7 July 1959 and Plebe Summer Memories
The Union:  USNA Class of 1963

Over forty years ago, on 7 July 1959, 1191 of us came together in Annapolis, Maryland for the seminal formation of the Class of 1963.  What are your memories of that time, that day, that era?
It hit us all a little differently, but it changed all of our lives.
Send in your memories to WebMaster@USNA63.org so we can share them via this page.

Al Breen, Don White, Bob VanNice, and Mike Shelley
USNA Class of 1963
Photo taken July 1959

Class of '63 - The Beginning- -From Steve Coester

  And From Frank Hilton:

  From Mike Rubel:

  From Norm Shackelton:
    Here is what comes to mind for me as I entered the Naval Academy with the Class of 1963:

    My parents, brothers, sister and my girlfriend at the time drove me to Annapolis on July 6th. Vince Gilroy and his future wife, Robin came with Vince's family to see him off also. Vince graduated a year later than I did from Massapequa (NY) high school. Both families stayed at the Annapolis Terrace Motel on Route 50. We were all out by the pool and met the Reemelin family who came from Ohio to see their son Tom off. I still remember Tom's infectious laugh and his falsetto "Shaaaack" that made me feel great every time I saw him during Plebe Summer and many times from then to now.

    I, too remember the terrible heat and humidity. White works were always soaked. I remember on July 7th, dragging a seabag plus armfuls of "stuff" to my fifth wing room. Sitting on the desk, with a big smile and a cheerful, "howdy" was Jary (Lew) Lewis. He was a sailor from the fleet so, as such seemed like a real old salt. Terry O'Brien (now deceased) also was our Plebe Summer roommate. Lew got us both through Plebe Summer. He encouraged us, showed us how to spit shine shoes, stencil and the like. Most of all he kept us pumped up.

    I fondly remember some of our Second Class Detail Leaders. They seemed like bronze gods and turned out to be terrific human beings. I particularly remember Jim Traa, Buzz Galbraith, and Jack Prudhomme. I ran into Jack Prudhomme in GTMO in the summer of 1965 while on a Destroyer School cruise. His carrier was on its way to WESTPAC. I was really devastated when I heard that year that he was shot down over North Vietnam.

    With my aging memory, these things still stand out. The times and names may have blurred a little but they still seem clear to me. This was a great start to my adult life and I would not change anything. We're a brotherhood.

  From Roger Mehle:
    Apropos of both our 50th anniversary of admission and our recently named Distinguished Graduate, Ron Terwilliger:

    On July 7, 1959, by chance Ron stood behind me in a long line in the Rotunda to draw stencils. As we waited, we began chatting and I asked his name. When he told me, I asked him if he were any relation to the Washington Senators former second baseman, Wayne Terwilliger (who's still with us, http://www.wayneterwilliger.com/bio.html). I don't remember what Ron said, but I think it was "no."

    We continued talking as the line progressed, and, as we got to the head of the line, we saw the numerals "63" on the stencils of the classmate in front of us. I then speculated that I'd be "64" and Ron would be "65." As the cliche has it -- in more ways than one -- "Boy, did I ever get a wrong number!"

    I doubt that Ron remembers this, but I haven't forgotten it in fifty years.

  From Bob Van Nice:
    Mike, thanks for putting up the photo of our Plebe Summer crew (at top of this page). It was truly remarkable to see, and it reminded me again how good it was to see you at our most recent class reunion after so many years!

    In answer to Dave Moore's question above about a mid resigning on 7 July, yes, it's true. I understand the fellow was named Herb H.... who had received the Principal Appointment from Maryland Representative Dewitt S. Hyde after a 2-year selection process that had started with 75 candidates. I was the fifth alternate from Congressman Hyde's list and, since Herb X had accepted the appointment, I was going off to NROTC at Brown. I don't know for sure that he left on 7 July but I do know he was gone by the 8th!

    My own eventual membership in'63 came in late April/early May when I was offered, and accepted, appointment as a Qualified Alternate under P.L. 186.

  John Aucella adds his two bits:
    I have enjoyed reading the Plebe summer and 7 July 1959 stories.

    I remember the first homecoming weekend, sometime that fall, hearing all the laughing and riotous noises emanating from the evening alumni meal in the Mess Hall and deciding to walk through Smoke Hall to see what in the world was going on. On my way down I spotted a bunch of alumni with their class of 1934 name tags. They were there for their 25th. I had a nice chat with a few of them and as they left I said to myself "Imagine the Class of 34. My God those guys are old!"

  Ken Metviner chips in:
    I enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1957 to avoid the draft, then went to City College to see what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I met an Academy graduate who told me I could never make it there because it took someone special. That inspired me to try, just to see if I could get in. When I told my friends in The Bronx, they told me they would buy Russian War Bonds if I got in. Imagine my feelings when I got the postcard indicating I qualified for a Naval Reserve appointment, then, a few weeks later, when I got a set of official orders to report to USNA on 7 July. Did I really want this? Did I have any idea what I was getting into? Then came the day, and the train ride to Baltimore and the bus to Annapolis. I remembered seeing pictures of Bancroft Hall, and the sight of it was awesome as I entered the Yard though Gate 3. The rest of the day is pretty much of a blur, except for the ceremony in the hot sun and the start of the stenciling of uniforms. Then came Buzzie Needham, the next guy who told me I would never make it. Quit now, he said, because if I thought he was tough, wait until I met the rest of the Brigade. He was right. Things did get worse. I always will remember that admonition from I-Day, that one out of three of us would bilge out. I wasn't going to be the one.

  Bill Haslet's Plebe Memory:
    I remember leaving Spokane Washington on the morning of 4 July 1959 with John Bender heading east for Washington DC. We arrived that night during the fireworks display and we stayed our first night on the east coast at the YMCA. It was HOT !! It was HUMID!! I was 17 years old and I was so homesick that I almost literally got sick to my stomach!!

    Even though I actually enjoyed Plebe summer, my two summer room mates didn't fare too well. One of them had attended college for several years in Georgia and liked fraternity life and the other one was a Navy enlisted man who enjoyed giving orders to others but not taking them. At 17, I didn't know any better and did what I was told and everything worked out fine for me but my two room mates didn't last the summer. After 40 years of marriage to my wonderful wife Chauni, I still do what I am told and have found it to be just as successful!

    For most of plebe year, Joe Bellino lived directly across the hall and I also can confirm that his thighs were in fact HUGH and he received more mail daily than all the rest of us on the floor combined!


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