Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My last days at Linton Hall: School is out!

The best thing about being in the eighth grade was knowing with complete certainty that it would be my last year at Linton Hall Military School.

That didn't really sink in at first, since I had a long academic year ahead of me, and was wrapped up in the novelty and demands of being an officer, but, sometime around May, I started counting down the days remaining. Then, a few days before graduation, I started counting the hours until my time at Linton Hall would be over.

One thing I remember about the last few days at Linton Hall is that the NCOs (non-commissioned officers, in other words, sargeants) from the seventh grade were left in charge, probably to give them some preparation for being officers the following year, but possibly because after we had received (or not received) our medals on Military Day, many of us didn't care too much about our responsibilities as officers.

We had more free time, and one afternoon the entire eighth grade got to go swimming. I can still recall us changing in a room in the poolhouse, a bunch of 13 to 15 year old boys as sexually developed as we were going to get before leaving Linton Hall Military School, having Sister Doris Nolte, O.S.B. (then known as Sister Mary David OSB) there in the room seeing us naked (watching is a more precise word) as we faced the wall while undressing, trying to avoid her seeing our private parts.

When we went to the pool she sat in the lifeguard's chair, fully dressed in her nun's habit. I wondered -- and feared -- what would happen if someone were about to drown. Would she be willing and able to jump in the pool in her habit and rescue the hapless boy? Just how important was safety? Why wasn't Bill or Linton Hall's Commandant there in her place?

Coming back to the dorms from the pool, I noticed that my bed had been remade, not as well as I had made it that morning, and my mattress had been replaced by one in better shape. The nun who was my dorm prefect said that it was being done so the graduating cadets would sleep better on the last couple of nights, and we would have better memories of Linton Hall Military School after we left.  She knew what was going on -- just like one of the cadets had observed that on the Fridays when we went home, the school lunch was better, so that if our parents asked us what we had eaten for lunch, we would describe that day's lunch, and not the typical meal we ate on other days at Linton Hall.

Another activity for the graduates was a "High Mass" at the Linton Hall convent. There was some really good musical accompaniment to the Mass; good singing by some nuns whom I had never seen before because they did not teach at Linton Hall Military School, and an especially memorable trumpet solo by a nun playing Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." I had not heard much classical music before, and did not learn the name of the composition until many years later, when I heard it again and recognized it, but I still remember watching the trumpet playing nun's face, her cheeks puffing out and turning red, as she played.

One evening, possibly our last evening at Linton Hall Military School, we graduates had dinner at tables that had been set up in the lounge next to the Principal's office. Some of the seventh graders served as waiters. If any of them are reading this, thank you. Over forty years later, I realize how uncomfortable it must have been to serve the graduates excellent food, when the "waiters" had eaten just another ordinary meal. Since we weren't allowed to have money, we couldn't even leave them a tip!

That was the only meal I ate from a china plate (instead of a metal tray) at Linton Hall Military School, and if I'm not mistaken, we each had a steak, same as those steaks whose smell we had noticed coming out of the nun's dining room so many times.

We had also done a dry run of the graduation ceremony, and the Linton Hall Commandant had said that if anyone was not graduating (because he had failed eighth grade) he would still be called to the stage and would receive a diploma holder just like anyone else, but there would be a blank sheet of paper instead of a Linton Hall Military School diploma inside, so that he would not be embarrassed in front of anyone. That was one of the few occasions I can recall of the Linton Hall school administrators not being concerned about embarrassing someone.

We wore white gloves with our dress uniforms at graduation, and paper is more slippery when handled with cotton gloves than with bare hands. One cadet, sitting near me, opened his diploma folder and found a piece of white paper inside, then struggled with his gloved fingers for several seconds that, to him, must have felt like an eternity, as he tried to lift it to see whether or not his diploma was underneath. I wanted to tell him that the white paper was just a protective sheet on top of the diploma, but of course we weren't allowed to speak. After a few seconds he was able to lift the paper to uncover his diploma. He happened to be the cadet with the second-highest grade point average, but Linton Hall Military School was such an unpredictable place that anything was possible.   Both he and the cadet with the highest grade point average had already arbitrarily been deprived of the honor of speaking at graduation, as I've related in my previous blog post, "How awards were given (or denied) at Linton Hall Military School."

When I left after graduating, I did not look back, literally or figuratively. I made no attempt to keep in touch either with those in my graduating class, or with others. Staying in touch would have meant reliving old memories, which I wanted to set aside. And how could I write to friends who were still there and tell them of how different, and wonderful, life after Linton Hall was?

Occasionally, I had nightmares about still being at Linton Hall, and when I woke up, I would feel my bed in the dark, notice that it was my bed at home and not the one at Linton Hall Military School, and go back to sleep. Such dreams became less frequent as the years went on, and less intense, since in later years I would dream that as an adult I was spending a weekend there (to relive the experience? -- dreams don't make much sense) but as an adult I dreamt that my car was parked behind the building, near the Commandant's Jeep, and I could leave anytime I wanted.

During waking hours I did not think about Linton Hall, but my focus was on all the opportunities that my newly restored freedom provided, from deciding what clothes to wear every day, to walking to school or the store, to what my first school dance would be like.

In 1972, I got an invitation from the school to an alumni reunion in observance of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Linton Hall Military School. I had no interest in going, and didn't.

Then in 1978, I happened to see an ad for Linton Hall in the Washington Post and sent away for a brochure, just to see whether the school had changed.

In 1980 I visited on Military Day. Other than the school having dropped the word "military" from its name, it seemed to be the same. Having grown up during the sixties and seventies, the thought had passed through my mind of picketing the school and handing out fliers on Military Day (I was in my early twenties at the time) but I didn't; I just observed for a couple of hours and did not speak to the nuns or Commandant.

It wasn't until around twenty years later that one day, when I happened to be driving on Route 66 in Virginia near Gainesville, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to make a detour to see Linton Hall Military School. The four or five mile trip to Linton Hall, which had previously been a deserted country road, was now packed with houses and townhouses. I wondered whether the school was still there at all. Then I saw it and drove up to the building. It was summer, and there didn't seem to be anyone around. I was about to get out of the car and knock on the front door to ask for permission to walk around the place, when a flood of memories came back, and I decided not to, but just drove around the building and left.

A few years later, as the internet grew, I found Charles Carreon's description of a typical day there, and later found Augustus Cho's book "Great Light Will Shine III: Linton Hall Military School" and ordered it. (1) Although he had written it decades after having been there, his recollections were crystal clear, as if he had written about everything the next day. I also saw the school's website, and found out that the school was now much different, and much better, than it had been in the past.

But there wasn't much else out there describing the conditions that I, and thousands of others, had experienced at Linton Hall Military School, things that had been actively hidden from parents through the school's long-standing practice of censoring all outgoing mail.

In March 2010, I decided to write about those things. A blog just happened to be the easiest way to share my memories on the web. I said what I felt needed to be said, and thought that would be it.

It wasn't until three months later that I wrote my second post, in which I discussed my experiences from an adult point of view. And I thought that would be my last word, which it was for the following six months.

Six months later, I started blogging in earnest, and have since written around 30 posts about Linton Hall Military School. Two of them I have not put on the web, but shared them just with other alumni on Facebook, since they were about specific individuals.

During the two years since I began writing this blog, I've heard from many other alumni, who attended Linton Hall Military School from the 1940s through the present day. I thank each and every one of you who has shared your thoughts and memories. Some of you view your experience there in a positive way, and although we disagree, I thank you for allowing me to consider your point of view.

There were cadet officers there who overstepped their authority. I forgive you for what you've done to me. At the same time, having been an officer myself, I realize that there were times when I called those under my command "a mess," "stupid," and similar words, trying to make them feel bad about themselves. I ask for your forgiveness, and hope that you did not believe what I said about you.

I believe that forgiveness is appropriate only for those who are truly sorry for their actions. I extend my forgiveness to those among the adults in charge who repent and apologize. Even those who did not mete out excessive punishment, tacitly allowed it through their silence. For example, when children who are seven or eight years old were humiliated and intentionally subjected to ridicule by being forced to wear their urine-soaked pajama bottoms around their neck all day, there was no was that nuns who taught or supervised the playground could not be aware of this. In a school where children wear uniforms, this can be spotted from a hundred feet away.

But no, in its official website the Benedictine sisters of Bristow, Virginia still deny this aspect of the past and claim that Linton Hall Military School "soon gained an international reputation for instilling leadership, integrity and character in its students." (2) Come on, the statute of limitations has long passed, why not do the right thing and admit what you did wrong?

I've since heard from recent alumni, and every indication is that today's Linton Hall School is a pretty good place, nothing like it was at the time I attended. I don't know what brought about these changes. Was it a desire to correct the past, or was it only a reaction to parental pressure and declining enrollment? When I look at my old yearbooks, I see that, without considering those graduating, only slightly more than half the students returned from one year to the next. Sounds like a big sign of dissatisfaction to me. Why did they simply drop the word "military" and start referring to themselves as "Linton Hall School" so many years before discontinuing the military program? Why did it take so long for the school to change and realize its potential?

Although I may have said many critical things about Linton Hall Military School, I've done my best to present a fair, balanced viewpoint and have written several times about the good academics and unique opportunities for camping and hiking that were provided by the school's extensive landholdings (over 1,700 acres when I was there.) With those resources, this could have been a wonderful school.

To my fellow cadets, we had a tough time there, and many of you had it far, far worse than I did. I wish you all the very best, and hope you had many good things happen to you in the years after you left.

1. "Great Light Will Shine III: Linton Hall Military School" by Augustus Cho, available at lulu.com
2. Brochure quoted in the June 8, 2012 entry at http://lhmscadet.wordpress.com
Copyright 2013 by "Linton Hall Cadet."
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This blog is not affiliated with Linton Hall Military School and all opinions are those of the author.
Comments are always welcome; please do not use your name or names of others.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The boy who died at Linton Hall Military School: Eduardo Facha García, 1944-1954

Among the graves at the Linton Hall cemetery, one stands out from the others.  It is the grave of Eduardo Facha García, a cadet born in 1944 and who died in 1954 at Linton Hall Military School.  I do not know whether he had already reached his tenth birthday.

It is always a tragedy when someone so young loses his life, made even worse by the fact that he was from Mexico and died so far away from home.

I have not been able to find much information about him, or how long he had been at Linton Hall Military School before he died.  He arrived to Idlewild (now JFK) Airport in New York City on June 14, 1954 from Mexico City.  He had a sister, Raquel Facha García (her name would have changed if she married) who was a year or two older, and probably a younger sister, named Maria Teresa.  His mother's name could have also been Raquel.

If any of his family sees his grave, I would like you to know that it is in good condition and well maintained.

"De sus padres" at the bottom of the grave means "from his parents" meaning that his parents had the grave marker made.

(I have found a different, likely unrelated Eduardo Facha García, on the Internet.)

God bless you, Eduardo.  May you rest in peace.
Que Dios te bendiga, Eduardo.  Descansa en paz.

Copyright 2013 "Linton Hall Cadet"
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This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.

Linton Hall Cemetery Photos

An alumnus has provided me with photos of the cemetery at Linton Hall.  The cemetery is located on the LHMS (now Linton Hall School) grounds, if you're walking from the canteen towards the pool, tennis courts and water tower, by the time you reach the pool you're halfway there, keep walking in the same direction.  Of course, the cemetery was "out of bounds" so most of us have probably never been there.

Right: View of gravestones of sisters from cemetery entrance.
 Left:  Sister Ethelreda, former principal of Linton Hall Military School during the 1960s.

The DuCharme sisters were possibly the Commandant's aunts.

Cemetery at Linton Hall, Bristow, Virginia

Same last name as Sister Doris Nolte (Sister Mary David.)  Possibly they were sisters in both senses of the word.

Sister Gertrude taught English and History at Linton Hall Military School during the late sixties, and I believe she had previously been Principal of LHMS, as well as a Benedictine school in Richmond.

Sister Irene was prefect of one of the senior dormitories.

Known as "Louie" he attended LHMS as a child, went away to high school and joined the Marines, then returned to Linton Hall where he spent the rest of his life working on lawn maintenance and as night watchman.  Very well liked by LHMS cadets, and fondly remembered.

Bill Farquhar coached sports, taught gym and geography, was auctioneer at school fundraising auctions, and lived right across the school on Linton Hall road.  His wife, Virginia, predeceased him.

Sister Joan Ann taught Art and was prefect of one of the senior companies.

Last but not least, a cadet who died at Linton Hall is in my next post.  Giving him his own post is the least I can do.

Copyright 2013 "Linton Hall Cadet"
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This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Book About Linton Hall!

In his memoir about his first year at Linton Hall Military School during 1968-1969, Augustus Cho has written more than just his autobiography; this is really a biography of everyone who attended Linton Hall that year (as I did) or, for that matter, anyone who went there while it was still a military school, since we were all subjected to the same rules, schedule, and discipline.

Having arrived from Korea less than a month before the school year began and not knowing English, Cho faced unique challenges -- not only in being punished for not following rules that he was unable to understand, but also in not receiving candy from the canteen until he figured out for himself what to do, since he was unable to ask.

At the same time, his inability to communicate through language made him a perceptive observer of others' behavior, as demonstrated by the extreme level of detail with which he is able to describe events which took place at Linton Hall Military School almost forty-five years ago.

His book describes events and emotions with which Linton Hall alumni are all too familiar: his desperate, yet ultimately unsuccessful attempts at convincing his mother to take him out of Linton Hall, the deep contrast between the regimentation at school and the freedom and responsibility he enjoyed during weekend visits home, when, although ten years old, he would often go to the zoo with a friend and without adult supervision, as did many children that age. He wisely observes that freedom is not appreciated until it's taken away, and when one gets it back, he learns not to waste it.

In describing these events, Mr. Cho strikes a good balance between providing too much and too little detail, so that both alumni and those less familiar with Linton Hall Military School will find this book compelling.

One lesson Augustus Cho learned very well was persistence, since he ran away from Linton Hall Military School seven times. In a previous blog post I recounted that on one such occasion, the cadets in grades 7A, 7B and 8 had been made to comb through a field looking for him, and if I had been the one to find him, I would have probably pretended not to see him so that he could get away. (As an adult, I am much more aware of the dangers of hitching rides from strangers, so in retrospect I think it was better for him to have been caught, and am glad I did not have the chance to make a decision that I would have regretted.)

In his book he responds to my blog post, saying that he finds it encouraging that "there actually were cadets who sympathized with my predicament and understood what I was experiencing." If he had been able to speak English when he arrived he would not have faced so many difficulties, but he would also have learned that most of the incoming cadets harbored the same negative feelings about many aspects of Linton Hall, and talked about it quite openly at first. As time went on, we were less open in our criticism because of the danger of being overheard -- not just by a nun or an officer, but also by a tattletale. Tattletales were present at my previous schools, but they seemed to be much more prevalent at Linton Hall. Consequently, many of us at the time ended up thinking that we were the only ones who harbored negative feelings about the school, and it was not until decades later, when we regained contact with other alumni, that we discovered that many others had shared our feelings.

Cho recounts amusing incidents as well. Initially reluctant to take piano lessons, he changes his mind when he notices that cadets who take piano lessons on Tuesday or Thursday end up getting a half-hour respite from the two hours spent drilling in the cold, since piano lessons are given at the same time as drill. When his mother asks him what made him change his mind, he tells her that "Piano lessons improve the quality of life of a cadet."

Reflecting upon the overwhelming challenges of his first year, he says he was stronger and better for it. I do not believe that was the case for me.

"It may sound incredible," says Cho, "but I've had dreams over the decades of being back at Linton Hall Military School as a child, marching in the cold ... even after 45 years later." I don't find this incredible, since I have also had such dreams; frequently at first, when upon waking up in the dark I would feel the wall next to my bed, realize I wasn't at Linton Hall, but think that perhaps I was just home for the weekend, then as I became fully awake realizing that I had left Linton Hall for good and was far from Bristow, Va..  Those dreams became much less frequent as the years went by, but returned when I began writing my blog, and were a factor in my decision to stop writing about Linton Hall Military School.

I found it emotionally draining to read Cho's account, since memories kept flooding back, and I often felt as if I had been reading my own biography. I believe that other alumni will feel the same way, and recommend this book highly.

Great Light Will Shine volume 4: Linton Hall Military School by Augustus Cho, 120 pages, $9.95 is available at amazon.com.
The previous volume of his autobiography, Great Light Will Shine volume 3, covers his last days in Korea, as well as his first days at Linton Hall, and is available in paperback at lulu.com or electronic version at barnesandnoble.com.  I recommend both books.

Copyright 2013 "Linton Hall Cadet"
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This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Linton Hall alumnus in "GI Joe 2 : Retaliation" movie!

Augustus Cho, a Linton Hall alumnus, appears in the "GI Joe 2 - Retaliation" movie that just came out. Congratulations Augustus!

Monday, March 25, 2013

LHMS Alumnus Publishes Fiction Book

Although I have been scooped on this one by the other blogger at I want to share the news that a Linton Hall alumnus has just published a fictional book about a Special Operations Unit. Duty, Honor, Country by Ed Schroeder
"Duty, Honor, Country" was written by Ed Schroeder, who graduated from LHMS in 1970, as Company Commander of "C" Company.

Update: I have recently bought and read the book. There is only a passing reference to Linton Hall. However, after the introductory part, the book is a fast-paced thriller with an extremely well crafted plot.

"Duty, Honor, Country" is available both in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Letters from Linton Hall: The first couple of weeks

(I am coming out of my self-imposed retirement to publish a blog post I had written last year and saved in draft form.  It covers some of the letters I wrote during the first weeks at Linton Hall Military School.  The post could have been much longer if I were to comment on every letter, as well as the letters I received, but I'm really not up to the task of going through all of them. )

I have recently come across letters that I wrote home from Linton Hall Military School, as well as letters that I received while I was there.  As I've pointed out before, at Linton Hall outgoing mail had to be left unsealed so that it could be censored (i.e., so that if anything too negative about the school was said, the letter would not be mailed.)  Inbound mail, at least from parents, was rarely if ever opened, whereas inbound packages usually were opened, regardless of source.  In looking over these letters, I am surprised at how much of what I wrote did manage to get out.  I supposed part of the reason was that I chose my words carefully and wasn't too obvious in what I said about Linton Hall, and part of the reason was that I had really bad handwriting.  There is one important even that happened at Linton Hall Military School, and which I've written about on this blog but for which no outbound letter exists, and it's a fair assumption that this was a letter that did not get mailed out.  What's most important to me about my letters from Linton Hall is that they provide a contemporaneous account of what happened, and confirm that my memories are accurate, even over forty years later.  I skimmed the letters and took notes, since there are so many, so I will at times be paraphrasing what I said, even though it will be in quotation marks.  And I will comment on some of these quotes.  I often forgot to write the date at the top of each letter, and they were not stored in chronological order, so it's not clear when during my stay those letters were written.  But in my first letter home, I wrote that ... 

My first day was okay.

I was one of the older kids and had been to summer camp before, not at Camp Linton but elsewhere, so the lack of privacy in a dorm wasn't a shock, and I was only slightly homesick, not in the way that the younger kids were.  And the first day was very much like being at camp, without the military discipline, just a lot of free time to make new friends.  During my first three weeks at Linton Hall I wrote home every other day, hoping to get letters back.  I also wrote about  

kids crying ... they censor mail, you have to give them outgoing letters unsealed ... they haven't taken us swimming or to play tennis yet ...


we're not allowed to have candy, I gave it to the nun and she'll give it back to me when I go home for the weekend.

In a previous entry I noted how trusting I was, and how disappointed I was when I got only maybe half of my candy back, and she had stolen the rest. 

A kid went on a hunger strike, and after he skipped around half a dozen meals, they used force to make him eat

I wrote a note about this incident, and the degree of force used to make him eat, which I've only shared on Facebook.  I haven't posted it on the web to respect the privacy of that boy. 

I deposited the dollar you sent me to my school account, I'll find out later how much I have

I was trusting enough to believe that I would get this money back, and my mother was trusting enough to mail it to me at Linton Hall.  I later told her to stop doing so, as I've explained in a previous blog entry. 

A Korean boy ran away yesterday, they had the 7th A&B grades look for him, they found him asleep in a field; it's the second or third time he's run away

He had recently arrived to the U.S. and spoke almost no English, so it was a lot tougher for him than for everyone else.  Had I been the one to find him, there is a strong likelihood that I would have pretended not to see him, but in retrospect I think it was better for him to have been caught.  He was only ten years old, and his lack of English skills, combined with the fact that at the time there probably wasn't another Asian in all of Prince William county, meant he would have been easily spotted not far from Linton Hall. 

They didn't mail out two letters from a kid who wrote that we go on ten-mile hikes

This was something which Linton Hall Military School's Principal, Sister Mary David O.S.B. (now known by her birth name, Dister Doris Nolte, OSB) had told a whole classroom.  The number of miles was overstated, but we did go on long hikes. 

Usually for breakfast we get two 0.75 ounce cereal boxes, bread, butter, jelly, and a milk carton

I didn't mention quantities, and perhaps it sounded like breakfast at home, where you could help yourself to bread and jelly to your heart's content.  The milk carton was 8 ounces, the jelly was one one-teaspoon single serving package, we got one single serve pat of butter, and either one or two slices of white bread.  Note the absence of any fresh fruit.

For lunch or dinner, for example, carrots and peas, bologna, bread, a milk carton, water while it lasts, a slice of ginger bread

This may have implied a Norman Rockwell painting of a Thanksgiving dinner, but at Linton Hall Military School, the peas and carrots came from a can and not from some vegetable garden in Bristow, Va.; there was one slice of bologna between two slices of white bread, and a jug of water at each table that you could fill your glass with ... as long as there was water left in the jug. 

After school they give us a snack, sometimes a popsicle.

Candy bar or popsicle.  Never an apple, banana, or peanut butter sandwich.
Copyright 2013 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.