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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces an article in
Naval Institute Proceedings
Vol. 61 No. 10 (Oct. 1935), pp1532‑1535

The text is in the public domain,
the 1935 copyright not having been renewed in 1962 or 1963.

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!

This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p1533  A Midshipman's Day​a

By Midshipman W. H. Keen, U. S. Navyb

0630 (Up betimes). — Ho, hum! Sixteen hours before I hit the hay again. Oh, boy! How I love to caulk off! Out of bed. Toss the covers over the foot. Throw back the mattress. (If you can dignify it by that name.) "Stick your gonk out, Jack. You are in charge of the room this week."

0631. — A head pops out of each doorway. The reveille inspector runs along the corridor. "All turned out, Sir." A real opportunity to study human nature (are midshipmen human?) in the raw. A man's soul is bared at 0631 when he sticks his neck out of his "hole."

0650. — Hey, there, Joe Gish, Midshipman 3/c! Does it occur to you that you have to wash, shave, dress, and get to formation in some five minutes, or frap the pap? Up off the radiator (they are more useful as seats than for their designed purpose, quite unknown to some midshipmen in the fourth-deck outside rooms) in a headlong dive for the wash basin, only to meet the fond "wife," John Doe, also Midshipman 3/c, who had the same idea at the same time. In charity, we draw the curtain. …

0735. — Breakfast is over; just one of life's little trials, these breakfasts. Turn to on the room; make up the bed; sweep out; dust. One soon learns the places where they look for dust; but some duty officers seem to have a special faculty for looking just where you haven't dusted in a rush to get cleaned up before first period, always in a mad rush anyway.

0800 (Formation). — Third class on the rear terrace. Grab that steam book. A last hurried look around the room. Everything squared away. Two‑block that shade. Off to formation. Do I know that iron-carbon constitution diagram? "Hey, Jack! What is the percentage of chromium in corrosion-resisting steel?"

0811 (In class). — "Section 308, Sir. W. T. Door absent." Draw slips and man the boards. I'll have to spot them this question. I wonder if I'll get any mail. How am I supposed to remember this whole table of commercial steels (another question I spot them)? I bet I introduce the prof to some new properties of nickel.

"Mr. Gish, it is evident that you did not study your lesson over ten minutes. Now I spend three or four hours every day preparing a lesson." Oh! Issatso?

Too darn bad I busted that steam recitation. That shoots my grease with this  p1534 prof. Thought I got this stuff, too. Have to work to pull up this recitation. Starred in steam last month too. Had better bone tomorrow.

0910 (Back from class). — A leap of the heart. Something white on the blotter. Plunged into the depths again. A sinking feeling. Not a letter from Her. Just a note from the mate — "dust on top of locker." Why doesn't she write? Ah! perversity, thy name is Woman. Well, must have a look at the math before next period. Ought to go down to the tailor shop too and draw that suit of service I forgot to get last Saturday.

1024 (Formation). — Another recitation. Math this time. March over to class. Dive into a cloud of chalk dust. Drop your chalk and get half a problem behind the rest of the section while picking it up. Such a bunch of cutthroats.

Good recitation today. Lot of fun when you get the stuff. Good way to start the week. Had a 3.7 week last week too; really cracking down on this math. Could stand "5" instead of "50," if I got the steam and Skinny as well.

1135 (Back again). — Looking into the door of the room, half with expectation, half with trepidation. Ah! a letter, really a letter this time. Not just a deceptive slip of paper. A closer inspection. D–––––n, just an ad from one of the forms on robber's row. Will She never write! Gosh! isn't it awful to be in love?

Well, must get down to study again. "Skinny" P‑work this afternoon. Had better know what it is all about before I go over there.

1230. — Formation almost here and I don't know a darn thing about this Skinny. I should have boned last night instead of writing that letter. And if I had not spent all that time yesterday afternoon writing that Log article.

1243 (Formation). — Hope the D. O. doesn't inspect our company. He does. Joe Gish bounces mightily. Shoes not properly shined. Should have known better than to wear those old shoes out to formation. Must remember to add shoes to my next reque. Don't want to hit it for mutilated clothing. Stayed off the pap pretty well last month, too. Such a life!

1330. — Off in a storm to Skinny. Drawing instruments, slide rules, notebooks, manuals, texts; carry everything except strong boxes. Three hours of it — one hour recitation then long drill for two hours.

1630. — Once more back to the old hole. Ah! There it is at last. I could recognize that handwriting a mile away. And another letter from home, too. Oh, boy! It's a swell life. Hot dog! She is coming down the thirteenth. Boy, I can hardly wait for that week‑end. And, oh! man, Mother is sending me a box of chow. Ought to be down in the post-office now. It is a pretty good world after all.

"Snap out of it, Joe. Aren't you going over to the pool this afternoon? Come on; I'll go over with you. I'm going over to the gym for a workout."

Off to the natatorium. Still considerably in a fog. Just think, She will be here in a couple of weeks — And so far into the afternoon.

1815. — Must bear a hand. Get dressed and back to the hall. Good workout this afternoon. Took another second off that  p1535 220 today. Beat that Rutgers man yet. Good thing we are meeting them in our own pool — tough meet. Have to dash back over to the hall. Better read my reg book before going on watch tonight. They are tightening down these days.

1840 (Formation). — Formation inside? Good! Shoes don't look any too smart. Better not wear them to outside formations any more. Hope no one pulls a heel inspection tonight. Oh, Boy! Wait till we hit that chow. Come on; let's go to chow. See Bulletin Board in the third battalion. Let's eat.

1925. — "Fall in the watch squad." First section watch tonight. Mate of the second deck. Could be worse.

2000. — "Study hour! Get to your rooms all along!" Who is going to make study hour inspection on the second deck, sixth company mate? (Silence reigns.)

2205 (Release). — "Here mail these letters, Mister."

2210 (Tattoo). — "In your rooms all along. Get to your holes."

2215 (Taps). — All quiet. Follow the taps inspector around as he turns out the lights. Soon be in bed myself.

2225. — "Battalion office. Second deck all turned in."

2245 (Secure). — Turn in log books to company mate. Send down taps inspection sheets. I wonder what She is doing now.

2300. — And so to bed . . . .

Thayer's Notes:

a Also onsite: a piece of writing in much the same vein about Annapolis' sister academy at West Point (although considerably longer, booklet-length) — The Collected Works of Ducrot Pepys.

[decorative delimiter]

b Walter Hughes Keen, Jr. was born February 11, 1917 in New Orleans and graduated in the Class of 1937, recipient of the Class of 1912 Prize for English; his entry in the 1937 Lucky Bag (p230) is a valuable witness to his character:

This is the first of the biographies of W. H. Keen, Jr., here known as "Walt." It is inadequate. His vocation here is his multiplex activities. His avocation is starring, to which he devotes as much time as does the average star man in keeping off the trees. His generosity is unique in that it extends to his most treasured possession, even to his time. His room is an oasis to the unsats of all classes, and during evening study hour he frequently lays aside his Nietzsche or his Maugham to reclaim a friend from the peril of the re‑exam.

From the Web we glean that by 1943 he had been promoted Lieutenant Commander; in 1948 he was living in Norfolk; in 1949, Commander, attached to Princeton University and elected member of the American Mathematical Society; in 1957, full Captain, working in the Bureau of Naval Weapons. He died on February 6, 1994 in Seattle, and is buried in Tahoma National Cemetery (Kent, WA) with his wife and her relatives: on his gravestone, but nowhere else I've been able to find, his middle name is spelled Hughs.

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Page updated: 14 Nov 21