We sometimes forget our parents were not born adults. They were children and teenagers first, who did silly things. When it comes to my dad, Tom Martin, the man who must follow the arrows in a parking lot, it is hard to imagine him pulling a prank, especially during his U.S. Coast Guard Academy years.
Each year at the Coast Guard Academy, the fourth-class (freshman) cadets pull pranks the night before the first home football game. So during my dad’s fourth-class year in 1971, he and some classmates set their sights high. The Coast Guard Academy is home to a few links from the Hudson River Chain. This chain was pulled across the Hudson during the Revolutionary War to prevent the British from sailing upriver. Clearly, the chain is of great historic importance.
Late at night before the game, my dad and his classmates “borrowed” the links of chain. After safely removing them from the wall along Harriet Lane and across from the home football bleachers of Cadet Memorial Field, they used a Cushman cart as the getaway car. It was decided that only one would drive it away and, thereby, would know where the chain was hidden. Ultimately, it was hidden in a construction area on the outskirts of the Academy.
The heist was so successful that about a week later, the chain was still missing. Finally, the administrators announced no one would be punished if they only told them where the chain was hidden. Eventually, it was returned to its former location. According to my dad, no one “borrowed” the chain again during his four years. But it appears that perhaps my dad helped to start a tradition. On the Coast Guard Academy website, under “Traditions,” fourth-class cadets are challenged to hide the link every year now.
The U.S. Naval Institute is starting a Memoir Program to supplement our Oral History Program. The ever-expanding online memoir archive will provide future researchers with a wealth of firsthand primary-source material. Stay tuned for details in the first quarter of 2017. For more information, please contact Eric Mills, Oral History Program Manager, at [email protected]