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Mark M Lichterman

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A Girl's What'ch'ma'call It: 1 of 5
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Last edited: Sunday, September 13, 2009
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.

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Bailer’s cost was moderate, its academic requirements not overly stringent, and its location close enough to Milwaukee and Chicago to make it the ideal place to leave the ‘kid’ if Mom and Dad were both working, if he was a problem, or if they just wanted to get him out of their hair.

Girl's What'ch'ma'call It 1 of 4

Baylor MilitarySchool, Evansville, Wisconsin

January 14, 1944

 

Shaking the towering pines, the cold wind howled across the campus causing cones to rain down and skittle over the frozen ground. Leaves of brown and orange blew across the circular track and parade ground that encompassed the three-building complex.

 

Mitchell sat absently staring out the window, looking at everything yet seeing nothing. He felt a soft, kind of glowing pain in the pit of his stomach; actually not so much a pain as a lonely longing. He missed his family and wondered what they are doing then, right then, at that exact minute on that Sunday morning. He looked at the clock on the wall. Eleven twenty-seven. Probably at Pa and Bubbies eating lox’n’ bagels, he thought as, reaching into his shirt pocket, he took a lemon drop out of the box and put it in his mouth. As he daydreamed his fingers tapped on the desk top.

 

Mitchell’s seemingly unlimited energy was the only reason, at age nine and a half, that he was not noticeably overweight and, of course, the reason he was there, banished to Baylor Military School.

 

Located two hundred miles from Chicago, Baylor was a bit less than three hours away by train and about four by automobile, if one had ration stamps for gasoline. The school was small, usually accommodating about two‑hundred‑fifty boys. Boys ages eight, nine and ten, the Juniors, lived in one dormitory, and boys ages eleven, twelve and thirteen, the Seniors, in another. The two‑story dormitories were separated by a larger, two‑story building commonly referred to as “The Whyet House” because it housed the living quarters of the school’s owners, Captain and Mrs. Whyet. In addition to the Whyet’s three-room living quarters, the Whyet House contained two classrooms, the gymnasium, kitchen, mess hall, and Captain Whyet’s oak‑paneled office.

 

Captain Whyet taught military etiquette, drill and the eighth grade. Mrs. Whyet handled the bookkeeping and the seventh grade. Four middle‑aged spinsters taught the third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. The teachers’ quarters each had a bedroom, study and bathroom, and they were located next to their classrooms, on the far opposite end of a long corridor, away from the men’s toilet. In addition to teaching, the teachers were responsible for the cleanliness and general conduct of their “men.”

There were ten “chambers” on each floor, five on either side of the corridor, each containing four, five or six beds, depending on how many children of each age and class group were in attendance that semester year.

 

Bailer’s cost was moderate, its academic requirements not overly stringent, and its location close enough to Milwaukee and Chicago to make it the ideal place to leave the ‘kid’ if Mom and Dad were both working, if he was a problem, or if they just wanted to get him out of their hair.

 

On weekdays, reveille sounded at 6:00 a.m.

 

The weekday dress code was a white cotton shirt open at the collar, dark blue gabardine slacks, a matching garrison cap and highly shined black oxfords.

 

At 6:30 the men/boys fell into squads of approximately ten men each. Each squad had a sergeant, corporal, and eight or more privates.

“Tench‑hup… Dress right, dress!”

 

Heels clicked together, toes angled outward at 45-degree angles. Left arms extended stiffly to the side with fingertips touching the shoulder of the man to the left. Heads snapped to the right aligning with the man to the right. There was a shuffling as the line straightened.

 

“Tench‑hup!” Arms dropped. Heads snapped forward. “Sound off!”

“Private Carmody, here!” Each man called out his name. The corporal took a stride forward, saluted the sergeant and said, “Ranger Squad, Eisenhower Platoon, all present and accounted for!” He saluted. The salute was returned. The corporal did a sharp about‑face, took a stride back to his place at the head of the column, did another about‑face and stood at attention.

 

“Riiight face! Forward harch!”

 

The men marched forward. If they were on the second deck, as Mitchell Lipensky’s quarters and squad were, they marched down the stairs and out the building. Entering the mess hall, their caps, removed while in class or eating, were looped over their web belts. As the line progressed, each man took a sectioned steel tray, silverware and a napkin, then filed through the line receiving portions of food from the civilian ladies behind the counter.

 

Breakfast was over at 7:15; classes started at 8:00.

 

In his second year at Baylor, in 5B, the fifth grade, the corporal in the Ranger Squad, Mitchell Lipensky’s quarters were in the Dwight David Eisenhower Dormitory, deck two, chamber five.

Sunday!

 

Sundays were always the hardest for Mitchell, at least the mornings, because on Sunday all Baylor men were expected to attend church and Sunday school, with no exceptions.

 

During one of their visits the year before, a few months after he’d enrolled, Walter and Myra had spoken to Captain Whyet about the possibility of Mitchell being allowed to miss the Sunday services.

 

“Captain Whyet,” Walter had said, “both Mrs. Lipensky and myself are more than slightly disturbed over the fact that Mitchell is made to attend your Sunday morning church services.” He’d glanced at Myra, who imperceptibly nodded her head, urging him to continue. “After all, Sir, we are Jewish and what he’s taught here in, uh, Sunday school and church, goes against everything he’d ever been taught in the past, and to be honest, it’s confusing him terribly.”

 

In Captain Whyet’s impressive, oppressive and more than slightly intimidating oak‑paneled office, Walter and Myra were sitting, uncomfortably, on hard, straight‑backed chairs.

 

Leaning back in an overstuffed, leather wing chair smoking a pipe, Captain Whyet sat behind his large, glass‑topped desk.

 

“Mr. Lipensky,” Captain Whyet looked from Walter to Myra, “and Mrs. Lipensky,” appreciating a pretty woman, he’d smiled at her. “This is your son’s first year here.” He drew on the pipe, exhaled and tilted his head back, watching the aromatic smoke spiral above his head. “I’m glad you brought the subject up because it gives me the opportunity to let you know how we here at Baylor feel.” Putting the pipe in a leather-bound ashtray, leaning forward, folding his hands on the desk, his voice taking a tone of severity, “America is a Christian country,” he’d said. “This is a Christian school, and if you do not want your son to learn the true belief and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, then it may be for the best if you remove your son from Baylor altogether, and find a…” Captain Whyet smiled, “Jewish military school.”

 

Myra looked at Walter. “Captain Whyet, no, we, uh, do not want to take Mitchell out of Baylor, it’s just that his father and I feel if he didn’t have to attend church and Sunday school, we’d have absolutely no problem with Baylor.”

 

Captain Whyet picked up the pipe, sucked on it noisily, struck a match and drew it back to life. “I am well aware of your, uh, Jewishness, but we will make no exceptions. As a matter of fact, we feel remiss because we’re as lax as we are with the boys’ religious training. If you want your son to remain here at Baylor, then he must attend church and Sunday school along with the rest of the boys.” He stared at Myra a moment, then, “If there is nothing else,” he said, “I have other parents to speak to.” Standing, Captain Whyet extended his hand across the desk. “Good day, Mister Lipensky, Mrs. Lipensky.”

 

“Mitchell, your mother and I have spoken to Captain Whyet about your attending his, uh, church, and he thinks it’s best we don’t make it look like you’re any different than the rest of the guys here.” Sitting on the steps in front of Mitchell’s dormitory, looking across Mitchell, at his wife, “We’re sure there’s other kids here that don’t want to go to church and Sunday school, and if he makes an exception for you then he’ll have to make an exception for the others, too, and…”

 

“But, Dad, there are no others, I’m the only Jewish kid here!”

“Mitchell, don’t ‘but Dad’ me! You’ve got to do what the other kids do, and that’s final!”

 

Mitchell looked from his father to his mother, who was looking at her lap, tying and untying a knot in her handkerchief. “Mom?”

 

“Mitchie, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to!” Taking her son’s chin in her hand, lifting his face to hers, “And for God’s sake, Mitchell, don’t say anything to Pa and Ma about going to, uh…” as if loath to say the word, “church, because I’m sure they wouldn’t understand and it would only make them feel bad. As a matter of fact, Mitchie, it would probably be for the best if you didn’t say anything to anyone back home about it. Okay… Okay?”

 

His eyes cast downward, “Okay,” he’d said, nodding his head.


 

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Reviewed by Georg Mateos 9/9/2009
Conflict. When the family tradition descend from a long line of Army and the two older boys decided to join the Air Force, it shocked the family foundations, when the younger boy chucked after one year or make believe "Military Academy" and went instead to the real Navy...
Those military schools driven by wannabes "generals" wearing quasi uniforms and trying to emulate West Point have done more damage to many generations and warmed the heart of many Drill Sergeants afterwards when the really military life caught with them.

Georg


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Mark M Lichterman



For Better or Worse

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The Climbing Boy

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Becoming

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