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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Intelligent people who wouldn't dream of asserting that the horses pulling the big wagons in circus parades are having a big time will insist that a cadet is merely being modest when he says he doesn't enjoy parades. Probably this is due to the fact that none of the movie, novel, or short story writers have been able to get the real, honest-to-God, low down on Dress Parade. This inability to read between the lines, so to speak, is probably because nobody is allowed between the lines during parade.
To borrow an old definition, a parade is composed of one band, twelve hundred kaydets, and five thousand spectators. The band plays, the kaydets stand and gripe, and the spectators thrill and go home resolving to be 100 per cent Americans and vote the straight Republican tickets. Some kaydets enjoy parades--Graduation Parade, for instance, because it's the last one. But the average kaydet doesn't enjoy the average parade.
True, the last company comes up on the line and dresses smartly, the adjutant bawls out "Parade Rest," the band sounds off," marches forward to troop the line, and the 1200 stand stiff and motionless. That's all the spectator sees at parade.
Pick any squad at random. Number One, front rank, is a yearling, or second year man. Slowly his gaze sweeps up and down the crowd on the visitors" benches as far to the right and left as he can cut his eyes. That blonde in the red dress--no--gee, what terrible legs. He sighs and resumes his search. If he sees anything interesting he will call the attention of his classmate to his left. The femme in the green dress. Neat, but there must be something a little snappier in the crowd. There--three femmes and two cits to her. Boy, what a form. The form uncrosses its legs and stands up. Number One groans. Here he is, out parading for her and she--ungrateful woman. His train of thought is broken by a voice from the rear.
"Tip your head, will you? The sun's shining off your tarbucket right into my eyes."
By imperceptible degrees, Number One tips his head forward until the offending angle of incidence sends the sun's rays glinting off the top of the polished hat and over the heads of the second platoon.
Number Two, also a yearling, speaks. A spectator watching him through field glasses would not swear that his lips move.
"Mister Dumbjohn," he addresses his rear rank file.
"What's the name of that piece the band's playing?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Well, move your neck back, Dumbjohn. Hey, you file closers get on that plebe. You drive around to my room tonight at first call for supper. Understand?"
"Get some more wrinkles there, Mister Dumbjohn," a file closer cuts in. "You put out, Mister Dumbfizzle. Hive that?"
"Yes, sir." The plebe grunts and draws his shoulders back until until the blades are almost touching. Merely correction; not hazing.
"Are you pure as the driven snow?" the file closer continues. He is one of those boys that call a spade an entrenching tool.
"Yes, sir," the plebe replies virtuously.
"Well, raise your chest up. There's very few of us left!"
"Some pretty femmes out there today," the corporal at Number Four ventures.
"Pretty! Don't make me laugh!" This from Number Three. "Why, there are more pretty femmes walking down Peachtree Street in Atlanta than there are in all New York."
The band, returning to its post, halts, "Sounds Off" again, and, because this is Sunday, breaks into "Nearer My God to Thee" so that all and sundry may realize this is the Sabbath. The buglers sound "Retreat" and the sunset gun barks. Kaydets snicker as the cits jump at the report. The battalion come to attention and then to "Present Arms" as the National Anthem is played. Then the adjutant publishes the orders, officers and guidons go front and center and the Corps passes in review.
"With measured tread, battalions pass to urgent beat of drums. A clank of arms--the Corps has marched into the dusk. Then all is still.
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