Someone in this city tonight will be lonely and someone poor. The sick will make their troubled ways and in some dusty barroom a drink too many will be drunk, and perhaps another still.

But tonight at the Naval Academy there will only be joy, because tonight there are no more plebes.

Kevin Delamer, 19, saw to that at 5:46 p.m. when, hoisted on the shoulders of his mates, he stripped a plebe-style "Dixie Cup" cap from the top of grease-slick Herndon Monument 21 feet above the Academy grounds and replaced it with a proper midshipman's "cover."

A roar erupted from 1,000 plebes and they swept Delamer away on a sea of hands. Their year of "indignity," as one put it, was over.

At least 5,000 parents and friends watched as Delamer and his mates took 105 minutes to complete the hat trick, a tradition signifying the end of the most trying Academy year and also the start of commissioning week, the Navy equivalent of graduation.

When it was done the class of 1986 had instantly earned the rights and privileges of real "mids." They could sit on park benches in the quad or stroll the grounds with their sweethearts. They could travel dormitory halls at a normal pace instead of a controlled sprint and forget reciting daily menus for the entertainment of upperclassmen.

"It's been a long, long year," said William Mills of Arnold, Md.

Plebes have made their way to Herndon Monument to celebrate the hard year's end since the early 1900s, although no one knows exactly why. Some suggest the monument was an old trysting place and plebes were celebrating their right to use it.

In the early 1940s someone came up with the notion of climbing the monument, which honors Commander William Herndon who donned his finest Navy uniform to ride to the bottom when his ship went down off Cape Hatteras in 1857.

Eventually it became mandatory to scale it before plebe year was officially over. Through the years, plebes have scaled the monument in as little as 90 seconds and taken as long as 2-3/4 hours. Since 1955 it's been tougher, as upperclassmen began coating the Quincy granite obelisk with 200 pounds of lard.

It makes for a messy scene and a complicated mission, particularly when tackled by 1,000 overzealous teen-agers who have freedom (and weekend liberty) 21 feet from their grasp.

Cmdr. Ken Pease, the Academy public information officer, said that when his class did it in 1965 it only took 23 minutes, "but we had a plan," he said.

Not so with the Class of '86, which descended on the greasy pole in a roaring mass and hurled plebe bodies at the granite until half were exhausted.

Replacing the hat is the kind of job, Pease agreed, that could be done easily by 50 men, less easily by 100 but is almost impossible when tackled by 1,000.

It wasn't until the first wave of plebes collapsed that Delamer's comrades managed to build a wedge of straining humanity on which the wiry, 132-pounder from Hauppague, Long Island, could ascend.

He was shy of the cap by only a foot when the nameless plebe beneath him summoned some extra bit of strength, cupped Delamer's left foot in his right palm and heaved. The victory was achieved.

The Class of '86 thus became "fourth-year" mids. Their plebe indignity is over, but they won't be third-year mids, or "youngsters," until they sight the Academy chapel dome on returning from their summer cruises. There's a tradition for just about everything here.

There won't be any plebes again until July 6, when the new crop arrives to be prepared "morally, mentally and physically" for the Academy. And that's no picnic either.