Monday, December 3, 2012

Goodbye Linton Hall Military School (my last post?)

If this is not my last post, there will probably be only one or two more.

As 2012 draws to a close, I have decided to say goodbye to my blog about Linton Hall Military School. I will check in occasionally to look at comments on my blog and my Facebook account, "Linton Hall Cadet," but I plan to stop writing about Linton Hall.

Knowing what I know about myself, I am surprised I ended up writing so much. When I graduated, all I wanted to do was to put my years at Linton Hall Military School far behind me. I even wanted to burn all my old uniforms in the back yard, but my mother wouldn't let me. (A picture is worth a thousand words, and that mental image sums up my feelings about Linton Hall exactly.) After I left, I made no effort to stay in touch with either alumni or those who would be returning to Linton Hall, as doing so would have stirred up too many bad memories. I did not return to Linton Hall until around ten years later, for Military Day 1980. My next visit didn't happen until around twenty years after that, around the year 2000, when I happened to be driving on I-66 and impulsively took the still familiar exit for Route 29 and Linton Hall Road. It was Summer and school was not in session. I parked in front of the building and was about to get out of the car and ask at the office for permission to walk around, but was overcome by such a flood of memories that I started the car again and drove away.

I began this blog in March 2010, because there were certain things that had waited forty years to be said, and the opportunity of connecting with Linton Hall alumni had presented itself, thanks to the Internet and Facebook. I had read both Charles Carreon's memories and Augustus Cho's book, but felt I needed to add more.

I didn't intend to write so much about Linton Hall; I thought my first post would be my last, and the blog format was the easiest, quickest way I found at the time to post my memories. I didn't write my second entry until three months later, in June 2010, and my third until December, six months after that. Eventually I wrote three dozen posts, which were also shared as "notes" with alumni I found on Facebook. There are also two notes not published as blogs, because they deal with specific individuals, and I felt that it would be better to limit readership to alumni on Facebook only.

Although it's no secret that I didn't like Linton Hall Military School, and moreover that I did not and do not feel that such a regimented environment under the constant threat of excessive physical punishment was a positive experience, I have undertaken to present a balanced picture and not overlook the positive aspects (academics, friendships, camping and hiking.)

My comments generated a sometimes heated but generally polite discussion from other alumni. Although some see their experience at Linton Hall in a generally positive light, and some had a far, far worse time there than I did, facts are facts, and I have correctly reported what went on during the time there. Other alumni from the period while Linton Hall was still a military school, have confirmed what I have said about my experiences there.

Another alumnus, writing under the pen name "LHMS Cadet," also began writing a blog about his experiences there.  He was at Linton Hall longer than I was, and kept in touch with alumni, so he is better qualified to write about LHMS. He has promised to write a book about Linton Hall, and as soon as it is published I will end my silence to let both blog readers and Facebook friends know about it.

Interestingly, both Augustus Cho and "LHMS Cadet" were both at Linton Hall Military School during the time I was there. I can only imagine if the three of us had been put together in a room back then, and we had found the courage to reveal our thoughts about the school! Though Augustus Cho now sees his experience in a much more positive light than I do, I have found the facts in his book to be completely accurate.

Writing this blog has been a very emotional experience and has generated mixed feelings. I am grateful for the opportunity to say what I could not say then, as any major criticism would have resulted in outgoing mail being destroyed and not sent, and spoken criticism could (and did, until I knew better) result in a stern lecture and a warning about possible punishment. At the same time, I do not want to continue to dwell on a painful part of the past, nor do I want to remind others of it. And furthermore, as today's Linton Hall School seems to be a far better place, I do not want to continue writing about what is in the past and which I hope will not be repeated again.

I've mentioned that I was an officer when I was in the eighth grade. I send my deepest apologies to each and every cadet for the times I did not act as I know now, and knew back then, I should have acted. In particular, on many occasions I called lower-ranking cadets stupid, dumb, or a mess. The older ones probably realized that it wasn't true, but the younger ones may have believed me. I am deeply sorry for this and hope you realized that it was I who was stupid, dumb and a mess for saying it, and I am deeply sorry for having done that.

I also saw many younger children at Linton Hall being punished and humiliated for accidentally peeing in their bed while asleep. I regret not having initiated a conversation with fellow officers in order to reach a consensus that none of us would punish little children for something that they could not control. When I supervised study hour for children in the lower grades, I regret not having told anyone I saw with urine-soaked pajamas around his neck that such a punishment would not be tolerated by me while I supervised study hour. But I never did any of this.

I have long forgiven officers who were not good to me. I learned to do this once I walked the proverbial mile in their shoes.

I believe that apologies are due from the adults who either engaged in excessive punishment or took no action to stop it. But that is something that should be done sincerely and of your own initiative, not because I ask for it.

One last point. I have written under the pen name "Linton Hall Cadet." I did it so that I could be truthful about myself and not feel the need to put myself and my actions in a positive light. I also did it so that once I stopped posting, I could set that part of my past aside, and not have those who know me now, bring up painful memories which they wouldn't understand, not having been there.

There is also a specific reason why I chose the pseudonym "Linton Hall Cadet" instead of "John Doe" or "Mr. X." I could be any one of the thousands of cadets who attended Linton Hall, since we were all subject to the same schedule, same rules, same discipline. Even if we were lucky enough to be spared certain punishments, we saw others being punished. There was virtually no privacy and virtually no room for individuality. In that sense, each and every one of us was "Linton Hall Cadet" and each of us could have reported what I have. Some may see things in a more positive light that I do, but there is no denying the facts.

I wish each and every one of my fellow alumni all the best. I hope you enjoyed the good things in life, the things you were deprived of while you were there. As a result of being sent there, I now have a deeper appreciation for good food, fresh fruit, privacy, the freedom to schedule my time, the ability to travel far from Bristow, Virginia and to enjoy the beauty that the world offers.

There may or may not be another post or two. I say goodbye to all, and thank you for reading about my experiences and sharing yours.

Linton Hall Cadet

Copyright 2012 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 (Linton Hall 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 10, 2012

Camping and the "Over & Under" patch

Linton Hall School Camping

When we went camping and the temperature at night dipped below freezing, we were awarded an "Over and Under" patch which was sewn on the sleeve of our blue sweater. The patch was awarded only the first time you earned it, so subsequent freezing nights brought no additional award.

Spending the night in a tent in below-freezing cold was no easy feat, since our tents and sleeping bags were not as effective in keeping out the cold as modern camping equipment.

Our tents at Linton Hall were military surplus cotton canvas, not as effective as nylon in keeping out the wind, especially since the tents were made up of two halves, with each cadet providing his half of the two-man tent, and the two halves were buttoned (not zipped) together. The tent halves were only for the side/top of the tent; there was no bottom part, and one cadet's poncho would be laid on the ground inside the tent. Our sleeping bags went right over the poncho, with no pad to insulate from the cold or the hardness of the ground. If camping in winter, there would be fallen leaves that you could put under the poncho, and a thick layer does work well, both as padding and as insulation, but unfortunately the officers did not like the messiness of too many leaves under the poncho, so you had to do it without being noticed, and in order to avoid being noticed, couldn't really put too many leaves.

Since there was no bottom to the tent, the sides touched the ground but the wind still managed to pass through.

My sleeping bag, as well as pretty much everyone else's, was filled with polyester fiber; which is good enough for an indoor sleepover, but far less effective than feathers and down at keeping you warm. Such sleeping bags probably existed (since feathers existed long before polyester was invented!) but I don't recall anyone having one.

Besides a tent half and a sleeping bag, each cadet at Linton Hall also carried (should I say lugged) a tent pole and (I think) four pegs for the tent. Officers also carried a folding military-type shovel, which could be used to hammer the pegs into the ground, smooth the ground under the tent and remove any protruding rocks, or lent to a "poor soul" assigned to latrine duty.

Latrine duty meant digging a trench next to a fallen log, for the rest of the campers to use as a toilet. I was lucky enough to never be chosen for latrine duty (definitely not a sought-after job) so I am not too familiar with the details. If you needed to do a number two, you would pull down your pants and sit on the log. I am not sure whether the person who had just gone to the bathroom would throw some dirt into the hole to cover up (umm, how do I say this politely?) his solid waste product or whether everything remained there until those with latrine duty covered up the hole at the end of the camping trip. If you needed to urinate you could just go in the woods without using the latrine, or (this is the first time I'm admitting this, after more than forty years) if it was at night and it was really cold and scary to leave your tent, you could unzip your sleeping bag on the side nearest the tent wall, lift up the side of the tent wall a little bit, and pee out the tent, all while hoping that the ground sloped away from the tent.

Although flashlights weren't provided as part of the camping gear, many of us at Linton Hall had one, and it was definitely an advantage if at least one of the two cadets in each tent had one. Camping trips were also occasions when we could consume our secret stash of candy that we had brought from home expressly for the camping trip (I was not alone in doing this; it was quite common at Linton Hall Military School, so common in fact that the Commandant had told us that if we had candy, we wouldn't get in trouble for it, but just had to consume it that evening and not leave it in the tent, where it would attract wild animals. Camping trips were also occasions in which being slightly out of uniform was allowed -- instead of the regulation knit cap, some had other hats, one even had a coonskin cap.

I think that there were times when the over and under patch could be earned during a regular camping trip, but I also remember an overnight trip where we pitched out tents very close to the Linton Hall school building, on the other side of the driveway, just past the cedar trees that line the driveway. There was no latrine dug that time and we were allowed to use the bathroom in the school basement, but had been warned by the Commandant that if we stayed there more than five minutes or so (to warm up under the excuse of using the bathroom) we would be disqualified from the Over Under patch. We also each got a cup of hot cocoa that night; I don't recall it being provided on other camping trips. The reason for camping close to the Linton Hall school building was so if anyone got so cold he couldn't stand it, he could go back to his dorm and sleep in his own warm bed, but forfeiting the chance to be awarded the patch.

For those who've never slept in the cold, sleeping becomes next to impossible; the body's survival mechanism keeps you awake, and shivering, in order to keep your body temperature from falling. The cadet I shared a tent with couldn't stand it, and he decided to go back into the building. I don't remember him telling me he was giving up, it's likely that he went to the bathroom to warm up, and then decided to go upstairs. After a long while I realized he wasn't coming back, so I got out of my sleeping bag, put my sleeping bag inside his, and with a double sleeping bag managed to spend the night outdoors and earn my Over and Under patch. And no, sleeping inside two sleeping bags isn't cheating, any more than having a better quality feather-filled sleeping bag would be cheating.  I still have the patch I earned at Linton Hall Military School. That's a picture of it.

Copyright 2012 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 (Linton Hall School) and all opinions are those of the author.
Comments are always welcome; please do not use your name or names of others.

Index: Linton Hall Military School Alumni Memories Blog

For new readers, I suggest you begin reading the oldest entry first (the one shown first on this list.) Click on any of the links below:

Linton Hall Military School Memories
Linton Hall School

LHMS from an adult point of view

LHMS and how it sucked up our parents' money

The school's declining enrollment

Response to comments from alumni

Blind obedience at Linton Hall Military School

Camping and hiking ... and what I learned at Linton Hall might have saved my life

Being an officer at LHMS

The things we got away with!

What other Linton Hall alumni wrote

Did we learn leadership there?

Life before Linton Hall
Linton Hall's unpaid workers: the officers

History of Linton Hall

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

Why would a "military school" even exist?

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

Rules and procedures for using the toilet

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

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

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

How awards were given (or denied to those who really deserved them)

John Phillips (of The Mamas and the Papas)-- famous Linton hall alumni

The 1940s at Linton Hall Military School

Why do some alumni see nothing negative about the school?

Linton Hall School -- today

Special Sunday treat (for very lucky officers only!)

We used to shoot real guns at the rifle range

Fun in the snow!

Finding Linton Hall alumni

Mail from Home!

Camping and the "Over & Under" patch

Goodbye Linton Hall; My last post?

Letters from Linton Hall: The first couple of weeks

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mail from Home!

One of my best memories of Linton Hall Military School was coming back to my dorm in the afternoon, after either drill or free play, and finding a letter from home on my bed, partly tucked under the top blanket by the nun in charge of our dorm.

A letter from home was the high point of my day, and the disappointment of not receiving one, especially when it had been several days since I had gotten mail, was a big disappointment, made even worse by seeing others reading the letters they had received.

Unlike the letters we sent out, which had to be left unsealed so they could be read and censored, (in cases when the writer was too critical of Linton Hall, the letter would simply be thrown away and not mailed) it was rare for incoming mail to be opened. It would only be opened when an incoming package was suspected of containing prohibited items, such as food or candy, or when the sender was a girl who clearly was not the recipient's sister. I never had the luck of having a girl write me at Linton Hall Military School; like most of us there, there was no way I could even hope to meet a girl; the few who did have female correspondents apparently managed to meet their sisters' friends, or finagled an introduction to the sister of some cadet.

A letter from home made me happy on a gut level, but I now understand that it was a connection to the better, beautiful world that existed outside Linton Hall Military School, a world that I got a taste of every other weekend, when the time home seemed to race unbearably quickly, and a world to which I looked forward to returning after I graduated from Linton Hall.

Not all letters turned out to be as pleasant as I expected.

There were the letters from relatives who did not know much about Linton Hall's reality, aunts and uncles who wrote me well-meaning but hopelessly useless advice such as "make sure you wear that red scarf I knitted for you when you go outside," "drink something hot at breakfast," "eat some fresh fruit at every meal" or "tell me how you spend your free time." I never bothered to reply that a red scarf was out of uniform, that I couldn't well walk into the nun's dining room and ask them to warm up the milk in my milk carton, and hey, Sister, add some cocoa and a couple of marshmallows while you're at it, will ya?, or turn Jello into an apple, or that there was precious little free time in the highly structured environment of Linton Hall Military School.

Then there was a letter from a friend, who also meant well in telling me what he had been up to and giving me news of mutual friends, but who was telling me about an existence completely different from mine, of things that other twelve year olds like he and I routinely got to do, like walking to the store or just to and from school, and of his having done things I had no hope of doing, like when he told me about a kissing game he had played, and mentioned the names of girls we both knew. And what could I write back that he would understand about my daily existence -- about how my bed lined up with everyone else's bed and with the tiles on the floor?

The worst letter of all was the one I got from my mother, in response to my plea to not be sent back to Linton Hall Military School the following year. I would be going back and she didn't want me to bring it up again, she had said. And as I write this, I've spent the past several minutes trying to write, to explain how I felt, and how I still feel about that, and I just can't find the words. So I'm going to end this post in a very abrupt way. There's nothing more I can say.

Copyright 2012 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 (Linton Hall School) and all opinions are those of the author.
Comments are always welcome; please do not use your name or names of others.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Finding Linton Hall Alumni

Occasionally, some Linton Hall alumni have contacted me in their attempts to locate other Linton Hall alumni. The task is not easy because we live in a big country, with many people sharing the same name. Also, although most of us came from the DC metro area (those from Mexico were a notable exception) so many years have passed that many have moved out of the area. Here's what I've tried, and the results I've experienced.
Although Facebook use is more prevalent among younger people, I have found classmates from the sixties and even a couple of alumni from the forties on Facebook. Since there are photos, you can quickly eliminate many name matches because they are not the age or race of the person you're looking for.
Not too useful; I have read about a couple of Linton Hall alumni but was not able to get contact information.
Good concept but didn't work in practice. The site lists about 300 Linton Hall Military School alumni (as well as more recent alumni of the post-military Linton Hall School.) The way it works, in order to be able to email someone, either the sender or the receiver must be a currently paid-up member. I signed up for a trial membership, which costs only a few bucks, and contacted all LHMS alumni, writing individual emails so as to avoid being blocked for sending spam. Only 3 or 4 opened my message. I suspect either the emails they provided are no longer current, or they have added Classmates to their spam list. (As a member I got a LOT of email from Classmates!) and
These are people-finder databases. They appear to get most of their data from credit bureau reports (it's legal to sell and rent identifying information including name, address, phone and date of birth, but not Social Security numbers or information about credit accounts.) They also seem to get data from real estate purchases and phone directories.

You can do an initial search for free to see whether they have information for a certain name, then buy the contact information if you choose. I believe both companies offer an unlimited search pass, good for a 24-hour period, for about 20 bucks. I forget which of the two companies I used. By limiting searches to DC, MD, and VA, I found people whose current or previous address was in those states. Many results included the person's current age, helpful in narrowing down results. (Keep in mind that in many cases kids were 1, 2, sometimes even 3 years older than the "typical age" for that grade. In eighth grade, most of us were 13, but there were a couple of 14 and 15 year olds.

Results usually include several addresses (former and current, but without specifying which is the current one) so you'll probably have to mail off a form letter to several addresses. Phone numbers are only listed occasionally.
Offers a trial membership for 30 or 90 days (don't remember.) You can do quite a few searches in that period but it's not unlimited. Similar to the above databases.

Mexicans and those from other countries
I know of no database to find them. (USSEarch, Intelius and Spokeo only cover the U.S.) Mexicans, as well as those from other Spanish speaking countries, usually use a double last name (father's followed by mother's) and it would be very helpful to have both when searching for someone. Unfortunately, the Linton Hall Military School yearbook listed most under just their father's last name.

Other ways to search?
Please share them.
Copyright 2012 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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fun in the Snow!

During "rest" in the evening, as well as after school, we would get a candy bar or, sometimes, a popsicle. Sometimes we had a choice and we would line up at the canteen; other times we all got the same thing.

In those days, candy bars, as well as full-size cereal boxes (not the single-serve cereal boxes they gave us at breakfast) often had offers whereby you could collect wrappers, or sometimes just part of the wrapper, and send them in for little toy items. The candy bars we got at Linton Hall Military School often had such offers, and I remember that after we got our candy (they were called "lunches" possibly as a way for the administration to conceal the fact that we were getting billed for candy on our sundries account) there was a nun, whose name I don't remember, who would collect those wrappers so that she could order free items. I wasn't too happy with the concept; since our parents were paying for the candy, the wrappers -- and the valuable prizes we could get for them -- should have been ours, not hers. I also wondered what a grown woman was doing with the numerous little toys she was getting.

Turns out that my suspicions had been unfounded. One day, when we returned to our dorm, we saw that on each of our beds there was a red plastic object, about three feet long. Here's what it looked like:
Sno-Fling, or Snofling snowball toy
Called a Sno-Fling, or Snofling, it's a snowball maker/thrower that works by pushing the wide end onto snow, and flicking it to throw a snowball. And we actually got to use it (just once, I believe) at a snow battle at Linton Hall Military School. We were told to take it home on the following weekend, and I did get a little enjoyment out of it at home. Years later it landed in our attic (I remember seeing it there when I was a teen) and probably eventually got either thrown away or donated. I believe that there is a photo in one of the Linton Hall yearbooks where you can see a couple of them if you look closely in one of the photos.

Copyright 2012 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, June 8, 2012

We used to shoot real guns at Linton Hall

When I was thirteen years old, I and other boys my age used to shoot live ammunition inside the Linton Hall Miltary School building every other Friday.
Officer Rifle Club at Linton Hall, Bristow, Va.

Because of the tragic school shootings that have occurred in recent years, it may be hard to believe that the Officers' Rifle Club once existed, but it did.

The rifles that we carried during drill and parades were realistic but non-working replicas. You couldn't actually shoot anything out of them, but they were made of wood and steel and had a working bolt. Those rifles came in different sizes, so that the smaller kids could have smaller rifles. But the rifles we shot in the rifle range were real weapons.

Just as it wasn't unusual for fathers to take their sons fishing, it wasn't unusual for fathers to take their sons along hunting once they had reached their early teens, or sometimes a couple of years before. Were kids more responsible then than they are now? I don't know.

Being in the rifle club was a special privilege extended to eight graders who were officers. It's possible that some non-officer eighth graders were allowed to join the rifle club, or at least got a chance to do some shooting at least a couple of times during the year I was in eighth grade, but I don't remember.

We had to pay five dollars to join (which was quite a bit of money back then, when the minimum wage was just under a dollar an hour.) The club was officially a chapter of the NRA, but I always thought of it as the Linton Hall Military School Rifle Club. We had to bring in the money in cash (or check) and couldn't just have the fee billed to our school account. I know I brought cash, my own money, because I wasn't going to risk being told by my parents that no, I couldn't join. Not that I cared that much about being in the club, it was more than I didn't want to be the only officer not allowed to join by his parents. Although my father (like many other men) did go hunting and owned a rifle, my parents never bought me a toy gun (something that most boys owned at the time, just like toy cars.) I don't know how anti-gun they were, but I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I don't even remember whether or not we needed a signed permission slip. If we did, it's possible that I claimed that the "Officers' Rifle Club" was something like the drill team in which cadets marched with rifles, but didn't actually do any shooting.

The rifle range was under the Linton Hall Military School building, either under the classroom wing or under the main part of the building just next to the classroom building. It wasn't in a finished basement, but in a crawl space that had been dug out, by hand, with shovels, by other cadets years before. I am grateful to them for doing that hard and dirty work. It is likely that the rifle range still exists at Linton Hall School and that it remains much as it was back then, since it would have been a big job to dismantle the metal backstop, and I doubt there was any need to use that crawl space for other purposes.

We would shoot at heavy paper targets, the size of a sheet of paper. The targets were taped to a backstop made of welded steel that looked something like a large Venetian blind, about 8 feet high and 15 feet wide, with the "slats" about 3 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick steel. The bullets would go through the paper target, hit the steel backdrop and be deflected down at a 45 degree angle, then hit another metal slat, and go into some sandbags that were piled behind the backstop. This was necessary because a .22 caliber rifle bullet is extremely powerful; if nothing stops it, it can travel more than a mile or, if it's shot at solid wood, it can penetrate a couple of inches, depending on the hardness of the wood. The Commandant taught us this, as well as very important safety precautions. We would shoot at the targets from roughly twenty feet away and, of course, it was necessary for someone to periodically go to the backstop, take down the paper targets, and tape up new ones, thus being in what was the line of fire. Before targets were put up or taken down, everyone had to put down his rifle, and leave it unloaded with the bolt open, to prevent any possibility of an accidental firing. A rifle is much more lethal than a handgun, not only because of the power of its bullet, but because of its accuracy.

For safety, the rifles were kept in a gun safe in the Commandant's office. (For those who attended Linton Hall after it was no longer a military school, this would be the last office on your left in the main building before you reach the gym.) Several of us would carry the rifles between his office and the rifle range (one person could carry a couple of them, but not all because of their weight, although more than once someone tried (and maybe succeeded) in carrying most or all of them, just to show off his strength. The Commandant himself would carry the ammunition (separately from the guns, for safety,) but I seem to remember that one time early in the year, when the Commandant was delayed by a phone call, he might have entrusted the Battalion Commander, the highest ranking cadet, to carry them to the rifle range, with strict instructions not to take them out of the box until the Commandant arrived.

We would normally get to do target shooting every other Friday, on the Fridays when we did not get to go home for the weekend. After target shooting, we got to go back to our dorms and impress the other cadets with our paper targets. Even if you weren't a good shot (I know I wasn't) they were still impressed that you got to shoot a real gun. We also got to keep the spent shell casings, which were about an inch long and bright, shiny brass. Bright shiny metal objects are appealing to kids, especially boys in a military school, where shining shoes, leather belts, and brass insignia is an obsession. What could you do with shell casings? Everyone had a metal folding chair next to his bed, and the seat had holes in it that made up a star pattern, and the shells would just fit into the holes, so a couple of us officers put them there to decorate our chairs.

I've been wondering a long time whether I should write about the rifle range. You'll soon see why.

One day, the Commandant told us we could no longer take away the spent shells, but that they had to be turned in and counted, to make sure that the number of spent shells each one turned in was the same as the number of live shells he had been given, so as to make sure that no one was holding back live ammunition. He counted the number of holes in each person's paper target too, but that method wasn't very reliable, since someone who was a really good shot could sometimes end up shooting two bullets through the same hole, or a particularly bad shooter could miss his paper target entirely, as by mistakenly closing the wrong eye when shooting, which had been known to happen. (I won't mention who did this.)

Why this sudden precaution? Rumor had it -- and I'm just repeating what I heard, without any knowledge of its accuracy -- that one of the officers had threatened to shoot another officer. This would have been an extremely serious threat, since a .22 bullet can kill. I wondered why, in addition to the precautions, the one making the threat had not been either permanently banned from the range, or expelled. But every time after that, when it was my turn to put up or take down the paper targets, I kept my eye on the guns to make sure they remained down and with the bolt open.

But there's more.

When we carried the rifles to the range, we would walk as a group, but not marching in formation, probably because it's not practical to march while you're carrying a bunch of rifles.
Military School

One time, when we were walking down the stairs to the rifle range, I overheard snippets of a conversation between two officers who were walking behind me. "We could take over the school with these rifles," one said. A second or two later, I heard another snippet, "We could put blankets over the windows." I didn't want to turn around and see who had said this, because I didn't want to let on that I had heard them. There was no way to see them out of the corner of my eye, I didn't recognize their voice, and although I could see their clothing with my peripheral vision, that was of no use, since we all wore the same uniform. So I never found out who had said this. I wondered what good it would do to to put blankets over the windows during an armed takeover, since obviously a blanket wasn't going to stop a bullet that could go through a couple of inches of plywood. Later, I figured out that it would have been a way to stop sharpshooters outside from seeing inside the building.

I dismissed this as probably being just idle talk, which is what it turned out to be; thank God, nothing like that happened. To be on the safe side, I should have reported what I heard, but I did not.

Having said that, I was in a difficult situation. A 13-year-old in my shoes would want to ask his parents for advice on what to do, but there was no way I could write home and ask, without the letter being read by the Principal, since all outgoing mail was censored.

I feared, and did not trust, both the Commandant and the Principal, and was afraid that if I talked to either one of them, there was a high risk that they would not safeguard my identity. If those who had discussed a possible armed takeover had been serious about it, I would have been in serious danger, especially while sleeping.

I also didn't know whether the Commandant or Principal would believe me, or would think that I was making something up, either to get attention, or to get taken out of Linton Hall Military School.

It would have been near-impossible to report this anonymously in an environment with so little privacy and so much regimentation. Perhaps I could have written an anonymous note in the dorm without being seen, but I don't know how I could have slipped it under the Commandant or Principal's office door without being observed. I would have had to go there in the middle of the night, risking that someone would see me leaving the dorm, or going down the stairs, or in the hallway. I didn't know this back then, but when I read Louie LeMoine's obituary I learned that he not only did landscaping, but also was night watchman. I had always assumed that the ground floor would be deserted at night.

It's always best to report something like this, even if it might turn out to be idle talk, just because of the grave risk that the threat might be serious. I wish I had reported it, but I did not.

I shudder to think what could have happened. This was the 1960s, and there were a lot of protests and sit-ins, many of them about the war in Vietnam and the lack of civil rights for blacks. College students had taken over university buildings, mostly using nonviolent means. Yet even in nonviolent protests, protesters had been killed, as at Kent State in May, 1970. What would have happened during an armed school takeover? I don't even want to think about it.

Thank God this was all idle talk.

Copyright 2012 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Special Sunday Treat at Linton Hall Military School

There was a special treat for us on Sundays. Something besides the donut we got at breakfast. Something besides the smug irony of noticing that when there was a second serving line, the bread was kept inside a clean garbage can, lined with a black plastic bag, so we were -- literally -- eating out of trash cans.

But there was another special treat, one reserved just for officers. Over the nine months of the school year, we spent about two Sundays a month a Linton Hall Military School, for a total of about eighteen Sundays. And there just happened to be eighteen officers, too, three for each of the five companies, plus three battalion staff.

I hadn't really noticed what the special treat was, since I was too busy dealing with the cadets under my command, and worshiping during Mass, in spite of distractions such as Sister Theresa's shouted exhortations to sing louder, and the "ouches" from kids she would hit in the hand with a paddle whenever they didn't sing loud enough for her.

But one day, just as I was about to enter the gym, another cadet informed me that I would get to accompany the Principal, Sister Mary David, during Mass. I had never noticed other officers doing this before. I'm not sure whether you did this if you happened to be "Officer of the Day" on that Sunday, or whether there was a schedule so that every officer got this "privilege."

So anyway, I had to walk in with her, not sure if beside her or with her actually holding my arm as she would with an usher escorting her down the aisle at a wedding. Now kids are notoriously unable to hold back their emotions and keep a "poker face," and my feelings about having to do this must have been pretty obvious. I must have looked as if I had been forced to chew a sour lemon, or a bar of soap, and I'm sure she noticed.

After I accompanied to her seat I was about to return to my company, but no, she told me that I was expected to sit next to her during the entire Mass. More unhappy facial expressions on my part, I'm sure. She made a cutting remark about some small imperfection in my uniform, taking advantage of the fact that I couldn't talk back to her -- not if I knew what was good for me. She probably thought, in her haughtiness, that accompanying her at Mass was some type of honor or privilege, but I certainly didn't feel that way. Even back then I realized that she was a great Math teacher, and an effective manager/administrator, but on the other hand she was responsible for all the suffering that went on at Linton Hall Military School, everything I've written about, and moreover took active steps to censor outgoing mail to keep the truth from getting out, so I had no respect for her.

I am sure that if there had been nineteen Sundays spent at Linton Hall Military School that academic year, I would have been the last person she would have chosen to reward with this special treat a second time.

Copyright 2012 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Linton Hall School -- today

I've written a lot in this blog about my experiences during the 1960s.

Today’s Linton Hall School is far different from the boys’ military boarding school that LHMS alumni knew. Now coeducational, and neither military nor boarding, and admits children as young as Pre-Kindergarden through its "little Sprouts" program.
Linton Hall appears to be a far better place for its students. Having had only limited contact with current students and recent alumni, I am not in a position to draw too many conclusions, but it appears to have eliminated the negative aspects of its past while keeping its strengths, primarily academics and outdoor activities in what remains of its formerly vast landholdings, the major part of which were sold many years ago to developers. It appears that a lot of credit for the positive changes should be given to Mrs. Liz Poole, the current principal.

The outside of the school building and its immediate surroundings look quite similar to the school I remember from years ago. Window units for air conditioning have been added to the dorms (one of which is now used as a library, which is equipped with colorful and comfortable bean bag chairs) and the windows in the classroom wing have been replaced. The pool, tennis court and canteen are still there, as is the windbreaker wall behind which some of us hid when we were forced to march in the cold. The arsenal, however, is gone, as are the cannons near Linton Hall Road. The former parade field is now being used as a playing field.

What has undergone radical change is the surrounding area. Linton Hall Road is now lined with houses and townhouses. Across from Linton Hall and near the Commandant and Bill’s former homes, which have since been sold to new owners, there is now a strip shopping center with a Safeway supermarket and other stores. At the intersection of Linton Hall Road and Route 29, where there was once just an Esso gas station and a diner, there is now a huge shopping mall. As the population of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area has expanded, many people now live in the Bristow, Haymarket and Manassas areas, and traffic reports on the radio routinely mention those places. Traffic between that area and D.C. during rush hour is typically horrible.

I would like to hear from current students and recent alumni (anyone who attended the school after it stopped being an all-boys, military, boarding school.)

I'm especially interested in your thoughts about whether rules are reasonable, fairly enforced, and whether punishments for breaking rules are appropriate. Feel free to comment about other aspects, too. And please give examples to support your views.

It would be helpful if you could also say for what grades you attended Linton Hall School, and how LHS compares to other schools you've attended.

Of course, parents and teachers are welcome to comment too; please mention this fact when posting.

Please do not use names -- yours or anybody else's.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Copyright 2012 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.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why do some alumni see nothing negative about Linton Hall Military School?

The best answer I've come up with is, "I don't know." The second best answer, the result of much thinking, is the subject of this post. I've tried hard to understand this, but cannot come up with a satisfactory answer.

Over the past two years, I've been in contact with other Linton Hall Military School alumni on Facebook, and occasionally there will be someone who sees his experience there as totally positive. Some of these cadets attended at the same time I did.

I find this surprising, since virtually everything I write about is something that I saw with my own eyes at Linton Hall. Not just that, but given that there was little or no privacy at Linton Hall Military School, almost everything that happened was witnessed by anywhere from thirty cadets (in a classroom) to 200 or more cadets (the entire battalion.) We can disagree about whether the discipline and punishments were positive or negative, appropriate or excessive, but it is a fact that they happened.

Moreover, I am not one of the cadets who was punished a lot. Other than being made to stand at attention, the only physical punishment I remember was being paddled once. That's once during the couple of years I was there. But I saw much worse done to others, often in front of the entire battalion, and I would be lacking in empathy if that did not bother me. At one point I was so disgusted at seeing someone treated that way by the Commandant of Linton Hall Military School, that I seriously considered giving up my hard-earned rank as an officer and handing in my bars, right then and there. The fact that I was an officer, and was even awarded a medal, also shows that I followed the rules and did what was expected of me. It wasn't because I held the Linton Hall school administration in high regard, even back then, but only because I did not want to experience the punishments that I saw meted out to others.

I've written a lot about Linton Hall Military School, and just as I've written about the negative aspects, I've also written about the positive ones. I've been criticized for writing about the negatives, but I have yet to be told that anything I've said about my experience, either what happened to me or what I saw happen to others, was inaccurate. The reason I chose "Linton Hall Cadet" (instead of something like "John Doe") as a pen name, is that we all lived by the same rules, and had the same things happen to us, or at least observed the same things happening to others. So, what I write isn't just about me; it's about all of us.

I haven't seen any persuasive arguments that the rigid rules and strong punishments were positive; not arguments that would persuade me, anyway.

I've discussed our divergent views with some of these alumni on Facebook; a couple have unfriended me. I understand that it's not pleasant to rehash unpleasant memories, but I don't understand getting to the point of denying them entirely. I've given credit where credit is due, and said many positive things about Linton Hall Military School, but a true picture must include all the negatives as well.

I also believe that it's important to note that I, as well as others who have written about their experience at Linton Hall, are doing so as adults many years after the fact, and from an adult perspective.

As a child, there are many things I disliked having to do, but was made to do, either by my parents, or at Linton Hall: school attendance, doing my homework, brushing my teeth, eating my vegetables, going to bed at a reasonable time, and so on. But as an adult, I recognize the benefits of those activities and am grateful that I was made to do them.

But those are not the things that I've complained about, or that others have complained about. I've written about serious things that I believe any reasonable adult would consider wrong. Even as a child I knew the difference between appropriate and petty rules, and between appropriate and excessive punishment. Again, I was only paddled once and can recall no other physical punishment being inflicted upon me other than having to stand at attention for a reasonable period of time. But for many of those who attended Linton Hall Military School their experience was far worse than mine.

From what I've been able to gather, Linton Hall has changed dramatically and for the better since I was there during the late 1960s. I've seen photos from the 1980s, Linton Hall's last decade as a military school, and it looked quite different, with doors on the bathroom stalls, more pleasant looking dorms, and even a school dance with girls (from another school) in attendance. And I know that today's Linton Hall School is a coed non-military day school, with a principal who is not a nun. I haven't communicated with any current students or recent alumni, but I've seen photos in which the students seem genuinely happy to be there. These are photos taken by the students themselves, not photos from the school brochure, which one would expect to show the school's best side, as brochures are apt to do.

Recently, I heard from a former cadet who was there for a few years during the 1960s. He said he finds it "frustrating" when someone says "anything negative" about the school. A couple of others have expressed similar sentiments, but this particular alumnus is now a member of the Linton Hall School Board. What I heard from him is definitely not what I wanted to hear from someone currently involved with the school. I wish he would have said that Linton Hall School had addressed its previous shortcomings, and is now a much better place than it was when he was there. But if he sees nothing wrong with the way the school was then, where does that leave us? Does he really believe that Linton Hall School should take LHMS as its model and go back to everything I've described in my first blog posting two years ago? Does he believe that they should implement the long list of punishments written about by the other blogger in ?

Progress requires an honest look at the past. Teachers correct homework so students can learn from their mistakes. Linton Hall School should also look at its past, recognize what the adults in charge did wrong, and take the necessary steps to make sure the same actions aren't repeated. An apology to the 5,000 or so cadets who attended over the years would be the right thing to do, not that it would change the past, but it would be a good step. But it should be freely given, not in response to a request by me or anyone else.

Much of what went on at Linton Hall Military School has remained hidden for far too long. It is only in recent years, with the spread of the Internet, that I and others have been able to speak publicly about this.

While we were at Linton Hall, outgoing (and occasionally incoming) mail was censored. This is a practice that rarely exists in boarding schools, and is more typical of prisons, POW camps, mental institutions and so son. At Linton Hall, outgoing mail had to be left unsealed so that it could be read. If something too negative was said in the letter, it would be thrown away and not be mailed. Sister Mary David O.S.B., the principal at the time, once told a classroom full of cadets (I was present in that classroom) about one such letter.

With roughly 210 cadets in the school, if each one wrote just one letter home a week, that was 210 letters in a week, or 30 per day, that needed to be read and censored. Let's say it took two minutes per letter, that's an hour a day that the principal dedicated to this activity, in addition to her duties as principal and teacher. Why did she need to do this? Surely not to prevent us from saying that it was a wonderful school, causing it to be flooded with eager applicants!

But I digress. Back to my original question. I thought that maybe those who could see nothing wrong about Linton Hall Military School were:

* Those who never got in trouble. No, there is someone who got punished a lot, in the harshest ways known to Linton Hall, and now he says he deserved it. On the other hand, both I and the other blogger both rose to officer rank.

* Those who went there for many years and don't have other schools to which they can compare Linton Hall. That's not it either, two cadets who were there for just one year, one for seventh grade, the other for eighth, see the school positively. On the other hand, I was there just a couple of years, and the schools before and after LHMS were far better.

* Those who came from difficult family conditions at home. Not that either, some have confided in me through private message or email that they had parents who, shall we say, were less than ideal, and yet they hated it there. Others had a pretty good home life, and have positive things to say about Linton Hall.

* For this last possibility, I'm playing amateur psychologist. There is something called the "Stockholm Syndrome" named after hostages held for five days by bank robbers in Sweden in 1973, who became emotionally attached to their captors and even defended them after being released. Paradoxically, sometimes a bond forms between the victims and those who mistreat them. This appears to have been the case for Patty Hearst as well as Jaycee Lee Dugard.
(See, for example, )

Yet none of these explanations is good enough. The past can't be denied. Yet why some are unable to see anything negative about it, is something I still don't understand.

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

Copyright 2012 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.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The 1940s at Linton Hall Military School

In my previous post, I wrote about John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, who attended Linton Hall from 1942 to 1946. As interesting as it is to know that a celebrity attended the school, I find even more interesting what he has to say about Linton Hall Military School in his autobiography. This is the earliest published account of LHMS by an alumnus that I am aware of.

He doesn't say too much about Linton Hall; it is mentioned mostly only on three pages,
pages 41 -43 of his autobiography, but what little he says makes it sound as bad as the Linton Hall I attended a quarter century after he did. The book also has a couple of photos of John and other cadets in their dress uniform, which looks just like our uniform did. I guess not much changed over so many years.

John entered Linton Hall in the Fall of 1942, shortly after his seventh birthday, and stayed there for four years, through Spring of 1946, just before turning eleven. Sent there because his father had alcohol problems and his mother was at work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (including commuting) he was entrusted to the nuns at Linton Hall.

"I hated the place," he says, even though he earned good grades, made many friends, and played sports.

The current building had not yet been built, and the cadets slept in bunk beds. Shortly after he arrived, his bunkmate told him that when the nuns take cadets to the office to beat them, "they do it to you naked." John misunderstood, thinking it was the nuns who were naked. As funny as that is, it is still awful that a defenseless seven year old would be beaten by adults.

Nuns watched the boys shower back then, too. "Nuns watched us take showers to screen us for [homosexuals.] Of course, that just flushed them out to the gym, the bedrooms, and the woods," he says. If I understand this correctly, it is extremely disturbing that there would have been sexual activity between cadets, especially in an environment with such an age disparity and with officers with so much power. I must say that I never heard any rumors of such activities while I was at Linton Hall Military School.

The brightest aspect of his time there was his mother's weekly visits on Sunday afternoons, when she would take the train from D.C. and then a bus provided by the school. She always brought a picnic lunch, and John "lived for those picnics" and the few hours when he could "forget the inspections and the beatings."

A couple of years after John Phillips left Linton Hall Military School, and was attending a Junior High parochial school, a nun asked him why his parents didn't come to parent-teacher conferences, and John replied that it was because they worked very hard. "No, John, it's because they don't really love you," answered the nun. He slapped her across the cheek.

Had John stayed at Linton Hall, he would have graduated around 1949. I am in contact with three alumni who attended Linton Hall Military School during the 1940s, and I will ask them to comment on conditions there.

Source: Phillips, John Papa John - An Autobiography Doubleday & Co. 1986 (hardcover) pages 41-43. Also published in paperback by Dell in 1987
Copyright 2012 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Monday, February 20, 2012

John Phillips, famous Linton Hall Military School Alumni

John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas at Linton Hall

Perhaps the most famous of Linton Hall Military School alumni is John Phillips, singer, songwriter and guitarist of The Mamas and the Papas, a band which reached its peak success during the 1960s with hits such as 'California Dreaming,' 'Monday Monday,' and 'San Francisco (Be sure to wear a flower in your Hair.)'

John Phillips, son of a USMC officer, was born August 30, 1935 on Parris Island, S.C., but grew up in Alexandria, Va.. He entered Linton Hall Military School in the Fall of 1942, at age seven, and became part of the Drum and Bugle Corps. He attended Linton Hall for four years.

John passed away in 2001, at age 65.


The Telegraph, March 30, 2001

Papa John, An Autobiography of John Phillips (with Jim Jerome) Doubleday & Co., 1986

Copyright 2012 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How awards were given (or denied to those who deserved them) at Linton Hall Military School

At Linton Hall Military School, medals and other awards were sometimes given or denied arbitrarily. This is an account of three cadets and the awards they did, and did not, deserve.

A few days before graduation, Sister Mary David O.S.B., the school principal, went into the eighth grade classroom and announced that this was the time of the year when she would normally announce the names of the three eighth graders with the highest grade point average. The highest ranked, the Valedictorian, would be awarded a gold-colored medal and speak at graduation; the second, called the Salutatorian, would also speak at graduation and be awarded a silver colored medal. The third would be awarded a bronze colored medal.

That year, she said, since no one in the graduating class had earned a grade point average of at least 90%, there would be no academic awards given.

At least one cadet asked her to at least tell the class the names of these cadets, and she actually did so. She announced the names of the first two. The first one had a grade average of slightly above 88%, the second slightly below 88%, and the third, she said, was so far below the first two that she would not even give his name. Although the names of the cadets are known to me, I will refer to them as "First" and "Second."

She also implied that it was because of laziness, or stupidity, or both, that no one had achieved an average above 90%. Although some cadets may have been at times lazy, or not bright in some subjects (and I would not deny that I had been lazy at times or found some subjects difficult) I think it was extremely presumptuous of her to blame the low grades entirely on the students. When the average is low for the entire class, I would be more inclined to see the cause as being either teachers who were particularly tough that particular year (especially when grading assignments such as essays, for which there is no objective standard) or some teachers being less than effective in teaching material.

In any case, the award was for being first, second and third. Just as the runners in a race are ranked against each other and not against those in preceding years, it makes no more sense to deny an award to those scoring less than 90% than it would make sense to have half a dozen valedictorians if in a particular year there were six graduating seniors with average grades above 90%, or wherever the cutoff may be.

Sister Mary David went on to say that since the two with the highest grade average were not worthy of speaking at graduation, that she would pick someone else to give the speech.

Now wait a second. We couldn't have been lazy or stupid, because we realized that it made no sense to deny "First" and "Second" the honor of speaking, and instead appoint "Cadet X" who, at best, had a grade point average far below that of the first two, or, at worst, was at the botton of the class.

Shortly after, several eighth graders discussed this incident. The three cadets involved, "First," "Second," and "Cadet X," were all present. "Cadet X" told the first two that he would decline to speak at graduation, since he did not deserve the honor. I will not keep you in suspense; he did not do the right thing, and did speak at graduation. I do not want to be too harsh on him, since he was only 13 or 14 years old at the time, but he clearly knew that he was taking something he did not deserve, but failed to do the right thing. I have far harsher things to say about Sister Mary David, an adult in her forties, who chose to have the graduating class and their parents addressed by someone who, by accepting this opportunity, was someone who took something which he did not deserve, and was far from a positive role model.

I think that Sister Mary David made a big mistake by revealing the names of the two cadets who had placed highest. Not only did she say this to the entire eighth grade class, but the rumor mill being what it was in such a small school, it did not take long for most of the seventh graders, the faculty, and most of the other cadets to know what had happened.

But there's more to the story. Although I have not identified the three cadets by name, their names are known to me, as are their birthplaces. "Cadet X" had an Anglo-Saxon last name, and was presumably born in the U.S.. Both "First" and "Second" had last names that were definitely not Anglo-Saxon, they had both been born in Latin America, and their native language was Spanish. Although I cannot know what went on in the principal's mind, or what her motivation was, those are the facts about the three cadets' names and birthplaces. You can draw your own conclusions.

It would also be safe to assume that "First" and "Second" wrote home about this incident. Since outgoing mail was censored, and Sister Mary David said she knew Spanish, anyone want to bet that those letters went out?

Sometime after this incident, "First" took some cardboard and pencils and made his own medal, a medal with the number one, and the words "Gypped Out" underneath. He showed it to other cadets, and I would not be surprised if Sister Mary David had found out, but I can't recall him being punished for it.

At graduation, after all the other medals had been given, "First" and "Second" did receive their medals, but they were announced as "academic awards" or some other low-key phrase. But "Cadet X" gave the speech that the other two cadets rightfully should have given.

As usual, comments are welcome, but please do not mention the names of these cadets.

Copyright 2012 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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