Most of us recall the USNA Laundry Smokestack with the numerals "70" showing up one morning during Plebe year! However, it turns out that in 1966 there were two smokestacks on the Academy grounds and the Class of '70 successfully labeled both of them for posterity. In addition to the Laundry, there was a coal-powered Public Works Power Plant that generated steam for heating in the yard. The Power Plant was located across King George Street from the Baseball Stadium and Halligan Hall. The Public Works Power Plant has since been replaced by a modern facility without the large smokestack.
Will Bramlett provided the picture at the right and stated that it is the last time class numerals ever appeared on the old Power Plant Smokestack. Ken Allison and Will placed the "70" at the the top, with Will painting the "7" and Ken painting the "0". Tim Reichert wrote Beat Army down the side of the smoke stack. You may recall that they appeared on the beginning day of Parent's Weekend 1966.
It must be noted that all three of these individuals did graduate with the Class and eventually retired from the USN (Will and Tim as Commanders) and USMC (Ken as a Colonel)! Well done 31st Company! Simply amazing!
Anyone else remember the sense of pride felt when you first noticed the "70" on the Laundry Smokestack? It was painted first semester Plebe Year, by the current 10th Company, after harassment by their Second Class, who had presumably painted the previous "68" on the Laundry Smokestack (after which the ladder was cut off 40 feet up to prevent access). The '70 culprits were Phil Eslinger, Steve Chapman, Al Hartman who departed second class year) and Bill Broderick. It was the first time anyone had climbed the stack in two years because the ladder had been cutoff 40 feet above the roof. Phil figured out that the road to the roof went up the fire escape. It was still summer and a window was left open, so they climbed through it. The first person through opened the fire escape door for the rest. Once on the roof, they managed to loop a line through the ladder by tossing a Plebe-issue stainless steel knife on a small line through a rung on the ladder. They then used one of the long mooring lines used on the Knockabouts and pulled it up and threaded it through the rung on the ladder. Phil then climbed the rope in a bosun’s chair with help from the guys on the roof.
He then proceeded to continue to the top of the smokestack and complete the painting. The "70" extended horizontally around the lip of the stack and then vertically down the side of the ladder. Phil states "I was so scared that my arms were like limp noodles. I have no idea how I managed to climb the ladder and actually paint the stack. I was petrified. It was a true team effort. Without the guys on the roof helping pull me up in the bosun’s chair, I never would have made it. When I painted the white 70, I was standing on some sort of a rail that was welded to the stack and stuck out about three inches from the side of the stack. The ladder ran along the left side of the 7. As I painted the zero, I was extended full reach with my toes on the rail and only my left hand holding on to the ladder. Looking back on it, I was pretty stupid. Also, as I remember it, the stack was painted white below the black lip at the top. I painted a black 70 vertically along the side of the ladder on the white portion. Too bad I didn’t think to paint “Beat Army” below it." The modified picture to the left shows what the painted smokestack most likely looked like. If anyone has an actual picture of the "70" labeled Laundry Smokestack, please forward it to Ed Moore.
The next day two of the biggest "jerks" from ’68 in the 22nd company found a sock bag in Phil's closet with the used paint cans in it. Phil thought that he surely was "toast". He thought those guys would turn them in and they would be on “come around” forever. However, they chuckled when they looked at it and said, “You probably ought to get rid of that!” Phil did exactly that and the rest is history! Phil, Steve and Bill graduated with Steve retiring as a Commander and Bill as a Major, USMC. Bravo Zulu 10th Company!
The picture below provides the relative location of the two smokestacks in the yard for reference. This picture was taken around 1965, not too long before USNA '70 showed up for Plebe Summer. Remember checking in through the Library Assembly Area and then exiting out the rear doors into a host of second class summer platoon leaders?
Updated: December 13, 2017
Curator: Ed Moore