Greenbrier Remembrances

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    Moon Platoon Memories


    Thread began with Randy McKee's Facebook post. Thank you Randy for this story. The two letters he refers to are at the end of this lengthy post.

    Randy McKee '66: “Moon Platoon” Memories

    My first year at GMS was the 1963-64 school year - the infamous year of the Moon Platoon. It was exciting to learn that Band Company participated each spring in the Cherry Blossom Parade. We all eagerly anticipated the multi-day trip to Winchester, Virginia.
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    Most members of the “Moon Platoon were on bus one. In fact, the only two participants on bus two were me and Bob Holley.

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    We were young and stupid kids. This event forced us to grow up. We were not yet men, but we did take our consequences like men. Our punishment was 200 demerits requiring endless hours “marching the beat” during our free time.

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    So, what did we learn?
    · Consequences always follow actions
    · Stand tall and face your punishment like men
    · You can learn from even horrible decisions
    · Make better mistakes the next time
    I hope to share some further thoughts and observations soon.
    Recollections from other participants may differ and are welcome.

    Randy McKee '66: As a follow up to my last post, here is the first letter (See Letter 1 below) my parents received from Colonel John about the Mooning incident. Again, not proud of my participation, but appreciate the hard-earned life lessons it taught.

    Randy McKee'66: My last post about the aborted April, 1964 Band trip to the Cherry Blossom Parade contained Colonel John's letter to my parents. It stated that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES would "Moon Platoon" participants' be allowed to return the following year.
    That letter demonstrated his ability to demand justice and deliver appropriate punishment.

    This second letter (See Letter 2 below) permitting us to return showed that he could deliver MERCY as well as justice. I'm forever grateful for the mercy shown and regret that I never told him so.

    Hope you enjoy his letter.

    Rebecca Moore Howard: Okay, I’ve been thinking about Randy’s post. My brother and I were talking about it this evening, and neither one of us could remember who in the heck the faculty member was who was on that bus. Was he asleep? Complicit? Visiting his Aunt Mildred in Minneapolis? Please tell me somebody remembers who it was and whether his employment survived that little escapade! Because Mike and I do recall that our father was mad as a hornet!

    Russell Palmer '66: I was on bus 1. I thought Capt Hamrick was on our bus but was sitting 1st row up front seat.

    It happened so fast he was unaware it was happening. He was furious when he did find out what happened. Just my memory.

    James Burns '64: There were two buses. The first bus had CPT Hemrick and fist year cadets on it. The second bus had mostly juniors and seniors on it and NO supervision... We got as far as Ronceverte when the state police pulled us over informing Cpt Hemrick to return to GMS. From this second bus group came the "Moon Platoon”.

    Ed Haynes '66: as I recall, it reduced the band to a skeleton of people whose morale had been broken and who knew little about instruments - in 1st platoon, "A" company we fell in next to them - they seemed a shattered bunch and, as I recall, sounded like one on parade - poor Capt. Hamrick - I'm surprised the Moores didn't fire him - memories fade after all these decades.

    Randy McKee '66: Ed Haynes comments seem a little harsh - but perhaps well deserved. I have letters to my parents about the event from Colonel John. One says we cannot return the next year - the second offering the ability to return. (and his reasons for reconsidering) I hope to post those letters but have not yet found a way that provides good visibility. Best regards.

    Frank Frashier '69: My first year at GMS was '64-'65. I had joined the band my second year, '65-66.
    But... I had heard of the "Moon Platoon" back in Charleston, WV while I attended 7th grade at Lincoln Jr. High.
    It was a major "joke" then whenever The Cherry Blossom Festival was mentioned.

    Jim Fink '68: Lots of crazy stuff happened that never was found out. The morning of the 68 graduation there was a “riot” with chests and various items thrown over the stoops into the Courtyard. However the mess was cleaned up before the parents showed up. Col Johnny saw the carnage and pleaded for the mess to be cleaned up.

    The Letters:

    Letter #1 (Goodbye Randy)

    1 May 1964
    Mr. Darrell D. McKee
    Route 2, Box-573
    South Point, Ohio 45680

    Dear Mr. McKee:

    While Randy may have already given you his version of the story some recent actions on his part make it very necessary that we also con­tact you with some information that we find most difficult to handle. Yesterday our Band left for the two day Winchester trip and within a few minutes after their departure we commenced to receive telephone calls from police officers in the towns through which they passed and also from private citizens living in those towns and in the countryside in between towns. The reports were that some of the cadets were removing the clothing from the waist down and were riding in the bus with their bare buttocks projecting from the windows of the bus. We were able to contact the police in Clifton Forge, Virginia, a town approximately forty miles from here, and they stopped the busses and passed on to the faculty officer in charge our request that he immediately contact us by telephone. He was told to return immediately and not continue the trip. Had we not given him those instructions I feel that the Virginia State Police, who had also called by that time, would have refused to permit any further travel on the part of those particular busses.

    Since your boy was one of those who was involved and one of those who was exposing himself we feel that a letter to you about the matter becomes absolutely essential. It is my personal feeling that expulsion from school is entirely justified and this is also the opinion of the majority of the remainder of our administrative group. The fact that they are not being immediately expelled is largely my own decision and I quite frankly do not feel that I can explain my reasons for not doing so. It has been decided that the boys will be permitted to remain in school until the end of this year but there is no possibility whatsoever that any of the group involved would ever be permitted to attend in the future. We would prefer that they be withdrawn at this time even though we are not making this a definite requirement.

    I personally cannot conceive of a student wishing to remain in a school when his feelings about it would permit him to behave in this manner. The injury to the reputation, the embarrassment, and the other effects of this nature which are inflicted upon the remainder of the individuals in the student body, the individual faculty members, the individual members of the school administration and the school as an intangible entity indicate a complete disrespect and an utter contempt for those beings enumerated above and the things for which they are attempting to stand. Under these circumstances we fail to see how the individual concerned could wish to remain here or how you, as a parent, could wish your boy in an institution or in a group with him feeling this way about that institution or group. In the event he does remain, he will be given the most severe punishment at our disposal and will be very closely restricted throughout the remainder of this school year. He will not only not be permitted to make any visits to town, he will not be permitted off of the school grounds even with you, his parents, for the remaining time. He will be given a large number of demerits and he will be restricted in other ways. Any indication whatsoever of any lack of cooperation with the requirements and restrictions which are placed upon them will necessarily result in immediate expulsion regardless of the time of year at which this incident may occur. In the event there is any such evidence Randy will be placed upon the next available means of commercial transpor­tation leaving this community.

    I do not feel that it is possible for us to express our regrets concerning the entire matter or the difficulty with which this letter is written.

    Yours very sincerely,
    W. J. Moore Colonel,
    GMS Superintendent

    Letter 2. Welcome Back (sort of)

    1 June 1964

    Mr. Darrell D. McKee
    Route 2, Box 573
    South Point, Ohio 45680

    Dear Mr. McKee:

    In the time which has elapsed since our rather disastrous band trip to Winchester we have given a great deal of thought to the matter and have examined the situation rather closely. In view of the apparent motives, thoughts, and basic intentions of the individuals involved it does not appear that the entire situation is quite as bad as it might have appeared at first glance.

    We have also carefully observed the individuals concerned through­out the remainder of the year and I have talked personally with each of them at length during the last few days of the school year. In view of all of the factors involved we have decided that we will permit their return next year if it is your desire that they do so. In doing this there will be no prejudice against the boys nor any further punishment for their past actions unless there is a repetition of something of a serious nature. In the event any serious breach of regulations should occur during the coming year then we will consider this past event and will find it necessary to send the boy home. As a result of my talk with him I do not feel that there is any possibility that this will be necessary.

    Since it is our understanding that you wish your boy to return we will definitely hold a place for him and will include him in our thinking for next year. In the event you do not wish him to return we would appreciate hearing from you to that effect.

    Yours very sincerely,
    W. J. Moore Colonel,
    GMS Superintendent

    (And so Ends the Moon Platoon Saga. Thanks to all for your contributions.)

    A Tribute to the GMS Cadet Honor Code of Truth & Honesty


    Posted May 4th, 2024 by Mike Ruth from John Byrnes, Class of 1965

    A Tribute to the GMS Cadet Honor Code of Truth & Honesty

    Gary Tolbert
    The 61-62 school year was my first at the "Brier” and I distinctly remember Nelson Gilmer as one of the sharpest, well dressed, and well put together cadet officers I ever saw at GMS. His behavior, demeanor and military bearing was a credit to both the corps of cadets and the school. My company commander that year, Charles Shea Smith, was of the same mold. Both of those cadet officers served as excellent role models for all others to follow. Sincerest condolences to Nelson's family and friends.

    John D. Byrnes
    Absolutely, Gary!

    My first year at GMS was 59/60, Nelson roomed with Alan Mollohan! Both men were just as you described Nelson! They both have stood as models for us all!
    It is my hope that Alan will return this year for our Reunion!

    Gary Tolbert
    You're absolutely right about Alan as well. I remember him well and recall that he was also an excellent example for us all.

    John D. Byrnes
    Alan and Nelson had this incredible agreement. Like all of us they would trash talk to each other from time to time, but if either said the word, “honestly”, the other would state the honest truth.
    I found this to be an extraordinary example of our GMS Honor Code! And, I have tried to live by this code even today!

    Gary Tolbert
    A gentleman's code and word. That's a nice remembrance from long ago. There are so many stories yet to tell from those days.

    John D. Byrnes
    Gary, these types of agreements among cadets, both individually and as part of our formal Codes of Conduct that became one of the shining lights that resonated at its core at Greenbrier Military School (GMS)! These are some of the examples that forged us like steel from boys to men and live with us even today. This is but one more example of the many reasons that cause us to continue coming back to Reunions to a school that has long closed. These are the reasons that we need to return and shake the hands of those who share our values, our own GMS Band of Brothers.

    Greenbrier Military School? What's that?


    The late spring and summer of 1961 I worked on my uncle's farm in Paschall, NC, just as I had done the previous 2 summers. My father, a school principal in a rural WV town, came to collect me in August as had been the routine. My uncle approached my dad and offered that I was energetic and a good worker and could likely benefit from a more structured secondary school experience than could be had at the local high school. As we drove back to WV, my dad broached the topic to me to gauge my interest. I was interested, sort of. Somehow my dad found out about GMS. By the end of August we were sitting in the office of Colonel C.A. Richardson, Headmaster at the 'Brier participating in an admission interview and exam. I was administered an admission exam after which he explained that the yearly allowance for admitting new students was nearly full but he might favorably consider my application if I just by chance played a musical instrument. I explained that I knew how to play a trumpet. On that note (pun intended) I was accepted for admission in the soon to start 1961-62 school year And, that, my friends is how I came to be a GMS Fighting Cadet!

    Letter to Mike Lee


    (The letter below was sent in response to the Dec. 2023 email from Denton Staley to our community. CJ Richardson gave permission to post it here. --Mike Ruth)

    Great letter and thank you for taking on the task of Secretary. I am good with continuing the newsletter by email. I will also speak for my brother, Dr. Thomas E. Richardson (58), a classmate of Herb's. Tom has macular degeneration, as do I, but Tom is legally blind; whereas I, have preserved some eyesight with injections into the retina. A science developed after Tom's eyesight was lost. A cruel loss for a member of the GMS rifle team in 1957 and 1958 and an avid fly-fisherman and deer hunter.

    You may have heard that Mike Lee (64) has passed. Mike succumbed to his 10-year battle with cancer in December. Mike represented the best of us and his legacy will live on in his fine family. Below is part of a letter that I wrote to Mike when he started his cancer treatments 10 years ago.

    "Hey Buddy,
    I have been concerned about you. Grey Webb was able to get your hospital address so now I am relaying the powerful prayers and wishes of your friends who want so much that you will have a good recovery. We know that you are experiencing some complications after surgery, that is not unusual. You went into this with a positive attitude, and we all know you to be a strong man who will demonstrate to all of us once again how to overcome adversity and setbacks through sheer will power and love of family and friends. Further, I know that the love and support of Maggie, your children and your grandchildren add to your strength. Few men have the love and respect of friends that you have garnered. You are Mr. Lucky. So, with all that going for you, you are in a good position to pull through this arduous time and get back to your very well lived life.
    Mike, you have always been a natural leader. People gravitate to you for many reasons. You are humorous with the rare insight of how to use your intellect to engage folks in a positive way that makes each one of them feel special. You can find your way through this confusing world and to translate for others how to negotiate the way through the tangles. So, once again you are taking on the difficult task of finding your way through the tough times of recovery through your strength, willpower and positive thought aided by the prayers of your family and friends.
    Once you are released from the hospital, you will be on a diet. It will be sort of like walking the beat for misbehaving. As in the old days, I am going to walk some hours with you just for the company. "


    CJ Richardson

    Past Reunions


    I have attended many of our reunions since 1972 when the School closed down. I have made many friends from other ckasses going clear back to 1955. Some have passed on.
    I have to mention Jack Denny. He was such a great person. I always enjoyed spending time with him and Lois. He had to be a very Honorable Cadet.

    Also John Todd, who was Band Company Commander and graduated in 1958. Last year (2022), we somehow got on the subject of sabers. He said that his had hung on the wall
    for all those years. After talking for a while, he said that he would like to give it to me because he was sure I would take good care of it. My wife and I traveled to his home in Wytheville Virginia, and met with him and his wife. They showed me all of their chesterdrawers and other wooded furniture that John had made. They were all beautifully handcrafted. Before we left he told me he had cancer and was moving to Peach Tree Georgia, and would probably not being able to attend any more reunions.
    This is one of the reasons I attend reunions. May The Greenbrier Spirit Live On !

    Chuck Wilson Passes


    May 28, 2023 Chuck Wilson Passed away from a recurring bout with cancer. He graduated from GMS in 1966. "C" company. His roommate Roland Bogart passed away a few years ago from brain cancer. He graduated from the University of Arkansas Law School and practiced law in Pikeville, Kentucky for several years. He. is survived by his wife Wanda Wilson, his son, Tommy Wilson, and his daughter Katie Wilson. His surviving siblings are Steve Wilson, Sharon Proctor, and Kim wilson.
    Rest in Peace my brother.

    Room Mate


    Let's go back to Sept 1956 when postage stamps were .03, gasoline was .30 a gallon. Loaf of bread was .18 and the minimum age was 1.00 an hour . Our country was 10 years out of the second world war .. Employment was good , spirits were high and the economy was ready to roll... Your saying, what's this got to do with anything... That's the year my mother dropped me off at a little military school in the middle of nowhere West Virginia....

    When I first met my chubby little clarinet playing roomate he had already moved into the room and he advised me that he had the bottom bunk and mine was the top.. I noticed the radiator was closer to the bottom bunk . That was ok cause while he was hugging the radiator at night to keep warm I was looking out the window to see what was going on.

    We were so alike , I liked country and pop music , he liked jazz... I liked a fresh airy room, he liked shades over the windows and windows closed.. I popped out of bed in the morning and he was still in the sack... he studied every night and got good grades , I played around and spent
    2 extra years there... We never got too excited when it came to room inspections because that meant work... good thing he was first sergeant of our company cause our room never got inspected.

    We got allowances each week .. mine was 4 dollars , I think he got the same... That 4 bucks got us lunch at Clingmans market downtown Lewisburg and the movies on Saturday, nite, sodas, candy bars, and smokes for the week. Life was simple , no TV... no car to drive , no text, internet... no nasty facebook .etc.. How did we ever survive without all of todays luxuries ? Simple, we listened to records, the local radio station, wrote letters back home, went downtown to the movies and sandwich shop or just stayed in the barracks and relaxed.

    One Homecoming weekend we decided to have an early morning party before the corps of cadets got out of the sack for reville formation. Our menu was simple, sodas, candy, cookies and anything else we could find to eat. Oh and don't forget the Hormel sausages eaten straight out of the can.. We all ( 10 or so) got together quietly in the Band room and had ourselves a good time, not knowing that we were reported for the illegal gathering and all of us lost our stripes. Duane had the most stripes to loose as he was the Co. first sgt, I was a sgt first class.

    Over the last 10 years we talked by phone almost every morning as I drove to work... He always answered the phone" Good Morning Roomie". Our conversations consisted of computer problems, music festivals and old times at the "Brier". One thing we both agreed upon was that if either one of us hit the Lotto, we would build a military school back in Lewisburg , W.Va . Of course that never happened but it was fun dreaming..

    Many happy memories , many good times , I'm glad Duane Parsons and I crossed paths.

    Happy Trails Roomie
    Bink Wilson '61

    Chuck Mangion's Girlfriend


    This is from 1973 or 1974.
    I saw Chuck's name in recent bulletin and remembered a funny story. Chuck always walked and talked with a swagger. He had a picture of a pretty blonde girl in the mirror in his room and we were all impressed when he said it was his girlfriend. However, one day I picked up some photos that I had had developed from a roll of film (remember film??) and when I opened the envelope, I nearly fell over. The first picture was the same picture of Chuck's girlfriend! I wondered for a brief second how I got her photo, but when I pulled the picture up, I could see the Kodak logo at the bottom. She was part of an advertising campaign. All Chuck had done was cut off the Kodak part of the picture. Needless to say, we had fun with this. I said "hey, Chuck, I've got your girlfriend's picture, too." The picture disappeared , but he still kept telling us stories about a girlfriend...



    Homecoming 1958 ....
    Colonel John made it clear that he would tolerate no after-hour parties, but the boys in the band had collected a lot of money from a "cuss box" and by the time homecoming came around so much money was collected that it was spent on a foot locker full of food.
    So in our infinite wisdom, despite being warned, we decided to have a feast at 4 AM in the band room.
    As I recall, it consisted mostly of potato chips, donuts, and soft cider. (What could be better at 4 AM?)
    Unfortunately, Colonel Turley saw the whole thing and submitted the names to Colonel John.
    And even more unfortunately, Colonel John was not in a good mood that afternoon because Staunton kicked our butts in football, something like 34-0.
    After the game came an announcement that most of the cadets in the band were to report to Colonel John's office. We did so, and while we were standing at attention, the first thing he said was, "Everyone in here who isn't already a private, is now!) He then dismissed us and told us to report for walking the beat.
    After the first half hour, roll was called and the first guy answered, "Here sir, how many sir?"
    The answer: "Ninety-nine and a half." We had each received 200 demerits, the most you could get without being expelled from school.
    We spent the rest of that autumn walking the beat, but five weeks later everyone's rank was restored.
    Everyone, that is, except one cadet who shall remain nameless, but he had been my assistant squad leader and was not seen or reported during that 4 AM party, so he got promoted above me to platoon guide.
    No one turned him in, but during formations when he was inspecting me and my appearance wasn't up to snuff, he would observe that my belt buckle wasn't properly shined, or I didn't have a "spiffy" in my shirt collar. To which I replied, "Uh-huh, so what are you going to do about it?" And he would get this defeated look and say, "Well, now that I think about it, you actually look okay, so I guess you're getting a merit for excellent appearance."
    They say there's a silver lining behind every cloud. All I can say about that is that I had a whole bunch of merit privileges that year :)

    Sounds of the Brier


    Who could ever forget the voice of Hosea Smith ‘57 calling the battalion to attention? Hosea was a college cadet, Battalion Commander, a big guy, and so was his voice. He started out with a low tone and eventually raised his voice as if he were singing calling us to attention, drawing it out for (what seemed like forever) as the company commanders joined in followed by the platoon leaders and then he bellowed out the command “tenshut”!

    Years later I had the opportunity to become the Battalion Adjutant at the Sunday Parades under the tutelage of James Headman. Saturday nites before the parade he would take me out on the parade field and run me through the commands……

    Morning Formation Report… “Band Company absent 2 men sir” …Downs and Benjamin headed for the Fort Lauderdale Spring Break.

    Back to the “Sounds” you can’t forget.
    “Beat Halt” after you had just hidden in the corner of the quad or upstairs hall to skip one round of walking.

    “Out of your holes!”

    The sound of Captain “Deadweight” Taylor’s fraternity paddle finding its mark on my backside. (while not dropping the ashes from his cigarette).
    The sound of the drumbeat to and from Sunday Night’s Church Services.
    The happy sounds of promotions being read and the unhappy sound of them being taken away.

    The sound of the revile band playing “jingle bells” instead of the required tunes. The sound of demerits for doing the same.
    The sound of the Bugler playing “call to quarters” and all the time watching to make sure everyone was in their room by the last note.
    “Sounds “If you don’t like my apples, don’t shake my tree” ---WJM
    “Every year about this time” WJM
    “I’ve called your mother to come get you” WJM
    Sounds from Col Rawl “I’ve called your mother and you are staying”

    Silver Taps played at Christmas time, myself in the quad and John Benjamin in “D” Company Hall.

    Major Keene’s remarks about your speech as he tore his glasses off in disgust, (mumbled “huurrumff”) and gave his own rendition of your talk.

    Sounds from the piano played by Col Richardson after the key were adjusted by a cadet the nite before. The sounds of Col. Richardson jogging down the front formation court on his way to work.

    The soft well-spoken voice of col Turley speaking to us at morning chapel the issuing demerits that nite.

    Sounds coming from a new cadet being introduced to the GI shower committee dressed in their back rain jacket , rain caps covers, flip lops, brushes and all-purpose cleanser.

    The Battalion singing the Recessional at graduation ceremony

    Waiting in JoAnn’s office and hearing her say that Col John was not in a good mood. The sound that followed was of Chevrons being torn off your shirt sleeve.

    Sounds of the faculty giving me a standing applause as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma from WJM.

    And finally, the last sounds at graduations.
    “Company commanders take charge of your companies for the last time”
    “Company attention….. Fall out!”

    Hope these brought back some of your own memories…. LEST WE FORGET!

    BINK WILSON 56-61

    1949 Spelling Test


    Remember at Sunday Formation we had to have a letter prepared to send to our parents? This was my letter just as I wrote it on Sept. 23, 1949:

    Dear Mom:
    I got a wack on rump from Major Keen Wed. for getting 60 on my spelling test so thur. I wrote each of my words five times and today I made 100 in spelling because that paddle didn't feel so good.
    Major Keen is my spelling and reading teacher, Valmer is are history and arithmetic teacher. Major Parsons is are English teacher. Capt. Staton is are Geography teacher.
    The reason I could not use my stationery is because im writing this letter in English. I will put it the pretty onvelope win I get to my room. Ha: Ha:
    The other day we had to formation and my button was lose and I got reported but the next time he would stick me.
    I like school here, my uniform is pretty. you couldent beleave it had been used before. my roomates name is McCormick G. he lives in Ohio and he makes a good roonate except he talks to much.

    Love Don

    P.S. bring my baseball.

    From North to South


    In September, 1948, I traveled for the first time from a small farming community in the North to a small community in the South. It was an interesting experience and one I shall not soon forget. It was also my first experience in a military environment, which served me well during the Korean War. My experience at GMS broadened my understanding of people and greatly improved skills on study skills.

    William Franklin George, Musician


    This story has been removed by Mike Ruth May 30, 2020

    Those cold winter nights....


    Do you remember those cold winter nights when it was required that we keep our window open. It was the rule that we keep a window open every night regardless of season. However, those West Virginia winter nights, and those cold concrete rooms with no heat made my business all the more in demand. I charged twenty five cents a week per room to go all over the dorm and quadrangle and shut the windows after the officer in charge (faculty and cadet) had gone to bed.

    The business was most successful. In those days (probably 1946 or so) a quarter was a lot of money. That Christmas for the first time I had saved enough money to buy my mother a meaningful present, a Waring Blender. 46 was the first year the Waring Blender was on the market. Why I was not caught plying my trade in the middle of the night is a good question. Unfortunately the business was seasonal and come spring time I went back to sleeping all night.

    Mr. Zicafoose was in command of the furnace which heated the entire school and there was no heat till he fired up the monster furnace in the morning. I'll never forget how cold those rooms were till the radiators started banging the welcome news that heat was on the way.