Reflections

Story by Phillip M. Potts ('63)

I came to Lyman Ward in 1958. Or, I might say, I was "sent" . I was hanging around with the wrong crowds and not very responsible. Of course I was only 13, but my parents recognized that I needed something more than what was offered by them or the schools I was attending. I was in JR. High which is that hellish transitional stage for all kids.

I was devastated when they told me of their plans. "Oh woe is me", I felt. "I am being abandoned and thrown away". Little did I know of the time, experiences I would have and what it would really mean.

I do not remember the drive from St. Petersburg, Florida to Camp Hill. The first thing I do remember is standing between Friendly and Russel Hall and gazing out behind the school. In those days, you could see Daws Mountain in the distance as the trees were not quite as large as they are today. I was placed in Friendly Hall. I struggle to remember who was my first roommate. There were only about 60 cadets that year. Friendly Hall and "New Brick" were where we lived. Russell Hall had not been re-furbished at the time (And was actually not Russel Hall either).

My personal feeling was that the 58-59 year was the last of the "startup" years for LWMA. They were still learning what being a Military Academy was all about. The following year when Col. Smith took over as President and "acquired" General Futch as Commandant was the beginning of LWMA being a true military academy.

I remember it being quite rough. Hazing was not condoned but was commonplace, at least in part of that year. There was a group of upper class men that seemed to take pride in giving us as much grief as possible. They would run us through the woods and generally do whatever they could to make us miserable. I would say that things changed about a third, to one half the way through the year. This group of upper class men had a meeting where they discussed all manner of ways to give us a hard time. They were quite loud and could be heard all over Friendly Hall.(The Pool Hall was in center of Friendly Hall in those days. I know we were trembling in our boots.

The next day, suddenly they were gone. They had made enough of a ruckus that the word had obviously gotten out to Commandant, Major Emens and the President, Major Howell. The year settled down after that to an experience of learning and developing responsibility to some extent (smile). The two upper class men that we looked up to were Capt. Cecil Harris and Lt. Richard Hahn.

Major Howell was an interesting person. He had one glass eye which seemed to follow you wherever you were. He told us how he got that glass eye. In WWII, I don't remember in what battle, A bullet struck his helmut, was guided by the inside of the helmut to the opposite side, and entered nearly dead on sideways, of course damaging the eye.

All of this was nearly 35 years ago so it is difficult for me to pick out specifics.There was no Annual for that year, and all I have are a few letters that my Mother saved and some old catalogs from that time.

I remember Camping in the woods quite often and fishing in Lakes. Yes, there were two beautiful lakes back there. Alberta Peters ran the mess, and would load us up with eggs, bacon, and all manner of goodies when we went camping. She was a dynamo in the kitchen. Those of us that did KP duty would certainly stay on our toes.

Meals were served family style. There were no cafeteria lines, and we simply had a veritable feast laid out (by KP cadets) on the table. We would all stand while Cecil Harris gave the blessing..

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

We trained with old bolt action "03" rifles and though I cannot quite remember, also wooden rifles. I think we went to Ft. Benning to fire the rifles that year but I am not sure. I think I remember the M1 beast kicking the hell out of me..(smile)

I made PFC and held the rank nearly till the end of the year at which time I was busted for making Mulberry wine. I don't think I even had a drop, but a couple of fellows who were in on it implicated me as being in on the brewing stage, which I was. It must have fermented for three months out there in the woods. I think they enjoyed it, I hope they did. (Morrow, Lyons???)

As I remember things from those times I may add to this. To say the least, because of the friends, independence, and experience of that year, I begged to go back, and did for four more years.

Skinny Dippin'

Story By Paul Strobel('43)

It was cold, very cold. The sky was overcast and murky. There were a few cold rain drops falling. It was Valentine's Day, 1943. It just seemed to make sense. Of course it did. Why, everyone would talk about it and so we decided to do it.

A group of us went skinny-dipping in The Lake. We didn't stay in the water too long, though. Some of us, Ken and Tate Russell('43), Irby Hartley('44) later had bad colds and we missed school for a few days. Others, Earley Macon('44), Houston ("Bing") Powell('44)* and Byron Tatum('44) did not succumb.

Dr. Ward was not happy, but he understood.

Dr. Ward seemed to always understand.

Paul Strobel

*We called him Bing because he used to imitate Bing Crosby frequently.

P.S. In my story about the Valentine's Day Skinny-dipping, I forgot to mention another person, whom most of you know.

I don't recall that Wesley Smith('47) was in our group of swimmers that day. But then, his Mom was our Dorm Mother. (Glee!!!!)

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

Paul Strobel('43)

Miss Seraph Blaisdell

Story By Paul Strobel('43)

Think back. Did you ever have a teacher when you were going to school - elementary, high, or college - whom you respected and looked upon as a fountain of wisdom and as a friend? A teacher who never escaped your memory? One that, even today, you feel occasionally is looking over your shoulder? Well, I did and I want to tell you about her. When I am through telling you about her, I want to "read" something to you. And then you will know why she was so important.

I was in my junior year at SII. Just getting along. Miss Blaisdell had what I thought even then an old first name. Her name was Seraph (not Sara). She had more ways to motivate a student to learn than I sometimes thought there were stars in the heavens.

Once she complimented me on my handwriting. Said it "looked purposeful". Said, with a little effort, I could improve upon it. You're right; my handwriting advanced from indecipherable to almost readable.

Working in the woods (one of our chores) one day a tree was felled and a limb struck me on my back. I fell on a two-bladed ax that I had been using and cut my right wrist badly enough to warrant steel clamps and a sling. Everything was inconvenient and ungovernable. Miss Blaisdell mentioned that I would have to make up a lot of missed book reports, unless I could learn to write with my left hand. She said she knew I could. I did. I can write, somewhat legibly, with both hands even today.

Miss Blaisdell mentioned one day in class that "Paul's book reports were improving considerably" and that she was sure everyone in class could improve their's, also. I did not like to read! Miss Blaisdell required book report after book report. Surprisingly, I began to enjoy reading. She imbued in me a love for knowledge and a special love for inspirational, motivational reading. Miss Blaisdell was more than a teacher; she guided me, quietly and subtlety, in directions that have enabled some worthwhile achievements. As my life has unfolded over the decades I look back with fond memories and deep appreciation and think about a little old lady who wore her grey hair in a bun, looked intensely through silver rimmed spectacles, and dressed in a fresh "frock" each day. Unfortunately, perhaps, she was never aware of the influence she exerted. (Or is she? She is probably still looking over my shoulder.)

I was reading tonight and a particular passage held my attention long after I had read it. I want to "read" it to you. It caused me to think of Miss Blaisdell, Dr. Ward, and all the classes, past, present, and future of our Alma Mater.

"Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, - and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry - shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate that happy period."

The aggregate of all the schooling the author of the above had amounted to less than a year. He taught himself, for the most part. Lincoln is quoted more than any of our presidents; only Jefferson comes next.

Remember, participate in and otherwise support your Alma Mater. There are still requirements for a Miss Blaisdell.

Paul S. Strobel ('43)

SII Dances

Story By Paul Strobel('43)

SII was co-ed when I was there and sometimes on a Saturday night we were allowed to have dances. On one particular night, Earley Macon('44) wished to cut in while I was dancing with Evelyn Bodiford('43). She had previously said that she did not want to dance with him. I never knew why, because Earley was a nice looking fellow and very gentlemanly. Anyway, Earley made the attempt and I, thinking I was certainly a knight destined to honor the lady's wish, indicated that he could not cut in. He immediately asked me to join him on the small stretch of grass just outside of Tallapoosa Hall. I did. In a few minutes I had handily taken the advantage and returned to the dance, elated, pompous,....and for the moment, unaware of how foolish it all was.

Well, the next time we had a dance, the same situation developed, with the same players, and once again, Earley asked me out again. In just a few seconds my new-found prowess as the pugilistic superior of SII vanished!

Fifty-three years later I called Earley one night (he lives in Birmingham) and during the conversation we reminisced about days gone by. Of course, I had to bring up the memory of that encounter. He remembered, and being the constant gentleman, he allowed that it was of no consequence.

I don't think Earley was particularly enamored of the young lady involved; it probably had to do with pride. Anyway, Earley married Josephine ("Jo") Snow ('44) and they continue their SII romance.

I always hoped that Dr. Ward and Mr. Kirkland were never aware of this event. Miss Blaisdell was; I know, because I had to write extra book reports. Wow! It's tough to lose....,but twice?

Russell Hall(early 1970's) (Boys' Dorm(1940's)

Russell Hall(early 1970's)
(Boys' Dorm(1940's)

Russell Hall(1981)

Russell Hall(1981)

This is one of the buildings in which I once lived. Yes, there were dormers on the upper (third) story and alas, they were removed before you took your picture. The dormers, etc were removed after I left. It is also one of the buildings in which I worked (painting interior walls) during holidays when all other students went home. (I lived too far away.) Miss Blaisdell lived in the bottom, left hand side as you face the building.

The large room to the right (opposite Miss Blaisdell's quarters) was a library and it was in this room that we held dances on Saturday night sometimes. In the spring and fall we had dances in the auditorium in Tallapoosa Hall. It would have been too cold for socials in the winter, hence our social activities, few though they were, were held in the library of the dorm.

On Saturday nights - once in a while - we had dances. (The school (SII) was co-ed then.) You had to hold the girl at least 12 inches away from you. The teachers offered a ruler and Dr. Ward offered an "hurrumph" if you disobeyed the rule. Much more could be said about the building...and much, much more about all the good/great memories.

Before we lived in this building we occupied Alabama Hall**. Those students that remained in Alabama Hall were "House Mothered" by Mrs. Smith. (Wesley's mother.) Miss Blaisdell*** was indeed our house mother when we relocated. She was stern and demanded adherence to rules. She was also the most lovable, effective, and mannerly person I have ever known.

J. Brackin Kirkland

Story By Paul Strobel('43)

Opportunities for work seemed always to be plentiful at SII and the variety of tasks knew no boundaries. One of the tasks assigned to us occasionally was duty in the print shop.

J Brackin Kirkland    Photograph from -  "Their Country's Pride"  The Centennial History of L. W. M. A. by Jerri Beck  Page 91  Copyright 1997 - LWMA Board of Trustees  Camp Hill, Alabama

J Brackin Kirkland
Photograph from -  "Their Country's Pride"  The Centennial History of L. W. M. A. by Jerri Beck
Page 91
Copyright 1997 - LWMA Board of Trustees
Camp Hill, Alabama

The print shop was a small building and it was located where the medical facility now stands. After the print shop was done away with, a building was constructed which became the residence of Vera Orr, secretary to Dr. Ward. That building is now the medical facility.

Working in the print shop was a duty enjoyed by most of us. Of course, it was a small operation and the gentleman who operated it came in only once in awhile as needed. We set the type by hand. I became aware of the degree to which my spelling had improved during this period. I could not help but make improvements; the print shop operator had a very quick eye and an oral response equally as fast.

One day I carried a large supply of newly printed letters to Mr. Kirkland to be signed and mailed. I was instructed to wait while Mr. Kirkland signed these letters. I remember being disappointed at having to wait because I had planned to go to the gym to play basketball.

I asked Mr. Kirkland why he couldn't use a rubber stamp to apply a facsimile of his signature and I attempted to support my suggestion with the idea of saving time. Mr. Kirkland looked straight at me for a moment and then taught me a lesson which I have always remembered. His reply was that if people thought enough of the letters to take time to read them, the least he could do was personally sign them. The lesson translated into an old saying, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." Perhaps my analogy seems obfuscated, but at that age Plato and I were not conversing.

Mr. Kirkland came to SII from Boys Club of America where he served as an executive. He was a tall, wiry individual who's motions telegraphed strength and the agility of an athlete. I always imagined these physical characteristics were the result of his years on the rowing team when he was in school. On Saturdays you could usually see him wearing his leather work gloves and performing manual labor around the school grounds. Removing stumps was one of his specialties. Setting examples for young people was another.......