Legacy of PMC

Saturday Morning Inspections

inspection 1957Fourth Classmen (Freshmen), also known as “Rooks,” arrived at PMC with little or no understanding of what they were starting. Their training began almost immediately. Starting in 1961, Rooks moved into Howell Hall, Cann Hall or Turrell Hall. As they did, the Cadre, those upperclassmen charged with Rook training, confronted them with a blizzard of instructions. As the Cadre walked the halls they bellowed instructions on how to organize each room. These now bewildered Rooks learned quickly.

Each room was almost identical. Both the built-in locker and wall locker were to be shared. There were also two desks and bunk beds. Everything had a place and all items had to be displayed exactly as instructed in the “Fourth Class Handbook.” To ensure uniformity for those items that required folding, such as one’s underwear, Rooks were instructed to make cardboard rectangles so that the folded underwear were given a uniform and squared-off appearance. There were even instructions on how to hang items in the wall locker and display unused hangers (all hangers had to face the same direction with the rounded part of the hanger facing outward)! Imagine the look on the faces of Rooks when they learned that there were specific instructions that needed to be followed when putting away their belongings. Where were their mothers?

Throughout the week, daily room inspections were a part of the routine for Rooks. One of the most important items in a room was an index card stuck in the wall plate of the light switch. On this card were the names of the occupants. The card was reversible so that one name appeared at the top. That name was the room orderly for the week. It was the responsibility of the room orderly to keep the floor cleaned, trash emptied and room free of debris during the week. Roommates were responsible for their own belongings.

On Friday, Rooks prepared for the formal white glove inspection Saturday morning. Typically this was a time when Rooks had a chance to relax while they worked. They could walk the hallways in chinos and a t-shirt and were not required to brace or square corners. Rooks quickly learned that Saturday Morning Inspections required a great deal more than what was written in the Regulation Book. Floors were waxed and buffed. For many, learning how to use the unwieldy buffing machines was another new experience. Rooks also learned how to get a high polish on the floor by using a towel under the buffer. At some point during the evening you could find the shower full of Rooks standing with the covers from the heating elements. Brass uniforms buttons had to be cleaned. Windowsills cleaned, shades were placed at half-mast, desk items nearly arranged and the tops and bottoms of shoes cleaned. Saturday morning there was a last minute frenzy to ensure that your bed conformed to the regulations (the blanket needed to be folded 27 inches from the head with 18 inches of sheet exposed with the pillow placed squarely in the space). Of course the blanket needed to be taut enough so that a “quarter could bounce off it” and the hospital corners at the foot of the bed had to be exact. As the call echoed through the hall that the inspecting officers had entered the building, Rooks scrambled to take their positions in their room.

Eventually a loud knock on the door announced the arrival of the inspection team — all wearing white gloves. Standing at attention while inspectors gave each room a rigorous inspection, Rooks were amazed. Their room was clean enough to make any hospital proud. Yet rooms were declared, “Not fit for human habitation” because dirt or dust found on the top of a shoebox, the bottom of a lamp or even in the lamp socket after the bulb was removed. Many Rooks, however, found ways to lighten the situation. Some found spraying Shoe inspectionPledge (spray wax) on the floor made for a very slippery floor and produced many giggles as the inspectors slid. Others doubled-cleaned everything, including the soles of their shoes. Using heel and sole enamel on the bottoms of the shoes was often a way of earning praise or better yet merits.

Inspectors were known to give an individual a merit or demerit for specific element of the inspection, such as hanging uniforms improperly. If a Rook accumulated enough demerits, they would find themselves marching Penalty Tours on the blacktop between Old Main and Memorial Stadium just below the Commandant’s Office.

These inspections involved all cadets, however, there were several larger purposes. Most important, they promoted teamwork, attention to detail, and a sense of camaraderie among cadets in each company. They also were a component of the 30-week Honor Company Competition. The company earning the best marks was announced each week, adding points toward the overall competition. Honor Company was announced during the Mother’s Day Parade in May and was recognized as the best in the Corps of Cadets.

The Military Program at PMC

inspectionThree of the most highly decorated graduates of PMC were Horace Hobbs, Class of 1897, Benjamin Berry, Class of 1902, and Thomas Merendino, Class of 1941. All three were awarded The Distinguished Service Cross Medal and The Silver Star Medal. Merendino was awarded an additional Silver Star Medal. What did these PMC men, along with scores of others, have in common? They all benefitted from the “excellent” military training of PMC.

According to the tradition, Theodore Hyatt found his pupils performing drills with broomsticks in the recreation room in the fall of 1858. He then introduced military training to “develop the muscles, expand the chest, and impart an erect gentlemanly carriage ….” This quickly became the purpose of Pennsylvania Military College and its predecessors, as stated in the annual catalogues:

“… its objectives can be most successfully realized through the military system of organization. Thus, … Cadet students are organized as a Military Corps and … governed by Cadet Officers.” Under this system, all aspects of academic, military and social life are united in a disciplined and integrated whole.”

inspection 2In 1963, the Commandant of Cadets, Major General William Biddle, elaborated on the aims of the military program. He stated that all Cadets were taught the virtues of “honesty, perseverance, alertness, neatness and discipline.” In addition, the shared experiences of Cadets gave them a sense of pride and belonging to a distinguished organization.

The results of this military program have been clear. Since the Civil War, PMC graduates have been both courageous and successful Military and Business leaders as a direct result of the training they received while at PMC.

Honorary First Captain: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower sabreThroughout its history, PMC was host to many of the nation’s leaders. A long line of men, including General John J. Pershing, General Douglas MacArthur, Cecil B. DeMille, John Philip Sousa and Bob Hope, reviewed the Corps of Cadets. Among these many notables were several Presidents of the United States, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower’s visit to PMC in the spring of 1963 is considered to be a landmark event. The former President was greeted upon his arrival by a PMC Honor Guard, President Moll, and the Commandant of Cadets, Major General William Biddle, who had served under Eisenhower in World War II. After lunch, Brigade Commander Jack Geoghegan ‘63 escorted Eisenhower to the parade field. After a 21-gun salute Eisenhower inspected the Corps of Cadets. Afterwards, Geoghegan presented Eisenhower with a sabre making Eisenhower the first Honorary First Captain in the 151-year history of PMC. The sabre is the traditional symbol that linked the Corps of Cadets of the Past and Present. After Geoghegan’s presentation, Eisenhower made brief remarks to the crowd. “I assure you,” said Eisenhower, a 1915 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, “I did not attain the rank of First Captain at West Point.”

After a short reception following the activities of the afternoon, Eisenhower drove off with an aide to Gettysburg. As a courtesy, each year, General Biddle informed Eisenhower of the achievements of the Cadet Brigade Commanders.

Note: The sabre presented to Eisenhower can be found in the Eisenhower Library In Abilene, KS.

Citizen’s Training Corps

Morey croppedPrior to the U.S. entry into World War I, neither the Army nor Navy was prepared for war. In many parts of the country patriotic rallies and preparedness meetings were held as early as 1915. Colonel Charles Hyatt responded to a 1917 rally in Chester by offering training and equipment to those men who could not join the National Guard but wished to receive practical military training in preparation for service.

In early April, a group of eighty boys and 104 men braved a cold rain to enlist in the Citizen’s Training Corps at PMC. Two groups were formed. Those boys sixteen or older were part of the High School Cadet Corps, and those men eighteen to fifty-five were part of the Citizen’s Training Corps. Eventually the number rose to 400, many traveling from as far away as Wilmington and Philadelphia. The course, conducted by Captain Lewis Morey and the Military Staff of PMC, was to last for ten weeks. The Citizen’s Training Corps drilled two nights each week for two hours. The high school cadets trained two afternoons for an hour and a half each week. Drills were originally held in the riding hall, but with the arrival of eight arc lights from the City of Chester, the citizen soldiers began to drill outdoors. Besides the drills and strenuous physical exercises, lectures in the Assembly Room in Old Main were held. The topics included a variety of military subjects, such as the mechanism and use of the Army rifle and trench construction.

While PMC made an important contribution on the home front, graduates were training similar groups throughout the United States. Colonel Hyatt received frequent reports from alumni in New Jersey and Tennessee.

Dome Signatures

Inside_Dome_of_Old_MainConstruction of Old Main began in 1867 and, for 15 years, it served as the principal building on campus.  In 1882, Old Main caught fire and sustained considerable damage. Within seven months, the new building was completed.  While there were many improvements, the building continued to include student rooms, a dining room, classrooms, and an assembly hall.

For many years, Military Science classes were taught on the top floor of Old Main.  Within the Dome itself, a tradition of a Cadet leaving his name scrawled on the rafters or walls continued for almost a century.  Today, these areas are off-limits for reasons of safety and insurance; however, the signatures of the famous and not-so-famous remain in perpetuity within the interior of the Dome.



Eddystone Disaster

Crowd at Eddystone Munitions Plant ExplosionIn 1917 the Eddystone Ammunition Plant, located outside of Chester, was one of the busiest munitions factories in the country piercing fuses and filling shells with gunpowder. On Monday, April 10th at about 9:55 a.m., just days after the U.S. had entered the war, “F” Building of the plant was torn apart by a trio of explosions. One hundred and thirty-three persons, mostly girls, lost their lives in the explosion. The majority of the women killed worked in the loading room.

The force of the explosion was terrific and filled the air with chaos. The calls for help went out to firefighters, ambulances and doctors throughout the area. One hundred PMC cadets, under the command of Captain Lewis Morey, rushed to the scene. Almost immediately the cadets began to calm the crowds and restore order. The Chester City and Crozer hospitals quickly became filled and the Sixth Regiment Armory in Chester was turned into a temporary hospital. A cadet company was assigned to keep order as hundreds of relatives and friends arrived at the Armory.

Afterwards, numerous accounts of the service of those at PMC were noted including the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Cadets of the Pennsylvania Military College Rushed to Scene Immediately Following Explosion and Placed on Guard Duty — It was the ‘first taste of war’ for the young men and they handled the situation in a creditable fashion. With rifles, the cadets forced back the crowds, which tried to fight their way into the plant yard. They remained on duty for more than five hours and proved of real assistance.”

PMC Band

Band image from paperFrom the earliest origins of the school, the Drum & Bugle Corps and, later, the PMC Band were at the center of campus life. When Theodore Hyatt founded the Delaware Military Academy in 1858 -1859, among the faculty was Richard Triggs with the title of Professor of Vocal and Instrumental Music. Drums, fifes and bugles were there too. In 1864 the legendary Professor John Robson Sweney, a former Union Army bandmaster with the Third Regiment Delaware Volunteers Band, came to Pennsylvania Military Academy and re-organized the fife, drum and bugle squad.

During the history of PMC and its predecessor institutions there were numerous student musical organizations. Often, though, the school hired professional bands to play for formal events and important parades. PMC’s Drum & Bugle unit performed often, as well. Everything changed in 1935. Under the direction of Professor John Norris Robinson ‘84 the modern PMC Marching Band was launched with just fourteen cadets.

Over the years, the PMC Band achieved much state and national recognition that endured until the Corps ended. The Band performed at many major events, including the New Orleans Mardi Gras, the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade, Norfolk Azalea Festival, the U.S. Army War College and for Philadelphia Eagles football fans. In 1965, the Band won the National ROTC Band Association’s Marching Competition phase at the New York World’s Fair and claimed the title as the #1 ROTC Marching Band in the Nation.

Click here for photos and a more detailed history of the PMC Band.

PMC: A Distinguished Military College

DMG RiserTheodore Hyatt’s introduction of military training, using the West Point program as a yardstick, was so successful that “the War Department considered Pennsylvania Military College the one institution in the country most nearly on a par with West Point.” Although the War Department had no formal inspection for those schools with military instructors and equipment until 1889, PMC had its first inspection in 1880. In 1904, PMC was named to the top ten distinguished military institutions by the War Department. Ten years later, the War Department inspections resulted in twenty-nine schools being classified as “distinguished colleges” out of 139 inspected. PMC was among the top twenty-nine schools. In 1926, Douglas MacArthur congratulated PMC on its “well merited distinction.” The college briefly lost its designation as a distinguished military college due to low enrollment. It was regained in 1924 and continued to hold this distinction thereafter.

The yearly War Department inspections were more than a display of military ceremony. The schedule was demanding and included cadet interviews, inspections of quarters as well the institution and how the cadets performed in weapons, marching, voice and command along with detailed phases of small unit command. Other inspection teams echoed the comments of Brigadier General Tasker that “The battalion work at inspection, review, parade, and extended-order drills, the artillery drill and the mounted drill, were exceedingly good,” for many years to come.

As a distinguished military college, PMC would submit the names of three cadets to the War Department. These cadets were then recognized as having been added to the War Department Records. Later, the number of cadets selected each year was expanded and they were recognized as Distinguished Military Students. These cadets possessed outstanding qualities of leadership, an aptitude for military science as well as being an above average student and demonstrated their involvement in campus and civic activities.

Battery Robinett

Pennsylvania Military College LegacyIn 1963, a group of PMC cadets interested in furthering their knowledge of artillery organized Battery Robinett. The Battery was named in honor of Second Lieutenant Henry C. Robinett, ‘60, who distinguished himself at the Battle of Corinth by displaying courage and valor in the face of overwhelming odds.

With a matching grant from the PMC Alumni Association, the Battery, commanded by Cadet Captain William A. Whittaker, ’65, raised money for the purchase of a Civil War artillery piece. While Battery Robinett wanted to obtain a 20-pounder Parrott gun, a replica of the type used by Robinett at Corinth, Captain Philbrook, the group’s advisor, suggested a replica of the Parrott cannon be purchased so that it could be used during the Boardwalk Bowl football games in Atlantic City.

French 75 mm crop out soldierMembers of the Battery, dressed in their Civil War era field artillery uniforms, were to called on to fire at Corps ceremonies and other events. As interest in the Battery and the Civil War waned, only a small group of cadets carried on the tradition. Every evening the Battery fired the French 75 mm cannon located in front of Old Main to signal retreat before the Corps marched to dinner. At home football games the Battery fired a volley after each PMC touchdown. Members of the Battery were also responsible for cleaning and maintaining of all equipment. During the summer, the tube of the replica cannon was stored in the basement of Old Main.

The Bells of PMC

Dome 1966

Anyone spending time on the campus of PMC cannot help but hear the sounds of the bells that originates from the carillon in the Dome atop Old Main. What they may not know is that the original twenty-five-bell Coronation Carillon was installed in February 1964 in memory of Albert “Albie” Filoreto, ’63. At the dedication, a plaque was presented that says:

Albie Filoreto Carillon placed in the dome of Old Main by friends, faculty and students of Pennsylvania Military College, March, 1964.

Albie Filoreto footballTo those who knew him, Albie was one of the most popular and best liked students on campus. Albie was a star football player and outstanding sprinter. In his senior year, he attended football camp but was unable to complete the required one-mile run. He was constantly fatigued and weak and missed many classes during the year. Eventually Albie learned that he had a disease called aplastic anemia, causing the body to stop producing new blood cells. Despite the seriousness of his illness, Albie maintained an optimistic attitude and graduated in the spring. Tragically he died in August.

The Carillon was purchased from Schulman Carillons and funded by students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends of PMC and local community organizations. Originally the carillon was to perform an eight-note phrase from “Hail to PMC” which would signal the beginning of class periods from 8:55 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. When the Corps of Cadets assembled for its evening mess, the carillon performed the Alma Mater. After being discontinued for a ten-year period, the carillon was restored and resumed ringing in 1978. In 2010, the chimes began to play a new song, “Hear the Roar!”