Oddities in the Southern Muse

So, a chap and I are comparing notes on relative college experiences. He went to some placed called Harvard, supposedly a school of some note, but I cannot personally vouch for it.

I tell him I went to Virginia Military Institute, a place founded on 11 November 1839 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia — an idyllic slice of Southern charm — at the height of the Vietnam War.

VMI men ran World War II in the person of General of the Armies George Catlett Marshall, the man Churchill gave the most credit for winning World War II calling him the Architect of Victory.

Stonewall Jackson taught there and Rob’t E Lee is buried on the edge of the campus in Lee Chapel. In the Wave of Wokeness that has swamped the land, Stonewall has gone MIA.

VMI men and, now, women, have fought with distinction in every American war since 1839. We are a handy bunch to have around when the feathers hit the fan.

I tell my disbelieving pal three things:

 1. VMI used to have classes on Saturday mornings. We went to school six days a week which was great for the engineers because you could get three classes a week of a handful of the hardest subjects.

VMI was and is a top rated school of engineering with an international reputation.

 2. VMI men used to march in formation out of the VMI campus, down the street, into Lexington, and go to church on Sunday mornings and it, church attendance, was mandatory.

I think the Methodists were the best marchers, but they slept in for their 11:00 service. The Catholics were up for the 7:30 service.

Oh my wokeness, think of that. Mandatory church attendance. Even when it snowed.

The drunken Washington & Lee frat boys next door (it wasn’t co-ed yet) used to razz us — the ones who were awake which wasn’t too many.

 3. VMI used to have formal dances several times per year called “hops.”

Well-scrubbed cadets in formal mufti and beautiful young Southern beauties in their gowns and their mothers’ pearls — they used to stay in chaperoned homes downtown with very Southern house mothers who did this for decades — had as much fun as the law allowed until the cadets all had to run back to post to beat the midnight curfew.

Haha, we had a curfew! I had to get special permission to stay out late to study.

Some of the racy girls stayed at the Robert E Lee Hotel and you always went to a party at the REL and drank bourbon in Dixie cups over cracked ice.

The guy was astounded that such things could be true, that such an undiluted Southern, Old South, experience existed so deep into that last century, but they are and they did. That was 1969 – 1973 in one of the last vestiges of the South.

VMI admitted black cadets the year before I matriculated (men who went on to distinguish themselves by the color of their character and performance at VMI and thereafter), W&L subsequently admitted women, W&L boys stopped wearing blazers to class, VMI admitted women, and the whole world changed — partly for the good.

Then, we all went into the Army, knocked down $277/month (actually $566/mo as noted by a comment by a Brother Rat of mine) as second lieutenants, jumped out of perfectly good airplanes for $60/month, and got on with our lives.

It was a wonderful existence and I carry it in my blood. Nobody can ever cheat me out of the scars of that ordeal for which I paid full retail and count it a bargain at twice the price.

What remains today at VMI is, arguably, better, but it is damn sure different.

VMI was a hard place to be at a different time in the history of our great Nation, but it is a good place to be from and I was marked and made better by that experience.