West Point (6)
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The rest of Plebe year - Christmas Break to 'June Week' - the Graduation Week for the Class of '47 - was more grinding academics, punctuated by athletics, indoor activities periodic parades, endurance through what has always been referred to by cadets as "Gloom Period" - the winter months January through March.
|From F-2 Barracks Window during Gloom Period|
No view of West Point - from one of the windows in our 'Lost 50s' F-2 Barracks - portrays the 'Gloom Period' as well as this one I took, showing the wet streets, one lonely cadet enroute to the Gym, and the back yards of the Superintendent and Commandants quarters
It was also the time to really get to know one's roommates better, and only to a slightly lesser extent the other 21 classmates in the same company - F-2. Living in the same 3 story barracks building, 3 to a room, always standing in formations with them, always eating at the same 'Company Tables' with them - as well as the other 75 cadets of the upper classes from F-2.
|F-2's Three Vertical Stories|
Our 3 Story F-2 Company Barracks
A few other classmate personalities began to emerge. Paul Gorman, Ty Tandler, Charlie Means, Grayson Tate - all a little older than I, and who had some prior college experience. Bob Grow, whose father had been a successful WWII General stuck out. And Robert Green, the only Black cadet in our Company.
And I was bedeviled by the fact that redhead Thomas Hughes, from Virginia had the same name and was also in F-2. His initials helped define him - as he was always referred to as 'three letter - TWL - Hughes'.
|Norm Smedes from Idaho|
My roommates were Norman Smedes, and Grady Banister all four years.
My Chess Escape
As for the other activities I diverted my mind from the academic grind, was, again, the Chess Club. I started playing more frequently and saw that I was better than most others in the Club.
|Me on extreme Left, Fidel Ramos second from left at Table|
It was there I met a shorter, smaller classmate who also dropped in frequently enough that I got to know him. If he came in wearing his cadet gray coat, with the high choke collar, I saw that he wore a gold star on his collar. That meant he was a 'Star Man' - a cadet whose academic grades across the board in his class put him in the top 5% of all our 800+ classmates (we were down over 100 classmates from our original 922 by this time - the second half of our first year. A good third of those dropped would have failed by Christmas Break)
He had an Asian face and his name was Fidel Ramos from the Phillipine Islands. He had been nominated by the Philippine Government to West Point, which the US Government would accept - provided of course the nominees met all the other requirements for new cadets. He did. And how. And if he made it through the four years he would be commissioned in the PI Army, an ally of the United States.
I got to know him well. And I could beat him 2 out of 3 games. We both were good enough that we became members of the Chess Team - able to compete with other college teams.
Oh yeah. Several decades later he became Fidel Ramos, elected President of the Philippines. A classmate.
As the photograph of Norm Smedes above attests, I frequently took pictures in our barracks room, experimenting, and then 'ran the gauntlet' into Central Area to go into the Camera Club darkroom and develop the 35mm black and white film. I was always risking in that walk across the north area, and central area to reach the Club door, being accosted by upperclassmen who would, and could, as soon as they saw I was a 'plebe' stop me, interrogate me, make me spout answers found in the Bugle Notes, before letting me go on.
But My Photographic Passion
Many of the pictures I took were moody pictures of moody cadets, as the below photo attests. I started getting good at capturing the atmosphere of West Point as reflected in Cadet life. Below is an example.
|My Cadet "Mood" Photos|
But my growing photography skill and interests, were beginning to eat into my study time. Very slowly, but persistently. Which would emerge later.
Finally! The End of Plebe Year!
Somehow the academic grind came to an end in May. And somehow I managed to pass all the courses, though I saw that the coming, more difficult engineering course-years would test me. The feared 'WGR' - the Written General Review - tests were behind, and "June Week" - the week full of Parades, Graduation of the Class of '47 was coming up, with Graduation Parade - when the Pass in Review is held FOR the graduating Seniors, not 'By' them for whatever dignitaries were at the reviewing stand.
|Typical Saturday Battalions Pass in Review.|
AND the ceremony that ALL we plebes were looking for finally came, RECOGNITION! When all the upperclassmen who had hounded us all year, from Beast Barracks on, stretched out their hands at the end of a parade when we were back inside the barracks area, shook ours with laughs and grins, and we no longer were Dumbsmack 4th Class Doolies, but fully accepted - into the Corps of Cadets - as Yearling 3d Class Cadets.
|The Final Plebe Ceremony of Upper Classmen Recognition in May.|
I had made it!
And I was entitled to go home for 30 days leave!
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