Fork Union Military Academy held its annual Military Ball on Friday, April 22 on campus at the Social Center. The Military Ball is one of the Academy’s most cherished traditions dating back to the first Ball held on April 12, 1969.
From 1916 to 1932, the Academy held cadet-sponsored dances that improved the social life for many years, a directive issued by the Board of Trustees back in 1916 – holding dances that, technically, were not actually on the grounds of the Academy.
That all came to a crashing halt in 1932 when Dr. John J. Wicker, the fifth president of the Academy, reported to the trustees that he had abolished all social fraternities and dancing. He held the view that these activities contributed little to the purpose of the Academy, especially dances.
For 36 long years, Fork Union Military Academy remained danceless throughout the presidencies of Dr. John J. Wicker and his successor and son, Dr. James C. Wicker.
A new president, Colonel Kenneth T. Whitescarver, took office in 1968 and breathed new life into the Academy’s long dormant social life. He appointed Richard G. Huffman to develop a program to provide both formal and informal dancing for the Corps of Cadets. Huffman founded the Quadrille Club to help formulate a program of dancing at the Academy.
The Quadrille Club, which still stands today, held the first Military Ball in the Thomas Gymnasium on April 12, 1969. The student newspaper, The Sabre, gave this account of the inaugural event:
"Tonight, Fork Union Military Academy will be conducting the first Military Ball in the school's history. Both cadets and faculty are looking forward eagerly to this dance. The arrangements for the ball have been well underway since Christmas time. The Cadet Quadrille Club and the Faculty Advisory Dance Committee have worked together to make the plans for entertainment and decorations.
"The dance will be attended by cadets, faculty, parents, and friends of the Academy. Dress for the dance will be black tie or military full dress worn by parents who are in the armed forces. Cadets will wear white ducks, white shirts, and battle jackets; cadet officers will wear coatees and sashes. No headgear will be worn this evening.
"Music for the dance will be provided by the Dee Roberts Orchestra, which will play all types of music.
"The decorations for the dance will vary from the many colors of the girls' formal gowns and corsages. The gymnasium will be decorated in the Academy colors, red and blue. The lights will be blue and red, with red and blue streamers forming a canopy. Weather permitting, dogwood and redbud will also be used in decorating the gymnasium. There will be potted blooms and branches interlaced in the windows.
"During the dance cadets and their dates will be free to come and go to the Sabre Shop where refreshments may be purchased. Punch will also be served at candlelit tables in the gym.
"Girls have been invited from St. Anne's and St. Catherine's Schools, and also invited again were girls from St. Margaret's and Fairfax Hall, who were wonderful dates at our last dance and are enthusiastic about returning to the academy. Girls coming unchaperoned will be staying in faculty homes.
"At the magical hour of 12:00 o'clock midnight, the dance will come to a close, and, along with the prom favors, we hope all who attended the Military Ball will take away with them memories of a wonderful evening.”
The Sabre, April 12, 1969
The Military Ball is continuing as an important tradition at Fork Union Military Academy for more than half a century. Music might more often be supplied by digital audio players instead of by a live band, and the festivities might end sooner than midnight. But the impressive Arch of Sabres remains, as does the dress code. The location is different with it being at the Social Center and this year’s theme was Ancient Greece. Juniors, seniors and postgraduates are only able to attend. Ladies from St. Margaret’s were also invited.
Check out the gallery below of a very entertaining night.