Friday, July 15, 2011

Being an Officer at Linton Hall Military School

Just like everyone else, I started out not as a private, but as a "recruit." I remember that after they had cut off your hair and taught you things like right face and about face, you actually got a piece of paper "promoting" you to Private. Kinda ironic to get called "Private" when you had zero privacy!

I remember what it was like being the low man (boy) on the totem pole, not only did I not know all the rules of Linton Hall Military School yet, but I had to follow orders from "officers." I'm putting all these words in quotation marks because it seems bizarre that we were "playing soldier" (as one of the commentators to my blog put it) just like kids play cops and robbers.

It was bad enough to have adults ordering me around and controlling every aspect of my life 24 hours a day, but even worse having some kid -- yes, not an "officer" but another child, maybe a year older, maybe my age, maybe even a year younger, telling me what to do.

Some of the officers were fair most of the time. I don't think there was anyone who was fair all of the time. By fair I mean that they expected you to follow legitimate orders such as "about face" when drilling, make your bed the prescribed way in the prescribed amount of time, they were understanding if you made an innocent mistake (hard to avoid, since everything had to be done a certain way, from how you made your bed to where you placed your toilet kit and slippers on the metal chair next to your bed.) And a "fair" officer punished you fairly, you know, maybe standing at attention for fifteen minutes, that type of thing.

I wasn't impressed by most officers, mind you, I felt that most of them were, how do I put it, a bit slow mentally since they seemed to accept and enforce rules without question, and focused on minor details instead of what was really important. I've had professors and bosses who were like that too, people who seemed to focus on whether a word was spelled wrong and not on the substance of a report.

But then there were also the officers who abused their power, the ones who used their rank to bully and intimidate, who punished and scared younger, smaller, and lower ranking children just because they had the power to do so. I know that they were acting just like some of the adults in charge, but at the same time all the officers at Linton Hall Military School were eighth graders, at least 13 years old, some as old as 15, and they could have exercised better judgement.

I never ran away simply because I realized that I had nowhere to go. When you're a kid you can't just get a job and an apartment. And if I followed orders it wasn't out of any respect for the school, the majority of the nuns (there were some decent ones, not too many) or for the rules. I just saw how other cadets (I mean children) were punished. I did just what I would do if an armed robber pointed a gun at me; I would hand over my money not out of "respect" but out of fear.

I was careful about saying anything negative about Linton Hall Military School to the wrong people, and was lucky enough not to get caught that time I brought about ten apples from home, so I didn't get disciplined much.

I guess the Commandant and Sister Mary David misinterpreted my compliance for "respect" or perhaps "leadership" because when I became an eighth grader, I was promoted to officer.

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I was proud of being an officer. You know, really feeling good about myself because I got to wear some metal on the collar of my khaki shirt, a leather officer's strap, a dull-bladed sword during drill, and I got to tell a whole bunch of lower ranking cadets what to do, and if they didn't do it I got to punish them.

I hope you can understand this, I mean, I was almost (but not quite yet) 13 years old at the beginning of eighth grade.

I tried to model my behavior after those officers who had treated me fairly. In other words, I told people what to do, but wasn't on a power trip. I succeeded doing that with most of the cadets I was in charge of, but some had real discipline problems, were real brats, and sometimes I would say insulting things to them, knowing I could get away with it, sometimes punish them more than perhaps they deserved. Not that officers were allowed to do any of the abusive things that the adults got away with, but I could make cadets stand at attention a really long time, do deep knee bends, that type of thing. I'm not proud of this, but I admit it.

Even though I tried to be fair, and was fair most of the time, and felt "proud" of my rank (whatever "proud" means) I also felt bad about being an officer, I had the feeling that I wasn't doing the right thing.

One time this realization really struck me was when I was supervising study hour for the third grade. We officers got to supervise different grades during study hour, which basically meant sitting at the teacher's desk and trying to do your own homework (without much success) since at the same time you had to make sure everyone was quiet, and you kept getting interrupted by cadets who really really had to go to the bathroom, little kids who had questions about their homework, and so on.

Surprisingly, the third grade was the hardest to supervise because they didn't have enough homework to keep them occupied for an hour and, well, these were rambunctious eight year olds, and it was hard to keep them quiet.

I remember thinking hey, these are little kids (of course I was a kid too, just five years older than they were) you would give an order like "right face" and some of them don't even know their right from their left -- and there they were having to follow this discipline. They should be home watching cartoons. They shouldn't be here having to act like they're in the military.

And then I remember several times when the whole battalion was assembled on the blacktop, and we had to watch some unfortunate soul get punished by the Commandant, having to stand at attention holding out two rifles, and whenever his arms got tired and they dropped down from being perfectly horizontal, he would get hit in the elbow with another rifle.

I don't know what held me back, but I just wanted to take the bars off my collar and the helmet off my head and walk up to the Commandant and tell him I was resigning and wanted no part of this.

I never did it. It's the type of thing that looks great in the movies, but I can't imagine him just accepting my resignation. This is just speculation on my part, but I think it's highly likely that I would have gotten the same punishment, and then would have been sent back, maybe without my rank, but I still would have been doing the work as an officer. That's what happened to a lot of officers who got bumped; they lost the rank and privileges, but still did the same work.

I could have tried giving my resignation at a calmer moment, and explained my reasons, but I cannot by any stretch of the imagination picture it going well.

With everything I've learned as an adult, I still can't think of how I could have gotten out of being an officer, not without doing something really major in order to get a really huge punishment.

I don't know if any other officers thought the way I did, if several of us could have tried resigning at the same time, if I could have found even one other officer to lend me moral support and accompany me when going to the Commandant and Sister Mary David and telling them that hitting kids with rifles was wrong, that making bedwetters wear their urine-soaked pajamas around their neck all day was wrong, that so much about that school was wrong.

Can you imagine if some of us officers had actually rebelled? Yup, folks, I'm taking mutiny here. It would have been so worthwhile.

But I didn't do it, and nobody else did either.

As usual, comments are welcome.

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


  1. FYI, Last post by the same poster who wrote
    "Lost Childhood"

  2. (The post below was submitted by "Anonymous. I have deleted the last name of the person he talks about, to protect his privacy. -- LH Cadet)

    Thanks again for your posts, very accurate, very insightful. The hardest part of being an officer (Company Commander C Company) for me was, when we had Court Marshall's. 8th graders decided if someone got "bumped", lost their rank or punishment up to and including getting kicked out of the school. I had an 8th grader in my company who had been an officer but got bumped. He was a pain but not a bad kid, just a bad attitude but then again he was an 8th grade private. He did something stupid and was Court Marshaled, I was on that board, the board recommended that he be expelled from the school. I did not vote but felt a lot of pressure to conform to the findings of the group. In a nut shell that's what LHMS was all about, peer pressure to conform, fight it and they would do everything they could to break you down, if they could not break you down, they would get rid of you. After the Court Marshall there was a problem, the kids parents were stationed in Germany so it took several days to make arrangements to send him home. For those two or three days we was locked in the basement in the "Cage" where the Military Supply room was. At formation we were told he had been "black balled" which meant no one was allowed to talk to him, if caught you could expect the same punishment. I went down and talked to him several times a day for those two or three days. Honestly, having an unmotivated, private, 8th grader in your company was a pain, they just didn't care and I had three or four of them. I felt bad for him, I could not imagine what would have happened to me if I had been in his shoes. I hope things turned out well for him. I know no one is using names here but just for the record his name was James *****. Just for the record the Court Marshall board of officers was used by the faculty and staff to do things that they wanted done but would not have to take responsibility for. Before we voted, the Commandant would always talk to us and make it very clear what he thought the out come should be. So I guess they would pick up the phone, call the parents and say that the Court Marshall recommended, what ever. Unbelievable............ FYI, at the end of the school year I did something stupid and was Court Marshaled. My "strap" and bars were taken away until after the Court Marshall, this was after Military Day, so may be a week or two left in the school year.... I was found not guilty....... I hope what was done to James ***** did not impact his life in a negative way, he was just a kid who was judged by kids, who followed the cues of adults. The adults, the Commandant and Sr. Mary David, got what they wanted. To those who went to LHMS, I think the test question as to if it was a positive place to grow up; would you send your kids there???????

  3. Thanks Anonymous, for this and the "Lost Childhood" posts.

    I removed his last name from your post to protect his privacy, but I remember James.

    There were quite a few officers who got bumped but still had to do their job.

    I'm on Facebook too, look for "Linton Hall Cadet."

  4. Anonymous, it was great to hear from you again!

    That was an excellent description of what really went on at court martials. The Commandant had a huge influence on the verdict. I will admit that there were times that he suggested that we go lightly on the accused because of mitigating circumstances, and he suggested what he thought was the best decision, but our decisions were by no means independent.

    Not sure how we could have been expected to think for ourselves, since there were rules for everything and we either followed the rules or enforced the rules, there wasn't really much opportunity to learn to exercise our own judgement.

    And I remember James. One time when I didn't get to go home on the weekend I hung out with him. Discipline was looser on weekends anyway, but we did fun things like racing each other from one end of the hallway to the other (Commandant's office to classroom wing, right past Mary David's office.) Also for some reason the library and the double doors to the classroom wing happened to be unlocked, and we went into the library and looked at some books. Perfectly normal behavior outside of LH, but we would have been punished if we had gotten caught.

    Where exactly did they put him in the basement before they expelled him? I remember that there was some storage under the Commandant's office, near that smelly bathroom. I also remember the rifle rang under the classroom wing.

  5. When you went through the double doors from the classrooms, you could make a left turn, go down the stairs and you could go outside. If you continued going down the stairs there was a metal cage, which was the Military Supply room. There was also a bathroom, if you continued past the Military Supply room.

    He was kept there for about three days, during the school day. At night he slept in the back of the dorm.

  6. In the mid seventy's there was a guy named
    Ed Schroeder that worked at LHMS. He was the
    basketball coach, PE teacher and watched the play ground.

    Ed make the place bearable. If you had a problem you could always go to him and tell him your problems and he would always listen. He was good guy. He was the only positive thing to come out of my experience at Linton Hall.

    1. I totaly agree,Ed was the first very first person I met when I walked in the door at Linton Hall in September 1969.He was my Company Commander "C Company" that school year 1969-1970. I also went to Camp Linton the summer of 1970 and he was counselor there. He treated me like a brother.I probably would not of made it through my first year at Linton Hall with out him, as he encouraged me a lot.

  7. Hey everyone, this is LH Cadet. I do prefer that people not use names since it's a public forum, however it gets a bit confusing with different people posting, so could you add a nickname at the end of your post so we know WHICH anonymous poster you are? Makes it easier for me to reply, too.

    To the officer who visited James and talked to him, you took a huge risk of getting bumped by doing so. I think only those of us who were there could appreciate how easily you could have been bumped if caught, so I admire you very much. It was very difficult to reconcile following your conscience with being an officer.

    I should also note just how irresponsible it was to keep someone locked up in the basement. I remember that the building had fire hoses and fire extinguishers. I'm pretty sure there were no fire sprinklers, and smoke alarms didn't even exist back then. Had there been a fire, would anyone had remembered him in time? Nor would anyone have heard him in case of another type of emergency.

    About Ed ... you're probably talking about an alumnus of LHMS who would have just graduated from high school in the mid seventies. He would certainly remember what LHMS was like for him, and my hats off to him for being an upstanding person.

  8. Antonio, if you get on Facebook and look for "Linton Hall Cadet" I can help you find other alumni.


    Before we could go home every other weekend, we had "Visiting Sundays." Your parents could come and take you off campus for several hours. We even had "Visiting Sunday Pants. Dark blue with a gold stripe. I remember hanging out by the canteen so I could watch the cars coming down the avenue from Linton Hall road, looking for my parents car. If your parents did not come it was a very, very long days.

    Weekends were the only days that we really had any free time. If it rained it was a "zoo" we, 250 of us, would all be in the gym. Basketballs would be flying, it was hot, people chasing each around.... I used to hang out with kids who had portable record players and we would listen to the same 45's over and over again.

    If the weather was good we were released on the playground but no sports equipment was provided. If you wanted to play basketball you had to provide your own ball. Then there was intramural football with Bill's "suicide equipment". If you were cool you wore "Chucks", Converse All Star tennis shoes. We used to tie the strings together and throw them over our shoulder. Seemed like there was always a pair hanging from the telephone wires on the playground.

    During the Winter, it would get very cold but we were on the playground, no matter how cold it got.

    Sunday meals were different. For breakfast we got two glazed donuts and Frosted Flakes. This was the only day we got Frosted Flakes. To this day Frosted Flakes are still a special treat for me.
    The big treat was dinner, we all waited all day for dinner. We actually got a piece of fresh meat. We had chicken, instant mashed potatoes, green beans, a piece of cake and a bottle of Coke. It was like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter all wrapped up into one. Best meal of the week by far.

    Sunday's we were allowed, if you had one, to get your radio out of the "radio locker". Just about every Sunday morning everyone would listen to Casey Kasem's American Top 40.
    This was also the only time during the week that you could listen to the news and find out what was going on in the real world.

    Remember guitar mass in the gym.

    If you were unlucky enough to get demerits during the week, the weekend was your time to work them off. One hour for each demerit. You either stood at attention, facing a wall, until you worked off your demerits or sometimes you marched them off. Either way you lost the only free time you had for the week.

    Just for the record, "Forget You" was used at LHMS back in the 60's, long before it got into the Ceelo Green song.........

    By Lost Childhood/Court Martial


    James was expelled from the school, because of the recommendation of the Court Martial board. He never did anything big, for if he did there would not have been a Court Martial, he would just have been expelled.

    So the Court Martial was used as a way for those in charge to wash their hands of him and to be done with an going problem.

    I don't remember exactly what he did to get Court Martialed but it was not something to be expelled from school for. I remember sitting there in that semi-circle discussing recommending that he be expelled. I could not believe we were going to do that. That was the way we were steered, so that was how the vote came out.

    Yes, I talked to James many times over the next three days. At the time I did not think it was a big deal but you were right, if caught that would have been it for me. James was in my Company and I thought of him as one of mine.

    Not many would vote against the wishes of the Commandant, especially when he had total control of you and your position.

    I was the one who had to stay with James when he packed up his things, to make sure he didn't "steal" anything. LHMS had finally won, they broke James, he was almost in tears when I walked him out to the waiting cab, we shook hands, I wished him well and he was gone.

    His father was a Col. in the Army, so I am sure when he got to Germany, things did not go well. No one from school even had the courtesy to take him to the airport to see that he got off ok.

    Would love to hear that the aftermath of all this was no big deal, that his life moved on and all worked out well. Would love to hear that getting kicked out of LHMS was the best thing that ever happened to him.

    By Lost Childhood/Court Martial

  11. Thanks, Lost Childhood/Court Martial for your posts. You always bring back memories and provoke much thought about the Linton hall experience. As far as James ... however difficult it may have been to get expelled, I'm confident that as an adult he saw LHMS for what it really was and realized that to be expelled from such a place was no dishonor to him.