Eating at West Point and Annapolis

Epee fencers, yesterday and today

Back at Brooklyn College things were going swimmingly, although I did leave the swimming team and joined the fencing team.  I knew nothing about fencing, but it looked like a lot of fun, more so than the constant boring practice of swimming laps. I also absolutely hated exercising, something that was required if you joined the physical education class, and you did have to do something in the gym department.  I opted for a sport.

The fencing team was coached by a small, bald man in his forties with the unlikely name of Joe Smith.  The team was a disaster, but this was not unusual at Brooklyn College, and the fencing team was no worse than any of the others. Coach had assigned me to the epee, mostly because of my size.  Not only was my reach a terrific asset, but I was simply too slow to compete on even terms with the smaller, better coordinated foil and saber fencers.  To my surprise I turned into a terrific epee fencer, and for a couple of years was close to the top of the Eastern and National rankings.

However, what I really enjoyed was going on trips to other colleges.  Trips to the military academies were especially interesting.  At West Point,  which is located in a spectacular setting the youngest group of cadets, they would have been called “freshmen” at most universities, were immediately recognizable by the fact that they had to run (or “double-time) wherever they went.  In the dining room, or “mess hall”, a place that served about a thousand meals at a time, they also had to eat “at attention,” which meant they had to sit absolutely rigid, couldn’t talk to anyone, and had to divide the simple motion of taking food from their plates to their mouths into three rigid movements.  It was quite a show, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these young men.  Once our fencing meet began, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself and my team.

At Annapolis, the eating experience on a Friday evening was even more interesting.  The Navy “mess” had seating for several thousand.  The “plebes” came into the dining room in their dress whites, and stood at assigned tables which were covered with white tablecloths, about ten or twelve men to a table.  The tableware sparkled, as did the glasses.  At a command they all sat down.  The meal’s high point were the two lobster tails on every plate, including my own.  Six to ten thousand lobsters had died for our sins and for this meal alone, and we were just eating their tails.  I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to the rest of the poor little lobsters bodies.  Were they now bisque?  I never found out.

Spectacular West Point


About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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4 Responses to Eating at West Point and Annapolis

  1. Rick Jones says:

    I understand that fencing really builds up your upper arms.

    • AlexLevy says:

      Possibly. . . But I really don’t see how, especially as you generally only use one arm when fencing. I also don’t notice anything “built up” about my upper arms. They droop, like the rest of me.

  2. Myron Pulier says:

    This is confirmed nowhere, but once I heard a “square meal” to refer to US military trainees (West Pointers?) having to move food from plate to mouth along straight lines joined by right angles.

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