Bad memories: St. Catherine’s Military Academy

I endured ages 11 through 13 at a Catholic military boarding school in Anaheim, Calif. It’s right across the freeway from Disneyland, and I still remember watching the fireworks through barred windows. (No, I am not crying right now.) A few weeks ago as I drove south on I-5, I something told me to turn left on Harbor Blvd.

Twenty-three years after I graduated, St. Catherine’s is a kinder, gentler hell. The kids no longer wear uniforms every day, and corporal punishment is a big no-no. Back in 1983 we’d do 100 pushups and get our asses kicked on a normal day. If you only got the pushups or the ass-kicking, it was a special day.

Cadets prepare for afternoon drill. Thankfully, I played trumpet in the band, so I got to stay inside. I can still feel every military march in my lips and fingers.

My need for external validation started here. I won the circled awards, including the school’s highest honor, the American Legion award. The other awards didn’t exist in my time. “Am I worthy? … What about now?” (No, I’m not crying.)

So you’re 6 or 7 or 11 years old, and your parents drop you off here. “See you next week.” (OK, now I’m crying.)

Unspeakable horrors. How about lining everyone up and awarding points to the company that undressed fastest.

As the batallion bugler, I played reveille every morning and taps every night. The way taps echoed down these halls … haunting.

On his first day, every cadet pees in these sinks. They look like urinals, don’t they?
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