Tuesday, January 20, 2009



It was mid-August 1981 and I had just completed my third year as a
counselor at The Citadel Summer Camp for Boys. I had only left
Charleston three weeks ago, and now I was returning to report for my
knob year. Mama drove me down with my footlocker packed. I had to
audition for Regimental Band, but conventional wisdom said if you
had even been near a musical instrument sometime in your life, you
got put in Band Company.

I auditioned and was made bass drummer for the Big “Q”. Mama and
I ate together in the mess hall with all the other Band Company
aspirants. After lunch, we said goodbye. It was the second time in
my life I ever saw her cry.

I cried too.

I took solace in the fact that I was in familiar territory having been on
The Citadel campus since I was twelve. I felt it to be an intimate and
friendly place. Then I met my 1st Sgt., Dave Branton, and found out
how wrong I was!

That first night, I unpacked my belongings. Then at midnight, the
cadre forced us to change rooms and roommates, re-packing and
unpacking again. As I settled in with my second roommate, Allen
Blume, the door burst open close to two in the morning and the
upperclassmen forced us to move again. The third time being the
proverbial charm, I met Les Williams, my permanent roomie for the
remainder of knob year.

But the tone was set. From Hell Night through Recognition Day, fear,
uncertainty, insecurity, and terror reigned supreme. By the end of the
first week, a third of our freshmen class had quit. By year’s end, our
original numbers were down by half. But for those of us who gutted
it out—Les, Allen, Ken Sigmon, Russ Mease, Pete Lawrence, Ken
Riddle, Jay Strickland, Dave Eubanks, Jimmy Bowen, et al—we are
friends, blood brothers, soulmates all.

Not too shabby for a mama’s
boy from Rock Hill.


  1. Enlighten the ignorant Yankee, please...what's a "knob year?"

  2. A knob at The Citadel is a plebe, a freshman. They are so named because they shave their heads (or they used to when it was all male--now the men get shaved nd the women get short haircuts). As a result of having one's head shaved, someone noted one looks like a door knob. The name stuck. Now who said Yankee's were ignorant?