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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), pp1537‑1543

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

 p1537  Extra-Curricular Activities

By Midshipman E. A. Grantham, U. S. Navya

Extra-curricular activities at the Naval Academy serve the double purpose of affording midshipmen valuable recreation and of giving them an added outlet for their energies and talents other than those granted them in the classroom and at drills. These activities are carefully supervised by the Executive Department, and various provisions concerning the election of officers, the keeping of funds, the allowable number of members, and other pertinent items are set forth in the regulations in order to govern the procedure of the various organizations. Thus one may judge how important extra-curricular activities are considered by the administration at the Academy. It is quite true that the interest of the authorities is second only to that of the midshipmen.

Extra-curricular activities at the Naval Academy as they are commonly understood do not include sports. Sports are such an integral part of the system of training that the word, extra-curricular, could not well be applied to them. It is safe to say that the expression, "every man an athlete," comes as close to being true at the Academy as is humanly possible. Certainly, no effort is spared to provided ample opportunity besides the regular physical training periods for a midshipman's physical development. There is some sort of sport for every man, no matter what his weight, height, or ability. Class and company teams abound for the less talented, but almost every man makes some varsity squad before the end of his four years. Consequently, the term, extra-curricular, is limited to the publications,  p1539 musical organizations, dramatic productions, and other organizations and committees that function to make a midshipman's life a bit smoother, more varied, and more pleasant.

There are 23 of these activities at the Academy. In them, some 600 midshipmen participate actively, an average of 1 midshipman out of each 3. In addition, several hundred more render casual service here and there. The scope of the organizations is as general as the participation in them.

They range in size from the Reception Committee, which may include a hundred members, to the goat keepers, composed of two midshipmen who lead "Bill" at the football games. Their functions vary from that of choosing the menu for the First-Class Supper to that of preparing card stunts for athletic events. But they do have one thing in common. Excepting the strictly class organizations, any man, whatever his class, is eligible for participation in them. Let us examine them and see in what sort of activities J. Gish, late of Peoria, is likely to take part during his four years at the Academy.

First in interest come the publications. Of these there are four, the Log, the Lucky Bag, the Trident, and Reef Points.

The Log combines humor, sports, and professional news; is published once each week; and is, of course, staffed entirely by midshipmen. The editor and his immediate assistants are first classmen, but the staff may include midshipmen of any class. The Lucky Bag, however, is strictly a class publication. It is, in the finest sense, a record of each year's graduating class and is published just prior to graduation by that class. The positions of editor and business manager are very much sought after, and the elections for them are very hectic affairs with much discussion pro and con before the two lucky men are picked. The editor and business manager of Reef Points are also chosen by class election. The primary objective of  p1540 the Reef Points' organization is the publication of an annual handbook of information for the Regiment, particular attention being paid to the deficiencies of knowledge of the newly entered fourth class; so that the small volume well deserves the name of the "Plebes' Bible." The Trident differs radically from the other three Academy publications and offers a field to those midshipmen who are interested in short stories, essays, or serious verse. Even officers in the Fleet contribute to it. It is published in magazine form three times per year. Although all classes contribute, the editor is a first classman.

One other activity deserves mention here with the publications. It is the Cut Exchange, existing for the purpose of filing away and furnishing again when needed cuts, sketches, and photographs that have appeared in one or another of the magazines or annuals. It is a sort of co‑ordinator for the art of the publications, without which their art departments would be very much hampered.

As has been mentioned, the positions of responsibility on these four publications are prizes that are striven for. However, although there is so much competition for them, it is certain that they are the most deadly jobs at the Academy. There is no surer way to "drop numbers" than to become editor of the Log or business manager of the Lucky Bag. But the energy of midshipmen being what it is, there are always enough aspirants for any one position to ensue that it is capably filled.

Those midshipmen who are devotees of music find their opportunity in the Musical Clubs. There are four of these, the N. A. Ten, the Orchestra, the Glee Club, and the Mandolin Club. The N. A. Ten goes in for dance music and does a good job of it, too. On Friday nights during football season, it is wont to play in Smoke Hall for the Regiment's amusement. The time is just after supper, the atmosphere blue with smoke, Navy enthusiasm at a white heat, and the music good. While it occasionally does a hop for the first class, the N. A. Ten's biggest spot of the year is in the Musical Clubs' show, later to be mentioned. Whereas the N. A. Ten goes in for jazz and better, the Orchestra confines itself strictly to classical and semi-classical music. It has become the mainstay of the Musical Clubs' show, and in addition, gives an excellent concert each June Week. The Mandolin Club appeals to any fellow who owns a stringed instrument and just plunks around on it. The club's instrumentation now runs from violins to tenor guitars, and it is only a matter of time until a harp will be included. Occasionally the Mandolin Club sings and plays, but those who like to strain their vocal chords on "Sweet Adeline" find their true place in the Glee Club. The Glee Club gives a June Week concert along with the Orchestra, and also does yeoman service  p1541 in the Musical Clubs' show, furnishing everything from massed choruses to extras for that scene wherein the hero and heroine watch the world come to an end.

Students of dramatics and true followers of histrionics get their chance to shine in the Masqueraders' comedy and in the Combined Musical Clubs' show each year. The Masqueraders annually present a straight play, while the Musical Clubs follow them each spring with an operetta comedy. The Masqueraders usually do a very light play, the efforts of some of the best writers, Noel Coward, for instance, being purchased for the show. Naturally, a comedy containing no characters but men cannot well be obtained, so that midshipmen must appear as sweet young heroines as well as brawny heroes. The difficulty of making a quarterback over into a debutante is easier imagined than described, but with the help of the make‑up gang, the impossible is often so well accomplished as to fool the audience. The Musical Clubs' show has the same problems of make‑up to solve; but, in addition, there must be some way worked out to co‑ordinate all the musical talent that is available. Skits, black-outs, and single numbers abound, although there is usually a single theme linking together all the components of the show. No small service is rendered the dramatic productions by the stage gang and the juice gang. The former tends the drops and curtains, and the latter sees that spotlights are played on when and where they should be, and that the proper lighting to set off the heroine's skin tints is had. In addition, there is a business gang that supervises the financial side of the productions, has the programs printed, and plays watchdog to the treasury; and a property gang that provides everything from sofas to Venetian blinds.

All extra-curriculars demand enthusiasm, but if midshipmen have more than their rightful share of it, they manage either to get on the Pep Committee, to become cheer leaders, or else squire Bill about during the first term of first-class year. The Pep Committee is the brains of the outfit. It prepares the card stunts for the football games, promotes spirit in the Regiment, and acts as an advisory body to the cheer leaders. The cheer leaders and the goat keepers are always to be seen before Thompson Stadium or at Franklin Field when Navy football teams are in action.

If you have poise, tact, and a liking for the social things, you want to become a member either of the Hop Committee or of the Reception Committee. Membership here is limited to the three upper classes, and to the Hop Committee it is elective. The Hop Committee plans all the hops, but its duties go a great deal further than that. It must invite the hostess for each hop and have one of its own members receive with her. Its members must be continually on the watch for any dancing that is outré and to them is given the difficult and diplomatic task of insinuating  p1542 to the dancers that steps a trifle tamer would be more in keeping with the spirit of Dahlgren Hall. The Reception Committee's service is not quite so varied as that of the Hop Committee, but it also affords opportunity for outside contacts. To it is given the task of meeting and entertaining all the visiting athletic teams. It is an all‑year job and can be very ticklish at times. For instance, what would you do if it were two in the morning, no elevator man can be found in all of Bancroft Hall, and the visiting lacrosse team flatly refused to walk up four flights of stairs to its quarters? The second classman hero of this story woke up nearly all of Annapolis, but he found a man at last who knew the intricacies of the elevator system of Bancroft Hall.

The class-spirited midshipman is sure to be found on one of the class organizations. If he draws and designs, there are the Ring Committee, the Class Crest Immense, and the Christmas Card Committee beckoning him. The selection of a crest and ring — to stand as the symbol of a class the rest of its career — is no small responsibility. A Christmas Card for the use of the Regiment is chosen each year. Or if the midshipman cooks or is a connoisseur of food, he can find his place on the First-Class Supper Committee, which prepares the menu and entertainment each spring for the annual supper given the first class.

If J. Gish draws, if he speaks, if he is interested in social service, or if he is fond of amateur radio, there are still other activities at the Academy for him. Young Raphaels are to be found in the Art Club. Most of the Log covers come from the brushes and pens of this group; more important, in Memorial Hall each June Week the Art Club holds an exhibition that has steadily been getting more extensive and more capable. For the followers of Demosthenes there is the Quarter-deck Society. The Quarter-deckers have informal speaking  p1543 approximately one night a week throughout the academic year, and in the spring they conduct an oratorical contest for the handsome prize of a gold watch. There is no better way to prepare for that soul-trying, after-dinner speaking that comes during first-class year than to become a member of the Quarter-deck Society, nor will experience gained there be useless later on in the Fleet. The Naval Academy Christian Association is the social service referred to. The NACA invites prominent speakers for the entertainment and instruction of the regiment after dinner each Sunday night; it places magazines and newspapers in Smoke Hall for midshipmen's reading; and it also sends reading matter to the Naval Hospital so that the temporarily maimed and inactive can keep their minds keen for their return to the battle with the academics. The NACA Committee renders more service with less ostentation than almost any other organization at the Academy. The Amateur Radio Club holds a great attraction for those who were "hams" before they were midshipmen. It has a licensed station, W3ADO, set up in room 1109, and there the members spend much of their time in conversion with other amateurs from Sydney to Oslo and points in between.

It can easily be seen that no matter what J. Gish's likings, talents, or previous experiences are, he can find something outside his regular academic pursuits with which to busy himself. Extra-curriculars are one of the many factors that work to make a midshipman's life more varied and pleasant.

Thayer's Note:

a Emery Arden Grantham, born in Albany, Texas on Dec. 4, 1914, would graduate third in the Class of 1937 and go on to serve as a naval constructor, receiving a Master's degree in naval architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He retired as Rear Admiral in 1974 and died in 1998; he has been memorialized on the Heroes' Monument in his hometown.

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