The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, LA
But it’s December the 24th
And I’m longing to be up north…
That’s the rarely heard opening verse to Irving Berlin’s classic song White Christmas – originally released in 1942. The song popped into my head as I gathered these Christmastime photos of jockstrap-clad cadets in pre-flight training school at St. Mary’s College in California. Never mind that the school is actually several hundred miles north of Beverly Hills. It is still sunny California, where these strapping young men – many away from home for the first time – were training to go to war during the holidays.
Listings also turn up on auction sites, where the photos are often accompanied by the index card used to record the physical training progress of the cadet.
The earliest photos feature the men completely nude, but all subsequent photos feature the cadets in jockstraps, standing behind some sort of grid fence to better detect posture misalignment and spinal curvature. All of these photos contain a visible U.S. Navy / St. Mary’s Pre-Flight School placard.
Fortunately for us, multiple photos of some cadets have surfaced, allowing for comparisons of their training progress:
And while there is a lack of ethnic diversity, there is a variety of body types.
My collection now includes over 300 jpegs of different cadets. Some did perish during WWII, but the largest majority that I have researched lived to ripe old ages. Any surviving cadets would now be in their late 90’s.
One thing these young men have in common, as they were documented in timeless photos of their physical prime: they were far from home during the holidays, training to fight for their country.
At this time of year, 75+ years later, cue up White Christmas as we again salute their fine forms and dedication.
UPDATE – See more here: