Perhaps, just perhaps, Castle Heights Military Academy may have been the breeding grounds for my becoming a pocket of resistance.
There had been some previous evidence i might go against the norm. But nothing, nothing like resisting going to Castle Heights, less than a block and then the tree-lined narrow road up the hill.
In 1958, i protested as strongly as i could with my very determined mother and father about their decision to send me to Castle Heights. They knew it would give me a leg up academically; they had received an excellent tuition price for several reasons, one being my grandmother was a housemother for junior school “goobers” in the Mitchell House.
But i was transfixed with this absurd dream of becoming the next Clifton Tribble, star running back for the Lebanon High School Blue Devils, before i would go on and succeed and surpass Doak Walker at SMU or John David Crow at Texas A&M and to go from there to eclipse the Los Angeles Rams’ receiver Crazy Legs Hirsch or Bobby Lane, the quarterback for the Detroit Lions and then the Pittsburgh Steelers. At least, that was my plan.
Besides it was military school and there were no girls.
i graduated as a “Cum Honore” cadet in 1962.
Best loss i’ve ever experienced.
Attending Castle Heights as a “town boy” was a unique, wonderful opportunity. Castle Heights served me well. Had it not been for CHMA, i would have never learned the hard, hard lessons of flunking out of Vanderbilt. Nor would have i met some the best friends i continue to have to this day. i would have never ended up at Middle Tennessee State University and graduated with the best degree i could have achieved in literature. i would have never been introduced to the Navy and learned of my love for the sea.
Castle Heights was a magnificent place: professors, regimen, boarding students, day cadets, academic reputation, athletics of the highest quality, and that insanely great student newspaper created by many but driven by the spectacular “Coach” JB Leftwich.
Castle Heights died, an untimely and undeserved demise, in 1987. Loss of Army JROTC support, rising costs, change in culture, Vietnam and the ensuing disrespect for the military, the cessation of the draft, and the costs of upgrading buildings a half century or older all contributed to the closing.
i often wish i could convey to my daughters and grandsons my experience at Castle Heights. Of course, that is as much a pipe dream as replacing Bobby Lane in the pro football annals.
But there are some folks who are dedicated to saving the legacy of that old prep school on the hilltop. There are many others besides the names one sees in the video. But those in this video have done a great job toward establishing a place to store the history of a great place. Rob and Susan Hosier deserve special mention for their dedication and unceasing efforts.
An aside: When i saw the women who are alumni, i could not help but feel some regret my sister Martha, because of the time and the place, was not allowed to attend. She did great in high school and college, and has achieved many wonderful things, especially as a daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother, but her not being able to attend has been a major factor in my being a devoted advocate to women’s equality.
Thank you Barbara Leftwich Froula (and several others) for posting this video on Facebook. i didn’t cry, but the tears did well up. It was a great tribute to the institution and giving us the hope of preserving the legacy as Don Ash so well put it in his final comments.
They were very good years.