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Chapter 13

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

W. D. Puleston

published by
D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc.
New York • London

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 15
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

Extracurricular Activities

Busy people always have the most leisure, and in spite of their crowded daily and weekly routine, midshipmen find time to enjoy a comprehensive group of extracurricular activities. There is the Naval Academy Christian Association, headed by the Chaplain, assisted by a Council of Midshipmen, and supported entirely by the Regiment. Its programs vary from week to week with singers, trumpeters, quartets; high-ranking Naval officers, hypnotists, and even magicians are among the speakers and entertainers presented by the association. Their meetings are held after supper every second Sunday in Recreation Hall. The association also provides popular and technical magazines and it coöperates with the Maryland Bible Society in presenting Bibles to each member of the First Class immediately prior to graduation. The Newman Club is similar to Newman Clubs in universities and colleges and offers midshipmen an opportunity to learn of the "Godlike side of their natures." Every midshipman of the Catholic faith is considered a member of the Newman Club. At their meetings such subjects as Christian living, marriage, modern economics, labor, social and political problems are discussed from the viewpoint of the Catholic Church. All midshipmen of whatever creed are welcomed into the Naval Academy Christian Association and the Newman Club.

Since physical training was given its present status, athletics  p177 are no longer extracurricular activities. But physical training, drills, and recreations are closely related. For example, a plebe commences to pull an oar and to have rifle practice at drills, but he will progress to the Boat Club, an extracurricular, and the rifle team, a sport. To qualify as a member of the Boat Club, a plebe must become an adept with an oar in a cutter at boat drill and pass a preliminary examination in handling small boats; he will then become a junior member. During the academic year, he must learn enough theoretical seaman­ship to become a senior member. For administration purposes, activities are designated as academic, physical training, or extracurricular, but similar activities under different administrators are neatly fitted together.

All the fine old sailor‑men who created our Navy look down from aloft and smile approvingly upon the Naval Academy Boat Club, the center of all sailing activities of the midshipmen. The club is an extracurricular under the Executive Department. All midshipmen are eligible to join. Landlubbers are soon taught the rudiments of sailing, and good sailors are given a chance to become more proficient. Every midshipman must eventually qualify to handle all types of these smart-handling small boats and yachts. All officers of the club are elected. The commodore is a First Classman; in addition there are a vice commodore, a treasurer, and a ketch captain for each battalion.

The craft available for sailing are numerous and varied. There are twenty knock-abouts, ten half-raters, eight star-boats, and twelve whale-boats especially designed and rigged to train green midshipmen. In addition there are twelve ten‑foot dinghies and twenty fourteen-foot international dinghies for the exclusive use of the sailing team and certain privileged members of the club. Besides those small craft, there are four ketches — converted fifty-foot  p178 motor launches provided with a deck cabin. They have been christened Bullfrog, Crocodile, Turtle, and Alligator, and each battalion is assigned a ketch. The four latest acquisitions of the Naval Academy Yacht Squadron, a big brother of the Boat Club, have been presented by friends of the Navy who are interested in keeping alive the fine art of sailing in these days of steam fleets. The mahogany hull of the ketch-rigged Vamarie is beautiful to look upon, but it is her staysail and wishbone rig which have enabled her to make an enviable record as a racer. Among her trophies is the Bermuda Race blue ribbon. The sixty‑eight-foot cutter Highland Light is another winner with a transatlantic as well as a Bermuda Race record. The racing schooner Freedom is two masted, topsail-rigged, with wide beam and fast counter, well balanced and beautifully appointed. The sloop-rigged speedster Spindrift, a deep water sailer, can outpoint any yacht in the Bay and is the easiest of the Academy's racing team to sail.

Every Saturday and Sunday the big ones are sailed by officers with volunteer crews from the Regiment, and there are many applicants for the all‑day sails. Biennial races are sailed off the Academy between the Boat Club and the Annapolis Yacht Club. The races continue for six weeks and are extremely popular with the underclassmen. Intercollegiate sailing is growing in popularity, and the Naval Academy, with its unusual facilities, is becoming the center of mid‑Atlantic contests. The climax of the sailing season are the ocean races; in the summer of 1941, the Academy racing squadron entered in the New London to Hampton, Virginia, race and took two of the first three places. Midshipmen gladly give up their annual leave to serve aboard these races. Sailing gives midshipmen the feel of the sea, that instinctive realization of the effect of wind and sea upon a ship which will stand them in good stead when they  p179 begin handling destroyers, submarines, cruisers, and finally battle­ships. Sailing is an inspiring sport, but it is also the basis of the naval profession. It is reassuring to know that the members of the Regiments of to‑day turn out in ever increasing numbers for the sailing races; even a pessimistic old‑timer will concede that the Academy has not gone to the bow‑wows, when sailing is its most popular recreation.

The Academy has four publications. The Lucky Bag, the oldest, had brilliant ancestors in Shakings, Junk, and Fag Ends, which did not survive. The Lucky Bag is the year-book of the Regiment of Midshipmen, edited and published annually by the First Class. It reviews the activities and athletics of the Academy and contains a brief biography and pictorial record of each member of the graduating class. Each class elects the editor and business manager for its Lucky Bag toward the end of youngster year. Plebes and youngsters obtain valuable experience as assistants to the editorial and business staffs of the First or Second Class Lucky Bag. Membership on the staff means taking considerable responsibility, for the Lucky Bag is a $20,000 to $30,000 enterprise.

The Log, a weekly publication, cheers the Regiment every Friday afternoon with news, pictures, stories, and professional notes; its editors lampoon midshipmen freely and deal as broadly with officers and instructors as naval customs permit. It is issued by the joint efforts of a large staff. "Salty Sam" regularly purveys the latest from the scuttlebut, while "Old Navy Line" provides the weekly "rehash."

In January, 1941, the Log issued a Fleet Number, with an article on "The Influence of Sea Power in Present Mediterranean Conflict" by W. H. Esworthy and another on the burning question, "Sea Power versus Air Power" by W. R. R. Blett. In the June Week issue there were tributes  p180 to the beautiful girls who blush unseen on "locker doors." The arrangement of the pictures is a tribute to the editorial staff of the Log; the pulchritude of the fair lady contestants attests the good taste of the Regiment.

The editorial staff of the Log has won recognition from its contemporary and bitter rivals, including the Washington Boast; but probably its sea‑going editors — including Salty Sam — are proudest of being chosen to decide the "Queen and Court" for the University of Kansas City and to select the two most beautiful girls in Georgia Teachers College, Statesboro, Georgia. Their success in solving these problems prove they possess two characteristics of the naval profession — a discriminating eye for a beautiful girl, and dauntless courage, in daring to choose among so much loveliness.

All kinds of talents are needed on the staff of the Log — writers, staff photographers, news sleuths, and solicitors for the advertising department. All plebes with a flair for newspaper work should cautiously consult upperclassmen on the prospects for a job on the Log.

The Trident Association was organized to foster the production of naval literature and to collect and preserve the naval traditions now existing. It, too, needs a large assortment of talent. Two essays, "One Ton Per Acre" by John G. Hill 2nd, 1942, on the Anglo-American trade of bases for destroyers, and "Wings Over Corpus Christi" by Harry H. Loeffler, 1944, describing the Navy's new aviation base in Texas, exemplify the Trident's more serious articles. Its art department deserves special mention; its cameras bring out equally clearly the charm of an old hempen hawser on a dock, or a spray of iris; and in the June Week Number, 1941, is a superb series of "Ships In Color" reproduced from originals in the United States Naval Museum. All plebes interested in literature are welcome to  p181 join the Association. The Trident calendars make beautiful presents; they are popular with the Regiment, and a smart plebe will get his order in early, for the stock is often exhausted. The Trident Society correlates the activities of all associations interested in art and literature, such as the Log. Reef Points, Quarterdeck Society, Art Club, Photographic Club, and the Christmas Card Committee.

Reef Points has a definite purpose; it exists to indoctrinate the new Fourth Classmen by giving them a brief account of the Naval Academy and the atmosphere surrounding it. It publishes an accurate description of the grounds, activities, and athletics, with pertinent facts about the Navy that will assist the plebe to get his bearings. It is comprehensive in its scope, supplying useful information about early naval history and continuing to descriptions of the sailing yachts at the Academy. The foreword of the 1941‑42 Reef Points carries a challenging message to the new‑comers: "Learn your navy so that you may know for yourself what our great organization has in store for you. . . . Mold your way of living into one becoming to a midshipman . . . which will enable you to become a fighting officer of the Navy and a service to your country."​1 The important part taken by Reef Points in the life of the Academy is indicated by a message it carries from a recent Superintendent, Rear Admiral Russell Willson, urging all midshipmen to accept "high and uncompromising standards of character and conduct. . . . Remember that being of the Navy you are of an ancient and honorable profession . . . a profession which during twenty-five centuries has often guided the course of history. . . . You are fortunate young men. Be worthy of your good fortune."

Many of our early officers were noted for their profound  p182 religious faith. Macdonough dropped on his knees on the quarter-deck of the Saratoga to implore divine assistance before beginning the Battle of Lake Champlain. Farragut was a devout Christian, although his exclamation "Damn the torpedoes" is most often quoted. Other names could be cited. In the old wardrooms religion was never discussed because around the same table were gathered members of different faiths. The Navy has never encouraged excessive psalm-singing. But every thinking officer knows that over the body is the mind, and over them both is the spirit or soul. At the Academy the Chaplain is supported by officers, some of whom do not attend services. Reef Points gives "The Prayer of a Midshipman" in which this sentiment, which might have been uttered by Macdonough or Farragut, occurs: "If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again."

Reef Points is printed and ready for distribution to the plebes when they report in the spring of the year, and a wise plebe will immediately familiarize himself with its contents. If a new‑comer follows closely its detailed instructions, he will avoid many pitfalls and enjoy a pleasanter first year at the Academy.

Reef Points contributes this valuable "Information for Plebes":

You will soon discover that you know very little about the service of which you have so lately become a part. Make it your duty to learn as much about it as possible. Academic subjects have manifest importance to you, but you may fail to realize the significance of another phase of your Academy life. You wonder, for instance, why you are denied privileges accorded to your seniors. You question the wisdom of being  p183 required to perform tasks for which there is no apparent reason.

Not only the Naval Academy but the entire Naval Service is based on a series of rates and traditions which must be strictly observed to maintain our recognized effectiveness and efficiency. A little thought will show you why you must be, at present, on the wrong side of nearly all the rates. As time passes, you will not only become more clearly aware of their value, but will find yourself continually falling heir to increased rights.

Privileges not had are all the more appreciated and enjoyed when you do get them. Remember that you will eventually acquire all of them. The highest ranking officers in the fleet were once in your position. The seemingly pointless tasks will teach you resourcefulness and cheerful obedience. We all learn it; never for a moment think that you are being subjected to anything which has not been included in the training of every naval officer. Above all, remember, "Be cheerful."

The following are guides to your "rates."

1. When you receive an order from a senior, say, "Aye, aye, sir," and promptly carry it out to the best of your ability. Never argue.

2. Be punctilious, as are all naval men, in the use of the word "Sir" in addressing seniors. Always include it in your conversation with officers and upperclassmen. In oral communication, refer to seniors as "Mister" if they are below the rank of commander. Commanders and above are addressed with their rank. Do not use "Mister" when referring to a classmate.

3. Maintain a correct posture, and take pride in your military appearance. If you do not, you will soon be reminded of it. When in uniform particularly, conduct yourself in such a manner as to bring credit upon it, whether you are in the Yard, in town, or on leave.

4. By all means go out for some sport during plebe year. If you turn out to be a zero athlete, there is listed in these pages a variety of non‑athletic activities to occupy you. [Caution, by author — Not if it jeopardizes your 2.5.]

5. Keep track of what goes on around you. Subscribe to a daily paper for news of the outside world. Magazines will be found in Smoke Hall. At meals, plebes should know the menu,  p184 the Officer of the Watch, the scheduled events of the day, the movies in Annapolis and at Mahan Hall, besides any questions previously asked them by upperclassmen.

6. Plebes are never allowed to drag, except to the Masquerades, Musical Clubs, and Navy Relief Shows, and to the Concert Series performances. Whether dragging to the shows or not, you do not rate being on the floor at any of the official hops in the yard.

7. Double time to all formations, and clear of the terrace on return from classes. Do not leave your room before formation bell. Keep in the center of the corridors and to the outside of ladders at all times. Find out which are the youngster and second-class ladders in your battalion, and never use these.

8. Don't be afraid to ask questions of upperclassmen; request permission first. You will find them ready and glad to help you.

9. Youngster Cutoff, Lover's Lane, Smoke Park, and the first- and second-class benches on Stribling Walk are not yours during academic year. Keep off.

10. Do not loiter or talk in the corridors or at unauthorized times in the mess hall.

11. Keep in some complete uniform at all times until tattoo. It is not your rate to turn in before taps or to lie on your bed during the day.

12. Rings and fancy belts are taboo.

13. Learn all the songs and yells, word for word, to use at the football games this fall. Attend all varsity and plebe athletic contests, and stay clear of the first few rows at varsity events — they are reserved for the First Class.

14. Do not tolerate "gouging" among your classmates. Gougers should be reported without hesitation, but be sure you are right.

15. Remember that griping only makes matters seem worse. Show a smile; nothing can go further to make life livable.

16. Plebes rate attending N. A. C. A. always.

17. Be proud of your coming profession, that of a naval officer. Take pride in learning all you can about the past and present of this great organization. Maybe keeping a Navy scrap-book would help. Give it a try.

 p185  18. Work hard but don't get the reputation of being a "cutthroat."

19. Be a good sport. During an athletic contest the official may make a decision or an opposing player may do some act that appears unfair to you. No matter how it affects the Navy team do not boo.

20. When "carrying on" do so as quietly as possible. Be careful not to usurp upper class rates.

21. Do not allow your behavior to subject a classmate to a reprimand or to the conduct report.

22. Keep careful note of the times and dates of your engagements and duties, such as tailor shop, parties, watch dates, etc.​2

The admonitions to plebes evolved from long experience; the Lucky Bag of 1902 contained the following "Don'ts" for plebes, which are substantially repeated in Reef Points:


Labor under the impression you are an admiral; you are not.

Be familiar with upperclassmen.

Walk on Lover's Lane; the gravel might hurt your feet.

Cut corners.

Sit on First Class bench.

Swing your arms.

Wear your cap on the side of your head.

Purchase non‑regulation clothes.

Go to hops.

Forget that everyone above you was once a plebe too.

The midshipmen have an association to develop the art of public speaking. It is known as the Quarterdeck Society, and there is considerable doubt whether some of the taciturn founders of the Navy would approve this organization which holds meetings twice a month on Thursday nights where they harangue each other in succession. In 1941 the Society entered the intercollegiate debates.

 p186  The following is quoted from the Log: "The purpose of the Quarterdeck Society is to give midshipmen a chance to say what they want about anything, whenever and however they want to. There are no verbal holds barred. There is, of course, the danger of having to face an equally savage onslaught of language from another speaker, but seldom do arguments go beyond the word stage. In short, the Quarterdeck Society offers to all hands the opportunity of speaking their minds. . . . During the rest of our naval careers we will frequently, and unexpectedly, be called upon 'to say a few words.' Start now to eliminate any necessity of fumbling with an 'Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking.' "

The First Class have dinners, after which members are called upon "to say a few words"; these dinners are sponsored by the Department of English, History and Government and are not connected with the Quarterdeck Society, although they have the same objective.

The Navy has always been light-hearted and fond of music and the coming naval generations will not lack musical talent. There are four musical associations in the Regiment: the Orchestra, the Glee Club, the N. A. Ten, and the Mandolin Club. The N. A. Ten provides music for informal dances and occasionally for a First Class hop, but its real masterpiece is the Music Clubs Show which is an operetta-comedy. The Mandolin Club is open to any midshipman who can plunk a stringed instrument. Its instruments now embrace everything from violins to tenor guitars, and it is looking forward to a harp. The Mandolin Club is sometimes guilty of crooning, but the Glee Club is the place for those barber-shop tenors who love to sing "Home on the Range," "Dan Magrew," "Barnacle Bill the Sailor," and "Old Sailors Never Die."

There was a drum and fife corps at the Academy in the  p187 eighties. For some reason it disappeared. When Rear Admiral Nulton, 1889, returned as Superintendent in 1925, he reëstablished it. It again became a "flourishing" organization, and when it played a Navy march at the Army-Navy game, gouty old legs limbered up and old‑timers stepped out with a quick step. The "corps" were at the peak of form marching on Franklin Field. On account of the time lost from drills and recitations, it has been necessary to discontinue the corps. May it be revived in all its glory.

The Masqueraders produce one serious play each year by a ranking playwright. A few players manage to conceal their muscular, brawny arms and hairy chests, but generally they make a poor imitation of a sweet piece of femininity despite their praiseworthy efforts. They sometimes add amateur actresses to the cast. Male actors sometimes deceive the audience, and all hands thoroughly enjoy the show even when a deep-throated masculine voice chirps like some fair young miss just out of a convent.

Closely akin to the musical clubs is service on the Hop Committee and Reception Committee. Members of the Hop Committee have to be tactful Chesterfields. One of their diplomatic assignments is to prevent modernistic dancing offending the dignified precincts of Dahlgren Hall. The Hop Committee also invites a hostess for each hop, and one of its own members receives with her. The Reception Committee entertains visiting athletic teams during their stay at the Academy.

For one performer on the boards, many labor behind the scenes. Among those at the Naval Academy is the electrical gang that furnishes the electrical effects and displays for all midshipmen activities — in particular those for the Masqueraders. Its members are in charge of the score-boards of athletic games and produce colorful effects at Navy dances. There is also a movie gang which assists the regular  p188 attendants in operating the sound motion-picture equipment, and a property gang and stage gang who provide, prepare, and safeguard all the stage settings, costumes, and other paraphernalia necessary for the Masqueraders and the Musical Shows. The business gang must provide "best seats" for 1,300 midshipmen and numerous officers, instructors, and civilian friends.

The three upper classes have their class organizations, consisting of permanent class officers who are in charge of all class functions. These officers are a president, a vice-president, a secretary-treasurer, and one representative from each company. They are elected annually. The class ring committee consists of the class president, one number of the class from each company, and one from the class at large. This committee is selected during the Third Class year. Ordinarily the recommendations of the ring committee are accepted. During the early 1900's the class rings grew bigger and better each year until some members of one class rebelled at the size proposed by their committee. A bitter dispute was finally settled by having rings of two sizes, large and small. The class ring is the traditional symbol of honor, loyalty, and devotion to duty. It is generally worn for the first time on the first day of June Week of Second Class year. Some rings slip right off the midshipmen's fingers on to the fingers of their best girls before June Week is over.

Really heavy suitors sometimes present their girls with a miniature class ring. The Log insists that:

1. A girl who accepts a miniature has to marry the gentleman.
2. Your drag should not look at your ring before she slips it on your finger.
3. You should wear your ring with the class crest inboard (toward your thumb), until after you graduate. Then you turn it around.
 p189  4. Those elusive numbers "2.5" (the mark necessary to graduate) be included in the design of every ring.
5. The ring be baptized in water from the Seven Seas.

The Art Club encourages artistically inclined midshipmen. It makes illustrations, posters, and cover designs for the various publications. An amateur radio group maintains and operates station W3ADO; members have an excellent opportunity to qualify as Government-licensed operators.

On Friday nights during the football season the band plays the Navy songs in the Mess Hall. The cheer-leaders are in charge. They direct all organized cheering and, assisted by the "pep" committee, develop the stunts and cheers for the Naval Academy teams, particularly for the football game between Annapolis and West Point. They are selected each year from the Second Class, who are given tryouts to prove their ability to lead the midshipmen in cheering. These cheer-leaders are at the top of their form at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, when they do their flip-flops and lead the midshipmen in their vocal support of the team. Among the most important functionaries are the goat keepers — two in number, who have charge of His Highness William the Goat prior to and during his pontifical presence at all important athletic events. The keepers are required to see that his honorable whiskers are properly combed and his horns burnished. In addition, each year they must devise a different and more imperial method of bringing him on the field, for His Highness gets more difficult to please as he gets older, and the goat keepers must not allow the Army mule to frighten the goat. It is rumored that to prevent such a humiliation, small portions of red pepper are kept at hand to make sure that the Honorable William the Goat shows the proper spirit.

William Chauvenet would approve the Mathematical  p190 Department which — thanks to such profs as William H. Wilcox, date of 1841, W. W. ("Pop") Hendrickson, 1863, P. R. Alger, 1876, and the two Woolsey Johnsons, father and son — has constantly maintained the high standard he set in 1845; but he would glow with pride that the Naval Academy, which he did so much to found, had enough midshipmen interested in the philosophy of mathematics to create a Mathematics Club. The Board of Examiners who excluded calculus from the original curriculum would be startled to know that the basic qualification for member­ship is a knowledge of "integral calculus."

The Choir is an ancient instruction, and when it sings the well-known hymn, "For Those in Peril on the Sea" on "Sob" Sunday, handkerchiefs come out in all directions, and hearty old admirals clear their throats with astonishing frequency. The Choir sometimes broadcasts on Navy Day, and it is a marble-headed Alumnus who doesn't feel a tingling sensation when he hears that deep‑sea hymn as plainly as if he were in the superintendent's pew in the Chapel.

The Chess Club is a new‑comer at Annapolis, but the Navy followers of Paul Morphy are ardent fans. The Stamp Club makes a wide appeal, and collecting stamps is a hobby that a midshipman can enjoy throughout his service career. There is a Class Crest Committee and a Christmas Card Committee, for crests and Christmas greetings must be in the best Academy tradition.

All together, "extracurricular" offers outlets for practically every desire that ever surged in the breast of man. Lastly there is the Academy Library where the midshipman who enjoys an occasional hours with a good book can find almost anything an inquiring naval mind desires. Again the warning signal must be hoisted. There is a tempting display of the latest books on the world situation and the best of  p191 the recent fiction; great self-control is necessary lest the book lover acquire valuable information not about the subjects in which he will be examined.

Rear Admiral Russell Willson, recent Superintendent, adopted a policy of treating midshipmen as young officers. He modified the prohibition against upperclassmen riding in automobiles; he changed the time of chapel to 9:30 A.M., so that there would be time for midshipmen to get recreation after chapel; and he excused one of the four battalions in rotation from attendance. Midshipmen now attend chapel three out of four Sundays. Admiral Willson gave the Regiment more opportunity for recreation and for participating more fully in the extracurricular activities.

The Author's Notes:

1 Reef Points and the Log have furnished the information on current athletics and extracurricular activities used in this book.

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2 To assist the plebe interpret this advice there is a glossary of Naval Academy slang on page 237.

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