Naptown, DTA, Crabtown

I knew I was in Annapolis When…

by Erin Peterson and Leah Duncan

Sometimes the smallest details can bring back the most powerful emotions. Alumni share the things that most vividly conjure their time at the U.S. Naval Academy.

For Jen Tyll ’01 few things bring back her experience at the Naval Academy quite as powerfully as cresting the Naval Academy Bridge. “It’s a strange mix of awe, pride, nostalgia and nausea,” she said. “Awe at the amazing campus and its incredible beauty, pride that I went there and nostalgia for all the little details that added up to the experience there. And the ever-present feeling of nausea because of the dread I felt as a plebe returning to school after a break. Twenty years later, I still feel that brief twinge going over the bridge.”

Every year, 1,200 young men and women arrive at the U.S. Naval Academy in the steamy Annapolis heat to begin their life-changing Plebe Summer. Hailing from every state in the country and from cities and towns around the world, the future midshipmen begin to acclimate to the intense physical and mental training required to succeed at the Academy and beyond.

In addition to getting to know every nook and cranny of the Yard during their time at the Academy, they also get to know Annapolis. For a few years, at least, it is a place that they will call home. For many midshipmen, life on the Eastern seaboard—from its occasionally unforgiving weather to its unique culture and architecture—serves as an unforgettable backdrop to the Naval Academy experience.

We asked alumni to share the details that most struck them about being in Annapolis during those early days, and what they remember fondly (and perhaps not so fondly) when they return to the city.

[1] The Yard
The Academy’s 338-acre campus, set at the eastern edge of the city at the confluence of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay, is home to spectacular Beaux Arts architecture, historical monuments and beautifully manicured grounds.

“Running over the Severn River [Naval Academy Bridge] in the morning and looking down on the Yard, even though the buildings have changed some, is a view that always makes me feel nostalgic.”
—Katharine Bonneson ’99

“I always remember Tecumseh Court, with ‘Mother B’ surrounding it.”
—Dave Priddy ’80

“I remember on my first visit I saw pictures of the Brigade of Midshipmen from various years. To my untrained eyes, I could hardly tell the differences between the present day and years past. What struck me the most about the Naval Academy was how it combined naval tradition with cutting-edge developments to meet the challenges of the present day. Every time I return to Annapolis, I listen to the midshipmen as I pass them. I hear them talk about classes and weekend plans. I am drawn back into my time at the Academy, walking down the same paths and fantasizing about reaching the elusive weekend.”
—LTJG Vikram Kanth ’15, USN

“I recall thinking how the Yard, surrounded by water, was incredibly picturesque and pristine—from the manicured landscaping to the midshipmen walking around in their summer whites. I felt a sense of history and pride from the buildings’ architecture, the statues and the monuments.”
—Liesel Schopler ’99, class secretary

[2] Running Hot and Cold
From sticky summers to the bone-chilling dark ages, midshipmen learn to tolerate the most extreme weather that Maryland offers while savoring the occasional postcard-perfect days in between.

“I’m sure there are places hotter and more humid in summer, but running with an M-1 at port arms burns the memory into your brain.”
—Mark Wilder ’71

“I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about overcast mornings in early May. It’s relatively quiet, the air is cool and all the colors on Stribling Walk seem to pop a little more. Perhaps it's just the overall atmosphere that another academic year is over, but there’s a serenity that casts over the Yard—that is, until you have to muster for a parade.”
—LCDR Josh Angichiodo ’06, USN

“I had never lived in a place with snow. For the first couple months of winter, I would stop and just stare at snow falling. It was an amazing experience, though I quickly learned that I had to watch my step in the snow.”
—LTJG Vikram Kanth ’15, USN

[3] Food
Few are as passionate about their seafood as Marylanders. Does it live up to the hype? Not everyone agrees.

“I grew up in Jersey on the water. The seafood in Annapolis, which everyone claims to be the best around, definitely lived up to the claim. I grew up with a lot of freshly caught seafood, and it was just as good in Annapolis.”
—LCDR Robert Molinaro ’07, USN

“I still don’t get everyone’s obsession with crabs. The work-to-payoff ratio doesn’t justify the cost or the stinging fingers.”
—LCDR Josh Angichiodo ’06, USN

“I’m still not sure I really understand how to properly eat Maryland crabs—let alone the seeming obsession of any native Marylander with eating them by the dozens!”
—LCDR Grant Wanier ’06, USN

“Being puzzled when I was asked to pass the Sweet Baby Ray’s or Old Bay.”
—MIDN Christina Louie ’18

[4] Say That Again?
Midshipmen often discover that the words and pronunciations they learned growing up don’t apply when they land in Annapolis. It’s occasionally cause for confusion, but most often just a chance to get in some mild ribbing.

“Coming from Wisconsin, I found that my pronunciation of certain words differed from others in the area. Specifically, I gave the word ‘bag’ a long ‘a’ sound that my peers enjoyed joking to me about. I also quickly learned that my Maryland peers had quite an interesting way of pronouncing ‘water’ (‘worter’).”
—John Campion ’10

“I remember learning slang from various parts of the country and changing some of the language I used accordingly. It was fascinating to see how different regional backgrounds contributed to the use of different vocabulary. Perhaps the best example of this were the words soda, pop and Coke. I was so confused when people would ask what type of ‘Coke’ I wanted.”
—LTJG Vikram Kanth ’15, USN

[5] The City
Home to the state capital and some 38,000 residents, Annapolis celebrates its historic roots while also maintaining a vibrant and bustling downtown. And it often served as a welcome respite from the rigors of the Academy.

“I came from a city that had seen its city center neglected throughout my childhood, and when I came to Annapolis, I was struck by crowds of folks shopping, eating and enjoying their Main Street.”
—LT Gray Tompson ’07, USNR

“I loved being downtown, the feel of the brick streets and the sailboats in the harbor. I can’t imagine a prettier city in which to attend college.”
—Katharine Bonneson ’99

“I grew up on the east coast in Allentown, Pennsylvania, but lived on a mountain south of the city. When I was at USNA, I liked to walk out the gate and get whatever food I wanted—pizza, chicken in the Market House or Burger King on Main Street. The plebe hangout in 1984 was the Burger King where Osteria now sits.”
—LCDR Mark Hakun ’88, USNR (Ret.)

“What do I remember about downtown Annapolis? I remember how quickly you could burn through your monthly $100 stipend on a few meals there.”
—LCDR Josh Angichiodo ’06, USN

“Our family moved back to the Annapolis area from San Diego in 2007. We had visited a couple years earlier, but one of our first stops back was visiting Storm Brothers Ice Cream. We often went out plebe year and got hand-packed quarts. It surprised our daughters that Storm Brothers was open in the winter time, so we kept track of how cold it could get and still eat ice cream outside. Our family record is 7 degrees Fahrenheit.”
—LCDR Mark Hakun ’88, USNR (Ret.)

“I’ll never forget traffic circles and buildings on Church and State Circles, and the narrow streets and old homes.”
—CAPT Mickey Smith ’61, USNR (Ret.)

“The first thing that struck me when I first saw Annapolis and the Academy was the Chesapeake Bay and how serene and beautiful it was.”
—CDR Turhan I. Hidalgo ’93, USN (Ret.)

“I came from Warsaw, Poland. Growing up in a big city in Europe with buses, trams and a subway, I had everything that I needed just minutes away. In Europe, you can get anywhere by bus or train, which is cheap and comfortable. In the U.S.? Not so much.”
—Dagmara Broniatowska ’13

[6] The People
From Annapolis residents to the midshipmen, the people were as unforgettable as the place.

“I grew up just over three hours away in the same type of community. Our town was culturally diverse but not to the level the Naval Academy was. One of the folks I associated with at school was from Cameroon, another Nigeria. I have great friends from Las Vegas, New Orleans and San Diego.”
—LCDR Robert Molinaro ’07, USN

“After serving in the Navy, living all over the country and returning to all those places, what remains true is that even though locations are amazing, what made them what they were, were the people with whom you shared those experiences and those moments in time. This is most especially true for Annapolis.”
—Jen Tyll ’01

“My sponsor parents, Rick and Nadine Smith, and their family treated me like one of their own, and I also grew close to the sponsor parents of friends. The way all of these individuals devoted themselves to looking after me and their other mids far from home showed me that there were plenty of friendly and caring individuals outside the Midwest—who also loved football almost as much as we did.”
—John Campion ’10

Tell us the stories we missed! What will you forever associate with your time in Annapolis? What are the sights, sounds and experiences that will always bring you back? Share your favorite experiences with us at

Source: Shipmate: June 2018


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