Monday, June 22, 2009

Groton Redux

Theodore Roosevelt and Family in 1903In exploring the history of The Groton School in a recent post, I discovered that there were two well-documented punishments that the 6th form boys (the seniors) would administer to younger boys when they were considered to have broken the Groton code. These punishments were not officially sanctioned by Rector Peabody, but certainly allowed to go on without interference from him or the faculty.

One of these was called "boot boxing", where the offender was forced into his boot locker (a short locker for outdoor boots), and made to stay there, doubled up, for what might be hours.

The second was called "pumping". The miscreant was bent back over the edge of a trough in the laboratory, face up, and water was poured in his face from an open spigot to simulate drowning. There was a 10-second limit to the torture, but it could be conducted more than once on any given occasion.

Little Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., a few weeks before his father was inaugurated as Vice-President, was pumped for being “fresh and swell-headed.” Half-drowned but still spouting defiance after two immersions, he escaped being put under for a third time: the boys admired his pluck. Malcolm Peabody, the rector’s own son, was pumped because the older boys didn’t like his “tone.”[1]

These punishments were certainly still occurring in 1905, and for some years after that. No wonder waterboarding seems like a fine technique to men from the "old families". It was part of their prep school experience. . . .

Illustration Credits and References

The photo of the Roosevelt family was taken in 1903; young Teddy (several years after his "pumping") is standing just behind his father. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-USZ62-113665.

[1]Kintrea, Frank. "'Old Peabo' and the School." American Heritage Magazine. 31.6 (1980).

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