The Flying Squadron


            The thunder of running footsteps echoed across Tecumseh Court as midshipmen, gasping for breath, raced across the vast brick courtyard and up a long flight of steps, overcoats flapping in the breeze.  It was a Saturday night ritual as those hapless souls who had lingered with their dates until the last second rushed to reach the safety of Bancroft Hall before the massive bronze main entrance doors slammed shut at curfew.  Tardy midshipmen were shunted to the smaller side entrance where a duty officer was stationed to take the names of latecomers, who would soon be working off demerits.

            As a result of our cloistered existence, we were easily amused, and those of us whose rooms overlooked Tecumseh Court entertained ourselves by sitting at our windows to watch the spectacle. We called this thundering horde The Flying Squadron and took bets on who the last racer to slip into the main door would be.             

            One spring Saturday, my friend, Dave, and I took advantage of a rare weekend pass, available only once per semester. We took the Greyhound to Washington, DC, where we were met by two girls who had invited us to the Falls Church home of one of them. There we spent a pleasant afternoon, chatting, listening to music and enjoying a late afternoon meal that they had prepared.

            As the hour approached seven, PM, the departure time of the last bus to Annapolis, we prepared to take our leave.  The girls asked us to stay awhile longer, volunteering to drive us back to the Academy. The forty-mile trip reportedly took about an hour, so we assumed that a 10:30 departure would give us a half-hour to spare in making the midnight curfew.

            The four of us crowded into the front seat of the young lady’s little Plymouth coupe and were on our way.  Dave and I had no idea of the route, having only made the trip by bus, but as our driver had driven it before, we trusted her to know the way.

            Time passed quickly as we sped through the night, singing along with the radio, talking, and laughing.  Before anyone thought to check the time, fifty-five minutes had elapsed. By then the familiar sights of the capitol dome or the Academy chapel should be in view, but all our surroundings looked foreign.  The driver sadly admitted that she had no idea where we were and even less of a clue as to how to get to Annapolis from wherever that might be.  The rest of us were no help whatsoever.

            With the aid of a service station attendant we discovered that we were in Glen Burnie, a town about forty-five minutes from our destination.  The light-hearted atmosphere in the little car deteriorated as we realized that there was no way we would make curfew and that it was questionable that we would even make the thirty-minute deadline after which our lateness went from an ordinary infraction to a Class A offense.

            When we pulled up to the main gate, we leapt from the car unceremoniously and emulated members of the flying squadron, which at that late hour consisted solely of the two of us.

            We avoided the dreaded Class A category, but received two weeks’ restriction and a demerit a minute for our twenty-five minute tardiness.

            As we were serving our time, a package arrived from the girls.  Contained in the box were a sympathy card and a Sara Lee pound cake with a brand new metal file inside.