What was it like to have been at a boarding school?

I was actually at a boarding school of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, Shattuck-St.Mary’s School.At your own request even. (Long history, but the short version is, I found that the state schools were the lowest cannon in our city and I saw it as the better alternative. My parents didn’t hesitate for long out of the same conviction.)

The whole site consists of neo-Gothic buildings as above.

They were built during the 19th century.

But there were parts that were shut down at the time.For example, there was a small hospital(infirmary) next to my dorm, but this has not been used for decades.Many invaded anyway, and it was always very ghostly, especially since the school used to be a military school.

Precisely because it used to be a purely military school, there were trophies, commemorative plaques and the like everywhere, almost always with a military inclination.Old bayonets, rifles, swords, insignia, etc., as well as plaques with the names of former members of previous years. The plaque with the names of the fallen from the First World War was impressive.

Because of the incredibly cold winter there (maximum temperatures of -20掳C are not uncommon with wind additionally) most houses were submerged and connected by tunnels.

The tunnels had some of the trains of secret passageways. Some were really very hidden.The teaching buildings were also often completely angled inside and strangely cut. Sometimes it wasn’t easy to find the classrooms.

We had to wear suits, so we had to wear a suit with a tie and leather shoes every day.On Sundays and Thursdays, uniform was mandatory, so we had to wear the old uniform (blue jacket with white shirt, school tie and grey pants with black leather shoes).

The student on the left wears the uniform, his Shattuck school collar is slightly different from mine.

On Sundays, the Eucharist was in the morning and the evening was complete; On Thursdays was Vesper, all in the school’s own chapel.

Unfortunately, many of the students came from wealthy families who wanted to dispose of them there more or less.

Such outwardly rich, but inwardly neglected boys unfortunately abounded. Some took drugs, flew from school, went to rehab, came back… and started again with the drugs. However, they were particularly fond of bullying other students and they formed a clique among themselves that they knew how to avoid.

There were also highly talented people from all over the world.Three of them became my mates there, and we were basically the underdogs who played dungeons & dragons and other role-playing games all the time.

There were also clear differences among the professors.Some were very charismatic and popular, others just annoyed and, some very arrogant and scary. (One of them we called The Tank, that is, The Tank, because it had a volcanic temperament and a strong but compact physique, seemingly without a neck.) But all brilliant and highly educated.Oh yes, Latin was taught very intensively, but Unfortunately I was still too young and decided on German anyway.

Everywhere there were portraits of former and old professors of the school and insignia of God knows what, as in the canteen (refectory):

In the Refectory there was a very special image of the founder of the school, Bishop Whipple, in the full ornate.

We called it The Ayatollahbecause he looked so grim and had a long beard 鈥?and his eyes seemed to follow the students.

And we lived in dormitories, which were also old, winding and strangely laid out.I will not forget how there were constant p盲ngp盲ng-noisesin my dormitory in the winter, especially early in the morning 鈥?which supposedly came from the ancient heating (in fact, the pipes often really shook), but sounded like poltergeists.

Worst of all, my dorm: The highest floor was closed.But not cordoned off. So I wanted to explore the floor several times out of curiosity, but every time I stood up at the stairs, I became very queasy and uncomfortable, and I couldn’t go on.I never made it.

A friend (and new) professor later told me that a group of cadets from the military school had committed mass suicide up there.This has added to the spectre of school.


When I saw Dead Poets’ Society, I thought, wow, this is Shattuck.

Let’s bounce forward until about 12 years ago, when my ex-wife started reading Harry Potter.She raved about the book, and at first I didn’t want to read it because I thought it wasn’t a trend book again. But then, and I said straight away, this is really Shattuck!

Snape, Flitwick, Slytherin (the clique above), Luna (the daughter of the chaplain), the strange portraits everywhere, the difficult to navigate corridors and buildings, the canteen, the comical inexplicable traditions… everything like Hogwarts.


To this day I have remembered the school song (sung at every evening service):

Shattuck men, we’ve trod our paths together

Sons of a mother wise and true,

Now we’re bound by ties we will not sever

All our whole lives through…

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