It’s a little lonely in the Southwest corner while things were jumping (OK: considering the age, maybe skipping slowly) back home.
Back in Lebanon, the Castle Heights Military Academy homecoming apparently ran amok. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been to one.
This year seems a bit more special to me. Last year, I was sad to miss my 1962 class 50th reunion. Trips back home and to be with daughters, son-in-law, and of course grandson in Austin made my presence for homecoming unrealistic and sad. There were guys whom I had not seen in…well 50 years, with whom I bonded way back when.
This year was at least as disappointing to me. Don Ash found an old “Castle Heights Military Academy” entry arch sign on a country drive which used to lead up the hill to Main, now the city administrative building. He and several others relocated it back to the hill.
Don and a whole bunch of Castle Heights’ alumni also led the drive to purchase what was the library to be the school museum. Since I have not been there yet, I cannot comment on what they have created in memories. But these alumni have made an effort to preserve my memories of a wonderful place full of my history.
My grandmother, Katherine Webster Prichard, whom we knew as “Granny,” was a house mother for junior school (elementary school aged boarding students) for a number of years in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She ruled supreme and kindly over her charges upstairs in the Mitchell House, then in the new building west of the old manse, and back again at the home where my mother played in the 1920’s.
My brother Joe and I had an eight-year run there from 1958 through 1967 when the school was, perhaps at its height of its excellence. We both profited from the academic excellence of the faculty and the regimen of the military protocol of an Army ROTC sponsored program.
As I sit here in the Southwest corner’s version of autumn, I think of back home and Castle Heights when I was there. The campus was in its full glory in the autumns of my youth. The old concrete archway over the narrow two-lane drive sang of great things for those who entered there. The majestic trees which hung over the road up the hill were in their finest plumage, earth colored leaves framing the drive.
Stroud Gwynn Field, not yet named that yet because the old coach was still a master at his trade as a premier football coach, was the stuff dreams are made of. The campus ranged all the way up West Main to what is now Oak Hill drive. The dirt-greens of the nine-hole golf course circumventing the campus were disappearing when I entered my freshman year there in 1958. Jimmy Smith and a number of successful golfers had moved their expertise to the Lebanon Country Club.
Most of the buildings from the turn of last century are gone now. Going up that tree lined road after the tennis courts and the football field was the gym where the “town boys” had their lockers. To the left was McFadden Auditorium, not only serving as a majestic assembly hall and stage but where the basement was the essence of learning and where Major Kenneth Morgan taught me so much more than Latin.
I could go on about the magnificent buildings, the incredible faculty, and the glorious autumns I spent there. I could wax eloquently about the students who have gone on to success.
Oh yes, those were glorious days never to be recaptured, an age of innocence. I remember the girls decked out in their finest dresses (mind you, no self-respecting young woman would have worn pants or shorts in those days) in their fabulous glory with autumn bouquets and young men in military gray and white marching to songs of discipline.
It is gone. As much as I would like for today’s youth to have the opportunity to experience what I did way back when, I know that cannot, will not be.
I hope the efforts of those dedicated folks like Don Ash, Rob and Susan Hosier and too many to list here will keep the spirit of CHMA alive.
It was a wonderful place.
Jim Jewell is a writer and retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training and has been an consultant in executive coaching, teambuilding and organizational development. Jim still calls Lebanon his home.