Although the land on which Linton Hall was built was donated for the purpose of building schools for poor boys and girls, Linton Hall was an expensive boarding school. I wouldn't begrudge them charging a lot, if we had gotten a commensurate value in return. But that was not the case. What we observed outside the academic and military program, was the hypocrisy of the nuns' living a purportedly religious life while in fact acting towards us in very un-Christian ways.
Specifically, I felt as if we (or our parents actually) were a resource to be milked for as much money as possible. I mentioned in my first post the many times when we smelled something good on the way to dinner, steak or roast (a smell I could not have been mistaken about) and ended up getting something entirely different, bologna or hot dogs. The delicious food that we smelled was obviously only being served in the nuns' dining room.
Point is, this wasn't a charitable institution. I have a copy of the 1979-1980 list of expenses. (The school was known as Linton Hall School by then, but there was still a military program.) The fee for room and board at the time was $1,645 for the nine-month academic year. (Tuition, supplies, uniforms, canteen, etc. were all billed separately.)
By then I had long left Linton Hall Military School and was a recent college graduate living on my own. My rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Washington D.C. suburbs, only a few miles outside the Beltway, was $275/month, including utilities. My food expenses averaged $150 per month. Actually this was for food as well as cleaning supplies and toiletries, all of which I bought at the supermarket. And I ate good food, including pot roast, a couple of steaks a week, fresh fruit and vegetables. It wasn't caviar and champagne but neither was it macaroni and cheese or tuna casserole. And, as any man in his early twenties, I had a good appetite. (Yes, I kept track of expenses and still have the information.)
How do my expenses compare to what Linton Hall was charging? Let's say that I was eating twice as much as a child, so a child would have spent $75/month on food. I believe Linton Hall spent much less than that, since I certainly wasn't living on hot dogs and beans and canned vegetables, which was the type of food we typically got fed; not to mention that I was buying my groceries at a supermarket and they were buying groceries in bulk.
Let's also say that eight cadets shared the same square footage as my apartment, and that the ratio of cadets per toilet, sink or shower was six to one. (As I recall, there were eight toilets and eight sinks in the bathroom, and approximately 48 cadets in each dorm. There were approximately twelve shower heads in the shower room, but the shower room was typically shared between two dorms.) So dividing my $275 monthly rent by six, I come up with $46/month. I'm not taking into consideration the fact that my apartment was in a DC suburb, not out in the sticks like Bristow, and that I had a kitchen. The apartment complex also included a pool and tennis court, as well as parking and grassy areas.
To come up with an annual cost per cadet, I will multiply $46 rent by 12 (even though we only lived there six months of the year) and multiply the $75/month for food by eight. (we were there nine months a year, less Christmas and Spring vacations, and alternate weekends.) There were also five dorm prefects, plus (I believe) four full kitchen workers, including Sister Benedict,and I will value their work at $3,000 per year. At the time, the minimum wage was under $1/hour, so I am being generous in assuming nine months of full-time employment, or 1,500 hours, at $2/hour. Total labor value of the prefects and kitchen workers of $27,000 per year, divided by 200 cadets, gives $135/year per cadet. The total cost per cadet would be $1,287 per year, which is substantially lower than the $1,645 they charged; as a percentage it's just over 75%. Do you think that they could have fed us a little more, an extra scoop of mashed potatoes with each meal, another slice or two of bread at breakfast, one banana or apple a day? I'm talking about spending an extra dime a day (bananas cost a nickel each back then) which works out to $25 over the 250-day academic year. Couldn't they have gotten the plumbing fixed so that showers always had warm water? I remember how so many times that water was freezing.
And we "cadets" did out own cleaning of bathrooms, shower rooms, dorm floors. Those of us who were officers also were a source of unpaid labor, child labor, forced labor (we had no choice) in supervising the younger cadets. We spent so many hours doing grunt work instead of time which could have been better spent developing our academic skills, engaging in sports and other extracurricular activities, or even building up our social skills, especially with girls, which is an experience that is very important as someone enters adolescence. Officers worked as live-in nannies in the dorms, at study hour, during drill and free play. Eighteen officers were in charge of approximately 200 children, or more than ten per officer. How much would you expect to pay a nanny to supervise ten children -- if you could find someone willing to be so overworked? We, the officers, did it for free.
So our parents were told how much was being charged for room and board, and this is America after all, free market capitalism and all that.
But what was wrong is the ways that they found to nickel and dime our parents with all kinds of extra expenses.
First of all uniforms. Roughly twice a year (I don't remember exactly) it was time to go through our uniforms and see whether anything had become worn or we had overgrown it. In the two years I was there, I did not gain a single pound (due to the severely limited amount of food we got) and I did not grow much in height, maybe an inch or so. Yet I remember many times being told by some nun that I had "overgrown" my clothes and ended up with way too large, ill-fitting clothes. Then there was the expensive dress uniform used for parades, and we even had to buy a pair of white trousers ("white ducks" they called them) which we wore just once a year, on Military Day.
I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and never received a penny in financial aid from Linton Hall Military School, but I would have expected the nuns to exercise more responsibility with other people's money, especially since many of the parents (mine included) were far from wealthy.
There were also frequent haircuts to keep our hair short, and charges for "canteen." We each had a canteen card that was punched every time we received a piece of candy after school. Sometimes an officer would rip up a cadet's canteen card as punishment (it happened to me) so that the remaining value was lost to the coffers of Linton Hall.
Once in a while one of the nuns would set up a "toy store" in the visiting room next to the principal's office and the younger kids would be invited to purchase toys which would be billed to the parents. I'm not clear on the details since I was one of the older cadets and we didn't get to visit the "toy store" but here was a nice little profit center where little children got to decide to spend their parents' money without permission!
Any insignia we received (stripes or bars, for the officers) apparently wasn't really an award, just something they lent to us while at Linton Hall. I'm saying "apparently" because I still find it hard to believe, but that's what my dorm nun told me on my last day there! I had a choice of either turning everything in or paying for it. I paid for it. Was that also the case with the ribbons and medals we earned? I don't know.
I'm suspicious of that nun because of something else. One thing we needed to bring to Linton Hall Military School was two military olive color blankets. We hadn't been able to get those, and when I arrived at LHMS, dorm nun #1 offered to sell me two blankets. These were used blankets, which I suspect someone had just happened to leave behind when leaving Linton Hall. One of them was in pretty bad shape (torn and cut) but was still usable not as the main blanket, but as the one that was folded over our pillow when we made the bed. The price was $5 each, which was then (late 1960s) a hefty amount. The minimum wage was just under a dollar, and our monthly local (landline) phone bill was $3 and change. I would say that $5 back then was the equivalent of $30 to $50 in today's dollars.
When I left Linton Hall, I was in another dorm with another nun. As I was packing my stuff on my last day there she informed me that the blankets had actually been rented and that I couldn't take them.
I believe I also mentioned in an earlier post that when I arrived at Linton Hall, the principal, Sister Mary David O.S.B., asked me if I had any money, and took it. I still remember that my mother was there with me and I asked my mother to take my wallet (and money) home, but Sister Mary David talked me into leaving it with her "for any expenses." I was naive and believed her, but never saw that money again. Did it end up in my canteen "account" or not? If it did, it means my allowance was used to pay for me to stay there, adding insult to injury. All I know was that I had three one-dollar bills, which was six weeks' allowance, and I never saw it again.
I had also taken a little brown paper bag with candy to Linton Hall. Lots of Sweet Tarts and other goodies. The dorm nun told me candy wasn't allowed and told me she'd hold my candy "for safekeeping" and give it back to me the next time I went home. I had to ask for it, and a lot of it was missing.
What did this nun see when she looked in the mirror and saw the face of someone who lied to a naive, innocent child, so she could steal the candy that he had bought with his own allowance?
Did she or any of the other nuns have a conscience?
One of this blog's readers recently posted about Linton Hall attempting to charge his father for a birthday party that never happened. It appears as a comment to my first post on this blog. I will let readers find out that boy's father's reaction to this.
Copyright 2010 "L.H. Cadet"
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of just copying and pasting. Thanks!
This blog is NOT affiliated with Linton Hall Military School. The opinions contained are those of the author.