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The Making of Private Fisher


"Richard Fisher is a seventeen year old teenager originally from Ohio. He lived with his mother and her new husband in Toledo. His mother and stepfather were having another child together. Things were not going very well between Richard and his stepfather. When his grades in high school dropped to D's and F's Richard's parents decided to send him to military school. As a new student at Kemper Military School he had to establish himself into a new environment." Missouri 1998
New cadet Fisher and fellow phase one students learning discipline

Military curriculum at Kemper Military School Frederick Thomas Kemper (1816-81) was born in Madison County Virginia. His family arrived with the first great wave of German immigrants to America in the early 18th Century.

The "bullring" shortly before early morning inspectionThe school began on May 8, 1844, when a Professor Kemper signed up his first student to the 'Boonville Boarding School'.The first class opened on June 3, 1844, with just five students but grew to 50 by the fall of that year. Originally an all-male school Kemper was founded to educate the sons of the frontier west. Over the next 37 years, the school assumed various names, including Male Collegiate Institute, Kemper Family School, and The Kemper School.

Frederick Thomas Kemper believed it was his calling to be a "maker of men". When he died in 1881 he was secure in the knowledge that his successors would continue his lifework of education.

During at least the first six weeks as a new student, cadets have to face the so called Phase one training. During this time new students are forced to make all movements at right angles, keeping their bodies straight, and their eyes fixed forward. New students are not allowed to look at their plates while eating. This is called "eating a square meal". Cadet Fisher awaiting permission to eat

Richard Fisher as new student at Kemper

Cadets of higher rank are an integral part of the new cadet's training. At any given moment during a meal, a fellow cadet higher in rank may scream a command and the new cadet is forced to obey. Commands include having to hold one or both hands up and standing attention for an uncertain period of time. During phase one, for most students the time of serious homesickness students also are not allowed to use the payphone in the basement of the barracks.

cleaning and other unpleasant duties are carried out by the new boys
The New Boys from Echo marching their way Richard Fisher and Shorty testing out of phase one

Kemper students ready to receive a speech After at least six weeks of phase one treatment the student gets a chance to graduate from this phase by demonstrating the ability to march, fold a tie and pass a test on the history of Kemper Military School. This procedure is called "testing out" and the student gets promoted to Private. Cadet Fisher and his squad during evening inspection

Everybody at the favorite hang out place if there is a minute Fisher (now Private) ordering his roommate Giesselman to perform pushups
A step in the life of Kemper Cadet Fisher after beeing promoted receiving his first shoulders

The Latrines at Kemper have no doors, nobody knows why

The New Boys from 3rd floor awaiting order to take a shower

Kemper students in their first year, whether high school or college, male or female, are referred to as New Boys. Within the first year students are still not allowed to touch the table during the meals although they don't have to eat a square meal any longer. In the dormitories are big red lines on both sides of the hallway. For the duration of the first year at military school new cadets are not allowed to walk over this red line. Instead they have to walk right next to the wall, the center hallway is reserved to "Old Boys".

Hot spot during evening hours: The payphone in the basement Upon completion of one full year at Kemper, students who have no Honor Code violations are invited to sign the Standard of Honor. Students who have signed the Standard of Honor take upon themselves the title of Old Boy.

To the extent possible, the "Corps is run by the Corps." However, the final authority in the operation of the Corps of Cadets is the school administration exercised through the Commandant of Cadets and Training and Control (TAC) Officers. These TAC Officers are also students at Kemper, most of whom have been at Kemper for several years.

Little distractions in musik class make life much easier Kemper Military School and College was one of the first military schools to admit women as regular students. Kemper began admitting women in 1973, only 1 year after women were first admitted to West Point.
The junior college's academic program is grounded in the traditional liberal arts and sciences. Depending on the class given the school seems to be a refuge from military severity. In the music class shown above the teacher was the only one singing.

moments before next inspection cadets arrange their uniforms



All images are copyright of Wim van der Helm, Berlin 2022 and should not be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved under international and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
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