Back in Time: Marines selective in search for a few good men

The U.S. Marines were looking for a few good men on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 1908.

The U.S. Marines were looking for a few good men on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 1908.

Good newspapermen were not part of the search. But Cpl. E.A. Linder and Pvt. W.I. Mowen didn’t know much about the man who wandered into their recruiting office on State Street 100 years ago today.

The visitor was a Schenectady Gazette reporter, a guy looking for a story instead of a sabre. Before the writer could introduce himself, Linder started the interview.

“How old are you?” he asked, as Mowen stood at stiff attention. “Are you flat-footed? How are your teeth?”

The newsman answered but told the guys in uniform he was not joining the corps. He explained his civilian job; Linder looked relieved — perhaps the unidentified scribe was not in shape — and Mowen relaxed. The conversation became more cordial.

The Marines didn’t need new members right away, and there were already 500 men waiting to join the fighting force. Recruiting officers were still on the job in case Congress made fiscal arrangements for more men.

Linder, who was from New York City, said accepted recruits would spend four years in uniform. They would enjoy two years on land and two years on sea.

Physical requirements

“To be a Marine — or even to have any chance of being a successful applicant — one must be unmarried, from 21 to 35 years of age, not less than 5 feet, 5 inches, or more than 6 feet, 1 inch, in height and weigh between 128 and 200 pounds,” the reporter wrote. “The applicant must possess good hearing and eyesight, have sound teeth and be able to read and write English. Persons with flat feet are barred because, it was explained, they are no good at hiking and tire easily.”

If men were accepted into the Marines from the State Street office, situated in the Schenectady Gazette building, they would travel to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for their first training sessions. With the new year of 1908 one week old, only 15 applications had been received, with only one accepted for possible membership.

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