Sunday, July 6, 2014

38 years ago today at USNA

My friend David Kennedy reminded me that 38 years ago today I entered the US Naval Academy as a plebe. My father and brother went back east with me for a few days of sightseeing before I was to start plebe summer. I remember getting off the plane at either Dulles Airport or Baltimore/Washington. It was pouring rain and hot. I was from Southern California, and I couldn’t remember experiencing heat and rain simultaneously. 

I’d been to college already, at UC Santa Cruz, my father’s dream school. He was very liberal, and when I rebelled, it was in the conservative direction. When I applied to USNA (and USMA and USAFA and USMMA) through my congressional representative, I remember dad telling me that he’d rather pay my way through college than have me go into the military. Turns out he would be bragging on me before my stay was done. There is much more to the story of my application than that, but thats enough detail for now. When I was accepted to USNA (and USMA and USMMA), I dropped out of UCSC, since the final quarter would have bumped right up against plebe summer. I left one residential college for another and have great memories of each, though at opposite ends of several political dimensions.

At this moment, I don’t recall too much of the tourist stuff in the DC area ahead of time, other than the visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which had just opened, and a tour of the Academy when I was still a civilian. I also remember that we saw The Omen with Gregory Peck in downtown Annapolis at a theater on Main Street one afternoon. The scene where a fellow gets his head sliced off by a pane of glass stuck with me, and the walk along Main Street after the movie reminded me of that scene!

I was reserved as I shaved the morning of July 6 in the hotel room I shared with my dad and brother. I walked into the USNA Visitor's Center to check in and to pick up a bag of stuff — clothes and whatnot as I recall. I still have that bag (OMG -- I still remember my number), and my wife wonders why I won’t ever throw it away — NEVER! :-)

I remember standing in a line to be weighed by a balance scale, and as I stepped up on the scale, the first-class midshipman doing the weighing asked me "What's your weight, Fisher?" (because by now I had a name tag on), and I replied "About 148", and he yelled back "about 148 WHAT!!?!" and I replied "About 148 POUNDS" and then he went ballistic, yelling "About 148 pounds SIR!!" several times. That was an eye opener!

After the weighing, which took place at the infirmary as I recall, I was sitting with a bunch of others, waiting to be walked to the next station, looking out an open door, and saw my father and brother walk by at a leisurely pace, my father pointing out something to my brother, not aware that I was watching them. 

I remember getting a haircut at some point that day, and while I was waiting my turn, I watched a guy who I had met earlier that summer at a USNA alumni-sponsored dinner, another incoming plebe, looking extremely depressed as his long, long, long hair -- the subject of curious looks at the alumni dinner -- was shaved off.

I walked into my room on the top floor of Bancroft Hall ( Turns out that I had a beautiful view of Santee Basin and the Severn River. Brian K. was already there, and after we swapped quick histories, because there was somewhere to be, he told me that he was glad that he wasn’t stuck with some youngster right out of high school :-). Good ‘ol Kilk!

The rest of the day was a blur. Right now, I last remember forming up for evening meal formation and then falling out for one last visit with Dad and Bruce before reentering Bancroft Hall — a gauntlet. I don’t remember the hell that was dinner that night, or the regrets of getting into my rack for the first time, but I don’t regret it now.

USNA Revisited: