Monday, July 18, 2011
The things we got away with at Linton Hall Military School
(I took this picture on Military Day, 1980.)
I've been told that I tend to concentrate on the negative aspects of my experience at Linton Hall.
This post is about the things we got away with, the times we did not follow the rules and escaped punishment.
Getting away with something even once was difficult, since (1) there were rules that covered pretty much every aspect of life at Linton Hall Military School, and (2) unlike the schools that I attended before and after, at Linton Hall "telling" or "ratting" on someone were common practice. In order to get away with something, you had to do it not only out of sight of the nuns and Commandant, but out of sight of the other two hundred cadets.
Here's what I remember, in no particular order:
At the end of one visiting Sunday, some of the older cadets were missing several buttons from their shirts and blue sweater. Seems that they had traded buttons for kisses from visiting girls (presumably the sisters of other cadets.) No one got punished; all we got was a lecture from the Commandant during Military Science class. I still remember him saying "they're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you." Only a few of us had been involved; I wasn't one of them. I also remember after class someone who commented "if I had known that girls were doing that, I would have traded buttons from my fly." (Our khaki pants had button flies.)
Some of the nuns who taught at Linton Hall Military School were young and attractive. A couple of times one of us would "accidentally" drop a pencil while she was walking past our desks, and try to peek under her habit. You had to be careful and not be too obvious. No one got caught, as far as I know. A few of us tried this. Yeah, I was one of them. Kind of sad, really, that looking up a nun's habit and maybe getting a glimpse of her knee was considered a thrill.
One time about five folk singers sang and played music during Mass, and afterwards. A couple of them wore miniskirts (this was the late sixties.) I remember some of us lying down on the gym floor (obviously after Mass) and trying to catch a good sight.
Someone actually had a couple of porn magazines in his locker! Amazing, since we weren't even allowed to have comic books. Someone squealed on him during "rest" and told an officer. The officer just told him to put the magazines away. I just happened to be nearby when the squealing and putting away took place, and very briefly saw the covers. The owner was a good friend of mine, and after that incident I asked him many times to let him look at his magazines, but he wouldn't let me. I imagine that as a condition of not reporting him, the officer who found out did get to look. The owner of the magazines did not live in the local area so he did not get to go home on weekends, so I don't know what happened to the magazines, since I can't imagine how he could have managed to throw them away undetected. Did they stay in his locker the rest of the school year? Did he sell or trade them to someone who did go home on weekends?
Many of us smuggled candy from home when we came back to Linton Hall Military School from the weekend. I did, too. It wasn't too hard to hide it, it was just that you had to be careful not to be seen eating it. An officer saw me go to my locker during "rest" and eat something once, and he asked me for some. Obviously, I didn't really have a choice, I gave him some and in exchange he kept quiet about it.
One time my mother gave me about ten apples to "smuggle" back just so I could have one piece of fresh fruit every day. We both knew what the consequences were if I got caught. It was risky, since there's no easy way to hide so many apples. I just left them in my duffle bag in my locker. Eating them was the difficult part. I had to go to my locker during "rest" then put it in the pocket of my bathrobe, eat it in bed under the covers after lights out without anyone hearing every time I took a bite, and then dispose of the apple core either the next morning (or in the middle of the night) by flushing it down the toilet. I got away with it, but it was too risky and I never did it again. After all these years I still wish that when my mother found out that I was going hungry and that we weren't allowed to sneak in food, that she would have spoken to Sister Mary David about it. Yeah, I got away with it, but it's sad that I needed to sneak in food at Linton Hall Military School.
We got a punchcard to use at the canteen. There was more than one line, and sometimes it was possible to get in line twice. Not easy, since different companies got into different lines and people would have noticed that you were in the wrong line the second time, but I was able to do this a couple of times. This is something I figured out, and I shared the information with a couple of close friends who could be trusted not to rat me out.
One time there was some kind of visiting Sunday exhibit at Linton Hall, and one of the exhibits was about the evils of smoking. There was a mask with a lit cigarette in its mouth, and of course from time to time the lit cigarette had to be replaced. The two cadets who were in charge of the exhibit would periodically light a new cigarette for the exhibit. Actually, they were smoking cigarettes. During Military Science the Commandant gave them a tough talk in front of the whole class, and one of the things he said was that since he thought that there was a chance they would be able to convince their fellow officers that they weren't smoking but merely lighting up the cigarettes, they wouldn't get court martialed.
There was an extension phone just inside the classroom wing, by the chapel. Obviously we weren't allowed to use it, but one time someone did during study hour to call his girlfriend. Everyone in our classroom knew, but nobody told on him! I never did this since it was too risky (Mary David could have picked up the phone in her office at any time and heard the conversation.)
The punishment for using foul language was having to chew on a bar of soap, but Mexicans could say everything they wanted in Spanish, with no consequences. One time a bunch of them were hanging out with a nun who was learning Spanish, and they taught her a few words. One of the words they taught her was "puta" (which means "whore" in Spanish) but told her that it means "nun." So they were saying things to her face like "you are a puta" and she had no clue. I knew what the word meant and it was hard to keep a straight face while this was going on. All of a sudden I couldn't help myself anymore and started laughing, and someone just explained that I was laughing at her pronunciation of the word. Sounds like a dangerous kind of practical joke to play, but after all, this was the sixties, and dictionaries still pretended that four-letter-words didn't exist, and Spanish language dictionaries were probably the same way, so she couldn't have looked up the word.
There was also the time it was bitterly cold (much colder and windier than usual) during Drill, and ALL the offices from ALL the companies had enough good judgement to have us spend a lot of time on "bathroom breaks" in that smelly bathroom in the basement under the Commandant's office, just to get away from the cold. I remember overhearing them negotiating with each other about whose platoon had to go outside and march and which got to stay indoors. We couldn't all be indoors at the same time, but it was so crowded that maybe half the battallion was in there at one time. There had to be enough of us outside so that if eithe the Commandant or Mary David happened to look out the window from their warm office, they could see some of us out there marching.
There was also a group of cadets (many or most of them officers) who called themselves "Code C." They got caught breaking into a food storage area in the basementof Linton Hall Military School and stealing food. This was something the Commandant lectured the whole class about (and how I found out about it.) I know those responsible didn't get court martialed, but I don't have the details on whether they got punished. It would have been embarrassing for them to get court martialed for stealing food because they were hungry. Wouldn't have gone well with the parents either. I'm pretty sure that I would NOT have participated if given the chance, but am disappointed that those involved didn't trust me enough to invite me.
The last thing is something I have no personal knowledge of, but according to one of the nuns, who used to be principal before Sister Mary David, many years before sometimes cadets would get raisins as a treat, and one time they tried making wine. They didn't succeed and got sick from trying to drink the fermented raisin concoction, but they didn't get punished; the nuns wanted them to get rid of the stuff without fear of punishment.
Comments are always welcome. If you remember more examples of things we got away with, please add them!
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