(A) Christmas Carol

(A) Christmas Carol

John Brown’s Military Academy: RIH (rest in Hell) –(Demolished: 1987)-

by Yours Truly

Ever wonder what goes on in those quaint little boarding schools for children? Here’s a tale and counter-tale over 50 years old, but undoubtedly still relevant for the unwary. It’s also the very epitome of the kind of lowest reaches of Hell (A)narchists point to as the product of unalloyed hierarchy/authoritarianism. 

Longtime Signal Hill resident made his mark as superintendent of city’s military academy (John Brown’s)

January 28th, 2011 · from the Signal Tribune (a Signal Hill, CA newspaper)

Courtesy Hurte Family George Hurte’s son Brad says his father “will be remembered as a generous man with a great sense of humor.”

George Hurte’s son Brad says his father “will be remembered as a generous man with a great sense of humor.”

George V. Hurte, a longtime resident of Signal Hill, passed away peacefully on Jan. 13, 2011, surrounded by loved ones. He was 83.

A veteran of the US Navy, he was best known by generations of cadets at the Southern California Military Academy on Cherry Avenue in Signal Hill as “Major” Hurte. He served there as teacher, principal, superintendent and headmaster for the better part of four decades.

“He will be remembered for the impact he had on many young lives, instilling ‘character before career,’” said Hurte’s son Brad, referring to the Academy’s motto. “He will be remembered as a generous man with a great sense of humor.”

Obit pic 1

Brad remembers an incident at the Academy that illustrates his father’s ability to use humor to address issues. “One day, he was approached by one of the office staff who complained about confusion in the division of responsibilities in the office and requesting resolution,” said Brad. “He quietly listened, but gave no indication of action.

The next day, he handed out a new operations manual for the office entitled, ‘Quit Your Bellyaching!’ That humor defused the tension and solved the problem.”

George was born on Dec. 2, 1927, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, the son of George William and Ida Mae Hurte. On graduating from Aliquippa High School in January of 1946, he enlisted in the US Navy, serving aboard the heavy cruiser USS Chicago in Okinawa and was honorably discharged in December of 1947.

On discharge, he joined his parents in Long Beach, where his father was working at the Long Beach Naval Shipyards. George met Marie Elizabeth White, who was then attending Polytechnic High School, at the Long Beach Christian Missionary Alliance Church in 1948 and they were married on July 8, 1949.

The couple moved to Siloam Springs, Arkansas, to attend John Brown University (JBU), where they graduated in 1951, he with a bachelors degree in theology. They then moved back to Long Beach, where Marie worked for the station manager of JBU-owned Christian radio station KGER and George taught at the JBU-owned Southern California Military Academy. In March of 1961, he was appointed superintendent. He led the Academy as superintendent and headmaster until his retirement in 1983, then the couple moved to Canyon Lake in Riverside County, where they lived until his death.

He is survived by: his wife, Marie; his twin sister, Jane Pollard; sons Ron, Brad, and Geoff, who each attended and graduated from SCMA; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson. A memorial service will take place Saturday, Jan. 29 at 2pm at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 555 N. Gartel Dr., in Walnut, and he will be interred at the Riverside National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the John Brown University Scholarship Fund, John Brown University, Attn: Susan Nece, 2000 West University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761. Gifts are tax-deductible.

Photo courtesy Hurte Family


  • Amicus Curia // Dec 22, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    The “Major’s” photo looks familiar for all of the years since a dramatically different experience at John Brown’s Military Academy on Cherry Ave. in the 50’s. There’s no photo of his wife, Marie, but she likely was involved in the administration of that bastion of child abuse as well.

    Imprisoned there through 3rd and 4th elementary school years full-time as a boarded child, I came to fear and hate the place for good reason. Many other children (some had disciplinary problems in public schools) were deposited there by frustrated families either inconvenienced by their charge or out of ideas on how to raise them.

    The inferior caliber of education experienced there set me back at least the two years of forced endurance–sexual molestation by older children, rank egregious physical child abuse and witnessing sexual fondling by adult staff (Mrs. French, a ‘housemother’), serious injuries from unsupervised older children and staff alike (Mrs. French and ‘Captain’ Armstrong), as well as the perverse encouragement of the school’s children, themselves, to engage in brutal acts of physical abuse.

    When some of this was brought to Marie’s (possibly the young woman superintendent remembered) attention and the physical scars/wounds from Mrs. French’s assault w/a cast iron towel rack on the back of a 4th grade boy were exposed to her eyes, she did NOTHING. Years later, after he graduated from a Riverside public high school, Mrs. French still worked there!

    Having a father incarcerated in New York for robbery didn’t help. Aunt Jackie (his half-sister) and uncle Jack took charge as my alcoholic paternal grandmother (Eunice) began to fail. Aunt Jackie was a brilliant woman (graduated Magna Cum Laud from Long Beach State, then went on to receive a master’s degree in political science) but she was emotionally fragile. She never had any children of her own. She attempted a career in public teaching. It proved too stressful for her. She often endured bouts of migraine headaches and stomach upset, disabling her for days.

    After being deposited at John Brown’s, my father, a decorated Marine from WWII, was expected to help defray the cost from his veteran’s disability payments for wounds he suffered in the Pacific despite his incarceration. No respite from a mother intervened, for he’d absconded w/her infant and successfully hidden the child until adulthood when she was eventually located, years later, working at Hannah’s Oregon nickel smelting plant, jack hammering slag from the furnace walls. For  years she’d been a San Diego Transit driver, only a stone’s throw away–a WWII Rosey the Riveter, bus driver, blast furnace attendant, cow-girl; she’d been more than he bargained for and more than he could chew. He’d met his match.

    Earliest recollections of John Brown’s were as a toddler, still in kindergarten, living w/my grandmother (almost burning the house down while playing with matches in the side yard) in a residence near the railroad tracks and a tiny little grocery store owned by the family which occasionally provided me an ice cream treat for delivering a thermos of hot coffee the 1-block distance between the home and store. It was also quite close to the pedestrian underpass (if it still exists) beneath W. Pacific Coast Hwy…in the vicinity of Dawson Ave. and railroad tracks at that time.

    Grandmother, because of her health and lack of a car, had difficulty supervising a rambunctious toddler doing things like climbing onto the roof and jumping off. Playing hooky from kindergarten while wandering around exploring the city, on one such occasion the vast lawn w/large wheeled cannons at John Brown’s, a for profit depository for kids established by a 2-year Navy veteran enamored by the idea of military pomp & circumstance, was discovered. It was a great business model for the time, given the nation’s gratitude and approval of its servicemen. These were times when any sailor in uniform could hitchhike without spending much time waiting for a ride. All those faux uniforms and military titles were just the ticket to prod families to open their wallets before leaving a child they weren’t eager to parent themselves.

    Abandonment was only the first injury. Children were regularly subjected to the rigors of parade ground drills, uniforms, dormitory bunks (more on THAT below!) and highly orchestrated routines, but with little expertise by staff in child psychology, education, or even the love/compassion a child needs to remain healthy. Subjecting the tykes to military discipline was imagined good for them–a paradigm later portrayed in scenes from The Sound Of Music. ‘Major’ Hurte’s fundamentalist Christianity proved to be the perfect matrix for a ’spare the rod, spoil the child’ regimen. This underlying ill-conceived maxim was not only counter-productive, but became a cloak for criminal child abuse that remains shocking after all these years.

    Mrs. French was a dour ‘housemother’ at the academy. Children were required to address all adults as ’sir’ or ‘mam’ and the supervising adult males by their faux military titles. From time to time, Mrs. French would lapse into paranoid histrionics, ranting about how we just called her ma’m out of duty and not because we ‘loved’ her.

    We had a group shower enclosure in our ‘barracks’/dormitory and a group urinal (as was common on military bases) for the children’s use. It goes without saying this was an all boys school. 3rd graders gave Mrs. French the pretext to demonstrate how we were to clean ourselves by rubbing one boy’s penis with soap in the shower while we watched. Mrs. French seemed entirely too fond of this particular lesson, all too often.

    Bunks consisted of a wooden cubbyhole stacked end to end w/a thin mattress and 2 drawers for our clothing beneath. The day came when the handyman/custodian installed a new chrome plated wrought iron towel rack at the foot end of our bunks. The bunks were fairly short, even for a child. Sleep inadvertently placed my feet on the newly installed hexagonal iron towel rack, causing it to break away from the wooden partition on which it had been installed with screws too short.

    Mrs. French discovered this calamity during her morning inspection. Enraged, she seized the thin towel rack, chased me into the boys lavatory, and cornered me by the urinal where she proceeded to beat me, as I cowered, with the cast iron towel rack, leaving numerous open wounds and scars on my back.

    Even as a child, escape from that Hellhole became an imperative. Despite age, the way to my aunt & uncle’s home, 6-miles distant, was known as near Milikan High School. The escape plan was poorly executed. Waiting, naturally, until dark, but without the presence of mind to wear dark non-reflective clothing in an imagined walk to freedom, the city’s streets had been learned by wandering alone on them instead of attending kindergarten.

    As it so happened, that very night was the occasion for some kind of meeting in which all the ’school’ staff attended. Getting no farther than an empty overgrown field across the street when cars started to exit the facility, I crouched low to the ground to avoid their headlights but was spotted by one. After complaining about the injuries from Mrs. French, a young woman superintendent (probably Marie) had me lift my shirt and examined the wounds and scabs. She said nothing–no words of sympathy or concern. Given Mrs. French’s long career there, she also did nothing about it. Possibly she decided to keep it quiet for liability reasons even in those days of treating children like brats.

    So yeah, Mrs. French was a pervert and violent child abuser. But we have our share of mentally ill in a country this size–unfortunately, some have charge over our children. A couple of years later, a violent assault at the hands of a Mr. Danny, the 6th grade teacher at Emerson Elementary School in Long Beach, was endured. Mr. Danny was most careful to make certain no one was looking when he grabbed the 12 year old student by the throat and slammed him against the outside wall of the bungalow classroom. The schools had trouble providing enough classroom space for these early baby boomers. Dr. Spock books hadn’t become popular as yet, and parentis in locus was never questioned.

    Lack of supervision, and even malicious supervision was another insidious evil promoted by John Brown’s. One older kid came to school with a handgun. Whether it  was loaded remains unknown. But, he terrorized me and others with it. This juvenile delinquent was never disciplined for it. Boys will be boys?

    Children, like the rest of us, have conflicts and confrontations. One of these resulted in the top of my head slammed full force into a masonry wall. Years later, X-rays would reveal a cervical anomaly that could have been the result. Dyslexia was another. It’s difficult to diagnose proximate cause decades later.

    One memory of the ‘care’ provided by John Brown’s to its charges stands out. There was a nearby park we’d be taken to for outings. There were perhaps 8-10 boys in our group shepherded by ‘Captain’ Armstrong. We were all under 10 years old, ranging from 8-9. Two of the boys got into a fight and the loser lay on the park’s grass crying. This must have embarrassed ‘Captain’ Armstrong, who proceeded to berate the sobbing boy. As the lad lay on the ground, Armstrong encouraged each of us to give him a kick in turn, presumably to teach him to be more manly. Each of the boys followed Armstrong’s instructions, as did I, for fear the others would turn on a new victim!

    The scholastic quality at John Brown’s was abysmal. It took years to recover from the endemic poor reading levels and lack of quality instructors.

    Eventually, my aunt & uncle removed me from the school after I summoned the courage to detail my grievances–courage that was a long time coming. A note of explanation is in order when it comes to why a child is reluctant to blow the whistle on such blatant abuse.

    First, a child tends to internalize the abuse and believe it’s because of failure/short comings on the child’s part–something the child is reluctant to admit: i.e. failure.

    Next, the child may believe (as did I) nobody will care or he/she won’t be believed. There was ample evidence of that at John Brown’s. It takes some courage and maturity for a child to stand up to abusive adults or even articulate the abuse because children don’t understand they have certain inalienable rights. Adults typically are curiously silent about explaining those rights to children.

    Over the ensuing years, after being liberated from this canker sore on Signal Hill, the flames of hatred and resentment remained though dying down to a hot ember. After graduating from high school, I supposed I was ready to return to John Brown’s and confront one of its tormentors, Mrs. French.

    Upon arrival, indeed, she was still working there these years later as a ‘housemother’–a perversion of the term in her case. After identifying myself, she exploded into a cacophony of euphoria: “Oh! It’s one of my boys come back to see me. How wonderful!”

    The inability to tell her what an evil perverted witch she was, but couldn’t bring myself to say, remains a mystery. Finding my voice came later in life. The threads of such early extreme abuse I (and many others) experienced at John Brown’s run deep. They can never be removed from the warp & weave of the personalities coalesced during those tender years.

    Google’s map of John Brown’s indicates it may have been purchased by someone who changed its name. The only good thing that can be said of John Brown’s would also apply to Auschwitz. It’s an example of what can happen when we allow others who do not love them to supervise our children.

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