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
10)




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:































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.



-------



Source:
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.

4 comments:

  1. Just an observation, but it seems your real complaint is with your parents decision to send you to military school in the first place. As a child you would have no way of knowing what it was going to be, but your parents knew, or should have known the environment that a military school would have provided.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, no. The point of this post is that the brochure paints a wonderful picture totally different than the reality of LHMS. Of course the brochure is from 20 years before I went there, but I cannot believe that anyone's parents would have sent their kids there if the reality of the place reported in my blog and the other cadet's blog, had been known.

    If Linton Hall was so proud of itself, why didn't they put in their brochures a list of the punishments used, and how these punishments were meted out for even minor infractions? (See the other cadet's blog.)

    Why did they need to censor outgoing mail? It was never done at any of the sleepaway camps I attended.

    I did mention some of these things while I was there not just in letters that might not have been sent out, but when home for the weekend. Not all, I was too embarrassed to say that at the age of 13 I still had a nun watching me naked every time I took a shower. "See, mom, I have some pubic hair, and my testicles are growing, and sometimes I get an erection and my penis is x inches big and it's embarrassing to have a nun see me" wasn't something I felt discussing with my own mother. And I didn't much dioscuss the way other kids got beaten, I only complained about what happened to me, and I was lucky and/or well-behaved enough that I was able to avoid most of the abuse, though I lived in constant fear of having it happen to me.

    Add to that the fact that the nuns put on an aura of holiness and respectability. It's a bit like when kids (at other schools) complained about being molested by priests; it was hard to believe that someone who purportedly had dedicated his life to God would do such things.

    Also, "military school" and "abusive" are not synonyms. LHMS is the only military school I attended, but I have heard from those who attended other military schools that the environment was much better elsewhere.

    Finally, even if parents had thought it okay to do these things to us, that doesn't excuse the behavior of the adults in charge.

    I would be curious about whether you're an alumnus, parent, nun, etc. and what years you were there.

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  3. Alumnus. 1968-1972.

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  4. I went there wheh i was 7 years old,1953.why any parent would send a young boy to this hell hole i do not understand?i never asked them that i can remember.The nuns were very meannnnnn,they forced a egg down my throat when i refused to eat it,to this day i cannot eat a egg .the rules an regulations were way to strict for young boys not used to a prison or reform school atmosphere,food was terrible an not enough of it.I had not thought of this nightmare school until i accidentaly ran across an article about the school by accident recently.Apparently the school improved somewhat after the early fiftys ,though not much from what i have read.Brings back bad memoies the few i can still remember,just as well i guess.Enough of reliving a nightmare,sorry i ever saw the article about this School??? P.S. I ran away. Clyde in AZ

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