Mess hall Thanksgiving tradition continues
Cadet Mike Schultz
Thanksgiving in the mess hall has been a tradition passed down from class to class for many years. No one is sure when it actually began.
Knobs will find Thanksgiving a remarkable and memorable night. The fourth class cadets buy cigars for all upperclassmen in their respective companies and make elaborate Thanksgiving hats for all upperclassmen, including cadre and staff.
Every year each knobs are selected by a senior in their company to be mentored. The mentors help knobs through their knob year, motivating them and offering helpful hints that benefit them during the year. As a tribute to the senior mentor, the knob will buy him or her a cigar of choice. Along with the cigar comes a hat made especially for the senior. On this hat is any type of decoration, picture or ornament that the senior selects for the knob. These hats are usually large and grandeur is an indication of rank. Most often the company commanders and executive officers have the largest hats.
Thanksgiving night, which was Thursday, Nov. 20 this year, starts with mess and ends around the beginning of evening study period. Everyone walks in formation to mess and knobs are usually ordered to sit at attention in the mess hall, serving the upperclassmen and eating by squaring all movements that they make. Each bite that is taken is thoroughly chewed and swallowed, followed by grasping the fork or knife to get the next bit.
Unexpectedly, the mess carver says, "Knobs at ease!" All of the knobs usually remain at attention because they've never heard this order in the mess hall before.
"Relax!" the mess carver will usually yell again.
It can be quite confusing. Knobs often sit and stare at their food, unsure of what to do in such a relaxed atmosphere.
Then everyone digs in - the table is set with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner -- turkey, yams, cranberries, bread, salad, pie, and other rare things that are usually not served in the mess hall. Knobs for the first time are allowed to use the full array of condiments usually banned or restricted in consumption any other time of the year. During the meal, the knobs and upperclassmen "frat-out," or fraternize, which is usually against school policy.
Immediately following dinner, the members of the Corps go back to their companies and light up their cigars. This is the only time all year that freshman can go on the quad with the upperclassmen. It is an uplifting event and a taste of the freedom of being an upperclassman.
This celebration is for giving thanks and a benchmark for the knobs, who go home to family and friends for the first time since reporting for military training in late August.
But the celebration doesn't last long.
1950 the bugle sounds. All in. The celebration is done. The night is no
longer relaxed and the fourth class system is once again in full effect.