A date to Annapolis is a coveted one for any girl and one, I hope, she has at least once in her lifetime if she can possibly arrange it. Annapolis means, of course, the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, capital of Maryland, the naval equivalent of the Army’s West Point. Its four-year course of college study, with accent on things naval, leads to a Bachelor of Science degree.
A man to be admitted to Annapolis (or to West Point) must be an excellent physical and mental specimen. Although most students (called midshipmen) are appointees by Senators, Congressmen, and President and all get college education free, they may come from any family, rich or poor. Even though Uncle Sam gives the midshipmen his training, he must fulfill certain rigid standards of intelligence, of moral and physical fitness. While he is at Annapolis he is a poor man, for no matter what his financial background he must live as the other midshipmen live and get along on a small amount of spending money- as little as three dollars a month for a plebe, or fourth year man, and thirteen dollars a month for a first classman (senior). Out of this come all extras- entertaining of “drags” (dates), soft drinks (midshipmen are not to drink), candy, stamps, and sundries. A girl who accepts an invitation to Annapolis for the week end pays for her transportation there and back for her hotel or other accommodations. However, her escort can quite correctly make her reservation for her, probably at Carvel Hall for the first trip, and later at one of the approved guest houses run, more out of civic duty than for possible revenue, by some fine old families of Annapolis. Fifteen dollars is about as much as any girl can possibly use once she is at Annapolis and this will even include modest bus or interurban trolley transportation costs from nearby Washington or Baltimore. Most girls arrive by these public conveyances, because only first classmen ride in cars, except during June Week when the entire “brigade” may ride and first classmen may even drive their own cars.
No Saturday bus arriving in Annapolis before one o’clock may be met, as midshipmen are confined to the reservation in the morning. If you arrive before that time- and, of course, all the arrangements for this big week end have been made weeks, maybe months, in advance- you take a taxi to your hotel or the approved private home where you are to stay. You are careful to eat lunch before the start of your date, not only out of consideration for your midshipmen’s pocket money (he refers to it as “the monthly insult”), but to save time, every minute of which is carefully accounted for. For example, a fourth year man is allowed no more than sixty minutes to get you home from the hop. Infractions of rules mean demerits for your escort. Unbecoming behavior, or even unthinking behavior on your part, that brings censure on him- unspoken or not- means no future week ends at Annapolis for you.
The Navy is no place for individualism. That goes for the girl who is a guest of the Navy, and that is the way you should think of yourself. You are a guest of the Navy and subject to strict naval etiquette, not just the guest of an individual member of the Navy- for though your man is still in Annapolis, he is nevertheless as much in the Navy as an enlisted man. Your date will probably be a third, second, or first year man, for fourth year men, or plebes, are permitted to “drag” only once during the year previous to the Farewell Ball in June Week.
If you are met- and never be later than one o’clock- you will be starting off right if you have brought a minimum of luggage, preferably one light bag. You will need neither golf sticks nor riding clothes. You don’t need a bathing suit. All social activities are within prescribed limits, so don’t plan on taking your man for a little run down to Chevy Chase to see Aunt Prue.
Mrs. Grundy may have retired in the big cities, but at Annapolis she is omnipotent. Even at a private house where there may be no one else to do it your escort may not carry your bag to your room. He must leave it in the hall or parlor, and you, if necessary, must carry it the rest of the way. And even if you are engaged, don’t try to hold hands with him in public, don’t take his arm on limits, or expect him to walk arm-in-arm or with his arms around your waist- “lollygagging” is the Navy term for such relaxed behavior.
It is, literally, a felony for a midshipman to take a drink within seven miles of the Academy Chapel Dome- and he isn’t allowed to go beyond that seven-mile limit! So for a girl to take liquor with her, even for her own use in her room, is poor form, to say the least. And it is against the rules for her to take it there if her room is in a hotel. Even beer may not be served to midshipmen in public restaurants in Annapolis, and for their “drags” to take it when they can’t is certainly impolite.
On the usual Annapolis week end, never depend on receiving flowers from your escort, though in June Week he probably will be able to manage them for you. Everyone understands the economics of this, and for a moneyed “drag” to bedeck herself in orchids is to proclaim that she has bought them for herself- or accepted them from a non-Annapolis admirer, an unpardonable sin.
The naval reservation is referred to as the “Yard”. Within its confines you are subject to strict naval rules. You smoke in “Smoke Hall” (the recreation room in Bancroft Hall) but not on the street (I hope you won’t do that anywhere) or on the dance floor. Your midshipman may not chew gum in public, and you should not either while you are with him.
The Navy man has conservatism drilled into him in all things touching on social and naval behavior. If you do anything to make a big splash, by wearing too sophisticated clothes or too conspicuous and expensive jewelry, by drinking, or by any attention-drawing behavior, you embarrass him, to say the least. He will wonder why he ever risked inviting you.
Saturday noon to Sunday afternoon doesn’t call for a very extensive wardrobe. If you try to ring in numerous changes, you will be wasting the time and temper of your escort and very probably infuriating the dates of his classmates. Here’s the maximum you’ll need, in addition to underclothing:
1. Traveling suit or sport dress (you’ll arrive in it and wear it Saturday afternoon, for the game or a walk, and leave in it).
2. Comfortable walking shoes- one pair for suit, one pair for dress (high heels would be murder on those cobblestones).
3. Sneakers or rubber-soled saddle oxfords in summer for possible sailing. (Never wear leather-heeled shoes on a sailboat)
4. Warm, carefully-tailored slacks, socks, and sweaters for sailing. (It gets mighty cold if you have a long beat in). Shorts, though not prohibited, are frowned upon.
5. A waterproof topcoat because you’ll walk, no matter what the weather, even in evening clothes.
6. A becoming but not too spectacular evening dress and accessories for dancing Saturday night.
7. An evening wrap or, in winter, a fur coat or jacket (but the men hate shedable “bunny” fur, especially in angora jackets or sweaters because it comes off on their blues). The right kind of rather dressy raincoat can serve as a topcoat, evening wrap, and raincoat. You’ll be better off with it than with a perishable evening wrap, because it’s better not to ask a midshipman to carry an umbrella.
8. Those zip-up plastic and packable galoshes that can be worn over evening shoes in case of bad weather.
9. A scarf or hood to keep your head dry. Taxis don’t drive into the yard with midshipmen.
10. A daytime dress for church and for Sunday dinner.
11. A hat for church.
The Annapolis Hop (dance) occurs at nine o’clock on most Saturday nights during the Academy year and is always formal. An official hostess presides, one whose husband is on duty at the Academy. At the opening ball in the fall and at the Graduation Hop in June Week either the “First Lady,” wife of the superintendent or the wife of the commandant receives. She is assisted by the chairman of the hop committee, who introduces those approaching the receiving line to the hostess, after first being presented to the guests himself by their escorts.
The superintendent or the commandant usually receives with his wife, as do various of the senior officers and their wives. It is, of course, necessary to go down the entire line as soon as you arrive. In greeting, look cordial, smile, and say, “how do you do”, taking the proffered hand of hostesses and hosts. Never hold up the receiving line, even if you know a host or hostess well and this is your first encounter since your arrival. Conduct yourself with dignity and nicely adjusted dispatch. Even if you have removed your evening gloves during the dancing, put them back on for the farewells. Remember, a lady does not remove her gloves to shake hands (but see Business Calls at the White House). This is a man’s gesture.
It is compulsory to be at a Hop on time and to remain until “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played at midnight. Wandering out of the hall is strictly contrary to regulations.
Entertainment of Midshipmen
If this is your first invitation from a midshipman, it is usual for him to do whatever most entertaining is possible for him. On successive trips- assuming you’re lucky- you may in all propriety invite him to Sunday dinner at your hotel, usually Carvel Hall, where his check can be put on your bill without embarrassment to him. Taking him to any of the little, inexpensive tearooms in the area changes the situation, unless you can arrange beforehand for payment of your bill so that it won’t be handed to him.
The Souvenir Hunter
All the gilt accessories a naval man wears cost money- cost him money, I should say, if they have to be replaced- as do buttons, buckles, and the gold-thread insignia. One such replacement for a midshipman might mean the loss of his spending money for the month. Asking for a miniature of his ring is actually proposing marriage. The ring in miniature is worn insignia-in as an engagement ring. The insignia is turned out after the marriage has taken place. Collecting fraternity pins may be considered fair sport by some admitted flirts, but the wearing of the Navy ring is a serious matter. Don’t put on a midshipman’s hat, either, unless, of course, you want him to kiss you. For him to refuse to do so under the circumstances would be for him to be guilty of behavior unbecoming to a Navy man.
All of the previous text (including parenthetical notes) is a direct excerpt from Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette: A Guide to Gracious Living, Copyright 1952.