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About Scouts and Cubs: part 2 The School by thadeusz
This is part 2 of a fictional story, based on true facts, and most of the dark and true events are simply the result of the fact that the main character did not respect an obligation he had freely accepted. The most difficult moments for the narrator occur during this second part the story. Luckily at the end of part 2 …
During part 1, Matthew, a Scout ready to start his 10th grade had been forced to wear a Cub Scout uniform because he had no respect for his Scout uniform. He had also been compelled to behave during a week like an obedient new Cub because he had no respect for the discipline he had promised to respect as Scout. At the end of this week, Matthew learned that his parents had decided to send him to the "Cubs and Scouts Academy”, a boarding school with strict discipline where he would have to keep wearing his Cub uniform during at least a year. He had also been told that his results in 9th grade were so bad that despite his teachers' decision to let him go up to 10th grade, his Father had decided to force him to repeat this 9th grade in a school with a much higher level of requirements. We have left Matthew when he was in the bus bringing him, his brother Simon (with totem Helpful Deer) and a few other Cubs and Scouts, to the C&S Academy.
As soon as we were all seated, the bus door was closed and I felt trapped. My parents were still looking and waving. Simon replied but I did not, I was too busy refraining from crying in public. The bus started to move and we disappeared through a small route in the forest. I was thinking at my lost freedom, at the uniform I was wearing, hoping that I would be allowed to wear a real Scout uniform in this Academy. I knew Father had told me I would be a Cub, but he had also told me that I would have to repeat 9th grade, and after all 9th grade was already high school and many 9th graders were Scouts, and had long trousers. I kept dreaming and was brooding during most of the time it took the little bus to bring us to our destination. I was also accusing Father, Akela, Hawkeye to have treated me wrongly: I was not accusing the only person who was really responsible, me ! I also remember that I tried to make plans to escape, but I realized that it would be very difficult since I had only my Cub uniform, and no money, no nothing, not even my watch. Besides that I believed (probably rightly) that if I succeeded to escape and go back home, Father would put me in his car and bring me immediately back to this Academy. Finally, I was really afraid by what was expecting me, but I did not want to admit it. Simon, on the other hand, appeared joyful and discussed with other Cubs, with Hawkeye who was with us and with another Scout I had never seen before, but who was wearing his Scout uniform with pride and dignity.
After a long time in the bus, probably after an hour driving (but I still had no watch) we arrived at a big white building in the middle of the same forest. The building was part of a big campus surrounded with a high fence with barbed wire on top. It was now clear for me that I was in a sort of prison. I did not realize then that the fence and the barbed wire could be there for my own protection!
All the boys left the bus and the returning "cadets” were told to go to their respective rooms and to put on their Academy uniform. There were five new cadets: two new cubs without scarf who had been at the camp, my brother "Helpful Deer” (as I was told that I had to call Simon from then on), the Scout I had never seen before and me, who was a real Scout with a totem but dressed as if I were a new Cub.
We were lead to the Headmaster's office. The Headmaster told us that we had to address him as Sir, that inside the classrooms, our professor would address us by our real names but that outside the classrooms, we had to use the totem for those who had one. We also had to respect the authority of higher ranking boys : Scouts had seniority upon Cubs, but Cubs with a totem upon the new cubs.
The Headmaster went on with a very long description of the strict disciplinary rules of the C&S Academy. We learned that whenever we had to wait somewhere, which would happen rather often because we had "to show respect”, we had to stand hands behind our back, until a "superior” told us to move or to sit, or to do something else. We also had to keep our cap (for the Cubs) or beret (for the Scouts) constantly on our head, until we were told be seated or to enter our room: at that moment we had to take our cover off and tuck it in our pants, in the back. We were also told that we had to wait till our teachers arrived to enter a classroom, that the most common punishment in classroom was to be sent to the blackboard, and told to stand there during a certain time, facing the other cadets and remaining completely still. The Headmaster defined this as ‘the position of attention'. Finally there was also the major punishment : being sent to the isolation room where nobody would speak to you during several days.
This description of the school rules comprised also the time table: we had to rise early and all movements were marked by a bugle call. The whole description of the discipline rules lasted a very long time and at the end I did like the others: I stopped listening to the Headmaster's welcome speech.
The Head then turned towards the 3 real cubs (not me) and said: "Your case is simple, you come here to start an 8th grade. You will have to study hard because of our high level of requirements. If you are disciplined, you will soon realize that it is precisely this discipline that makes studying here easy and fruitful. Go now to the supply room where the Quartermaster will give you the necessary sets of uniforms. You will obey all his orders and then go immediately to the rooms assigned to you. Understood ?”
All these cubs, my brother included, replied in one voice: "Sir, Yes, Sir”. All of them had already been drilled by Akela ! And these Cubs left the Head's office. The Head then added, looking to the Scout and to me:
"You two stay here, I am not done with you.”
When the other new cadets had left the office, the Headmaster told us:
"You are here for similar but not identical reasons: you have both finished a 9th grade in another school and will now continue your studies in this Academy. But there are differences.”
He looked then to the Scout: "Stephen” (and so I knew this Scout's name) "you chose to come here for your 10th grade because you knew that here you could get advanced courses, and you wanted that in order to have later an NROTC scholarship or a nomination for the Naval Academy.”
The Headmaster then looked at me, and said without naming me:
"Your case is very special. Your situation is not really similar to Stephen's. Your father enrolled you here without telling you. He wants you to repeat your 9th grade because of your very poor results and also because of your lack of discipline, your bad attitude with movies and girls. He told us that we should adjust this enrollment if necessary. So, you did not make the choice and you are not really ready to repeat your 9th grade, your father told me. But you have no choice. Is this understood ?”
I sighed and then replied like my brother and the other cubs: "Sir, Yes, Sir”
"For both of you, we feel that we must first test the exact level of your knowledge. So you will have to take special exams, in front of a jury of our teachers, and they will determine if you are ready for a 10th grade or if you have to repeat your 9th grade and take advanced courses. Stephen, did you know that you might have to repeat your 9th grade when you asked to come here ?”
"Yes” was the reply.
The Headmaster corrected him immediately:
"You must start and end all your answers by ‘Sir'. So reply now : did you know about this exam and the possibility to have to start in 9th grade ?”
"Sir, Yes, Sir. My father, who is in the Navy has warned me that it will be difficult here. Permission to speak freely Sir ?”
Stephen had obviously already been drilled by his father, the Navy officer!
"Permission granted” replied the Head.
And Stephen continued: "I have been warned and if the jury considers that it is better for me, I will respectfully, but not joyfully, accept to start my studies here as a 9th grader, Sir.”
I felt good because I knew my father had also enrolled me in 9th grade. So I would not be the only Scout out of 9th grade to repeat this this grade. I immediately decided that Stephen should be my friend.
The Head continued: "You two are now going to be placed in an isolation room. This is not a form of punishment but a way to help you concentrate on your exams. You are going to stay alone during two days, and answer questions, written or oral, asked by this Academy professors. They will evaluate in which grade you should really be. So for the time being you remain in your present uniform and stay separated from the others. Now leave my office and wait outside.”
An academy supervisor, in scout uniform with an elegant shirt and long trousers, appeared and lead us, to a set of small rooms. He placed Stephen and me in non adjacent rooms, telling us that this was meant to make any communication between us impossible during the special exam period. Stephen accepted this without a word, he was even smiling as if he had anticipated this situation (I later learned that his father had been a cadet in the same Academy, for the same reasons). I did not like this form of "imprisonment” and let it be seen, but I said nothing. In the room, there was only a bed, a sink and something for the necessities. There were bars on the window and I learned soon (and too often) to know this place as the "isolation room”. I was left alone, then the supervisor brought some food in a pot and asked me:
"Do you have your mess kit with you ?”
I had it attached to my belt and prudently I replied:
"Sir, Yes Sir”.
The supervisor appeared pleased with my answer. He then said:
"You know how to eat from such a pot, if you are thirsty, you can get water from the tap.”
And he left the room, locked the door and left me alone for the night, without light. I was not really frightened, since I knew my brother was also there and since I was certain my Father would not have chosen a dangerous place for me. But I felt angry, because I had thought that at the end of the camp week, I would be back to my usual activities with my own friends. Now I was like a prisoner awaiting judgement.
The next morning, the same supervisor came and lead me to a classroom. I had to sit and answer written questions in many domains. Stephen was also taking written tests in the same school room, but I could not talk to him. At noon, I was brought back silently to the little room where food was waiting for me. During the afternoon it was back in the classroom where I had to stand on the blackboard, facing professors I did not know. I had to answer oral questions on the same topics as in the morning : answering oral questions was, for me, much more difficult than answering the written tests. I had never done it before, and I had to stand for a long period of time. Then it was back to the little room for the night. I could see Stephen going from his exam room to his isolation room, but that was all I could do with him. The next morning, the supervisor was back and the same routine started again, with easier questions. I tried to answer as well as I could knowing that the choice of my future school grade depended on these answers : I still hoped to be admitted in 10th grade, maybe to have to study during a full year in scout uniform but at least not having to repeat my 9th grade. When the day questioning ended, the supervisor brought me back to my little room and finally said something : "Young Cub, you are very brave and answered politely all these questions. They will now decide what your fate will be and you will be informed by the Headmaster tomorrow morning. Good night.” I wanted to tell him that I was a Scout with the wrong uniform and not a Cub, but he closed the door rapidly and of course locked it from the outside. I felt rather hopeless and also anxious about the verdict. But there was nothing I could do, so I decided to eat and sleep.
The next morning came, finally too soon : I was so anxious that I chose not to eat. When the supervisor arrived, I was already washed, my hair was neatly combed (anyway, what was left of my hair), my socks had been pulled as high as I could, my short pants were brushed (I had slept with them placed underneath the mattress to keep them pressed, as if they had been ironed), my belt was centered on my fly and my old pullover was well placed on top of everything. I had my cap in my hand, ready to salute the supervisor, the Headmaster, Hawkeye, God himself if that could give me a better decision. The supervisor did not say a word but lead me in front of the Headmaster's office.
I had to wait there until Stephen came out. He was clearly disappointed. He succeeded to tell me: "They send me to their advanced 9th grade. I will not be considered as a repeater but I will have to wear a Cub uniform like you. It's a pity, I just got my new Scout uniform with long trousers. I must now wait for you and we will go together to the supply room. Better luck for you.”
I entered the Headmaster's office and saluted him in the scout way and waited, my cap in my hand, standing in front of him. The Headmaster looked at me and said:
"You look neat. A short stay in isolation can be really good for you. Waiting for your professor's decision also. Well, keep doing that without having to go back to isolation. Now here is the decision. You are certainly very intelligent, but you are not ready to benefit fully of a 10th grade because of an apparent lack of studies during your 9th grade.”
I did not like that start but he continued :
"So your professors consider that you must at least repeat your 9th grade, especially because of the high level of requirements of our Academy. In fact they are not even certain that you are ready for our very challenging 9th grade.”
I suddenly felt very bad and listened carefully to the Head:
"So they have decided to test you : you will be enrolled in 8th grade, in fact enrolled as a cadet who failed some exams at the end of last year. You have one month to study and then you will have to take again an exam about 8th grade stuff in Mathematics, Sciences, and English. If you get a pass in all these 8th grade matters, you will then be enrolled as 9th grader when the school year will begin. But if you fail one single exam, you will remain in 8th grade, as a repeater. Did you understand all that ?”
"Sir, does that mean that I must take again 8th grade exams I have already taken ?”
"Don't forget the Sir at the end of your sentence, Cub. The answer is yes and no: you must take three exams about matters you are supposed to know, the 9th grade cursus is based on them, but you must realize that we here at C&S Academy have a much higher level of requirements than in your old school. So my advice is : study, study and more study during this holidays period. Our professors will help you to organize your study periods, but they cannot study at your place. Understood ?”
"Sir, Yes sir” I was not pleased about the confirmation for the 9th grade, but I was sure that I could easily pass 8th grade exams: after all I had already succeeded in my 9th grade.
"As 8th grader” continued the Headmaster "you will be in the same grade as your brother. Since real names are used in the school classes, we don't want to pollute your brother's studies by risking to mix the name of a good pupil like him with the name of a possible repeater like you. So I decided to change your name. As of now, you are no longer Matthew Saunders, but Michael Scandic. Try to memorize that very quickly. You may now join Stephen and tell him your name: "Michael Scandic”. You will go with Stephen to the supply room where you will get a set of Cub uniform, since in any case, for us, you are a new Cub.”
I felt as if a bomb had fallen on me : I was a 9th grader who was also a possible 8th grader. Worse, whether or not I was sent to 9th grade, I would be a new cub. I hated the situation but I knew there was nothing I could do against it. So I left the Head's office, head down. With Stephen, my potential friend, I followed the silent supervisor who took us to the supply room.
In the supply room, there was a big counter with lots of pieces of uniform on shelves behind it, Cub uniforms and Scout uniforms. There was also a big cabin isolated from the rest. The attendant, called in this Academy "Quartermaster” gave both of us a big plastic bag and told us to take off all our clothes, except our underwear, and place them neatly in the bag: they would be sent to their owner (i.e. home, for Stephen and in my case to Akela). It was made clear that we would not need these clothes inside the Academy. We then had to go separately inside the big cabin, each in turn. There several pictures were taken by a machine placed inside: we had to stand with our arms along the body, but also with our arms placed horizontally. This gave the Quartermaster our measurements for our uniform. The Quartermaster also measured in the usual way the size of our head for our Cub Scout cap, since we were both going to wear a Cub uniform. Stephen said that he had not anticipated that and that he would regret his Scout uniform, but the Quartermaster silenced him. We were then sent to take a shower, which was, as I expected, a cold shower. When I came out of the shower cubicle, the quartermaster told me:
"You are going to stay with 8th graders, all of them are much younger than you. So I strongly advise you to shave all your body hair once a week in order to avoid difficult questions during showers. I will now show you how to do it. You can come here and do it discretely once a week with my help.”
I disliked that but I realized that this was a wise advice, even if it was very unpleasant to lose in this way the first signs of my manhood. So I did as I had been told and felt more like a 13 year old than like the 15 year olds I was. Stephen asked if he had also to do this, but he was told that, since he was a 9th grader, it would not be necessary.
When all that was done, and after the Quartermaster finished shaving me, face included, he gave both of us all the elements of our new uniform, underwear included: it was strictly forbidden to wear inside the Academy non-Academy clothes. This new uniform was brand new! It was nearly exactly identical to the cub scout uniform Akela had given me, except that I now had a heavy cotton green shirt to wear tucked in my short pants. We were also told that for the winter, we would receive a flannel green shirt. The only difference was the total lack of pockets. The supervisor explained:
"Cubs and Scouts used to put all kinds of things in their pockets, creating very inelegant protuberances. From now on, everything you need with you must be carried in a small rucksack which you must always have with you.”
We also got new cub boots. As far as I was concerned, they were much less comfortable than my own Scout boots, the ones I had when I arrived (those were mine from my time as free scout), but there was no way to get them back: the Quartermaster told me that they would be given "to the right person” with my Cub uniform, thus they would be given to Akela. This made me really even more furious but I tried not to show it. To replace the pockets, each of us received a small school rucksack. We also also received a new mess kit, identical to the previous one and a toilet kit. These were from now on our only belongings. I missed my former freedom, but I must admit that all these pieces of equipment were exactly of the right size. My new name was printed on my shirt, where the left breast pocket should have been, on my pullover and on the back of my short pants : I could be identified now as Michael Scandic from the front and the back! The same was done for Stephen, who did not seem to appreciate what he called "being tagged like an animal”. Our name was also printed on our school rucksack. On the top of each sleeve one could see the words "Cubs and Scouts Academy”, as if we were two objects belonging to this Academy. Below that was a big "9” for Stephen, since it was certain he would be a 9th grader, but a big "8” for me showing that I was (temporarily I hoped) an 8th grader. I asked where was the uniform cap, but the Quartermaster replied that we would receive it later during a special ceremony organized for all totally new cubs. I did not like this uniform but I realised that there was no point in making a fuss about it, and about the fact that I was a Scout and not a Cub: I had been trapped, and by my own Father who wanted me to be where I was. The best thing I could do at this point was to obey.
The supervisor took Stephen and me then along the passages of the Academy building and lead us to our new rooms, our Cub room. There, Stephen and me were separated. My new friend was shown a place in a 9th grader room, but I was sent to an 8th grader room. I felt alone, despite the fact that real 8th graders would soon be there: I missed the company of the other Scout who had finished his 10th grade before being thrown in Cub uniform into a 9th grade!
I was carrying a big bag with all the uniform sets that had been given to me, and I had my small rucksack on my shoulders. When I arrived in the room, all beds except one were already taken, so I took the 7th and last bed. In fact I had no choice : a small plate with my new "name” was already placed on what would be my cupboard and at the head of my bed. Everything was done to help the supervisors to identify the cadets. The supervisor then told me how to place my things in my cupboard: Cubs had to respect a very strict order. When that was done, he left me there waiting for the others to come back from their morning activities: it would soon be time for lunch. Finally he also told me:
"Cub Michael” (my new name!) "you have to obey the orders of your tutor, Scout Hawkeye, and of the room chief, Cub Helpful Deer.”
That last information gave me another shock : I really did not want to be placed under the orders of my little brother and I reacted as politely as I could, since I had been trained to speak politely by Akela:
"Sir that cannot be the case. This Cub is my little brother”
"Cub Michael, you must always say Sir at the end! Remember that. And in any case, you don't have to choose your chiefs. I know all your story. You are in a Cub uniform now, and you better consider yourself as a real new Cub, it will make things easier for you, Cub Michael Scandic.”
So I waited, the other Cubs arrived and Simon-Helpful Deer was with them. I immediately noticed that his hair was much shorter than when we arrived and I did not like that. He took two minutes to ask me how things were going to be for me and I told him the truth asking why his hair was so short. He answered in two simple words: "Academy Regulations” and added "This was done by the Academy Barber, you will also go there.” He then instructed all of us to follow him to the mess hall. After lunch, we went to the classroom where I was given my first study assignment: it was 8th grade maths. I felt angry again because this was a domain where I normally had good results. So I decided not to study and to tell the teacher that I had done exactly what he wanted. This "no-study game” lasted till the evening meal. After that, we were told that there would be a big fire for the reception of the newest new cubs.
We went to an open place and formed a circle round a fire. 3 really new cubs, Stephen and me had to go and stand in front of the others. We were all in Cub uniform but without a cap: we were about to receive it. The Headmaster made a little speech, saying that becoming a Cub was an important moment, so for the 5 of us who had never been cubs, there was a special ceremony. Five Scouts came in front of us. Hawkeye was in charge of me. I had time enough to notice that he was no longer wearing his Scout leader uniform, but a simple scout uniform looking exactly like a cub uniform, with short pants, except that it was totally khaki. He also had a blue beret with a scout sign on top. Anyway, he was my chief, but he had no pockets, just like me!
The Headmaster said:
"New Cubs, kneel in front of your leader”. We all hesitated, but our ‘leaders' told us what to do, so we kneeled, placing both knees on the floor. Hawkeye and the other Scout leaders approached. When they were close, the Head went on:
"Cubs, bow your head in front of you in sign of humility”. I did as required slightly anxious for my hair. A side look to Stephen showed me that was also anxious.
"Scouts, accomplish your duty” said the Head.
Then Hawkeye took, from his back, hair clippers, got firmly hold of my head with one hand and pushed my head totally down to the front. Without saying a word he started to cut all my hair. I could feel the clippers going everywhere, first in the center, then on the side, then again through the center. He pushed my head to the left, used his clippers on one side, then he pushed it to the right and kept using his clippers on the other side. It took a certain time and I did not know immediately how much exactly Hawkeye was cutting. I tried to look at one of the other new cubs or to Stephen, but Hawkeye held my head firmly and I could not move, and thus not see what was really happening. After a certain time he stopped and the Head said:
"Cubs, keep your head down now.”
I did not dare do otherwise, guessing what was happening. Hawkeye came back with some fluid I could feel when he poured it onto my head and another instrument. I now know, after seeing this happen with other new Cubs, that the fluid I felt was shaving cream and that the instrument was a sharp razor. Hawkeye carefully finished shaving my head, he did a complete job of it and he did it also lengthily as if he was having a secret pleasure in inflicting this on me.
When all the new cubs, Stephen and me included, had received their baldy, the Scouts left and went to a table. The Headmaster said solemnly:
"Take the new Cubs caps and keep them in position.”
I was still kneeling and could see Hawkeye coming to me with a green Cub cap. He held it above my head and did no longer move. The Headmaster, speaking to the 5 new Cubs, said:
"Your heads have been completely shaven. This is a symbol of your entrance in this Academy: symbolically, you have now abandoned all superfluous parts of your body in the outside world. From now on you can be considered as real Cub Scouts, new Cubs but members of our family. Cubs, raise your head.”
The Headmaster waited a few seconds until we had all raised our head and solemnly said "Place the caps”. Hawkeye placed energetically the cap on my head and said "Welcome in the Cubs and Scouts family” while the other scouts said the same to their respective cubs.
Then the Head said: "All new cadets, go and join the new Cubs and kneel behind them.”
The other new cadets, including my brother, came and did as told.
The Head then continued:
"You will now all take the Academy pledge of allegiance.”
This pledge simply said that we all promised to behave well, to respect our teachers, our supervisors and the Scouts selected to be our Tutors. It also said that we promised to do our best to study as well as possible. We all took this pledge, but I did not really believe in it: in fact I was ready to refuse to study if they imposed upon me the obligation to study 8th grade stuff. When all was said, the Head spoke again saying:
"Stand up new cadets and be welcomed by all of us”.
It was after all a very moving ceremony and I was hesitant : I liked this ceremonial which marked our entrance in a new group, but I simultaneously hated it because it made me more a new Cub than before, and also because my hair had been completely shorn. This was the end of the ceremony, and of my first full day in my new school.
During the following days, we always respected the same routine as in the camp : bugle to wake us up early, sport session, shower (cold), getting dressed for the day, breakfast and going to classes instead of having pleasant activities. Simon was presiding on our activities inside the room and for the meals. He respected the rule introduced during the camp and chose another new Cub and me to take care of all the chores and to bring the pots to our table. Simon-Helpful Deer also respected his brother's secret : he did not tell anyone what my real age was and all the others assumed that I was just 13, slightly bigger than others, but that was it.
During school hours some had to prepare new courses because they were going to start the 8th grade advanced courses for the first time at the end of the month, others were having leadership classes: these two activities were those my brother had to attend. My case was different, since I was considered to be a potential repeater and I had to study with other Cubs in my situation. I had to study 8th grade stuff and I found all this ridiculous since I had achieved a 9th grade : I was sure that I knew all that perfectly. This was a mistake : in the Cubs and Scouts Academy, courses were really of a very high level. I made friends with Stephen and he warned me of the danger in front of me:
"Don't behave like that Michael, you will have to stay in 8th grade”. But I refused to listen to him, considering that Father would never let me stay in 8th grade. My disciplinary behaviour got worse: it was not what the Academy required and I was punished several times. At first I simply had to keep the "position of attention” for 15 minutes in front of the classroom, and this occurred several times. Then a supervisor sent me to the isolation room for two days, "to reconsider in silence my attitude”. Eventually, the first month was over and the exams for the "potential repeaters” took place. Each of us had to go to the Headmaster's office to hear his results. All the others had done well and were admitted in 9th grade. I was the last one to enter the Head's office. He looked at me and told me "Cub Michael, you had been told that this period was a test period. Obviously, you decided to play with the fire, you chose not to study because you probably assumed you knew all that. But you lost : you failed, your exams are not good enough and you are not admitted in 9th grade. You remain thus in 8th grade, but you will be considered as a repeater with all the consequences this implies. Go now to the supply room where your uniform will be adapted to your new status. Then you will go to the isolation room for five days and reassess your own behaviour.”
Once a again I was in a state of shock. The only thing I could say was : "Sir, did I really fail my 8th grade exams, Sir ?”
"Cub Michael, I know that this is painful, but you decided not to study : that's what your professors told me. You did it because you believed you would pass anyway. Well, you were wrong. Go now and do as I told you.”
"But Sir, is it impossible for me to have another chance ? I cannot stay in the same grade as my brother, Sir.”
"Cub Michael, you are from now on an 8th grade repeater. Go and do as you are told, or it will become worse.”
"Sir does my father know what you are trying to do with me, Sir ?”
"Cub Michael, don't speak like that to me! And you must know that your father was well aware of this test, which you chose to fail. Your father even knows that you failed because you refused to study. So go now and quickly if you don't want me to double the length of your stay in isolation.”
I left, in a state of despair. Hawkeye was waiting for me outside the Headmaster's office and he lead me to the supply room where a big white "R”, for repeater, was placed on the front and on the back of my pullover and also on my shirt. A smaller "R” was placed underneath the "8” on each of my sleeve. The worst of all was that my green cub cap with a Cub symbol in front, cap that I disliked, was replaced by an awful black cap with only the letter "R” in the front. When all that was done, Hawkeye lead me to the isolation room I had already seen, pushed me inside after taking away my belt and my shoes, and said with great disdain "Goodbye, new Cub Michael. Think about what you did to yourself, stupid repeater” just before locking briskly the door of the isolation room. I was left there during 5 days, the only person I saw was the silent supervisor who brought me food three times a day, but said nothing. When I came out of isolation I was more revolted than before and had decided to refuse to study with the "real” 8th graders.
This attitude resulted in being punished often. As repeater, I had less free time because I had to spend more time studying than the others. I also had more chores to do. But I constantly refused to study, in fact I did as if I was studying but this was not the case. My professors observed this attitude and after several remarks had been formulated, they stopped making what I considered as nasty observations. Stephen tried to speak to me and to convince me to stop behaving like that, but I told him that he was not a real friend and that I did not need his advices. He stopped trying to help me after that.
Thanksgiving came and with it school holidays. My brother and Stephen left the Academy. They could spend the holidays home. As a repeater I had to remain in the Academy and study everyday. Father came to fetch Simon and tried to motivate me to adopt a better attitude. I did not follow his good advice. At the end of the holidays I was told to go to the Headmaster's office. The Head simply told me:
"Your school results are dreadful. Do you want to fail again ? You have 5 more days in isolation to think about it”. The silent supervisor lead me once again to the isolation room but I decided not to change attitude because of a stupid Head.
During the Christmas holidays, my brother went to another cub camp and then home, but I had to stay in the Academy. I was told to go immediately to the Head's office. The Head simply said:
"Now it is enough. You behave like a baby. Obviously you are not ready for our 8th grade. I have discussed this with your father and he agrees with me. You have a last opportunity to adopt a more positive attitude, otherwise you will be sent back to grade 7. Is that what you really want ?”
I was brought back to the isolation room where I spent the whole Christmas holidays, including the day of Christmas. I had time to think, but that was not necessary. I quickly realized that the Head and my father were very serious: if I did not start to study seriously I would be sent back to the very young Cubs. After that, they would be able to send me to Kindergarten. I started to be really frightened. When my time in isolation was finished, I was brought back in front of the Headmaster who asked me: "So, Cub Michael, what are you going to do now ?”
"Sir, I am going to study as much as I can. I realize that my behavior was bad and that I must change attitude, Sir”
"Go then, but be careful : if you do not behave exactly as you just said, you will find yourself with a big 7 on each sleeve. Go !”
After that moment I started to study very seriously. I realized that I was really lagging behind the other 8th graders. I used all my free time to study, even when I was allowed to have real free time. When the Easter holiday came, my brother was allowed to go home but, being a repeater, I had to stay in the Academy. Father came to fetch Simon and told me that he was pleased with my progresses, but that these progresses were not sufficient to be able to become a 9th grader. He advised me to work harder if I did not want to remain a repeater. So I kept studying. I also performed my Cub duties as well as required and even Hawkeye did no longer look at me with disdain.
When the end of the school year came, I was really anxious. I was told that I was not directly accepted in 9th grade: I had again to spend the holidays studying and preparing special exams. This time I did everything I had to do to acquire the required knowledge and when the exams came, I was definitely accepted in 9th grade. I was no longer a repeater, but, as Hawkeye remarked scornfully : "You are maybe a 9th grader, but you are still a new Cub without totem”. But Stephen congratulated me and suggested that we should be friend again. Stephen was now a 10th grader, a Scout now! He studied as much as possible to get good marks for many courses in order to be able to get his NROTC scholarship.
I worked hard as 9th grader, in school and as a cub without totem. My brother was still presiding over our room and table. Following Hawkeye's orders, he kept giving me chores in the room and for the table service.
Finally, the Thanksgiving holidays arrived and I expected to be allowed to go home with my brother, but that was not the case. The Headmaster told me : ”Your school results are acceptable now, but your professors expect more from you : you are intelligent so prove it. Try to get credits for advanced courses like your friend Stephen. Moreover, there are chores that must be done.”
Eventually, during the Christmas holidays, I was allowed to go to the Cubs camp. There I was initiated and received my Cub totem, not my original totem, not my "Matthew Saunders' totem”, but "Michael Scandic's totem”. I became "Deserving Hedgehog” and I was very happy about that. I had worked hard and I had also been a nuisance for myself and others, so I felt I deserved this totem. The fact that I was called Michael Scandic had stopped bothering me: I felt I was Michael, a 14 year old 9th grader. I had completely forgotten that I was in fact 16! I did not even regret my lack of contact with my former friends. Nevertheless, Father considered that it was wiser to send me back to the Academy immediately after the camp and avoid for me any exposure to my former friends. I did not mind that, considering that during the camp I had had the opportunity to see Mother and Ann, who was now a college student.
My brother and I finished our 9th grade without problem. I even had better results than Simon now. We were both promoted to Scout status, we got a brand new Scout uniform (but with short pants), keeping our totem. We were both sent to the Cub Scouts camp as Scout leaders. After that, Simon went back with my parents and Ann for the holidays. I asked the permission to spend the remaining part of the holidays in the Academy, to study, get advanced credits, and prepare my 10th grade, and also to help new cadets, especially new Cub Scouts. I tried never to be scornful, never to behave like Hawkeye.
Stephen eventually realized his dream : he got an NROTC scholarship and later became a Navy officer. We are still in contact.
My brother and I remained together till our 12th grade. We studied hard because the Academy program contained advanced courses, courses which were in fact already college courses! When our 12th grade started, Father told us that he had jobs for both of us in his company: Simon would work in the sales department and I would work in the accountant's office. Neither of us liked this idea, but being polite sons, we said nothing. The same year, we both became Eagle scouts and were very proud of this accomplishment.
During our 12th grade, the Headmaster made an announcement to all 12th graders: according to a federal law, a recruiter was going to come on Campus and try to make us sign an enlistment form. The Headmaster suggested that we thought twice before signing this form, adding that for 17 year-olds, a parental consent was required. The recruiter came from the marine Corps. My brother liked what the recruiter told us and signed immediately for 4 years, but he was only 17 and our parents had to approve this. I realized that signing this document meant wearing another uniform and being subject to more discipline, so at first I refused to sign the enlistment form. Then I started to think about my future: I was used now to wear a uniform and to respect strict disciplinary rules, the USMC could not be worse. In fact, the Academy had tamed me! The recruiter also promised travel, danger and also pleasure. This sounded much better than working in an accountant's office. Moreover it gave me the possibility to be independent and far from my parents. So, when the recruiter came back for a second round of explanations, I told him that I was ready to sign his form. I was 18 and for the first time in years, I signed using my own real name: Matthew Saunders. I made only one requirement: have the possibility to go to the MEPS immediately after the graduation ceremony, and this was granted.
Father objected to our enlistments, Simon's enlistment was thus canceled, but mine stayed. Father tried to convince me to ask for a cancellation, but I refused. He then understood my motives and let me go. I had signed for 6 years and became a US Marine. I became a Corporal and later a Sergeant. I had the honour to serve as DI and discovered that I was using with the recruits the same language as Akela! When I was in my 5th year, one of my Commanding Officer mentioned the MECEP program. I fulfilled all conditions, especially since I had taken advanced courses at the Academy: this courses gave me college credits. With the Mecep program I would be sent by the Corps to college and to OCS and after earning my college degree, I would become a Marine officer. I was married and asked the permission to discuss this with my wife, Mary: it was important since she was expecting our first child and did not want me to stay any longer in the Corps. A new contract would change our situation. After discussing this with Mary, I accepted my Commanding Officer's offer and signed the additional contract. This is how I ended up being a Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Father and Mother were very pleased and very moved when I graduated and got my commission. Both of them took part in the pinning ceremony. So did Mary. Our first son was present, but he was still a crying baby!
My brother accepted Father's offer and works since our graduation from C&S Academy in Father's company. He is now Head of the Sales Department. He is married and has one son, a future Cub scout ! Simon is still active in the Scout movement. He never got a baldy nor a real High and Tight!