A '63 Car Tale from Dirck Praeger


That was an interesting article about Second Classmen and cars from the USNA Parents Survival Guide. Things sure have changed. Compare that to our USNA vehicular experience.

In the summer of 1962 during our leave after First Class cruise, Ron Walters and myself purchased a 1949 Chevy from Walt's older brother in Hays, Kansas. Cost us $50. We named it "St. Christopher" because we weren't sure it would make it from Kansas to Annapolis. We figured that if it didn't we'd just leave it in a ditch somewhere in Ohio and hitchhike the rest of the way. We loaded up the trunk with numerous cases of Coors beer (couldn't get Coors on the east coast then), and a cooler full of iced down cans in the back seat, and headed east. When the cooler was empty, we'd replenish it from the trunk. I think we figured that we averaged a beer about every 27 miles during the trip. We threw the empties on the back seat floor. By the time we reached DC, the pile of empties had reached the level of the back seat.

We arrived too late in the evening to barge into Lionel Banda's house in Chevy Chase, so we pulled off beside the road in a park somewhere around there and went to sleep. The next morning we were awakened by a cop who was astounded by the number of empty beer cans in the back seat. He didn't run us in, so we headed for Lionel's house and arrived there just in time for his mom to make us breakfast.

After that we headed for Annapolis and found a garage for rent just off West Street in a shabby part of town. It was probably about a mile from the Academy. Since we were always short of money back then, we coerced several more members of the Sixth Company to become part owners of "Chris". As I recall the ownership consisted of Walt, Dick Williams, Jim Carter, Bob Borlet, Bill Hughes, Lionel Banda, and your truly. Our combined resources allowed for insurance payments, garage rent, and gas. You might think that having multiple owners would cause problems, but it turned out that we usually all went on liberty together anyway. Liberty usually meant going to Dave's Corner, a combination feed store and bar/restaurant, and low rent dump in Mayo Beach, MD, which was either right inside the 7 mile limit, or right outside it. Either way we were in violation-outside the liberty limits or drinking within the limits.

Here's how it usually worked. After Saturday evening meal formation we would all head out the gate and walk to the garage. We'd back Chris out a little and leave the headlights on so we could see inside the garage. Sweatshirts and levis hung from nails in the walls. We changed in the garage. As the doors closed you could see overcoats and white covers on the nails in place of the civvies. We'd head for Dave's and spend the evening drinking cheap watered down beer and eating greasy hamburgers. They had no idea that we were Mids with our high and tight haircuts, inside out Navy sweatshirts, levis, and spit shined shoes. Then we'd head back and go through everything in reverse at the garage and stagger back to Bancroft Hall. There were many other adventures with Chris during First Class year, but those are for telling at another time.

Before graduation we "sold" Chris to a member of the Class of '65 for ten cents, fully expecting it to crap out before the summer ended. Much to our surprise, Chris was still around when '65 graduated, and it was handed down to a member of '66. For all I know it is still sitting beside back road in Annapolis as a home for a family of illegal immigrants.

Anyway, a T.I.N.S. tale from the old days. Times change...for better or worse?

Semper Fi,
Dirck Praeger
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Caveats: NONE


And some addenda to this story:


From Dick Williams

Even  though I was a part owner of St. Christopher, I didn’t ride in it too many  times. It really wasn’t safe. It had all sorts of terrible things happen in  it, and to it. I recall one time the headliner caught fire when Lionel ignited  it with a cigar ash. And another time when a member of our company got  “caught” in a beer can while relieving himself. It never got washed during the  time that the principal owners, Messer’s Walters and Praeger, owned and  operated it. This was definitely not a  “chick-mobile”.

From Praeger Again

No self respecting chick would ever get into it. Of course no self respecting chick would ever go out with a member of the Sixth Company.

From Praeger Again on Jan.31, 2006

A couple of weeks ago I sent you a story about our 1949 Chevy that the Sixth Company kept in a garage off of West Street. This weekend I was looking at the 1963 Trident Calendar, and an overdue notice for the garage rent fell out! The lady who owned the place must have mailed it to me in Bancroft Hall. It's a handwritten note to "Midshipman Praeger" saying that we owe her two months rent. So I have a document to support one of our T.I.N.S. tales!

From Praeger Again on March 14, 2006

I was surprised to see my story about the Sixth Company car in the May Shipmate Column. Thanks for the consideration. An interesting thing happened as a result of your posting the story on our website. A lady who lives in Mayo, Maryland, where Dave's Corner, the bar we used to visit was, is interested in Mayo history and did a web search which uncovered our site and the story. She lived right next door to the site that Dave's stood on before burning down. You may remember that she routed a message through you to me.

We talked on the phone and it seems her husband, an artist, was going to do a painting of Dave's Corner from an old picture of the place that he had dug up somewhere. After talking to me her husband decided to include our car Chris in the painting. She invited me to join them for lunch sometime in the near future to learn more about Dave's and whatever other aspects of Mayo I may remember from over 40 years ago. Since it was dark and we were'nt seeing too well when we left Dave's on Saturday nights, I doubt I'll be much help. We did rent June Week cottages out there as well, as I mentioned in my earlier Ring Dance Great Escape T.I.N.S. tale. Maybe she can draw some history out of me.

Anyway, I have attached both the picture and a copy of the finished painting, for whatever you may want to do with them. From the images it easy to see how easily it probably burned when it got torched. Just thought that you'd be interested in what you wrought by posting that story on our website.

Photo of Dave's Corner

Painting of Dave's Corner with the '49 Chevy in front




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January 17, 2005


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