Shipmate Column
Stewardship 2016

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
164 Sweetwater Lane, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
h: 828-862-4245  e:
Web site:

For any classmate you can go to the Classmates Page and enter his name to read his current biography if available.

        Too often lately, we receive the sad news that another classmate, and sometimes a member of the Class of 1963 family, has passed away. We cherish their memory, and know that we were blessed to have had them in our lives.

        I am sorry to report the passing of our classmate Francis L. Davey, who died on Saturday, 23 January, of complications from ALS. Frank's widow, Elaine, can be contacted at 6223 West Valley Green Road, Flourtown, PA 19031.
        We extend our sympathy to Mike Blackledge for the death of his son, Douglas, this January. Doug was a 1992 USAFA graduate, LtCol USAF (Ret.). Mike can be contacted at 14321 Stalgren Court NE, Albuquerque, NM 87123-2209.

        Steve Coester sent this note and photo from a recent encounter.
     Lynda and Eric Krieger recently moved from Albuquerque,NM, to Viera, FL. They visited Yvonne and me on February 5. Eric and I knew of each other at the Academy but had no shared memories from those days of yore. Despite that, we all had a great time rehashing tales from USNA and learning about each other's families and careers. It is always great getting together with classmates.
Yvonne, Eric, Lynda, and Steve

        Fisheries Supply and the sailing magazine 48° North have recognized the high level of racing in the Pacific Northwest by naming the Top 25 Sailboats of 2015. Judging was based on participation and "consistent, top-notch sailing." Ranked in 9th place was "BZ," the Beneteau 40.7 owned and skippered by Denny Vaughan. Congratulations to Denny and his crew!

        Mike Blackledge has begun collecting stories from our colorful experiences in PE classes at the Academy. He has already compiled noteworthy accounts from boxing, swimming, and tennis. Also included in his stories, though they were not strictly PE activities, are crew and a brief mention of field ball. These have been mounted in the Pride and Tradition -- Midshipman Memories section of our web site. They can be seen by clicking HERE .
        Mike says that the best non-competitive boxing story from our plebe year centers on Lou Simpleman.
     Lou roomed with wrestler Mike Harman and boxer Robbie "Fig" Newton. Lou saw Robbie sitting on the sidelines during our instruction, and he started taunting him, something like, "Come on, get in here - what, are you afraid of what I might do to you?" He finally got Robbie into the ring, and in about 3.2 nanoseconds, found himself on the mat, looking up with a dazed expression. Talk about hand speed. Thank goodness for head guards.
        Mike Harman provided another account of the event.
     I can add a few details of the somewhat famous Fig/Simp fight. It happened during plebe year during a normal boxing class. Usually Simp and I boxed each other and being roommates we pummeled each other with reckless abandon. Fig looked on and helped coach us. On this particular day I had a wrestling match coming up so was not supposed to box. As reported, Simp was dancing around the ring yelling at Fig to come up and fight him. (When we were wrestling around in the room Fig did not seem so invincible.) Simp continued to rag on Fig, referring occasionally to something a chicken left on the bottom of the cage.
     The coach said definitely No! But Fig Told the coach not to worry because he would just dance around and would not hit Simp. So the bout started. Simp rushed in, swinging away. In a very short time Simp using his size and the fact that Fig would not hit him managed to push Fig into a corner. Fig was doing a great job of bobbing and slipping punches but being pushed into a corner for just an instant, instincts took over and Fig landed a short left hook to Simp's chin. This might be my fading memory, but it seemed to me that Simp's feet came up to the same level as his head and then he landed flat on his back. He crawled out of the ring and that was the end of the fight.

        Rounding out the story, Robbie Newton provided some missing details.
     As for the occasion of Lou Simpleman's and my sparing session, I say the following. Though it may not have been as quick as nanoseconds, as I thought I took it easy on Lou (carried boxing speak) for one minute (at least I intended to, being a roommate and all). But then again I may have had to get ready for a come-around (had plenty of those), or maybe it was chow call. Thus, I may have had to get out of there quickly, which would have accounted for the quickness in the dispensing of Lou. Had I known about "Rope a-Dope" at that time, I might have used that on him...ha ha. Anyway, he was a good sport, and continued as a roommate along with Wrestling Champ Mike Harman. Lou probably got sick of hearing Mike and me arguing over whether a boxer or a wrestler was tougher (though Mike and I related to the mutual intensity of getting in shape for both sports, not to mention making weight). I respected squash, (Lou's sport) as a good, fast game. I recall the time he turned the tables...invited me on the squash court for a few games, ran me ragged, dispensed of me if not in nanoseconds, in record time...(as they say; payback is a

        To wrap up our sports reporting for this month, here is a photo of the Macdonough Hall plaque honoring the Brigade Boxing champions in 1963.

        I hope you recall attending the Prizes and Awards ceremony at the end of our First Class year. Excellence and accomplishments in academics, leadership, athletics, and other areas were recognized. We would like to include the recipients' names and prizes in our web site, and publish them in Shipmate. If you have any information about this, please share it with me.

        Now for some time travel, back to our midshipman years, inspired by some newspaper clippings I found tucked into my 1963 Lucky Bag. In the 1950's and 1960's the Washington Post included an advice column by Mary Haworth as a regular feature. (I don't know if that was her real name or a pseudonym, but that's unimportant.) In her column published on 22 April 1962, Miss (Ms. had not yet been invented.) Haworth responded to a letter from a young woman ("F.P.") who was less than satisfied with her experiences as a Naval Academy drag. Responses from members of the Brigade filled two subsequent Mary Haworth columns. I enjoyed seeing the clippings again and present several excerpts below.
     I am a senior in college, dating a midshipman at the U. S. Naval Academy. We've been dating for about a month, but in an unusual fashion. As middies are not allowed away from the Academy, girls usually go to Annapolis for the Saturday night hop, as it is called, a very formal and glamorous function. This invitation includes the whole weekend, which is very exciting.
     Dick took me to the hop the first weekend and we had a wonderful time. I was very happy when he invited me for the next weekend. I even bought a lovely new gown for the occasion. Late Saturday afternoon, however, he said he didn't want to go to the hop, that it was too much trouble getting all dressed up.
     Instead we walked around some, then spent most of the evening in the "drag house." I really enjoyed the evening, I guess. But the next weekend, when again we didn't go to the hop, I became completely confused. We walked out by the river and stayed there all evening. He is very polite and kind but very stubborn and can't understand my feelings. I don't know what to do because I am afraid I will offend him. Yet I am tired of going down to the river every Saturday night. Could you please give me some advice? Signed -- F. P.

     You have a just grievance. Dick's dating behavior is distressingly third rate. If his deportment by the river weren't "very polite and kind"-- so you say -- one might reasonably construe that his intentions are dishonorable and his presumption insulting.
     There is no acceptable logic for his poor showing. I can only surmise that perhaps he is afraid of losing you to the competition, if he takes you regularly to the Saturday night hops, where fellow midshipmen might seize the opportunity to court your interest and win your heart.
     Or else he may feel he cannot afford the average costs of first class weekend hospitality to a girl friend and therefore schemes to get your company "on the cheap," by luring you to Annapolis in hopes of a hop, and unfurling his seedier program hour by hour.

     Isn't there a woman chaperone, or house mother of sorts, to look after you, while you are in town as a midshipman's drag? I am sure there must be, and part of her chore is to help you solve, on the spot, just such awkward situations as this one.
     So, the next time you are invited by Dick for a weekend, go prepared for first-class hospitality. Then, if and when, sooner or later, he begins to edge out of the Saturday hop, you excuse yourself gracefully for a few minutes and go into a huddle with the chaperone. Ask her to explain, if she can, why he takes this tack. And ask her, too, how you may nicely avoid a repetition of the river bit and get to the hop, as you'd expected to.
     If she has the social seasoning to be a competent chaperone, she will handle the case diplomatically, so that Dick will realize both his mistake and his true obligations as host, without loss of regard for you.
     In the event she doesn't measure up in that respect, you should simply refuse to walk by the river during the evening and either spend the time with Dick at the drag house, or at the hop, or at dinner and the movies -- where you will be among other people. Or else say goodnight early and go to your room.
     If this doesn't bring a drastic improvement in his hospitality routine, you should cross him off your dating list. Maybe he has a fiancee or a secret wife in his background. Shocking as that may sound, it isn't unheard-of; I've been confidentially consulted about just such hidden complications.

        Clearly, Mary jumped to some shaky conclusions and gave bad advice. Here are some of the midshipmen responses that appeared in print in the Post. They describe circumstances that we remember well.
You are about as far out in left field as you can possibly get, in the advice you gave to F.P., the midshipman's drag who grieves because he prefers to walk by the Severn River Saturday nights instead of taking her to the hop.
     When a midshipman invites a young lady to the Naval Academy, it is for the whole weekend, not exclusively for the Saturday night hop. The hop is provided for those who choose to go. It is not a "must" event. And it doesn't cost anything. Not going often adds more expense to the weekend.
     I don't blame him one bit for not wanting to get into his "full dress" every weekend, for an event that should be informal or, at most, semi-formal.
     Drag houses aren't private, and if he wants to discuss anything of a private nature, a walk around the sea wall affords enough privacy for that--which is all the privacy it does provide, so his intentions can only be honorable.
     Refer future inquires about academy social life to Mrs. Marshall, c/o Bancroft Hall, Annapolis, Md. She is the midshipmen's hostess and well equipped to interpret their habits and customs.

     I am not the midshipman who drags F. P., and cannot answer for his intentions. But I can say this--hops at the Naval Academy usually are very unpleasant affairs for the midshipmen.
     We wear a very uncomfortable uniform; have to be at the hop at a specifed time or be placed on report; are told how We may dance (the twist is banned); cannot leave the hop until its completion; then we have a grand total of 40 to 60 minutes to escort our date to the Drag House and get back inside Bancroft Hall. We have to run, to and fro, to avoid being placed on report.
     As for F. P.'s problem, I should think if she wants badly enough to go to the hop, she can persuade her mid. If she can't, she is losing her womanly charm . Hops are fine for big occasions, but certainly not for every weekend.

     Midshipmen aren't supermen. They are human beings who work very hard, carry tremendous responsibilities and shouldn't be condemned if they prefer to relax rather than go to a hop every Weekend.
     Further, their only cash income while at the Academy (excluding a dole from home) is $9 a month, third class (sophomore) year; $11, second class (junior) year; and $15, first class (senior) year.
     Any girl who thinks a midshipman is cheap if he doesn't spend $10 to $20 during her visit has a very poor sense of values. She and the mid would be happier if she just stayed home.

     Thanks for your many instructive letters, of which the foregoing is but a sample. I was impressed to see how beautifully written and how splendidly courteous (in the main) your statements were --pleasing evidence of brains, breeding and character. M.W.

        That's all, folks! Please send me some news to share with our classmates. I need your help

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