The Baggage of Youth

My mother’s influence on my character was deep and lasting. We enjoyed a loving relationship. However, I admit to jarring outbursts of discord occasionally, during my adolescent years. Not unexpectedly, I was feeling independent, rebellious. Occasionally, we argued and argued. What about exactly—I have long since forgotten. But she let me know in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t take any “back-talk.” She told me I needed more discipline in my impertinent, young life.

She got her wish. When I enlisted in the CMTC, I experienced army, boot camp discipline for the first time.


The Citizens Military Training Camp, or CMTC, was a depression-era, U.S. Army training program for youths 16-20-years-old. It was a volunteer, four-year infantry reserve curriculum, similar to the ROTC, built around 12 weeks of active duty during the summers.

Emma Lindquist’s latest boyfriend was a master sergeant in the regular Army, assigned to the headquarters unit of the CMTC at Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington. His name was Henry Karle. Emma called him “Hank.” What a piece of work he was— piercing blue-gray eyes, neatly trimmed, sandy hair and a muscular, six-foot, two-inch frame, poured into a starched, sharply pressed Army uniform with ribbons on his chest and service stripes stacked up his sleeve. Wow! As a wide-eyed 15-year-old with a nose for adventure, I was duly impressed.

On the night when Emma brought the resplendent sergeant over to our fiat for dinner, along with Agnes and Eddie Daniels, he regaled the table with stories of army life. Later on, he beguiled me with the promise of a well- paid summer adventure and a toughening challenge.

But I was only 15? No problem, he promised. He could take care of that at headquarters. And he did.

By the end. of the evening, Sergeant Karle had recruited me into the CMTC. My mother, with a knowing gleam in her eye, said if I wanted to do it, go right ahead.


That’s how it came about that at the end of my sophomore year in high school, I signed in as a raw recruit at Vancouver Barracks. Fort Vancouver was headquarters of the U.S. Seventh Infantry and site of the Army’s CMTC for the Pacific Northwest.

The Seventh Infantry commander at Vancouver was Brigadier General George C. Marshall, who went on to become U.S. Army chief of staff during World War II, our country’s first five-star general, a distinguished secretary of state under President Truman, and winner of the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize for his ‘Marshall Plan” contribution to European recovery.

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