The following is a short article I wrote for the latest edition of the Guardsmen, the official newsletter of the Fort Henry Guard Club.
At the heart of the Guard is the not-so-subtle rivalry between the Drums and the Squad. While friendly in nature, the divisions between the two units have deep roots, and upon joining one or the other you immediately inherit decades of tradition…and broad stereotypes.
It was something we all played up to some degree. Members of the Drums didn’t seem to mind being cast as sensitive, enlightened artistic types, while some in the Squad appeared to take pride in being the complete opposite – not quite Neanderthals, but definitely closer to that side of the evolutionary chart.
Perhaps one of the clearest illustrations of this divide is the Champagne Breakfast vs. the Beer ‘N Steer. Built around camaraderie, food, and an appreciation for alcohol, these long-standing annual events were among the most highly anticipated mornings each summer.
As one might expect, the Drums’ Champagne Breakfast was an elegant affair. In the early hours before work, men in blazers and women in dresses gathered for an elaborate spread of quiche, pastries, canapés and fluted glasses filled with orange juice and champagne. With classical music playing in the background, conversation would range from Dostoyevsky’s influence on Chekhov and Sartre to Chopin’s early piano work.
It’s my understanding that the Beer ‘N Steer, on the other hand, was a more hedonistic celebration. While I was never actually lucky enough to attend one, it’s easy to picture members of the Squad enjoying hunks of rare red meat, washed down by pints of Canadian to a soundtrack of Rage Against the Machine and Jane’s Addiction.
Of course, all good things must come to an end eventually. By the late 1990s, drinking before work was viewed by management more as a potential liability than a novelty, and the ill-fated decision to sneak the keg into the locker room after one memorable Beer ‘N Steer was the final nail in the coffin for both events. They joined other Guard traditions, including Zulu and ditching, that failed to make it through the 90s unscathed.