When first-year midshipmen enter the U.S. Naval Academy now, they have been thoroughly tested, profiled, and scrutinized on “whole-person” attributes. A century ago, the two important requirements were congressional appointments and passing a comprehensive series of entrance examinations.
John L. McCrea, born in 1891, many years ago dictated a charming memoir of his life; his stepdaughter Judy Tobey is now editing it for possible publication. McCrea grew up in the town of Marlette, Michigan, in the “thumb” area of the state. He recalled the first automobile in town, a car with no reverse gear. To go in another direction, the driver either had to make a U-turn or get a helping hand to swing the lightweight vehicle in the desired heading.
To enter the Academy, McCrea had to pass the entrance exams no later than his 20th birthday in May 1911. To that end, he spent the preceding year in Annapolis at a “cram school” that used old entrance exams as guides in preparing candidates for the ones they would face. In April he took the exams and learned a while later that he had passed. He was admitted with a month to spare before his birthday.