number of years to give evry boy at Linton Hall the advantage of an individual
measurement of his general powers, and from time to time and from stage to stage can carefully check his development, toward a forceful and well-rounded
personality." (page 10)

Excuse me while I laugh, cry, or vomit -- or do all three, uncontrollably. At the Linton Hall I knew, it was my impression that individuality and a forceful personality were undesirable traits to be snuffed out at all costs.

"Obedience to rules may be compelled by force, but character is developed
only by the growth within the boy himself of a desire to do right."
(page 10)

This, too, is a principle I wholeheartedly agree with. But what I see is a valid criticism of the Linton Hall Military School I experienced, and definitely not a description of the Linton Hall that I attended.

Wait ... there's more:

"If the boy is held down too strictly a wrong reaction may occur when the
restraint is removed. It is the aim of the school to create an atmosphere of
freedom of action within reasonable limits and to develop among the student body
the idea that they could do thus and so if they wished, but should prefer
otherwise. If the cadet does right because he wants to rather than because he is
compelled there will be no harmful reaction. The main purpose of the ideal
school is to inculcate this conception of right action among the pupils." (page

Am I dreaming? I must be. This is what it says on page 11:

"The school has no rigid rules." (page 11)

Linton Hall Military School during the 1960s had rigid rules for everything, from where your bed was placed (not so much as half an inch away from the line of the tiles on the floor) to how you folded your underwear (folded into a square, using two perpendicular folds) to how you went to the bathroom (wearing your bathrobe backwards when doing a number 2 on the toilet, with your hands outside your robe, so as to avoid any fleeting contact of your hand with your penis.)

But wait, what happens if someone breaks the rules, even by accident?

"Mildness and firmness characterize the endeavors of the sisters in
habits ... which are essential to the development of a manly Christian
character." (page 11)

The various physical punishments we received were anything but mild. The other blogger has written an extensive post listing all the ways we were punished. I should add that it didn't seem to make much difference whether you broke the rules purposely, by accident, were merely accused of breaking the rules, or the rules were broken by some unknown person. In the latter case, everyone in the classroom, dorm, or school was punished when the one culprit couldn't be found.

And there's that phrase "manly Christian character" again.

"Students are expected ... to observe habitual politeness toward each
other." (page 11)

"Expected"? Well, maybe, but officers who treated younger cadets like dirt, who used abusive language other than the standard four-letter words ('mess,' 'messpot' (which are words for 'toilet') 'stupid,' 'dumb,' etc. were all acceptable words when used by an officer towards younger children) were tolerated, as was the 'suffer' sign, so ubiquitous that there was even a hand gesture for it.

"An elastic step and manly bearing, prompt obedience to orders, attention
to details, and physical improvements are some of the many advantages of
military training." (page 11)

Here we go again with little boys who outght to be home watching cartoons being expected to have a "manly bearing." The attention to details was something Iwould classify as obsessive-compulsive. (I am not a psychologist, but anyone who is could have a field day with the last quote.) Physical improvements? My body benefited more from free play than standing at attention and marching.

"If, however they [refers to the purported advantages of military
training cited in the previous quote] are secured at the expense of the cadet's
individuality, the price paid is too great." (page 11)

Truer words were never spoken. I just need to keep checking to make sure that these words actually came from a Linton Hall Military School brochure.

Here's more:

"During the drill [the boy] merges his individuality for the welfare of
the whole but when military discipline is relaxed, he is urged again to assert
this same individuality, for it is characteristic of the school that each
student is treated as an individual." (pages 11-12)

Enough. I can't stand it anymore! On to lighter topics:

"A rifle club... is equipped with a new rifle range and new .22 caliber
rifles." (page 16)

We still had the rifle club during the sixties.

"The table is generously supplied with a variety of wholesome food ...
The extensive farm supplies a plentiful amount of vegetables in season, a
well-kept herd of cattle insures an abundance of milk at all meals, and a large
modern poultry farm provides fresh eggs at all times." (pages 17-18)

I've heard from an alumnus who attended during the 1940s that this was the case. By the 1960s, our food was standard school cafeteria fare, most if not all of it from cans, milk came in cartons, and it was definitely neither plentiful nor abundant. I gained a total of five pounds over the years I was there, and I wouldn't be surprised if all of the weight gain had occurred during the intervening school vacations and weekends home.

"Special attention is paid to the manners of the cadets in the dining room."
(page 18)

We ate out of metal trays, and many kids sloppily wolfed down their food after chewing it with their mouth open. Table manners were definitely worse than what I had observed at the schools I had previously attended. As long as you weren't breaking rules, no one gave a hoot about table manners.

A constant effort is made to instruct the cadets in regard to the usages
of polite society." (page 18)

The highly regimented environment, in which obedience was obtained through intimidation, did not prepare me to fit into polite society. I recall little politeness, just deference caused by fear.

"It is intended that the school life shall be home life, that each cadet
shall feel free to do whatever he would be allowed to do in a well-regulated
home, subject only to such restrictions as are imperative on account of the
large number present." (page 18)

I understand that some restrictions would be needed "on account of the large number present." These would include going to bed at the same time, having meals at the same time, sending one third of the dorm at a time to use the bathroom. But "free to do whatever he would be allowed to do in a well-regulated home"? No, not at all. Little freedom to decide what to do and when to do it for hobbies, reading, games, sports, etc.

"Cadets are forbidden to keep money on their persons or in their
quarters." (page 19)

That's how it was for us, too. Part of it was to prevent theft, I'm sure, but I also would assume that it was a way to eliminate a resource which would have been handy when running away.

"Student Organizations: Sodality of Our Lady, The Berchmans Sanctuary
Society, The Choral Society, The Athletic Association, The Patriotic and
Dramatic Club, The Rifle Club" (page 22)

We had the rifle club, too. Don't know about the others.

"Our entire plant has a hospitable atmosphere within and without, and
suggests no "institution" but a home -- that is what it is." (page 23)

When the brochure was written, the dorms were on the first floor, the building's only floor (besides the basement.) I don't know how the dorms were laid out then. But during the late sixties, the dorms had three rows of beds, about 50 beds total in one big dorm -- as institutional as you can get. The walls were painted a greenish/bluish shade of off-white, there were no curtains on the windows, just shades that rolled up and down, the beds were metal, the wall decoration consisted of one crucifix on the wall, (I remember there was one poster in one of the dorms, no doubt something a nun had put up) and any personalization of our own bed, locker, etc. was strictly forbidden. Can't get more institutional than that.

"Each boy is required to write a letter home weekly" (page 23)

... but if we wrote anything too negative (even if true) about the school, the letter didn't get mailed.

"[T]elephone calls should be made between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m." (p. 23)

Wow! They actually got to use the phone. We were only allowed calls in case of emergency. Cadets from Mexico or far away states, who did not get to go home on weekends, were allowed to make and receive calls. I believe they got a weekly call, but I'm not sure.

"Many social activities enliven the school life of the cadets" (page 23)

If we had any, they were rare, unless you include hanging out on the playground or having others gloat when you're punished as "social activities."

"Each month the boys may spend a designated weekend at home provided
their scholastic standing and conduct warrant it." (page 23)

We usually got to go home every other weekend, although at the beginning of the school year we had to wait three weeks before going home. We, too, could lose our weekends as punishment.

Finally, here's a list of required clothing and toiletries from 1949:
Linton Hall

During the late 1960s we also had khaki uniforms, not listed above. The blue sweater was sold by Linton Hall, and buttoned in front. We didn't wear a "mackinaw" (wool coat, usually plaid) but a pea coat, navy blue with gold colored buttons, with the letters L and H, was sold as part of the uniform. Sweat shirts with the school's logo were sold by the school, as was the winter cap, which for us was a knit wool cap. Rubbers? I'll refrain from making a joke. No, we weren't asked to bring rubber boots. We had to bring a pair of black dress shoes and one pair of tennis shoes instead of the shoes listed. Two dozen handkerchiefs? Don't think we had to bring that many. Blankets had to be military olive green, and the duffle bag was sold by the school.

Linton Hall alumni from the 1950s, 1940s, or earlier: I would be delighted to hear from you to find out whether this brochure accurately describes your experience at Linton Hall, particularly regarding rules and discipline.


Linton Hall Military School brochure, published sometime between 1947-1949.

Copyright 2011 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.

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, December 2, 2011

"A boy is more than just a boy; he is an individual"

You'll never believe who said this! (Hint, it wasn't me, although it is a statement I believe wholeheartedly.)

The problem is, individuality wasn't exactly valued at Linton Hall Military School. I would go as far as saying that individuality was something to be suppressed.

We were forced to dress alike, have identical haircuts, march in the same way and to the same count to and from the classrooms, the cafeteria, the shower room.

Our beds were made in the identical way, with the same color blankets, the top blanket the same distance from the top of the bed so that when looking at a row of beds they all lined up, and next to our beds we had to have our slippers and toilet kit placed a certain way. I wonder how we even recognized which was our bed, in a dorm with three rows of approximately 16 beds each. During the day, we could recognize our bathrobe over the chair, since bathrobes did not have to have a uniform color or pattern. (I am surprised that they did not make us buy the identical color and pattern of bathrobe and pajamas. Maybe it's because they didn't manufacture them in camouflage patterns or with prints of hand grenades and rocket launchers.) But I am still not sure how we recognized our own beds in the evening, when our uniforms werehung on the chair -- all uniforms hung the same way, of course.

In our lockers everyone had to store the same pieces of clothing on the same shelves as everyone else, the towels and washcloths folded a certain way, even our underwear had to be folded a certain way, with two folds into the approximation of a square, as close to a square as a pair of white cotton briefs can be.

How about personalizing the inside of your locker, like kids do with their school lockers everywhere else? Not at Linton Hall! Shortly after I arrived at Linton Hall, I put a sticker on the inside of my locker, a small sticker about 3x3 inches at most, just an animal sticker, nothing controversial or offensive, and an officer made me remove it. Another kid had a miniature poster, small enough to stick on the inside of the door of his locker, and had to remove it as well. The poster bore the words "The Leaning Tower of Pizza" and had a drawing of a stack of pizzas that looked like the Tower of Pisa.

We were almost always called only by our last names. When I look through my old yearbooks I am surprised to see the first names of alumni whose last names I remember; for most of them, their first name seems to be an obscure piece of information.

I have to admit that when I was an officer I had trouble remembering everyone's name; part of it may be that I'm not that good with names, part of it may be that they pretty much all looked alike, but the worst part is, I didn't really care to get to know them as individuals. The boys in my grade, yes, but the boys under my command, I'm ashamed to admit this, were just a crowd to be controlled, much like a cowboy herds cattle, I suppose.

The priest didn't even bother learning our names. He just called everyone "Charley." Some saw it as a funny quirk, or the opportunity to enjoy seeing a kid who had been called "Charley" the first time, argue that his name wasn't Charley, but something else. To me, it felt humiliating, as offensive as an African American would have felt at being called "Boy." Of course, he was one of the adults, and I couldn't say anything.

This smothering of individuality goes beyond the annoying. Child psychologists (notably Erik Erikson) have recognized the need to develop a sense of self and identity, distinct from others. This is something very primal, that manifests itself in how kids choose to dress, wear their hair, and decorate their school locker and home bedroom. This is something we were strongly denied.

I will reveal the source of the quote which is the title of this post, in a future post. You will not believe who said it!

Copyright 2011 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.
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.

What I learned about sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll at Linton Hall

Not much!

But the place for learning about these things was at the picnic table next to the canteen. It was a wooden table, with two attached benches, and within reach of an electrical outlet on the outer wall of the canteen, where a kid (I don't remember his name) would plug in his portable record player and play 45 r.p.m. records.

(For younger readers, a 45 r.p.m. was a vinyl record, a bit larger than a CD, with one song on each side. For even younger readers, a CD is a hopelessly old-fashioned music storage disk which was in use before I-Pods.)

Near the picnic table were some cedar trees, I don't recall whether they were close enough to shade the picnic table, but I remember smelling the aromatic red wood of those trees, which is used to line cedar closets.

We heard very little of the outside world at Linton Hall Military School. I don't recall ever reading a newspaper or a news magazine while I was there, and it was only in the late sixties that we finally got to watch television -- "educational" TV was installed in the classrooms, and we occasionally got to watch the evening news, anchored by Walter Cronkite. Very few kids had radios, and we were only allowed to listen to them on rare occasions, such as during evening "rest" -- so hearing contemporary music was a rare treat for us.

When I hear certain songs I recall the first time I heard that particular song, where I was and what I was doing. Songs that I heard at Linton Hall for the very first time include 'Wichita Lineman,' 'Hush,' 'Harper Valley PTA,' 'A Boy Named Sue,' 'Little Green Apples,' and 'Aquarius."

While listening to these songs we would share sexual misinformation -- the clueless misinforming the clueless -- and trade a few dirty jokes. I still remember a couple of those, probably because I heard them over and over again. It wasn't the type of subject matter that the nuns would have wanted us talking about, and I remember one time when one of the kids told another one to be careful, that there was an officer in the group. I was the officer, and just said something like "What? I wasn't paying attention."

We also learned some bizarre conspiracy-type rumors. One cadet claimed that President Kennedy was still alive, and provided a blurry mimeographed (or photocopied) page as "proof." That was how urban legends spread before the Internet.

How do drugs fit in with rock and roll? A nun explained this to us once in the classroom. The Soviet Union, she explained, wanted to corrupt the minds of American youth. And the way they were going about it, she continued, was by giving large cash payoffs to musicians, so they would play what she called "dope music" -- songs with a repetitive beat which would brainwash young people into taking drugs.

Granted, this was the sixties, and there were songs about drugs; but it's exactly for that reason that I seriously doubt that musicians really needed any cash incentives to sing about drugs. Besides, many of the songs about drugs were anti-drug (the Rolling Stones' 'Sister Morphine' and 'Mother's Little Helper' are two examples that come to mind,) and several prominent musicians died during the sixties as a result of drug overdoses.

As much as she had the best intentions in cautioning us about the perils of listening to "dope music" her theories were a little flakey.

Even flakier was what the same nun taught us about sex. She explained that women derive absolutely no pleasure from sexual intercourse, and do it only to please men.

I later learned otherwise, but at the time I took her word for it, since the only sexual experience I had had at the time was holding hands with a girl once in kindergarten.

I shouldn't have expected a nun to be an expert on these things anyway.

That's it. You didn't expect a post titled "Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll at Linton Hall" to be long, did you?

Copyright 2011 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.
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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rules and Procedures for using the toilet at Linton Hall Military School

How one uses the toilet isn't a topic for polite conversation, but I'm bringing it up because it is an example of how every aspect of our daily life, even the most personal, was regulated.

I've previously written about how we had no privacy even when showering, since there was a nun watching the whole time. What I find ironic is that even though we spent maybe ten minutes naked in front of a nun when showering, the school took elaborate measures to make sure that none of us happened to accidentally see another boy's penis for a few seconds while changing.

The procedure for changing clothes in the dorms involved the cadets in each of the three rows facing the same direction; the center and window rows faced in the direction of the window, and the locker row faced the lockers; in other words, we faced our own chair. We would then put our bathrobe on over our clothes (or pajamas) and change our pants and underwear. Then we would remove the bathrobe to change our shirts or pajama tops. This procedure went on even when changing from khaki pants to green fatigue pants, i.e., when we did not remove our underwear.

In the bathrooms, the urinals had been covered up with brown wrapping paper (some with black plastic garbage bags) by the time I attended in the sixties, so we used the toilets even to urinate. There were partitions between the toilets (I believe they were actual walls, but don't recall exactly what material they were made of) but these were only about three feet tall, and there were no doors on the stalls. I don't know whether there were doors originally and they had been removed sometime later. I did see pictures from the late 1980s in which the stalls do have doors.

This worked fine when urinating, but when defecating there was a special procedure involving the bathrobe. Whether you were wearing pajamas or one of the uniforms, you had to get your bathrobe and put it on backwards, meaning with the opening to the back, before sitting on the toilet. After you were finished, you would either put the bathrobe on correctly (if wearing pajamas) or take it back to your chair.

This was one of a myriad of rules explained to us upon our arrival at Linton Hall, but actually there was more to it than that.

There I was, a recent arrival, sitting on the toilet and wearing my bathrobe the approved way, when a busybody reported me to an officer. You see, I happened to have a hand under my bathrobe. Why? Well, I didn't want my penis accidentally touching the filthy edge of the toilet bowl, and I needed to point my penis down into the bowl so that if I happened to urinate I wouldn't soil my pajamas and bathrobe. I didn't feel comfortable explaining this to the officer or the busybody, so I just did as I was told and kept my hands over my bathrobe.

This little incident illustrates both the prevalent mentality among far too many cadets of looking for and reporting even the smallest infractions by others, and the extent to which even the most personal and insignificant details of our daily existence were regulated.

(Added 11/30/11:) The toilets in the basement had regular sized partitions, but no doors.
Over my lifetime I've probably used hundreds of public restrooms, but I cannot think of even a single one (other than the ones at Linton Hall Military School) where the partitions were only 3 feet tall and/or there were no doors on the stalls.

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.
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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Linton Hall ....... School" (The word "military" doesn't appear anywhere!)

I recently wrote how Linton Hall Military School, although it remained a military school until 1989, had stopped calling itself "military" at least ten years before. In that post, I mentioned how by 1978, the school's advertising completely omitted the word "military" both from the name and description of the school.Military School

In the above ad a from The Washington Post, August 12, 1979, the word see if you can firnd the word "military" anywhere. You can't. Nor do the boys' clothing, un-military posture, or their smiles betray the fact that "Linton Hall ........ School" was still a military school.

What happened when someone replied to the ad and requested more information, this is the letter they received:

Linton Hall

Does the word "military" appear anywhere here? No, not at all.

See my previous post to find out where the word "military" actually appears, somewhere inside the 1978-79 "Linton Hall ......... School" brochure.


Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.

Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.

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.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

They started calling it "Linton Hall School" at least ten years before it stopped being a military school!

Linton Hall Military School, originally established as a military school in 1922, stopped being a military school in 1988, (Note 1) although there was a period during the late 1920s when the military program was dropped. (Note 2)

Recently, however, another LHMS alumnus wrote in his blog that a web site of the Benedictine sisters omits the fact that Linton Hall ever was a military school, by stating that "In 1922, on the Bristow grounds, Linton Hall School opened as a boarding school for boys ..." (Note 3) (Emphasis added.)

Upon first reading his blog, I was willing to give the sisters the benefit of the doubt, thinking that perhaps this was a simple oversight. In fact, Linton Hall Military School officially and deliberately dropped the word "Military" from its name at least ten years before the military program was discontinued in 1989.

I visited the school on Military Day 1980, and the program, still in my posession, refers to the school as "Linton Hall School." From everything I could observe, that Military Day was just like the Military days while I attended during the late 1960s. (Note 4)

Linton Hall Military School Military Day

Even two years before that, the cover of the Linton Hall calendar and brochure sent to prospective students and their parents, as well as the school's letterhead and printed envelopes, all referred to the school as "Linton Hall School."
Linton Hall School Brochure

Inside the brochure, the school is generally referred to simply as "Linton Hall."
The school's history and (rather self-serving) description refers to the school as "a boarding and day school" and "a Christian school," but nowhere does the word "military" appear, not even once. (Note 5)

The next page's recap of the daily schedule does mention "Drill" from 3:45 to 5 p.m. on Mon./Wed., and "Non-Parade Fridays" but not in a manner that makes it blatantly obvious. The photo on the page is of over a dozen boys wearing sweaters and ties, but they are standing and sitting in very casual poses which don't carry even a hint of the school's true military nature.

A few pages later, in a section titled "Faculty and Staff" the brochure states, "In addition to the excellent academic program, experiences in art, music, drama, military, sports, and field study are under the supervision of a well-trained, dedicated staff."

Note how the word "military" is mentioned in passing.

Folks, when I attended Linton Hall Military School, my "experiences" in Art consisted of such things as building a model car from a kit in "Art" class and crafting things aout of wire, popsicle sticks, and so on. But that didn't make the school into "Linton Hall Art School," now did it?

Nor did the my "experience" of marching to the beat of the Drum & Bugle Corps and listening to 45 rpm record during rest make this a music school.

But it sure was a military school!

It is only at the back of the brochure that the "Military Program" is finally described.

Of the twenty-six photos in which cadets appear, in the vast majority (23) they are NOT in the military dress uniform. Of the remaining three, one shows the cadet's head and shoulders (from ribbons on his chest and up) the second shows a cadet playing the piano at a recital attended by parents (I doubt most people would even discern that he is wearing the dress uniform, since he's way in the back of the picture) and the third, on the "Military Program" page shows the Drum and Bugle Corps. Unlike companies whose cadets carry rifles, the cadets in the D&BC obviosuly carry drums and bugles!

As far back as 1971, an advertisement appeared in a Catholic School directory, bearing the name of "Linton Hall School: (Note 6)


Prince William County
Bristow, Virginia
For Boys Grades 3-8
Linton Hall School is a private
boarding school for boys in grades
three through eight, located thirty-
five miles south of Washington,
D.C. The students are offered sound
physical, academic and religious
programs. Small classes and a
well-equipped instructional ma-
terials center provide the oppor-
tunity for individualized and
small group instruction

The words "Linton Hall School" are mentioned twice in the ad. It is only in the index that the school is listed as "Linton Hall Military School" (Note 7)

This raises a lot of questions. Why did they make such an effort to avoid revealing the school's true nature as a military school? If a military school was not the type of environment that students and parents were searching for, why did they simply change the name of the school without changing the nature of the program? If they truly believed that the military school concept was a positive one, why did they not emphasize it and its purported benefits? Is "Outdoor Education, Conservation and Ecology" (OECW for short) the same as the "Military Science" and field maneuvers we were taught while I was there during the sixties? Why are cadets wearing their dress uniform in only three of the 26 pictures in the 1978 handbook/brochure? Why are there no pictures of guns, other than adults in tri-cornered Colonial hats with a musket? And, finally, today, in 2011, when Linton Hall School has not been a military school for a long time, does the school still have the regimented environment I remember, with excessive emphasis placed on uniform dress codes, length of hair and adherence to the pettiest of rules?

1. According to the school's official web site.

2. The Fruit of His Works, by Sister Helen Johnson OSB states that the military program was dropped during the late 1920s and was revived in 1931. In addition, Military Day programs in my posession identify the year both by its cardinal number, e.g. 1980, and ordinal number, i.e. 1980 was the forty-ninth Military Day. Working back, this would make the first Military Day in 1932. This differs from the statement on the school's website, cited in Note 1, that "In 1932, the military program was firmly established, and the school became known as Linton Hall Military School. "

This is a blog by another alumnus who also attended Linton Hall Military School during the 1960s.
He has written excellent, well-researched posts about his experience.

4. Linton Hall School Military Day Program, 1980.

5. Linton Hall School, Calendar 1978-1979 Handbook. This publication is in the public domain. To protect the privacy of alumni whose photos appear in the publication, I am only posting the text.

6. The Official guide to Catholic educational institutions and religious communities in the United States, 1971, pages B-27 and B-38 Each of the following three urls has a portion of the ad: , and .

7. ibid, see

Copyright 2011 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, November 11, 2011

Why would a "military school" even exist?

We all tend to accept what is familiar as being "normal" without taking time to question it from an outside perspective.

This is the case with fashion; what is fashionable at one time may be considered bizarre a few short years later. Or certain foods may be considered normal in one country and bizarre or disgusting in another.

As alumni who spent years in military school, we are not shocked or surprised that military schools existed. For us, this was our everyday experience. But think about it for a moment, isn't it strange to have a school in which boys dress up as soldiers, not just on Halloween, but every waking hour of the day, not just during recess but also in the classroom and at Mass? And that they have military ranks such as Sargeant and Captain and spend countless hours parading around while carrying fake rifles; except for the "officers" who carry real sabres (albeit with dull edges) and (empty) handgun holsters while out hiking?

Can you imagine if they had schools where kids dressed up and pretended to be something else? What if there was a Linton Hall Native American School in which kids wore feather headdresses and face and body paint all the time, even in the classroom and at Mass? Or a Linton Hall Hippie School at which they forced boys to grow their hair long, wear tie-dye shirts and march around the blacktop carrying signs that said "End the Vietnam War" and "Legalize Marijuana?"

Wouldn't you think of the school administrators who came up with such a concept, and the parents who bought into it, as being just a little weird?

I would argue that this wouldn't be any stranger, any more insane than "military school."

The Linton Hall school brochures that I have seen talk about "turning boys into men." We're talking about boys in Kindergarten through eighth grade. That's ages six through thirteen, though there were 14 and 15 year old eighth graders while I was there. And although at the time I attended the youngest boys were in second grade, I have read of there being at least one kindergarden boy at Linton Hall Military School during its history.

What the heck is wrong in letting boys be boys?

A military regimen is stifling enough for older kids, but how can you justify having little kids in second and third grade who still believe in Santa Claus and still get confused about which side is right and which side is left being forced to march and turn "right face" or "left face?"

A fellow alumnus in his blog says that "Seventh grade was not a good year to be new at school. Everyone else in the class were in positions as sergeants and the new seventh graders started out as privates. " As someone who entered Linton Hall as an older boy, I agree with this. But at least I had attended other schools, and had the experience of knowing what good, non-military schools were like. I also knew that at worst I would get to leave upon graduation, which was a tolerable amount of time away.

I think that for anyone who entered as a younger child it was far worse, because he never saw that there was an alternative, never had a chance to live in a school environment where every minute of his life was not micromanaged by obsessive-compulsive "officers" and staff who paid major importance to meaningless, inconsequential details of everything to how the uniform was worn to how the bed was made.

Is that the kind of "men" we were expected to become? Blindly obedient idiots who need to be constantly reminded about what to do and when to do it? Automatons with no initiative, no individuality and no creativity? Unmotivated bodies needing the threat of severe punishment to be coerced into doing everyday tasks such as brushing their teeth?

Sadly, I believe the answer is yes.

Nowadays violent punishment has fallen out of fashion, and the same results of passive conformity are achieved by drugging (not "medicating") children into stupor. The statistics on the percentage of children being given psychotropic drugs is truly frightening.

I consider myself lucky to have been at Linton Hall Military School only a couple of years, and at an age when, even though I could not fight the situation, I was able to see it for what it was.

And I am happy that Linton Hall has stopped being military, is no longer a boarding school, and is co-ed. It seems to be a far better place than it once was, and I hope the students attending it today have a much more positive experience than I did.

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.
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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting "bumped" -- the officers' rite of passage

One way (and perhaps the primary way) officers were punished was by getting "bumped."

In milder cases this meant a drop to a lower rank, such as Captain to First Lieutenant, or First Lieutenant to Second. (I don't recall the Battallion Commander getting bumped while I was there, but it may have happened during Linton Hall's history.)

But what usually happened was being bumped down to private, which meant not having any rank at all.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Sometimes being a private meant just that -- being the low man on the totem pole. Other times even though the bumped officer lost his rank, he kept his position (as company or platoon commander.) He kept all his duties and the ability to give orders to those under his charge, but he lost his privileges as an officer. I don't remember anyone actually saying this, but it was generally understood that such a "bumping" was temporary and the officer had the opportunity to eventually earn back his rank.

There weren't many privileges to being an officer. Once in a blue moon (a handful of times over the school year) there were "officers' nights" -- the chance to play Ping Pong, watch TV, and have a snack in one of the vacant dormitories for an hour or two, and socialize with other officers.

A bumped officer didn't get to wear the insignia on his collar, or the belt with a shoulder strap while carrying a sabre. (Sabres were worn/carried sometimes during drill, and during parades and special occasions such as Military Day and graduation.) He still got to carry a sabre, though, so it was attached to the same type of belt that everyone wore on the outside of his blue sweater. (I've seen pictures of students at LH after it was no longer a military school, who still wore the black belt over the sweater.)

I found it interesting, while looking through my old yearbooks, that there was a year in which almost one third of the officers in the picture have their sabres hanging from the regular belt, meaning they have been bumped.

Oh yeah, I was one of them. And I did eventually regain my rank.

How did officers get bumped? Usually through a court martial. (The other blogger has done a great job describing how the court martials were often little more than a rubber-stamping of the Commandant's or Principal's decision.) But that wasn't always the case. I know of one instance (there may have been more) in which Sister Mary David decided that an officer was bumped, and that was it. There was no court martial. Not that there really needed to be one, since the outcome would have been predictable. But then again, given the facts of the case, I am convinced that there was no justification for bumping that officer. Can you imagine what would have happened if his fellow officers had not bumped him? Or even if they had, but the decision had not been unanimous? I can't conceive of it happening, but at the same time I can't help wondering how things might have turned out.

One consequence of being bumped was the pleasure that a lot of cadets found when an officer was bumped. It's the dark side of human nature, I suppose, but I also think it shows a lack of understanding of the difficult position an officer found himself in. Some, perhaps many, abused their power, but others tried their best to be fair, to actively ignore minor infractions that really didn't deserve to be punished, and to treat others as they would want to be treated themselves -- while at the same time enforcing all the rules.

When officers lost both their rank and position, they were generally transfered to another company. This was so that they would not be subject to reprisal by anyone who now outranked them (PFCs on up.) I think this was a good move on the Commandant's part.

Another consequence of bumping an officer was that he lost his motivation. Even in cases such as mine (where I lost my rank but not my position) I did a half-hearted job for a while and broke a lot of rules, feeling there was little point in doing the work for little or no reward.

When I visited Linton Hall many years later on Military Day, I noticed in the program that someone was listed as:

Platoon Leader John Doe, 1st Platoon Leader

instead of the customary

First (or Second) Lieutenant John Doe, 1st Platoon Leader

and realized that the practice of bumping officers was still alive and well. Unfortunately for "John Doe," he didn't regain his rank by Military Day.

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.
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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

History of Linton Hall

It's uncanny how I and the other alumnus who blogs about Linton Hall think alike. In his post, "True History of L.H.M.S." posted on October 13, 2011, which is less than a week ago
he provides an article about Linton Hall Military School's early history. The article is based on the book The Fruit of His Works, by Sister Helen Johnson, published in 1954.

It's a strange coincidence that I have recently read that book and was about to write about it. Guess he beat me to it!

Although written by a Benedictine nun with her own point of view who speaks of "alumni ... cherishing many happy memories" (page ix) the book contains many items of historical interest about Linton Hall and the nearby town of Bristow which, even back in the 1960s when I attended, was so small that we cadets said its slogan was "Blink and you'll miss it."

The book relates how the village of Bristow was destroyed by General Banks' army in August 1862, and that by 1953 the Bristow rail station on the Southern Rail Road line was no longer in use as a full station, but only as a flagstop for daily mail pickup and delivery.

Although by the 1960s the milk we drank came in cartons, Sister Helen recounts how in 1948 the school bought 35 Guernsey cows to provide milk and butter for the students and sisters, and that from 1894 to 1930 Linton Hall had an ice house. (For modern readers, this is a structure in which ice which has been cut from the surface of ponds in winter is stored, with straw as insulation, for many months, often lasting well into summer, and is how ice was kept in the days prior to refrigeration.)

Linton Hall's namesake and benefactor was John Tyler Linton, who died in 1822 at age 26, two months before his only child, Sarah Elliott Linton, was born. (The title "Colonel" that is often used with his name is a Southern title of courtesy, like "Colonel" Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and is not a military rank. John Linton was a lawyer, with a degree from Dickinson College.)

In 1844, Sarah Linton became a Benedictine nun known as Sister Mary Baptista, and she passed away on October 26, 1901, bequeathing land to be used for two schools, one for poor boys, and another for poor girls.

The planned school for boys, to be called St. Joseph's Industrial School, never came into being, but a school for girls, St. Edith's Academy, opened in 1894 with 16 boarders and several day students. Its last graduating class, in 1922, consisted of two girls, and the school was converted to an all-boys military boarding school named Linton Hall Military School. The cadets were divided into two companies. LHMS's first Commandant was Barron Fredericks, and Sister Mary Ignatia Goforth was principal from 1923 through 1931. Sometime during her tenure, however, the school was left without a Commandant, and the school's military program was dropped.

In 1931 Sister Agnes became the new principal, and she revived the military program, organized a brass band (presumably without the percussion element of the Drum & Bugle Corps which existed when I attended during the 1960s) and hired Linton Hall's second Commandant, Lt. Lawrence Scott Carson. At the time the school had an enrollment of around 80 boys.

Sister Agnes passed away in 1932, just a year after becoming principal, and was succeeded by Sister Claudia. In 1938 a new Commandant, Major Marlin S. Reichley, was appointed. (He would stay on as LHMS' Commandant for almost 30 years.)

According to the book, it was not until April 18, 1951, that the current building was blessed by Bishop Ireton. (I am assuming the building was blessed when completed.) There is a photo of the building in the book, which I am not posting since the book may still be protected by copyright. It is just the building we all remember, with the exception that the gym wing has not yet been built.

I find the April 1951 date a bit confusing, since I have a photo from a very old Linton Hall brochure from the late 1940s (which I will eventually be posting, since it is not protected by copyright) which shows the Linton Hall building not only without the gym wing but also without the second and third floors (the dorms) and which is captioned "Ireton Hall" -- presumably named after Bishop Ireton. It is not clear whether this is an actual photo or an architectural rendering, however.

The book also contains a roster of sisters at the Bristow convent from 1953, which contains some familiar names. In addition to Sister Mary David Nolte, there are also two nuns with the last name DuCharme listed, possibly related to Linton Hall's fourth and final Commandant, Max DuCharme.

Much of the book covers the history of the Benedictines in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and does not directly relate to Linton Hall.

Although the book was interesting from a historical point of view, it does little to describe the cadets' daily routine, food, uniforms, disciplinary methods and other aspects which I would have found much more interesting, especially if they had been written from the cadets' point of view.

Thus, I would love to hear more from older alumni who were there prior to me.

Read more in my book, "Linton Hall Military School Memories," over 200 pages, 7x10 inches, only $5.69 (or less) at
Linton Hall Memories

Copyright 2011 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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Linton Hall's Unpaid Workers

I remember the many times we would march down to dinner, smell something delicious like pot roast, and be disappointed that we were having something else, such as a bologna sandwich. The smell, of course, came from the nuns' dining room.

I used to ask myself why, but lately I've asked myself how. How did these fine, upstanding women, these paragons of goodness and righteousness, these holy women who had taken a vow of poverty, afford to eat so well? The answer is, Linton Hall's unpaid workers.

Unpaid workers? The officers, of course. Imagine, for a moment, a boy of 13 being responsible for a dozen or so siblings, aged from 7 to 13, supervising them from the time they wake up until bedtime, making them get dressed, wash, make their beds, have breakfast, walk to school, then supervising them at lunchtime and after-school playtime, at dinner, study hour, and showers, with a big sister, age 20, not doing much supervising, except for shower time, when she's always there. Just how quickly do you think the social workers would intervene? (The question isn't would they intervene, but how quickly.)

And what if these kids didn't belong to just one mother (who had managed to give birth to a dozen or more children over the span of seven years, poor woman) but were in some type of day care, where the parents were actually paying for them to be taken care of?

I asked you to imagine this, but for former Lintonians it's not too hard to picture such a scenario, since it's quite similar to what went on at Linton Hall. As others have commented, the dorm prefects assigned to look after 50 or more boys in a dorm often took a hands-off attitude and let the officers run things. In the playground there was one prefect with over 200 boys, and they often spent time chatting with a few cadets. Compared to other schools I attended, the staff to student ratio was much lower at Linton Hall Military School. The same disparity exists between the summer camps I attended elsewhere, and Linton Hall.

Officers were on duty most of the waking hours; school hours are the major, and pretty much only, exception. An hour and a half from reveille to the beginning of school, and hour for lunch, and about five hours from the end of school until bedtime adds up to seven and a half hours. Weekends when we did not go home there were twelve-hour days, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.. On average, that's a forty nine and a half work week, folks.

Yes, I call it work. A babysitter, often a 13-year-old girl, gets paid for babysitting one or two, sometimes as many as three kids, supervising their dinner, homework, recreation, changing into pajamas and so on. One difference is in the sheer number of kids supervised. Another is in the number of hours worked per week, whcih may be five hours on each of two evenings per week for a babysitter, far less than almost fifty hours. And another difference is that the babysitter gets paid.

How did we get paid? I remember a couple of "Officer's Nights." After everyone's bedtime, we officers got to hang out for an hour or two in one of the unused dorms, play Ping Pong, and get a candy bar and a cup of soda. We also got the privilege of paying for the insignia on our shirt collar if we wanted to take it home after graduation. (I still don't know whether this was official policy or a nun's way to extract some money from me before I left. See my "Linton Hall and our Parents' Money" post for details.)

But my main gripe isn't about not getting paid. It's about having so much time taken away from me, time that I could have spent much better had I been home alone, unsupervised. As a "latchkey kid" before I went to Linton Hall, I did manage to do my homework, straighten my room, play with my friend next door, all between the time I got off the school bus and the time my parents came home.

Some will argue that this was a great opportunity to learn leadership and other skills. If you're talking about leading others on a field hike or camping trip, I would agree wholeheartedly. But when the number of hours approaches fifty hours a week, my point of view changes completely. People normally learn something while doing their jobs; but this is true all the way from the janitor to the company president. But they get paid for their work, and rightly so. To burden children with so many hours of work is totally wrong as I see it, and I doubt that I can be persuaded otherwise, especially since at Linton Hall, tuition and room and board charges were high enough to cover adequate staffing.

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.
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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Life Before Linton Hall

Before I got sent to Linton Hall, I had attended both a private school and public school (both day schools.) I had also been to summer camp for a couple of summers (probably ages 8, 9, 10.) This wasn't Camp Linton, but another summer camp.

Just like others whose stay at LH was relatively short (2 or 3 years) I can compare Linton Hall to other schools. My memories of those schools, as well as those of high school, are generally positive. There were small imperfections, some things that could have been better, but even so I felt that the principal and teachers had our best intentions at heart. It is because I saw what other schools were like, and because Linton Hall had the potential to be as good as the other schools, that I found my overall experience at Linton Hall to be negative.

This is how Linton Hall Military School during the 1960s compared to other schools:

Upon entering Linton Hall I found it just as challenging as my previous schools, and academic standards were such that I needed to do as much or more work to do well. The quality of the teachers was similar. Linton Hall had some really good ones. I have to give credit where it is due and Sister Mary David was a really good Math and Science teacher and Sister Gertrude taught English and History well. They knew their material and had high expectations. There are probably others but I don't remember their names. After graduating from Linton Hall I had a normal transition into ninth grade, meaning that I was well prepared.

Of course, part of the credit belongs to me for doing the work and for taking advantage of second study hour, in spite of the fact that when I was in the eighth grade the prefect of my dorm did her utmost to discourage officers from going to second study hour, since the dorm became a wild zoo in the officers' absence. I am proud of being able to resist her pressure and making my academics a priority.

At private school it was really good, almost like home made. At public elementary school and high school it was similar to Linton Hall's, the standard school lunch. In elementary school (just like at LH) everyone from grades K to 6th got the same amount, which meant that the older kids didn't get quite enough and the younger ones got too much and had to be coaxed into eating everything. The big difference, of course, was that at day school I ate only five meals a week in the school cafeteria, and at Linton Hall it was every meal.

I did eat every meal at summer camp, but the summer camp was run by the same private school I attended during the school year, and the food was goog and there was always more than enough.

Summer camp lasted probably four weeks, and we were allowed visits from parents for a few hours on Sundays (maybe 1 out of 3 or 1 out of 4 kids had their parents visit on any Sunday.) I was probably 8 the first year I went there, knew a few (maybe 1 out of 5) kids when I arrived and the school principal ran the camp so I wasn't a total stranger. The kids were probably ages 7 to 12, but I don't remember any one of them crying from homesickness. I'm sure they missed their parents just as much as the boys at Linton Hall, but camp was a good, fun place. At LH quite a few of the kids cried from homesickness especially at the beginning of the year.

Mail Censorship:
We could not make or receive phone calls at camp, but we did send and receive letters from home. We wrote the letters and gave them, sealed, to be mailed out. Occasionally one of the adults would tell us, "when you write home tell your parents that Miss Smith says hello" but we would have been utterly shocked if any adult had asked us to leave letters unsealed or if any inbound letters had been opened.

At Linton Hall, we were told to leave letters to be mailed unsealed, purportedly so that if Sister Mary David needed to send a note home, she could insert it in the envelope without paying extra postage. In fact, the true reason was so that letters could be read and, if something negative was being sent about the school, the letter would not be mailed out. Sister Mary David actually admitted this to a classroom full of cadets, when she said that a certain cadet wrote that we went on very long hikes. One of his legs was maybe two inches shorter than the other and one of his boots was specially modified with a very thick sole. He had said that the hikes were a certain number of miles (I don't remember the exact number but he had overestimated.) So she readily admitted that she had thrown the letter away instead of mailing it.

I did hint at some things in my letters without being too critical, and those letters did get through. I don't know whether any of my letters were unmailed. I do have a letter in which I wrote my grades in percentages, and a letter grade was written next to each one. The letters were in pencil (my letter was written in pen) and in a handwriting that was neither mine or that of my parents.

You might be wondering about the Mexicans, who wrote their letters in Spanish. Sister Mary David said that she spoke Spanish. I don't know how well she spoke it or whether she was just bluffing. In addition to the Spanish speakers we did have one cadet from South Korea and another from Iran. I would have loved to read Mary David's mind when she came upon a letter with foreign characters followed by "Mary David" followed by more foreign writing. Was she going crazy wondering whether something positive or negative was being said about her?

Running away
Running away from camp never even crossed our mind. Are you kidding? It was a lot of fun.
At Linton Hall, many of us (myself included) spent a lot of time fantasizing about the perfect escape. A few tried it, placing themselves at great danger, preferring to take chances instead of putting up with Linton Hall.

Personal care
At private school we wore uniforms, and at camp we had to make our beds and brush our teeth.
But there was none of the pickiness about doing things in a defined, precise way as at Linton Hall.

Much of what was a punishable offense at Linton Hall (running indoors, yelling, etc.) were considered minor breaches of etiquette at school and camp. We were told not to do it, stopped doing it, and that was it.
For more serious offenses we might have been made to stand in the corner for 15 minutes during recess, or for even greater infractions, sent to the principal's office, who would give us a stern lecture and threaten to tell our parents if we did it again.
In all my years at elementary school I remember children being spanked on the bottom a couple of times with a bare hand, and there was one time wehn someone had his mouth washed out with soap (this was a last resort after multiple offenses.)
I will not re-state here all the physical punishments that were used at Linton Hall. An exhaustive list was written by another blogger,

Children sometimes have "accidents," especially the younger ones. When children peed or pooped their pants, which happened a few times in kindergarden, an adult would take them to a bathroom that was just like a bathroom at home, with bathtub and shower, and let them wash themselves. They then would be provided with something "on loan" to wear while whatever they had soilded would be put in the washer. If the accident happened early in their day, they would go home wearing their own clean clothes. If it happened later, one of the teachers would tell the parent what had happened (in a very understanding way) or would send a note home with the kid, if the kid went home on the school bus. The most important thing is that if any of the kids tried to make fun of the child who had an accident (as little kids are prone to do) the teacher would have told him/her in a stern voice not to do it, and explained the golden rule.

There was a girl who peed herself quite often on the bus on the way to school, but not on the way home, which makes me think that the problem had to do with her being made to consume too much liquid at breakfast. Understandably, no one wanted to sit next to her, and occasionally one child would make fun of her, but most of us were mature enough to pretend nothing had happened.

Contrast that to how bedwetters at Linton hall were publicly shamed and embarrassed by being forced to wear the wet pajama bottoms around their neck all day, in a way that other cadets were pretty much encouraged to tease them, all in full view and with the full knowledge of every single adult (teachers, dorm and playground prefects, Commandant, Bill, and principal Sister Mary David.)

Girls (and the lack thereof)
Both of the elementary schools I attended before Linton Hall, as well as summer camp, were co-ed. Of course the younger years are a time when boys have their own games and activities (toy cars, toy guns -- which were considered okay at that time, building forts and treehouses and so on) which are quite different than those of girls (playing with dolls, playing house, etc.) This was especially so back then. So we weren't interacting with girls constantly, although there were games such as tag which we both found enjoyable.

I think for many of us the lack of girls made us shy and awkward around them. It did for me. Only those who were in an all boys school can feel the pain I felt when I would get a letter from a friend on the "outside" who told me about playing spin the bottle or some other kissing game, and there I was, not having ever even called a girl on the phone under the guise of asking a question about homework.

We didn't shower at day school, but we did at camp. We showered one at a time, and never did any adult male or female even come in, much less stand there watching the whole time.
I do understand the need to supervise group showers; I have read of instances in juvenile detention facilities where (forgive me for being so blunt but I have to say this) rape by someone of the same sex, sometimes with a broomstick or bottle, happens in both all-boy and all-girl facilities. So I accept that the slim possibility of something so awful justified some supervision. But I think there were other, better ways of doing it.

First of all, the architect could have designed individual shower stalls. I understand that the building was built in the early part of the 20th century, when attitudes about privacy, nudity and sex were different.

We could have showered in swim trunks, and only pulled them down a bit, while turning our back to the nun, while washing our private parts.

We could have had the Commandant and Bill supervise showers. These were men who could be trusted. I know it would have meant extra work for them, and that they would not have been eager to go back to Linton Hall in the evening to supervise showers. Perhaps we could have showered immediately after school to make it more convenient for the Commandantand Bill.

If nothing else, the nuns didn't really need to be standing there looking for the whole time. They could just stood in the changing area, and occasionally have taken a look out of the corner of their eye. But they did not, and the fact that they never missed the opportunity to supervise the showers, while having a hands-off attitude about anything else that went on in the dorm, makes me wonder about their true motivations. Some may have been uncomfortable doing this, but if that had been the case I would have expected them, at a minimum, to avert their eyes and not stare directly.

I should add to what I said about juvenile detention facilities. Whatever can happen in the shower can happen at night in the dorm. One former cadet has written on my Facebook wall about being beaten up at night while he slept. Beyond the blue night lights, there was no effort to supervise and protect us while we slept at night.

I am white, and Linton Hall was the first place I met kids who were black. As a child my world revolved around school and neighborhood, and there was only one black child (in another grade) in my school before I went to LH. Not surprisingly, there were no black teachers, either. The janitor was black, which says much about opportunities and hiring decisions during that era.

As an aside, I use the terms "black" and "white" instead of "Caucasian" and "African American" simply because those were the descriptive terms used at that time.

I didn't treat black differently as a groupthan I did whites. Some I liked, some I didn't, but it was about who they were as individuals and not about race. A good thing about the boys at Linton Hall is that in general (there are always exceptions) most acted the same way. I had freinds but not really a best friend, but of those that did have a best friend, sometimes friendships were between two of different races.

On the other hand, there were racial taunts used as fighting words, not the "n-word" but others, both against whites and against blacks, and there were slurs about Mexicans as well, but interestingly they seemed to be used more against a specific individuals than against the group. It would not be unusual for one cadet to call another a racial slur as a way to provoke a fight, while still remaining friends with others of both races, and doing this in front of others. Unfortunately, there was little that the adults did to teach us otherwise. Someone doing this would get a verbal reprimand such as "it's not nice to say that" but I cannont recall a single instance of someone getting the same punishment of having to chew a bar of soap, as would happen when someone got caught saying offensive, but far LESS hurtful four-letter words.

I cannot generalize about adults, but I remember when a nun, not Sister Mary David but someone else who taught classes, reminiscing about having been principal of another school. She said something along the lines of "I was principal of the white school, and we had the black school right across the street." (This is a paraphrase, I don't recall the exact words.) We were shocked by this, and she answered something along the lines of, "well that's how things were done by then." I was and still am shocked that a purportedly religious order would have followed along with an offensive, immoral practice instead of having the moral fortitude to decide to integrate its own schools. I am not mentioning her name because I do not believe that the decision was hers alone to make, that there was a board of directors, or head of the Benedictine order, or perhaps the bishop or archbishop with jurisdiction over Richmond.

What Linton Hall could have been
The saddest thing is that Linton Hall didn't have to be that way. It had the potential to be much more. The building, the rural location the quality of the teachers, the resources were all there. As an administrator, Sister Mary David ran the school well, it was only in terms ofhow we were treated that the school fell far short. The school charged enough for room and board that we could have been fed more, and better.

Let's just look at the lack of fresh fruit as an example. One time (a year or two after I left Linton Hall) I bought one banana at the supermarket for six cents. I still remember this because it was all I bought and such a small, unusual purchase sticks in my mind. At the same time a small candy bar cost a nickel, a large one ten cents. These are all retail prices, not wholesale. Instead of the daily candy bars, we could have been given a banana instead. Distributing bananas is no more labor intensive than distributing candy bars, nor are bananas messy to eat. Apples cost a little more (depending on how large the apple is) but even so, we could have had half an apple. Cutting a hundred apples in half shouldn't involve more labor than putting two hundred dollops of apple sauce on two hundred trays. Plus, the school is in Virginia, where a lot of apples are grown. I doubt that two hundred apple halves, or even two hundred whole, large, crisp, freshly pciked apples would have cost more than two hundred candy bars.

Traffic was much lighter in the Washington area than it is today. LHMS had a school bus that was used to take us to parades, take the teams to away games, and so on. Gas, or diesel fuel, was affordable back then. Museums in DC were and still are, free. Could we not have been taken, maybe one or two grades at a time, for a field trip to DC? Wouldn't that have been a better activity than being cooped up in the gym on a rainy day, or watching a movie in the gym in the evening? As an aside, I should mention that we were charged for movies and that the money was deducted from our sundries account. They could have made a similar deduction for gas and wear and tear on the bus just like they did for movies.

Could they have been more careful with our parents' money? Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth, you know. Did we really need a pair of "white ducks pants" altered by a tailor of course, to wear just for a couple of hours on one day a year (Military Day)?

Why else would they need to censor mail other than to hide everything that went on? If a child at camp makes up stuff and writes home about it, whoever is in charge of the camp will get a call from the parents and there will be an opportunity for those in charge to discuss the matter and set the record straight. The need for censorship existed only to hide the truth.
Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet. Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting. 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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Did we learn leadership at Linton Hall Military School?

Linton Hall, and other military schools, often tout their ability to turn boys into "leaders." And those who do achieve officer status certainly look and play the part. I know I did. But is that really leadership?

Leadership is generally defined as "the ability to influence others to achieve a common objective." I would thus define good leadership as involving both a good objective, and good, ethical means of achieving influence. An example of good leadership would occur when you take visiting relatives to see your local city, and you take into account the needs and desires of the group as a whole (which might not be exactly the needs and desires of each individual.) You might find an activity that everyone enjoys, schedule rest and bathroom breaks, pay attention to others' reactions (things such as boredom, discomfort, tiredness, which they might not actually tell you about in order to be polite) and so on. And a good leader would put the needs and wants of the entire group (of which he is part) over his own needs and wants. He might pay for most or all the expenses, or if the others insist on paying but he knows they cannot afford it, choose inexpensive or free activities.

Another example would be that of a teacher whose goal is for everyone in the classroom to learn as much as possible, to learn the more important and useful skills and facts, to be motivated to learn. Such a teacher would be more than just responsive to questions and feedback; he would take into account which teaching methods and textbooks worked best, and use them so that there would be little need for questions and complaints.

I am convinced that at Linton Hall Military School, with its large number of rules covering the most minute details and every conceivable activity of the day, and scheduling every moment of the day, was an environment where the officers were simply enforcing rules that everyone had to follow, and not exercising true leadership. From personal experience (I was an officer during the entire school year while in eighth grade) I know that good leadership, true leadership, was not expected from me, nor was it really allowed. I was simply an enforcer. I used fear, intimidation, threats of punishment and actual punishment to achieve the objectives of the adults (ultimately the principal, Sister Mary David O.S.B.) who was the final authority on all matters. I was doing exactly what other officers were doing to others, what officers had done to me from the time I had entered Linton Hall, and what other officers would do for the rest of Linton Hall's existence as a military school (that is, until it became Linton Hall School.)

It was only on rare occasions that I and other officers were able to decide to do what was actually best for the cadets under our command, instead of what we were expected to do automatically and without question. This often happened during field hikes, but rarely during daily activities.

One such occasion, was when it was bitterly cold and windy during drill, as it often was in Bristow, Virginia. The officers were permitted to take us on bathroom breaks in the warm (but dirty and smelly) bathroom downstairs under the Commandant's office. I was still a private, and had no say in the matter, but the breaks on that day were unusually long, in order to give us a break from the bitter cold. I remember the platoon leaders and company commanders of different companies negotiating amongst themselves as to which platoons had had a long enough break and would have to return out into the cold, so that if Mary David or the Commandant were to look out from their warm offices, they would see some of us marching. It goes without saying that they were risking their rank by bending (or breaking) the rules to such an extent.

Another time was when the entire battallion was being punished because the culprit, or culprits for some infraction had not been identified. I don't remember what the infraction was, but there were so many rules that it well have been something that in most schools would have not been considered wrong at all. School administrators had no qualms about punishing the innocent; perhaps the school motto should have been "Better for many innocent boys to be punished, than for one guilty boy to go free."

The punishment was to run in circles, many circles, around the blacktop. Many of us were exhausted but had to keep on running under threat of even worse punishment -- beyond what was being meted out unjustly in the first place. There was a wall, called a windbreak, and the officers would allow a few cadets to rest and catch their breath while the rest of us kept running the circle around the blacktop. Every time the runners completed a circle and arrived at the windbreak, those who had been resting would rejoin the runners, and it would be time for some of the others to take their turn and rest. I was not an officer yet, and still marvel at how the officers were able to agree on doing this, and coordinate the change of who was running with who was resting, during the few seconds that we were behind the windbreak and were out of view of the Commandant. Keep in mind, we weren't just a disorganized group, but while running had to keep the same formation of platoons and squads as when we marched.

The only explanation I can think of is that all officers had been at Linton Hall Military School at least the previous year (this happened during my first year at Linton Hall) and that this had happened before, perhaps a long tradition of officers showing kindness, and of cadets remembering this kindness and passing it on when they became officers.

What amazes me even more is that, in an environment in which such a large proportion of the student body was ready to rat out on others and take pleasure in their being punished, not one cadet revealed what had happened, even though the whole battallion of 200 or more cadets knew what was going on. It is only now, over forty years later, that I am discussing this.

On the other hand, there were too many times when officers insisted on strict adherence to the rules, instead of doing what was best for either the individuals or the group. The first time I went camping at Linton Hall, we were getting our gear ready, and there was another cadet in my company who was having trouble rolling up his sleeping bag and tying it to his backpack with the two canvas straps. He was new (as I was) and had never done this before, and was getting extremely frustrated, so I decided to help him. It was easier for two people to do this, one holding the tightly rolled sleeping bag, the other tightening the straps. This was a minor act of kindness, like holding a door open, in the outside world; something most outsiders would do automatically, without even thinking about such a minor gesture. But no, my company commander saw me doing this and wouldn't allow me to help, or even to show him how to do it, so he would learn how. (I was still new, and actually asked the company commander to allow me to at least show the other cadet how it was done. A bit naive of a lowly private, or recruit, to even try getting a captain to allow me to do the right thing.)

I am embarrassed to admit (the fact that I write under a pen name comes in handy here) that by the time I had become an officer I too had lost much of my kindness. One time a boy in my company had dressed quickly and messily for the weekend parade. I yelled at him and called him a mess, embarrassing him in front of his peers, while attempting to enhance my image as a tough guy. How much better it would have been if I had said to him, "This is your first year here, and I know that it's hard to get your uniform on right . I had trouble with it too when I first came here. Here, let me show you how to put the elastic at the bottom of your pants so it's even. Make sure your tie is on straight too." I know this now, and probably knew it before I entered Linton Hall, but managed to un-learn it while I was there. I could have gotten far better results, and would have had the kid's respect and admiration, instead of his fear and contempt for being a total (insert here all the words that would have caused me to be forced to chew a bar of soap.)

To be fair to myself, there were many occasions when I could tell that someone had broken a rule unintentionally and I did not punish him, and one time when the prefect of our dorm told me to punish someone who I knew definitely did not deserve it, I very quietly ignored her instructions ond let him off. There were a couple of times too when I went to bat for someone who had been unjustly or excessively punished by either an equally-ranking officer, or a higher-ranking one, and I spoke with the other officer in private to have the punishment mitigated. I tried, but unfortunately don't remember ever succeeding.

And, finally, there was one time when Sister Mary David punished me for something I didn't do. Not that she would bother with such small details as guilt or innocence. I don't know exactly what went on, but I strongly suspect that she discussed this event with the Commandant, Max Du Charme, and that he went to bat for me. He couldn't overrule her since she was the final authority, but I think it extremely likely that he tried to intercede in my favor.

Okay, back to leadership. I would not argue that fear, intimidation and the use of physical punishment resulted in obedience at Linton Hall -- just as they do during an armed robbery. But did we learn anything about leadership? Anything that could be applied in the world outside the walls of Linton Hall Military School? I can only think of a few settings where such tactics would work, places like the military and prisons, whose inhabitants have little choice about whether or not they follow orders.

Outside of such settings, influence, not fear and intimidation, are the tools used to lead. This is the case with college students working on a group project, or even a group of friends coming to a consensus on how to spend the evening. Determining what the common goal is (or should be,) and organizing the means to do so are the way to lead and get results. I am saddened to say that these are not lessons I learned at Linton Hall. When I found myself in high school, working on a group project, I lacked the skills that I needed to work in a group in which there were no officers, no orders, and no rank. But I did notice that many of the kids who were involved in drugs, vandalism, shoplifting and other undesirable behaviors often came from the most autocratic homes, often a father who was or had been in the military or police and had been so strict that his children ended up rebelling in very self destructive ways.

Responses are always welcome. Please do not use names.

Copyright 2011 "Linton Hall Cadet" Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of just copying and pasting. Thanks!
This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What other Linton Hall Military School Alumni wrote

Other former Linton Hall cadets have written about their experiences:

Augustus Cho has written two books about Linton Hall Military School
The most recent covers his first year at Linton Hall during the 1968-1969 academic year, and my review is in my blog.  I highly recommended.

His earlier book begins with his immigrating to the US from South Korea, and continues with his being sent to Linton Hall approximately a month after arriving to the US. The month prior to his arrival at LH is marked with wonderful, exciting experiences: major one such as rejoining his mother who had immigrated to the US two years previously, spending a week in Japan, and vacationing in Florida, as well as minor experiences such as the joy of playing with the power windows in the car, described from the point of view of a child who has just turned ten.

Not only does his emigration from Korea mark a new chapter in his life, but beginning the narrative at that point allows the reader to see the sharp contrast between his life before and after entering Linton Hall.

With extremely limited knowledge of English, much of it learned by watching television over the previous month, and even less knowledge of American customs (gleaned from the same television shows) he faces greater hardships adjusting to Linton Hall Military School than others. He recounts a particular incident when he is unjustly punished for "not washing his face." As many, or possibly most, people outside the US, he washes his face by first soaping up his hands, without the use of a washcloth. An officer, too ignorant of foreign behaviors and too quick to jump to conclusions, notices his washcloth isn't wet and punishes him, with Kim unable to explain his innocence.

The book's greatest strength lies in the author's abilities to write from a child's point of view. Even though this book was published forty years after the events it describes, the author is able to describe them so clearly and accurately, that it is as if he were describing something that had happened only recently. In addition, in sidebars throughout the book, he discusses the meaning and value of his experiences from the point of view of an adult. Although he sees his experience at Linton Hall as being far more beneficial than I do, his book brings back many memories and provokes much thought. The sentence that resonated most deeply within me in the entire book is "It was LHMS' goal to break me down as an individual and rebuild me in their image, and I wasn't interested." (page 81.)

Great Light Will Shine III is the third volume in Cho's autobiography, and the volume that deals with Linton Hall Military School. He has told me that a sequel is being written and should be available sometime in 2012. The book (printed version) can be ordered from

Also available for the nook reader at

Another blog about Linton Hall Military School

has been started by an alumnus who calls himself "LHMS Cadet." (Despite the similarity in our pen names, we are two different people.) This alumnus has previously posted lengthy, detailed, and extremely perceptive comments on my blog.

In his own, excellent blog he describes "Growing up at Linton Hall Military School: the good, the bad, and the ugly" just as I remember it, and has also written extremely interesting details about two significant events at Linton Hall that I was not aware of until reading about them on his blog.

A recent blog post deals witht he ways in which cadets (children) were punished, and the author wisely notes how "They would stay on you until they either broke your spirit and if they could not do that, they found a way to expel you from school."

He is in the process of writing a book which I can't wait to read.   I will post further details as they become available.

"A day in the life of PFC Charles Carreon, nine years old" is an autobiographical account of just one day at Linton Hall, from Reveille to Taps, when "In the darkness Charles would have liked a piece of bread, some bit of luxury to comfort him, but he always forgot to bring his own contraband." Written in 1982

You tube video of Linton Hall

This is a 360-degree view of the front of the school and convent.

Linton Hall Military School photos

These were taken on 7/7/07 by the same person who took the video:

Linton Hall Military School alumni on Facebook

You are invited to share memories with me and others by sending a

friend request to "Linton Hall Cadet" on Facebook.

Two more websites

Opinions and memories from former cadets of Linton Hall: Linton Hall  Linton Hall Military School

Copyright 2011 "Linton Hall Cadet"
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of just copying and pasting. Thanks!
This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.