The Graduate

The only formality associated with graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy during mid 1943, was that each prospective grad had to have a number of officials sign a check-off list. Thus the librarian was assured that someone leaving had no outstanding books, the chaplain could give his last blessing, the U.S. Maritime Service (USMS) representative, a lieutenant, would have a whack at signing up a recruit, etc. All signatures were prerequisite for a diploma and for a last paycheck. I had no problem with the procedure until I encountered the last person on the list.

The USMS lieutenant was the most persistent individual that I had ever met. He behaved as if he had been assigned a quota and that his life depended upon achieving it. I explained more than once that I was going to request active duty in the Navy and that I was waiting for two weeks in order to be sure that I would be home for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. After much unsuccessful palaver he solicited sympathy by saying, “Look, the Maritime Service cannot stop you from going into the Navy anytime you want to and I could get credit for signing you up.”

Since it was already mid afternoon I agreed in order to expedite getting away from there. I was immediately sorry because he then advised that I would have to have a physical exam. We arrived at the dispensary across Steamboat Road about three thirty just as the doctor said loud enough for all to hear, “That’s the last physical for today!”

The lieutenant’s request to perform one more was refused. I then explained to the doctor that I no longer occupied a room at the Academy and that I would have to return the next day from where my parent’s lived in Brooklyn. As if he was repelled by the idea of honoring a request from a cadet, he curtly refused again. That was the last straw for me!

I took the cigarette from the arrogant doctor’s mouth, threw it at his shoes and headed out as the frustrated Maritime Service recruiter shouted, “What about your diploma and your last month’s pay?”

Without turning I yelled, “Keep them!”

Fourteen-years later, I met one of my former Academy instructors, Captain Cliff Sandberg, during the 21-25 October 1957 Boiler Maintenance and Repair Conference at the Naval Boiler and Turbine Laboratory in Philadelphia. We had lots to reminisce about, but the first words he said to me were, “No one has yet graduated from Kings Point the way you did!”

I suppose that I qualify as a Kings Point grad. Three months after I angrily left that dispensary, a diploma and my last month’s pay caught up with me by mail.


Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo

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