• U.S.

Education: Beaver’s Work

3 minute read

At Hollywood-by-the-Sea, just north of Miami, Fla., stands an $800,000 Spanish stucco hotel. Most of the time it sleeps silently in the sun. But one morning this week a bugle call shook it awake. Out of its rooms rushed some 600 smartly uniformed boys. They lined up for breakfast formation, began the winter term of the Riverside Military Academy.

Riverside, second largest U. S. military prep school (first, Culver), is a remarkable institution. It has two establishments. For five months (in fall and spring) it lives Spartanly in the Blue Ridge foothills at Gainesville, Ga.; each winter it goes for three months to its castle in Florida. Most remarkable thing about Riverside is its headmaster, General Sandy Beaver.

General Beaver got his title from Georgia’s former Governor Eugene Talmadge, for whom he served as chief of staff. Part Cherokee, he is a fearsome-looking, 220-pound six-footer with jet black hair and deep-set, piercing eyes. His history is as tough as his looks. Born the son of a bartender, he grew up in a tough section of Augusta, Ga., once beat up his school principal. At college (University of Georgia), he was a star tackle and baseball player, also made Phi Beta Kappa. After teaching at three other prep schools, he became Riverside’s president in 1913. At first things went badly. By 1917 his school was reduced to two buildings, two pupils. Then Mr. Beaver went to work.

Today General Beaver’s school has 27 buildings (he picked up the Hollywood hotel cheap in 1931), is reported to make $100,000 a year. Scorning tax exemption and offers of endowment gifts, General Beaver runs a strictly profit-making institution. His teachers spend their vacations recruiting pupils, get part of their pay in commissions. His pupils pay $1,044 a year, which includes eight uniforms, tuition, board and all expenses. They are required to furnish bedding, an indelible ink outfit (for marking clothes) and a Bible. The school fee includes spending money: $1 a week for cadets averaging 90% in their studies down to 25¢ for those below passing (70%).

Life is no picnic in any military school, but General Beaver’s school is particularly two-fisted. At each new boy, General Beaver thunders: “You must study . . . you must behave . . . and you must develop.” Card-playing, gambling and cigarets are strictly forbidden (although boys over 16 may smoke pipes in their rooms). Cadets may go gallivanting in Gainesville (movies and soda fountains) only on Saturday nights. For violations they get demerits, and for each demerit they must walk post for an hour, with a rifle and full equipment, in the “bull ring.” For smoking, a cadet gets 25 to 50 hours in the bull ring, for being A.W.O.L., 100 hours. For insubordination, he is promptly expelled. Despite these rules and punishments, boys often sneak into town (leaving dummies in their beds), sometimes are caught brawling with townies over the right to squire Gainesville’s Brenau College girls.

A model for his students, General Beaver never has tasted liquor, coffee, tea or soft drinks, at 56 still rises at 5 each morning. His proudest boast is that one April day in 1936, when a tornado struck Gainesville, 400 of his cadets took charge of the town and, without food and in a driving rain, held on for eight hours, relieving distress, saving lives.

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