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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
"Summer camp, gentlemen, is what you make it."
This cryptic statement of the Tactical Department adequately summarizes the annual encampment of the Corps of Cadets. To the newly recognized yearling summer camp is the fulfillment of all the hopes and dreams of a long plebe year just past; to the first classman it means chevrons and the privileges which only a first classman may enjoy; to everybody summer camp is a period of welcome relief and relaxation after a long and exacting academic grind. West Point life during the pleasant summer months more than lives up to the hopes entertained for it.
Although the second and fourth classes, soon to be first and third, move to camp the first of June, the official period does not start until after Graduation. When the last June Week parade is over and Recognition is a vivid memory, when another class has donned the "Army Blue" and the second class has departed on Furlough, the remainder of the Corps settles down to "make" summer camp.
The first period of the encampment is "Yearling Deadbeat." With the first class absent in Virginia, the post and its traditions are in the hands of the new third class for three weeks. During this time work is cut down to a minimum, and the third class enjoys its new Liberty to the utmost. To it is even given the important task of "welcoming" the new plebes and preparing them for the long period of training ahead of them. All too soon the first class returns to take over the reins, and then the serious work of the summer begins. The mornings are devoted to tactics, the afternoons to play, and the evenings to romance.
The training of the first class consists of instruction in signal communications, command, sword and voice drill, and the innumerable duties of officers in field and garrison. This work includes training the new fourth class and extended cavalry and artillery hikes.
Tennis and Golf
The third class schedule includes riding, infantry and artillery drill, signal communications, and the firing of rifle, pistol, and machine gun. The yearlings enthusiastically burn up thousands of rounds of cartridges and turn in some remarkable records. Last year but two men out of 356 failed to qualify with the service rifle. As a climax to the camp period a three day maneuver is carried out by both classes.
Any afternoon, unless it is too wet or too hot to move, the tennis courts are crowded and the Plain dotted with enthusiastic golfers. Those "elephants" who have not yet mastered the dance march daily to Cullom, while the "walri" who cannot swim go to the gymnasium pool for hardboiled instruction. When a cadet has qualified in swimming he has the privilege of canoeing on the Hudson or swimming in Delafield Pond, a beautiful little artificial pool nestling in an arm of the rolling hills above the Plain. It the cadet is lazy he may take a red comforter, compose himself in the shade of Ft. Clinton parapet, and sleep the afternoon away.
West Point hops are justly famous. These hops are held three times a week during the camp season, and are always well attended. They lack, of course, the noisy gaiety and informality of college dances, but more than redeem the loss in color and tradition. At least the numerous fair visitors never complain of the lack of life in the parties. After all, nothing can compare with Cullom balcony under a full summer moon, dotted with quiet couples--splendidly gowned women and cadets in white starched uniforms--caught in the spell of dreamy music and the Hudson sweeping by in the moonlight far below.
Other diversions include movies in the gym, which now boasts of movietone equipment. These picture shows are presented tri-weekly. Instead of eating the evening meal in the mess hall, a cadet may receive permission to dine at the Hotel Thayer, on invitation, or he may go on picnic parties to Delafield Pond.
The last week in August the Corps partakes of field maneuvers off the reservation. This battle problem, known as the Battle of Popolopen, lasts three days. The first class rides, the yearlings hike, and the battle is declared a great success and victory. Once, years ago, rain did not fall during maneuvers.
Upon the return from this field outing, but one event remains--Camp Illumination. This social event is the climax of the camp season. Camp Clinton is decorated and lighted, a hop floor is constructed in the middle of the main street, and a "boodle" table is set out, loaded with tempting refreshments. Promptly at one o'clock in the morning the white gloved hand of the cadet officer of the day goes up, and the insistent roll of a drum shatters the beauty of "Army Blue". The next day the Corps moves back to barracks, camp is dismantled, the "cows" come home from furlough, and the stage is set for another long battle with the Academic Department.
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