There was no joy in Mudville when mighty Casey had struck out, and now at this moment I surely knew how sorry Casey must have felt. My mother had just advised me, politely but sternly, that she would return in a moment with my father, and the three of us would have a little chat. As a boy of 11 years, I knew this was not going to be a picnic. My palms were as wet as the outside of the window panes that were being lashed by a violent thunderstorm. Was this downpour a metaphor for what awaited me? Luckily, I had been blessed with the reasonable and thoughtful, though irritated, pair that had produced me, and our conference resulted in no corporal punishment. The blows, however, were quite emotional. I was gently advised it was in my best interest that I spend the coming academic year - or two - in military school, Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg. "Russia?" I asked. "No, dear, St. Petersburg, Florida - just across the bay."My misdeeds and errors in judgment that had brought this sentence upon me seemed so foolish now. "But isn't banishment a bit harsh?" I asked. "No," my mother said. "You are not being banished - you are being given a wonderful opportunity!" The fateful September date arrived, and I began a new chapter in my life, as a naval cadet in the seventh grade at Admiral Farragut. As a fairly spoiled lad, my adjustment was somewhat less than heroic. I was wracked by weeks of homesickness, an illness quite like seasickness that seemed as though it would never go away. However, the precise military scheduling and very little free time slowly shouldered out the hurt, and bit by bit I became a fully participating cadet. In a few months, I had completed my adjustment and began contributing my attention and interests, with my fellow cadets, to our company and to the academy as a whole. Well-structured academics, sports, spiritual and moral guidance, and the stressing of neatness and order slowly molded our ranks, and left us with an improved and more polished attitude toward responsibility. My two years of experiences at Farragut ran the gamut of emotions, from wonderful successes to humorous failures, but in the end those years proved to be a marvelous and positive gift. I am now 76 years of age, and quite a few times I have driven to our campus and with overflowing nostalgia have relived many of my memories. On my last visit some months ago, at the closing of a beautiful autumn day, I gazed past our flagstaff at a glowing sunset over the water and uttered an emotional tribute: "Thank you, Admiral Farragut," and, of course, "Thank you, Eleanor and William Wood," my two loving parents! TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST DATE Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and Prime Time wants to hear your stories of young love, good and bad. E-mail submissions of 100 to 500 words to email@example.com or send typewritten stories by mail to Emily Seawell, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa FL 33606. Submissions cannot be returned. Be sure to include a recent print or JPEG photo of yourself, and one or more photos that help tell the story, along with a telephone number so we can reach you.
In 1947, Warner Wood earned highest academic, fewest demerits and best all-around cadet honors in his graduating class at Admiral Farragut Academy. He lives in Temple Terrace.