Reminiscences of my Days on Severnís Shore
-or "Donít drink and walk."
Last Sunday I was asked to give a guided tour of the United States Naval Academy to a neighborís visiting dad, who was a Vietnam era Navy veteran, and had always wanted to visit the place. I get tasked to do this now and then for visiting relatives and friends, and since Annapolis is less than an hour away from my house, itís relatively easy to do. These trips turn back the clock of life and always bring back memories of my days as a Midshipman.
The new plebes, the Class of 2010, had just entered the Academy the week before, and were coming out of the Naval Academy Chapel after services when we arrived in the yard. I stopped a group of four plebes and asked them where they were from, how they liked what had happened to them so far, and some other inane questions. I told them that I had graduated from USNA forty three years before. I was wearing a shirt with an embroidered Marine Corps emblem on it. All of them stood at attention, and three just answered the questions I asked like typical plebes, but one of them was pretty articulate. All of this took place near the approaches to Tecumseh Court in front of Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory in world, where all the Midshipmen live. When the plebes went on their way my mind wandered to a night long ago at that same location.
The scene: Tecumseh Court on the night of our Ring Dance, when we received our coveted class rings at the end of our Second Class, or junior year, at USNA. This occurred during what used to be called June Week, but is now called Commissioning Week. It is a week of parades, receptions, dances, and other revelry culminating with graduation. The pressure of academics is off and summer cruises are approaching. You canít really appreciate the euphoria felt by Midshipmen during this time of year unless you have experienced life at USNA. Itís just like trying to explain Marine boot camp to the uninitiated.
As a member of the Ring Dance Committee I was granted an extra half-hour of liberty, thus my arrival in Tecumseh Court was at an odd time. Liberty usually expired on the hour, with upperclassmen getting later expiration times. Instead of being part of the rush to get back into Bancroft Hall at the normal expiration of liberty, I was all alone in the middle of Tecumseh Court, and found myself in a very compromising position.
Bancroft Hall and Tecumseh Court
Backtrack a couple of hours. After leaving the Ring Dance a significant number of my classmates from the 6th Company and our drags (normal people called them "dates"ÖUSNA vernacular was "drags") headed for the cottages at Mayo Beach. In violation of USNA Regs, we lifted a few glasses to celebrate our new class rings. Everybody else left to get back before liberty expired. Not me, having an extra half-hour. My drag and I lifted a few more glasses, etc. Then she dropped me off at Gate 3 and I walked (?) toward Bancroft Hall.
Sometime during the rush to get back to Bancroft Hall, I lost my cover. Thus, I found myself alone in the middle of Tecumseh Court without a cover, with one shoulder board hanging loose, and with an obvious starboard list from lifting too many glasses. There was only one open entrance to the Rotunda at that hour. The side door on the Second Regiment side was open, and silhouetted in the light coming out from the Rotunda was the Officer of the Day and his mate. It was one of the Marines in the Executive Department. I figured I was screwed. I envisioned myself spending the first half of First Class year on restriction. I could imagine the OOD licking his chops and thinking, "Ah ha! A drunk Mid without his cover returning late from liberty." This would be a three-fer; drinking, out of uniform, and late. We stood motionless and stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity, and then...AND THEN, the Marine turned on his heel and disappeared into Bancroft Hall, along with his mate. I couldn't believe my eyes! I ran up to the door, stuck my head in and looked around. The OOD was nowhere in sight! I hustled up the ladder to the 4th deck as fast as I could and disappeared into my room and gave thanks to the Creator.
In four years at USNA that was the only time I was ever caught in violation of regulations that I didn't get put on report. To this day I don't know who that Marine was. But bless him for giving me some slack during June Week. His action only solidified my determination to become a Marine upon graduation the next year. And so I did, and as they say, the rest is history.
Thus what could have been a personal disaster for me turned into a pleasant memory of my days at the Naval Academy. Only a Marine would have made it thus in those days at the old Boat School. If you got caught, you got hammeredÖno questions asked, no appeal. They tell me things have changed.
Dirck Praeger sends