Jul 26

Story Time with ’72: Meal Time Shenanigans

Thursday, July 26, 2018 12:01 AM

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During Plebe Summer the mantra “just make it to the next meal” is not uncommon as meals provide a small break from the physical nature of the summer. Today during the academic year rivalry weeks when the Midshipmen are slated to play Air Force or Army King Hall becomes a place of danger for upper class who are tough on plebes. Food and water goes flying through the air to ruin the uniforms of the upperclassman and many others end up getting caught in the crossfire. The members of the Class of ’72 recall similar things happening during their plebe summer.

Members 5th Company, Class of 1972, have a little bit of fun on "Red Beach" out side of Bancroft Hall during Plebe Summer. (Photo Courtesy of Bill Boniface)

Members 5th Company, Class of 1972, have a little bit of fun on “Red Beach” out side of Bancroft Hall during Plebe Summer. (Photo Courtesy of Bill Boniface)

Andrew Adams says one of the best memories he has of Plebe Summer was Animal night. Though Andrew chose to leave most of Animal Night to the imagination he did share the story of a near miss for one of the detailers. Mr. Adams was a proud member of 6th platoon which was destined to be the 6th Company plebes when the Brigade returned that fall. To give some frame of the reference to the logistics in King Hall he explained that “meal tables were only in one end of the mess hall and we sat as a group of 11 plebes to 1 second class at each table. Staff members of the details filled in the need extra upper class seat.” One of Mr. Adam’s platoon-mates, Steve Ruschmeier, however, told me what Animal Night was about in a little bit more detail.

“One of my best memories is one evening meal in the mess hall during plebe summer when our 2/c squad leaders decided to give us a morale building “Animal Night”. That meant that we were to eat the entire meal with just our hands, no utensils. All knives, forks and spoons went in a pile in the middle of the table. We plebes were in white works, the 2/c in Trop White Long. At the end of the meal, one of my classmates, Ted Morandi, took the large dessert bowl that held something very messy, maybe chocolate ice cream, stood up, scooped out a heaping handful and, as it dripped through his fingers said in a loud voice “Would the Second Class care for seconds on dessert, Sir?” One of the 2/C started to smile as he looked up but then he saw Ted and the slop dripping through his hand and understood what he had in mind, his expression changed in an instant. He said in a very low voice, “Morandi – don’t even think about it….” And for a second I don’t think anyone on the table was sure which way it would go, but Ted chose discretion, probably to the benefit of all of us, and certainly to the benefit of the second class’s TWLs. And by the way, the second class’s name was Daniel Akerson, whose name is now prominently displayed on Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.” Steve Ruschmeier (sic)

MIDN 4/C Saul Klein in "TWLs". (Photo Courtesy of Saul Klein)

MIDN 4/C Saul Klein in “TWLs”. (Photo Courtesy of Saul Klein)

Another meal time tradition that carries on is having plebes eat stuff. During the Air Force and Army rivalry weeks it is not uncommon to see plebes standing on chairs and chugging anything from tabasco sauce to balsamic vinegar, including more mild items like milk. The occasional pie eating contest between an upperclass and a plebe for the right of “carry on”, increased privilege, for the day. In the class of 1972’s time at the academy there was also a challenge to eat 12 “cannon balls” to gain carry on for an entire week. This challenge included eating the entire meal before attempting to eat 12 baked apples that were breaded in puff pastry and doused in “hard sauce” which was a sweet and creamy. These cannon balls are fabled to weigh around 10 pounds each by a few of the graduates. Needless to say, not very many plebes could stomach the challenge, though not for lack of trying.

Ed Nordquist remembers trying a different colossal food consumption challenge brought on partially by himself: 

Always having a bit too much Sea Lawyer in me, I came to a classmate’s defense when the Plebe Detail decided that he was overweight and would not get dessert that day. Dessert was Jello, in the gallon bowls. I spoke up that “There is always room for Jello!” I proceeded to eat about a gallon and one half of Jello. Still cannot stand the stuff.” Ed Nordquist (sic)

As plebe summer winds down toward plebe parents weekend the detailers try to hone in on some final lessons before the rest of the student body shows back up. V.L. Cassani, III recalls an exceptionally entertaining noon meal just before being released to see his family for the first time since the start of plebe summer. The uniform of the day was TWL (tropical white long) or what most people know today to be Summer Whites. It is a joke amongst midshipmen that the King Hall staff has a working conspiracy against the brigade: to serve messy, often time red, food when the uniform of the day is whites. Things were no different in 1968.

“We were sitting on our Plebe Regiment company tables (D Company, 10th Platoon) with our second set squad leaders (2nd Class MIDN in those days). We had to successfully survive Noon Meal until “4th Class March Out “was announced from the Anchor, then we had our first Town Liberty until 2100 with our families. Because the table I was assigned to had some extra Plebes from another company, I was ordered by my Squad Leader to sit on the 1st Class end of the table (outboard with the windows behind me). A Segundo from Second Regiment who was not part of the Plebe Detail (no Red Name Tag) sat down next to me and started popping professional questions. The mess officer, in his infinite wisdom and sense of Karma, served Chili Con Carne and Toasted Grilled Cheese sandwiches for Noon Meal with everyone in Tropical White Long. My classmates and I were answering his questions and passing chow. The 5 gallon container of chili was at the 2nd Class end of the table. The segundo ordered my classmates to “get that chili down here NOW!” As we all remember, F=MA, and the A component kept increasing for the chili container as it traveled toward the segundo down the youngster side of the table . My classmate occupying the last seat on the youngster side of the table could not execute an arrested landing of the chili which ended up in the segundo’s lap, trou and SHOES! When I saw the train wreck approaching I moved left and escaped with a small red stain on my trou but no major damage. The segundo went totally nuts! He wanted to FRY all of us and put us on restriction over Parent’s Weekend. Our Squad Leaders (Buzz Savage & Dennis Fiordaliso ’70) told their classmate to STFU since he was not on the Plebe Detail and technically was out of bounds and could get fried (the pap was 120 demos). He griped that the mid store and uniform shop were closed and he did not have a spare set of white shoes (NO ONE DID) and he couldn’t go on town libs since he would be out of uniform {No civilian clothes authorized in those days). Buzz told him to secure and go buy some white shoes out in town at Johnson’s On the Avenue (Maryland Ave & State Circle) which was the go to men’s store for civies and tailored unis. Just then, we heard,” Mate, get his name!” We turned to see the OOW pointing at the segundo. Fortunately for my classmates and me, “Fourth Class March Out” was passed before the mate got to the table. We all smartly chopped to T – Court and rendezvoused with our families. Never did find out what happened to that segundo.” V.L. Cassani III (sic)

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MIDN 4/C Killough keeps his sense of humor through plebe summer. (Photo courtesy of Jim O’Keefe)

When the brigade reformes just after plebe summer the Plebes will go through “Hello night” when they meet their upperclassmen for the first time. This particular meal dose not hold much significance in terms of tradition but George Foley remembers his first impression with his upperclass company mates not going very well.

“At the end of Plebe Summer the brigade reformed. The first night back, evening meal, I drew the short straw and had the serving seat at the First Class end of the table. There was white milk, chocolate milk and water on the table. When MIDN 1/C Glen Maus asked for half and half to drink I thought it was an odd request as no 2/C had made that request over the summer, but nonetheless I dutifully poured half white milk and half water in his glass. When he tasted it and spit it out in my direction it occurred to me he had meant half white milk and half chocolate milk. My debut was impressive as you might imagine and my dinner that night as I recall was largely several glasses of water mixed with milk. Never made that mistake again. You see that’s what Plebe training is all about.” George Foley (sic)