San Antonio’s Peacock Navy Academy marched to the beat of its personal drum

Within the early and mid-Fifties, my dad was on the college 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 varsity was very prestigious throughout its heyday, with a number of alumni changing into outstanding 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 group.

The 1954 college annual, titled “Kadet,” was devoted to my father and Col. Wesley Peacock Jr. I’d admire figuring out extra concerning 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 lined lightyears value of social change.

When Wesley Peacock Sr. got here to San Antonio in 1893, you might be superintendent of colleges in Uvalde, as he had been, determine to discovered a non-public college of your personal and title it after your self, all at age 29 with out quite a lot 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 cheap however supremely self-confident commercial for his new enterprise, Peacock’s Faculty for Boys, within the San Antonio Gentle, Dec. 10, 1894: “Quantity restricted to 90. Day pupils $8 per thirty days; half fare on (road)vehicles from metropolis. A sensible training. Put together younger males for faculty. I give all of the directions myself. Wesley Peacock, Ph.B., College of Georgia.”

One way or the other 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.

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 army college, however Peacock quickly caught a pattern.

“In the course of the Spanish-American Struggle, the wave of patriotism resulted in 83 further army faculties from 1898 (the 12 months of the battle) to 1907,” stated John A. Coulter “Cadets on Campus: Historical past of Navy Colleges in the US.” 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 (lined right here Could 22, 2014) in 1905, Backyard Navy Academy and the Marshall Coaching Faculty (lined 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 army.”

By 1902, advertisements nonetheless referred to 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 varsity was recognized constantly 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 army hero than future Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was employed to teach the Peacock soccer group in 1915, whereas he was stationed at Fort Sam Houston.

Peacock’s army identification rapidly grew stronger within the first many years of the twentieth century, with its Corps of Cadets receiving honors from the U.S. Army, and the younger Veterans Bureau (later Administration) leasing area on campus throughout the Nineteen Twenties for a rehabilitation heart.

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 army careers, and a lot of the male college 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 expertise San Antonians weren’t more likely to see wherever else.

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

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

Whereas serving at Fort Clark, a cavalry publish close to Brackettville, Don Peacock was impressed by such a group and returned dwelling to type the primary PMA Monkey Drill Workforce.

“A typical group 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 an alternative of saddles, the riders practiced stunts together with “Roman driving,” standing up and straddling two or extra galloping horses directly.

The viewers at an interscholastic driving exhibition (described on this column, April 2) “didn’t know what to anticipate” from this system itemizing for a “Monkey Drill Workforce,” says a narrative within the Gentle, 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 driving two linked horses directly, reminding a few of “the present the Fort Clark monkey drill group placed on on the (Texas) Centennial (in Dallas) final summer time.” This present “appeared to be too good to be coming from a gaggle of schoolboys,” says the Gentle. “The children 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 group member and holding an American flag, and ending the routine with a daring backflip by the topmost pupil, “caught by the seat of his pants by his standing teammates.”

The group carried out from 1935 to 1957 at rodeos and horse reveals all through Texas and in Mexico and will need to have been a superb commercial for what the boarding college may do to whip a boy into crackerjack form.

One other showy ingredient at area 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 Struggle 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 Avenue noticed the Zouaves on his annual go to to Peacock scale a 12-foot wall in a record-breaking 49 seconds, in response to a narrative within the Gentle, April 28, 1948, headlined “King Sees Peacock Strut.”

The varsity was driving excessive then, attracting outstanding households with its mixture of custom and innovation. Inside a few many years, although, the “oldest personal college in Texas beneath steady household administration” could be challenged by new developments in society at massive.

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

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