Monday, November 28, 2011

Rules and Procedures for using the toilet at Linton Hall Military School

How one uses the toilet isn't a topic for polite conversation, but I'm bringing it up because it is an example of how every aspect of our daily life, even the most personal, was regulated.

I've previously written about how we had no privacy even when showering, since there was a nun watching the whole time. What I find ironic is that even though we spent maybe ten minutes naked in front of a nun when showering, the school took elaborate measures to make sure that none of us happened to accidentally see another boy's penis for a few seconds while changing.

The procedure for changing clothes in the dorms involved the cadets in each of the three rows facing the same direction; the center and window rows faced in the direction of the window, and the locker row faced the lockers; in other words, we faced our own chair. We would then put our bathrobe on over our clothes (or pajamas) and change our pants and underwear. Then we would remove the bathrobe to change our shirts or pajama tops. This procedure went on even when changing from khaki pants to green fatigue pants, i.e., when we did not remove our underwear.

In the bathrooms, the urinals had been covered up with brown wrapping paper (some with black plastic garbage bags) by the time I attended in the sixties, so we used the toilets even to urinate. There were partitions between the toilets (I believe they were actual walls, but don't recall exactly what material they were made of) but these were only about three feet tall, and there were no doors on the stalls. I don't know whether there were doors originally and they had been removed sometime later. I did see pictures from the late 1980s in which the stalls do have doors.

This worked fine when urinating, but when defecating there was a special procedure involving the bathrobe. Whether you were wearing pajamas or one of the uniforms, you had to get your bathrobe and put it on backwards, meaning with the opening to the back, before sitting on the toilet. After you were finished, you would either put the bathrobe on correctly (if wearing pajamas) or take it back to your chair.

This was one of a myriad of rules explained to us upon our arrival at Linton Hall, but actually there was more to it than that.

There I was, a recent arrival, sitting on the toilet and wearing my bathrobe the approved way, when a busybody reported me to an officer. You see, I happened to have a hand under my bathrobe. Why? Well, I didn't want my penis accidentally touching the filthy edge of the toilet bowl, and I needed to point my penis down into the bowl so that if I happened to urinate I wouldn't soil my pajamas and bathrobe. I didn't feel comfortable explaining this to the officer or the busybody, so I just did as I was told and kept my hands over my bathrobe.

This little incident illustrates both the prevalent mentality among far too many cadets of looking for and reporting even the smallest infractions by others, and the extent to which even the most personal and insignificant details of our daily existence were regulated.

(Added 11/30/11:) The toilets in the basement had regular sized partitions, but no doors.
Over my lifetime I've probably used hundreds of public restrooms, but I cannot think of even a single one (other than the ones at Linton Hall Military School) where the partitions were only 3 feet tall and/or there were no doors on the stalls.

Copyright 2011 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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Linton Hall ....... School" (The word "military" doesn't appear anywhere!)

I recently wrote how Linton Hall Military School, although it remained a military school until 1989, had stopped calling itself "military" at least ten years before. In that post, I mentioned how by 1978, the school's advertising completely omitted the word "military" both from the name and description of the school.Military School

In the above ad a from The Washington Post, August 12, 1979, the word see if you can firnd the word "military" anywhere. You can't. Nor do the boys' clothing, un-military posture, or their smiles betray the fact that "Linton Hall ........ School" was still a military school.

What happened when someone replied to the ad and requested more information, this is the letter they received:

Linton Hall

Does the word "military" appear anywhere here? No, not at all.

See my previous post to find out where the word "military" actually appears, somewhere inside the 1978-79 "Linton Hall ......... School" brochure.


Copyright 2011 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.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

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

Linton Hall Military School, originally established as a military school in 1922, stopped being a military school in 1988, (Note 1) although there was a period during the late 1920s when the military program was dropped. (Note 2)

Recently, however, another LHMS alumnus wrote in his blog that a web site of the Benedictine sisters omits the fact that Linton Hall ever was a military school, by stating that "In 1922, on the Bristow grounds, Linton Hall School opened as a boarding school for boys ..." (Note 3) (Emphasis added.)

Upon first reading his blog, I was willing to give the sisters the benefit of the doubt, thinking that perhaps this was a simple oversight. In fact, Linton Hall Military School officially and deliberately dropped the word "Military" from its name at least ten years before the military program was discontinued in 1989.

I visited the school on Military Day 1980, and the program, still in my posession, refers to the school as "Linton Hall School." From everything I could observe, that Military Day was just like the Military days while I attended during the late 1960s. (Note 4)

Linton Hall Military School Military Day

Even two years before that, the cover of the Linton Hall calendar and brochure sent to prospective students and their parents, as well as the school's letterhead and printed envelopes, all referred to the school as "Linton Hall School."
Linton Hall School Brochure

Inside the brochure, the school is generally referred to simply as "Linton Hall."
The school's history and (rather self-serving) description refers to the school as "a boarding and day school" and "a Christian school," but nowhere does the word "military" appear, not even once. (Note 5)

The next page's recap of the daily schedule does mention "Drill" from 3:45 to 5 p.m. on Mon./Wed., and "Non-Parade Fridays" but not in a manner that makes it blatantly obvious. The photo on the page is of over a dozen boys wearing sweaters and ties, but they are standing and sitting in very casual poses which don't carry even a hint of the school's true military nature.

A few pages later, in a section titled "Faculty and Staff" the brochure states, "In addition to the excellent academic program, experiences in art, music, drama, military, sports, and field study are under the supervision of a well-trained, dedicated staff."

Note how the word "military" is mentioned in passing.

Folks, when I attended Linton Hall Military School, my "experiences" in Art consisted of such things as building a model car from a kit in "Art" class and crafting things aout of wire, popsicle sticks, and so on. But that didn't make the school into "Linton Hall Art School," now did it?

Nor did the my "experience" of marching to the beat of the Drum & Bugle Corps and listening to 45 rpm record during rest make this a music school.

But it sure was a military school!

It is only at the back of the brochure that the "Military Program" is finally described.

Of the twenty-six photos in which cadets appear, in the vast majority (23) they are NOT in the military dress uniform. Of the remaining three, one shows the cadet's head and shoulders (from ribbons on his chest and up) the second shows a cadet playing the piano at a recital attended by parents (I doubt most people would even discern that he is wearing the dress uniform, since he's way in the back of the picture) and the third, on the "Military Program" page shows the Drum and Bugle Corps. Unlike companies whose cadets carry rifles, the cadets in the D&BC obviosuly carry drums and bugles!

As far back as 1971, an advertisement appeared in a Catholic School directory, bearing the name of "Linton Hall School: (Note 6)


Prince William County
Bristow, Virginia
For Boys Grades 3-8
Linton Hall School is a private
boarding school for boys in grades
three through eight, located thirty-
five miles south of Washington,
D.C. The students are offered sound
physical, academic and religious
programs. Small classes and a
well-equipped instructional ma-
terials center provide the oppor-
tunity for individualized and
small group instruction

The words "Linton Hall School" are mentioned twice in the ad. It is only in the index that the school is listed as "Linton Hall Military School" (Note 7)

This raises a lot of questions. Why did they make such an effort to avoid revealing the school's true nature as a military school? If a military school was not the type of environment that students and parents were searching for, why did they simply change the name of the school without changing the nature of the program? If they truly believed that the military school concept was a positive one, why did they not emphasize it and its purported benefits? Is "Outdoor Education, Conservation and Ecology" (OECW for short) the same as the "Military Science" and field maneuvers we were taught while I was there during the sixties? Why are cadets wearing their dress uniform in only three of the 26 pictures in the 1978 handbook/brochure? Why are there no pictures of guns, other than adults in tri-cornered Colonial hats with a musket? And, finally, today, in 2011, when Linton Hall School has not been a military school for a long time, does the school still have the regimented environment I remember, with excessive emphasis placed on uniform dress codes, length of hair and adherence to the pettiest of rules?

1. According to the school's official web site.

2. The Fruit of His Works, by Sister Helen Johnson OSB states that the military program was dropped during the late 1920s and was revived in 1931. In addition, Military Day programs in my posession identify the year both by its cardinal number, e.g. 1980, and ordinal number, i.e. 1980 was the forty-ninth Military Day. Working back, this would make the first Military Day in 1932. This differs from the statement on the school's website, cited in Note 1, that "In 1932, the military program was firmly established, and the school became known as Linton Hall Military School. "

This is a blog by another alumnus who also attended Linton Hall Military School during the 1960s.
He has written excellent, well-researched posts about his experience.

4. Linton Hall School Military Day Program, 1980.

5. Linton Hall School, Calendar 1978-1979 Handbook. This publication is in the public domain. To protect the privacy of alumni whose photos appear in the publication, I am only posting the text.

6. The Official guide to Catholic educational institutions and religious communities in the United States, 1971, pages B-27 and B-38 Each of the following three urls has a portion of the ad: , and .

7. ibid, see

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
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Friday, November 11, 2011

Why would a "military school" even exist?

We all tend to accept what is familiar as being "normal" without taking time to question it from an outside perspective.

This is the case with fashion; what is fashionable at one time may be considered bizarre a few short years later. Or certain foods may be considered normal in one country and bizarre or disgusting in another.

As alumni who spent years in military school, we are not shocked or surprised that military schools existed. For us, this was our everyday experience. But think about it for a moment, isn't it strange to have a school in which boys dress up as soldiers, not just on Halloween, but every waking hour of the day, not just during recess but also in the classroom and at Mass? And that they have military ranks such as Sargeant and Captain and spend countless hours parading around while carrying fake rifles; except for the "officers" who carry real sabres (albeit with dull edges) and (empty) handgun holsters while out hiking?

Can you imagine if they had schools where kids dressed up and pretended to be something else? What if there was a Linton Hall Native American School in which kids wore feather headdresses and face and body paint all the time, even in the classroom and at Mass? Or a Linton Hall Hippie School at which they forced boys to grow their hair long, wear tie-dye shirts and march around the blacktop carrying signs that said "End the Vietnam War" and "Legalize Marijuana?"

Wouldn't you think of the school administrators who came up with such a concept, and the parents who bought into it, as being just a little weird?

I would argue that this wouldn't be any stranger, any more insane than "military school."

The Linton Hall school brochures that I have seen talk about "turning boys into men." We're talking about boys in Kindergarten through eighth grade. That's ages six through thirteen, though there were 14 and 15 year old eighth graders while I was there. And although at the time I attended the youngest boys were in second grade, I have read of there being at least one kindergarden boy at Linton Hall Military School during its history.

What the heck is wrong in letting boys be boys?

A military regimen is stifling enough for older kids, but how can you justify having little kids in second and third grade who still believe in Santa Claus and still get confused about which side is right and which side is left being forced to march and turn "right face" or "left face?"

A fellow alumnus in his blog says that "Seventh grade was not a good year to be new at school. Everyone else in the class were in positions as sergeants and the new seventh graders started out as privates. " As someone who entered Linton Hall as an older boy, I agree with this. But at least I had attended other schools, and had the experience of knowing what good, non-military schools were like. I also knew that at worst I would get to leave upon graduation, which was a tolerable amount of time away.

I think that for anyone who entered as a younger child it was far worse, because he never saw that there was an alternative, never had a chance to live in a school environment where every minute of his life was not micromanaged by obsessive-compulsive "officers" and staff who paid major importance to meaningless, inconsequential details of everything to how the uniform was worn to how the bed was made.

Is that the kind of "men" we were expected to become? Blindly obedient idiots who need to be constantly reminded about what to do and when to do it? Automatons with no initiative, no individuality and no creativity? Unmotivated bodies needing the threat of severe punishment to be coerced into doing everyday tasks such as brushing their teeth?

Sadly, I believe the answer is yes.

Nowadays violent punishment has fallen out of fashion, and the same results of passive conformity are achieved by drugging (not "medicating") children into stupor. The statistics on the percentage of children being given psychotropic drugs is truly frightening.

I consider myself lucky to have been at Linton Hall Military School only a couple of years, and at an age when, even though I could not fight the situation, I was able to see it for what it was.

And I am happy that Linton Hall has stopped being military, is no longer a boarding school, and is co-ed. It seems to be a far better place than it once was, and I hope the students attending it today have a much more positive experience than I did.

Copyright 2011 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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

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

One way (and perhaps the primary way) officers were punished was by getting "bumped."

In milder cases this meant a drop to a lower rank, such as Captain to First Lieutenant, or First Lieutenant to Second. (I don't recall the Battallion Commander getting bumped while I was there, but it may have happened during Linton Hall's history.)

But what usually happened was being bumped down to private, which meant not having any rank at all.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Sometimes being a private meant just that -- being the low man on the totem pole. Other times even though the bumped officer lost his rank, he kept his position (as company or platoon commander.) He kept all his duties and the ability to give orders to those under his charge, but he lost his privileges as an officer. I don't remember anyone actually saying this, but it was generally understood that such a "bumping" was temporary and the officer had the opportunity to eventually earn back his rank.

There weren't many privileges to being an officer. Once in a blue moon (a handful of times over the school year) there were "officers' nights" -- the chance to play Ping Pong, watch TV, and have a snack in one of the vacant dormitories for an hour or two, and socialize with other officers.

A bumped officer didn't get to wear the insignia on his collar, or the belt with a shoulder strap while carrying a sabre. (Sabres were worn/carried sometimes during drill, and during parades and special occasions such as Military Day and graduation.) He still got to carry a sabre, though, so it was attached to the same type of belt that everyone wore on the outside of his blue sweater. (I've seen pictures of students at LH after it was no longer a military school, who still wore the black belt over the sweater.)

I found it interesting, while looking through my old yearbooks, that there was a year in which almost one third of the officers in the picture have their sabres hanging from the regular belt, meaning they have been bumped.

Oh yeah, I was one of them. And I did eventually regain my rank.

How did officers get bumped? Usually through a court martial. (The other blogger has done a great job describing how the court martials were often little more than a rubber-stamping of the Commandant's or Principal's decision.) But that wasn't always the case. I know of one instance (there may have been more) in which Sister Mary David decided that an officer was bumped, and that was it. There was no court martial. Not that there really needed to be one, since the outcome would have been predictable. But then again, given the facts of the case, I am convinced that there was no justification for bumping that officer. Can you imagine what would have happened if his fellow officers had not bumped him? Or even if they had, but the decision had not been unanimous? I can't conceive of it happening, but at the same time I can't help wondering how things might have turned out.

One consequence of being bumped was the pleasure that a lot of cadets found when an officer was bumped. It's the dark side of human nature, I suppose, but I also think it shows a lack of understanding of the difficult position an officer found himself in. Some, perhaps many, abused their power, but others tried their best to be fair, to actively ignore minor infractions that really didn't deserve to be punished, and to treat others as they would want to be treated themselves -- while at the same time enforcing all the rules.

When officers lost both their rank and position, they were generally transfered to another company. This was so that they would not be subject to reprisal by anyone who now outranked them (PFCs on up.) I think this was a good move on the Commandant's part.

Another consequence of bumping an officer was that he lost his motivation. Even in cases such as mine (where I lost my rank but not my position) I did a half-hearted job for a while and broke a lot of rules, feeling there was little point in doing the work for little or no reward.

When I visited Linton Hall many years later on Military Day, I noticed in the program that someone was listed as:

Platoon Leader John Doe, 1st Platoon Leader

instead of the customary

First (or Second) Lieutenant John Doe, 1st Platoon Leader

and realized that the practice of bumping officers was still alive and well. Unfortunately for "John Doe," he didn't regain his rank by Military Day.

Copyright 2011 by Linton Hall Cadet.
Please respect copyright by linking to this post instead of copying and pasting.
This blog is not affiliated with Linton Hall Military School and all opinions are those of the author. Comments are always welcome; please do not use your name or names of others.