"The Military School Reputation"
by
Frank Lively  KMI ‘ 63


Military Schools were rumored to be the place to send unruly youths, so why would anyone voluntarily want to go to a military school?
 
It couldn't be the food!
 
Having the head football coach for Biology, who would give a reading assignment and who would walk the halls of the public high school for the majority of the hour, my sophomore year hardly motivated me to do better than a "D".
 
My Geometry teacher on the other hand, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, was an outstanding math teacher first and occasionally an interesting public affairs discussion leader second, resulting in my earning an "A".
 
My river bank town was large enough to host the regional national guard armory, located next our city's high school.
 
Ours was one of the few public high schools to have an "Honor Unit" Junior ROTC program which meant that each year a selected graduating cadet would receive an automatic appointment to West Point.
 
M-1 rifles were issued and uniforms worn only one day a week.  First year cadets qualified in the armory's extensive shooting range.  Military activity was limited to one hour a day instead of gym.
 
As a boy scout, leaving home for camp and winning trips selling newspapers subscriptions put me in a mind frame unopposed to going off to prep school.
 
With hundreds of still prominent military schools to choose from, I only made one literature inquiry to our state's namesake school.  
 
Since several of the prominent son's of our community had attended this notorious school, my dad's response was for me to make the application  as there was no enrollment fee.
 
Seventeen hundred tuition/board and two hundred for uniforms doesn't sound like much in today's dollars. I have come to conclude military prep schools  were a bargain in the fifties and sixties.
 
In fact, inflation may have been an even bigger factor in the demise of military prep schools than the unpopularity of military due to the Vietnam years!
 
An acceptance letter was prompt and not too long after an invitation came to attend the two week football camp just prior to the Labor Day start of the 61-62 school year.
 
The regimen of school was pretty routine, holidays were seldom a cause to change schedule.  Thanksgiving may have been a half holiday, but certainly not the long weekend like in college.
 
The schedule was so full, you didn't have time to think let alone find a radio to listen to.  The Cuban missile crisis wasn't mentioned much until home at Christmas break.
 
Prep school boys came from all over the US and many foreign countries, therefore after 40 years you will find them in as many places, though when alumnus disappear in the North, I usually find them in Florida as cadets returned to the memories of their winter pilgrimages.
 
As many cadets flew in from all over, many cabs dropped the fellows off  at the formation court. 
 
I choose to ride the bus two hundred miles down river to the point on the map that I had determined was the one and a half mile walk to the school's front gate.
 
I had not packed a lot other than an electric razor, underwear, a jock strap for football camp, high top football cleats and the newly required mouth guard.
 
From the Class of 1959, John Justice's father Dr. Justice made me a custom mouth guard like what he was doing for the public high schools.
 
Several years earlier my dad bought me my first bicycle from John's dad for $5.
 
My bag was not heavy and that first walk to campus didn't seem to be too long,  as I was accustomed to a two mile walk to school every morning after running a five mile paper route at 6 AM.
 
There were no school buses or parents to drive kids to school.  In the fifties, you were expected to walk.
 
The coaches were having the first team meeting after lunch on Sunday and "two-a-days" would begin Monday morning.
 
Military schools gave you a date to show up and if you followed rather simple common sense rules, no one ever gave me grief.
 
Saturday, sometime around noon, I walked right into Ormsby Hall and found Mrs. Carmack manning the receptionist phone.  Mrs. Keyser at the next desk,  probably checked you in and sent you in to meet "Miss Mary" 
 
Then over to Cappi's supply to get bed linens and I made up a bunk on the first floor of "A" Barracks with the rest of football camp trainees, some arriving as late as noon Sunday
 
With one long porch, all of the room doors opened toward the guard shack,  a glass enclosed gazebo in the middle of the garden.
 
Military schools traditionally indoctrinated first year cadets with a plebe or rat initiation status, although this did not start until after the two week football camp.
 
Being on the football team probably exempted a few of us first year Juniors like Bill Nuckles, Greg Steel, Joe Rogers.
 
I know I managed to stay out of the way of upper classmen and never shinned anyone else's shoes, nor was I ever sent to stand in the ice cream line.
 
There were always long lines at the three public phone booths and I didn't have any girl friends at home to call anyway.
 
If you had a serious call to make home, you could always go see Mrs. Carmack.
 

Frank Lively  KMI ‘ 63
 


 
 
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