San Antonio Navy college marched to beat of its personal drum

Within the early and mid-Fifties, my dad was on the school at Peacock Navy Academy. The campus close to Woodlawn Lake between Cincinnati, Wilson and Woodlawn is now a Salvation Army residential and social service facility. The college was very prestigious throughout its heyday, with a number of alumni changing into distinguished within the San Antonio group. I used to be very younger when my dad was at Peacock, however have very fond reminiscences of the campus life, particularly the annual parades throughout Fiesta which included performances by the Zouave unit and the Monkey Drill equestrian workforce.

The 1954 college annual, titled “Kadet,” was devoted to my father and Col. Wesley Peacock Jr. I’d respect figuring out extra in regards to the historical past of the college and the Peacock household.

— John Moore Jr.

This was the form of college that might solely exist in its personal time, which was 1894 to 1973 — a relatively quick time frame that coated lightyears value of social change.

When Wesley Peacock Sr. got here to San Antonio in 1893, you can be superintendent of colleges in Uvalde, as he had been, resolve to discovered a non-public college of your individual and identify it after your self, all at age 29 with out plenty of expertise. (Two earlier jobs would do it — trainer in Jasper, principal in Uvalde.) Along with his spouse, Seline, and their 2-year-old Wesley Jr. in tow, the newcomer scouted out a location in sparsely settled West Finish (now Woodlawn) as a result of it seemed promising and it was served by a streetcar line.

He positioned a cost-effective however supremely self-confident commercial for his new enterprise, Peacock’s Faculty for Boys, within the San Antonio Mild, Dec. 10, 1894: “Quantity restricted to 90. Day pupils $8 monthly; half fare on (avenue)automobiles from metropolis. A sensible training. Put together younger males for school. I give all of the directions myself. Wesley Peacock, Ph.B., College of Georgia.”

Someway this terse come-on impressed mother and father to ship 9 boarding college students and 17 day college students that first 12 months, says the college’s entry within the Handbook of Texas. Finally, even with acquisition of 20 acres and a constructing program, Peacock must restrict enrollment at 200, with college students from many states, territories and overseas nations, particularly Mexico.

Dwight Eisenhower, who coached the Peacock Navy Academy soccer workforce in 1914 whereas stationed at Fort Sam Houston, performed on the West Level workforce. Right here, circa 1912, the longer term president is third from left, and future D-Day discipline commander Gen. Omar Bradley is second from proper.

Courtesy Fort Sam Houston Museum

It wasn’t a faith-based establishment, in contrast to a number of in San Antonio on the time, and initially it wasn’t a navy college, however Peacock quickly caught a pattern.

“Through the Spanish-American Conflict, the wave of patriotism resulted in 83 further navy colleges from 1898 (the 12 months of the conflict) to 1907,” mentioned John A. Coulter “Cadets on Campus: Historical past of Navy Colleges in the USA.” A number of apart from Peacock that opened in San Antonio across the flip of the final century are listed in a state-by-state appendix to Coulter’s guide: West Texas Navy Academy (later Texas Navy Institute) was based by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas in 1893, Lakeside Classical Institute (coated right here Could 22, 2014) in 1905, Backyard Navy Academy and the Marshall Coaching Faculty (coated right here March 4, 2017, and March 11, 2017) in 1908 and Lukin Navy Academy in 1917. Coulter has seen a photograph of Wesley Jr. wearing an “(Admiral George) Dewey-style outfit simply previous to the 1900 conversion of Peacock’s college to navy.”

By 1902, adverts nonetheless known as it “Peacock’s Faculty for Boys” however famous that it was “A Navy Faculty” with an illustration of a boy (ages 8-22) sporting a uniform just like the U.S. Navy Academy (West Level) cadet hat and jacket of the time. The college was recognized persistently as Peacock Navy Academy or PMA by 1906. When the movie “The Immortal Alamo” was made in 1910, cadet gown uniforms have been resplendent sufficient to permit Peacock college students to play Mexican troopers in scenes of the 1836 battle. And no much less a navy hero than future Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was employed to educate the Peacock soccer workforce in 1915, whereas he was stationed at Fort Sam Houston.

Peacock’s navy id rapidly grew stronger within the first a long time of the twentieth century, with its Corps of Cadets receiving honors from the U.S. Army, and the younger Veterans Bureau (later Administration) leasing house on campus throughout the Nineteen Twenties for a rehabilitation middle.

The founder’s two sons, Wesley and Don — who took over the college’s administration after their father stepped again in 1926 — each pursued distinguished navy careers, and many of the male school additionally had served. College students marched within the Fiesta parades — wool uniforms and all — and Woodlawn neighbors woke as much as bugle calls and caught the common “gown parades” that polished the Peacock cadets’ prowess at close-order drill.

Most memorable of all, although, have been a few elite models that confirmed off some abilities San Antonians weren’t prone to see anyplace else.

One was the college’s well-known Monkey Drill Crew, an equestrian workforce that needed to be seen to be believed (nonetheless doable on the 25:41 mark of the KLRN-TV documentary, “San Antonio Remembered: The Good Occasions,” obtainable on the PBS web site, This was a no-hands (typically), no-helmets cadre of knowledgeable riders who practiced on the college’s secure of 40-plus horses, together with safer falling, till they have been prepared to drag off acrobatic stunts that shocked spectators in native using exhibitions.

The crack workforce’s identify comes from a cavalry custom of mixing or “monkeying round” with well-known tips and strikes in a blinding improvised sequence.

Whereas serving at Fort Clark, a cavalry submit close to Brackettville, Don Peacock was impressed by such a workforce and returned dwelling to kind the primary PMA Monkey Drill Crew.

In this undated photo, these cadets from Peacock Military Academy are wearing school uniforms accessorized to portray the Mexican Army when they were extras in “The Fall of the Alamo,” released in 1911. Promotional material and press reports about the movie from that time are still around, but no copy of the film itself is known to exist.

On this undated picture, these cadets from Peacock Navy Academy are sporting college uniforms accessorized to painting the Mexican Army after they have been extras in “The Fall of the Alamo,” launched in 1911. Promotional materials and press studies in regards to the film from that point are nonetheless round, however no copy of the movie itself is thought to exist.

Courtesy Peacock Navy Academy Alumni Affiliation

“A typical workforce consisted of from 10-14 boys and some ‘spares’ in case somebody took a tumble,” says Donna Peacock in “Parade Relaxation: E book One, Peacock Navy Academy, 1894-1941.” Utilizing unusually lengthy reins and “sturdy pads” as a substitute of saddles, the riders practiced stunts together with “Roman using,” standing up and straddling two or extra galloping horses without delay.

The viewers at an interscholastic using exhibition (described on this column, April 2) “didn’t know what to anticipate” from this system itemizing for a “Monkey Drill Crew,” says a narrative within the Mild, Could 9, 1937. The six horses with strapped-on blankets substituting for a saddle cantered in and broke right into a gallop because the younger riders rose to face up on their steeds’ backs and moved into the much more astonishing stunt of using two linked horses without delay, reminding a few of “the present the Fort Clark monkey drill workforce placed on on the (Texas) Centennial (in Dallas) final summer season.” This present “gave the impression to be too good to be coming from a gaggle of schoolboys,” says the Mild. “The kids put spice again right into a daylong program that was bogging down from lack of selection.”

Within the present’s typical finale, says Donna Peacock — Don Peacock’s daughter — the riders shaped a pyramid of 4 boys on prime of 4 horses, with the fourth and smallest boy standing on the shoulders of the center workforce member and holding an American flag, and ending the routine with a daring backflip by the topmost scholar, “caught by the seat of his pants by his standing teammates.”

The workforce carried out from 1935 to 1957 at rodeos and horse exhibits all through Texas and in Mexico and should have been a wonderful commercial for what the boarding college may do to whip a boy into crackerjack form.

One other showy aspect at discipline days was the Peacock Zouave unit. Boys on this unit wore a particular uniform of M.C. Hammer pants, vest, shirt, tassled sash and fez, derived from Nineteenth-century Algerian troops within the French Army and far copied by Civil Conflict outfits on either side. They have been recognized for his or her fast-cadence precision drill maneuvers and a preferred wall-scaling demonstration.

In 1948, King Antonio XXVI Park Road noticed the Zouaves on his annual go to to Peacock scale a 12-foot wall in a record-breaking 49 seconds, in keeping with a narrative within the Mild, April 28, 1948, headlined “King Sees Peacock Strut.”

The college was using excessive then, attracting distinguished households with its mixture of custom and innovation. Inside a few a long time, although, the “oldest non-public college in Texas below steady household administration” could be challenged by new developments in society at giant.

Subsequent week: The Peacock Triumvirate (plus one); household finale | Twitter: @sahistorycolumn | Fb: SanAntoniohistorycolumn

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