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.
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