John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Foley’s NY: Part Two

Paradise Found

In the beginning, Michael Scott and I befriended Ailis who introduced us to Deidre and Kathy, the two waitresses who ran the floor at Foley’s. Fortunately, between being on our best behavior and with Ailis’ vote of confidence, they decided that Mike and I were legit and chose to adopt us. Both gals acted with authority and control, not uncommon in an Irish pub; but their attitudes were blended with humor, kindness. flirtation and helpful caution.

Being with them was a pleasure. Deidre came from the old sod and charmed us with her Irish ways. Kathy, like the two of us, was a New Yorker, born and bred. Kathy belonged to an extensive family who resided in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Her family persevered through the hard times when serious crime encroached into their neighborhood before the Giuliani / Bloomberg renaissance. Remarkably, Kathy lived on Carroll Street, the same street where my daughter and her family lived and even stranger, had friends who lived in their building at 656 Carroll Street.

Kathy and Deidre were influential in connecting us with Shaun Clancy and his father, John, known as Papa John.

Saloon politics have their own curious rules and parameters. As newbies, we kept our heads down while we figured out the pitfalls so as to avoid accidentally upsetting the bar’s stability. Kathy and Deidre gave us the map we needed to act wisely and move with caution. .

Kathy was the best / worst. A Brooklyn girl, with a firecracker temper and the mouth of a sailor on leave. An innocent comment could set her off. Luckily, Kathy trusted us, and she usually came to us when she felt wounded by a comment. For example, she came to our table pissed-off that Papa John had told her he had served in the British Navy.

Out of respect and knowing that members of her family had a proud history of serving in our armed forces including a niece then serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq, I gently explained to her that what we call the merchant marine, the Brits call their merchant navy. In Papa John’s eyes, he served in a branch of their navy, the one that flew the white ensign. Warships flew the red ensign, but it was two branches, one navy.  It took several reinforcements, but I did convince her that Papa John wasn’t cheating.

Deidre was the gentler of the two, a peacemaker who maintained Foley’s equilibrium.

Michael, being an astute baseball fan didn’t hurt either. Since Michael was a long-

suffering Red Sox fan, while Shaun was a devotee of the New York Yankees, their bar room rivalry became an important bonding experience. Lordy, could they go at it, but those debates were lined with respect as they both knew what they were talking about.  I remained on the sideline, enjoyed my Guinness while observing them go at it. Frankly, their debates didn’t last long as, invariability, Shaun would get an important call, or someone would arrive who needed his attention.

Interruptions like those were never a problem for us. We’d either return to our own gossip or the gals would return to chat. As time went on, Papa John, and his buddy, Tom Cahill, would migrate to our table to share their wisdom with us.

Afternoons would melt away until we came close to missing our regular home bound trains. We learned from poor experiences not to linger too long and miss these trains.

It didn’t take long before we both came to the realization that we had found our home for lunch in the city. Foley’s was our exclusive destination for lunch.*   

We decided to keep it our place and refrain from inviting other friends and associates from joining us there. Over time, exceptions were made.

My son was the first. He worked in mid-Manhattan and Mike adored my Michael. On one of his first visits, Michael encountered Shaun, who took pride in being the biggest guy in the room. Michael overwhelmed Shaun in that category. Fortunately, my son is a peacemaker who can relax any animosity, He won over Shaun in a New York Minute.

Shortly, after my son’s first visit, I learned that Shaun was one year younger than my son.

Weird, but in the scheme of things, it worked.

Foley’s was the place, “Where everybody knew our name.”

(*The one exception I can recall was the day our path from Penn Station to the saloon was blocked by manned police barricades at the corner of Sixth Ave. and Thirty-Third St. The investigation of a shooting outside the Empire State Building turned out to be the reason. I believe we had lunch that day at Annie Moore’s, another lost pub nearby to Grand Central Terminal.)

(To be continued.)        

Chairman of the Board

I am interrupting my series about Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant out of respect for Edward Charles (Whitey) Ford who died Thursday night, October 8th at 91 years of age. Understandably, his passing has received wide coverage in the press especially in the New York area where he holds just about every team pitching record from his outstanding career with the New York Yankees. Yankees catcher, Elston Howard tagged Whitey Ford with the nickname, Chairman of the Board, to recognize how he controlled and managed each game he pitched. He engineered each of his pitches to take advantage of the batter facing him. Whitey was a natural nickname given his light blond hair.   

My purpose is to remember Whitey Ford with two humorous stories that demonstrate his long-term relationship with his teammate, room-mate and best friend, Mickey Mantle. Both stories are well-known and have spurred several versions. Please bear with me if you heard them differently.

In 1961, Ford and Mantle were selected to the All-Star Game held that year in newly opened Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Peter Stoneham, son of Horace, the Giants owner invited the boys to a round of golf at dad’s trendy country club. Ford and Mantle were not prepared for the club’s dress code. “Peter told them to simply sign for anything they might need. The fun-loving Yankees stars took that literally signing for golf shoes, sweaters, balls and shirts running up a $200 tab  extremely large for that era.” ( $1,740 in today’s money.)

“Ford saw Horace Stoneham later that night and offered to pay the bill, but the Giants owner made a deal instead. If Ford could retire star centerfielder, Willie Mays during the All-Star Game, the debt would be canceled. If Mays got a hit, the total would be doubled.”

Mantle wanted no part of such an arrangement, but Ford talked him into it. Ford only acknowledged after he retired that he sometimes doctored baseballs using saliva, and dirt or a combination of baby oil, turpentine and resin to make his fingers sticky. He also wore a ring with a rasp to cut the surface of the baseballs that affected their flight.

Ford started the All-Star game. Mays came up to bat with two outs. After getting  two strikes on Mays, Ford recalled: “Now the moneys on the line because I might not get to throw to him again. So, I did the only smart thing possible under the circumstances, I loaded the ball up real good…and then I threw Willie the biggest spitball you ever saw.”

Mays stood there transfixed, bat on his shoulder as the umpire called, “Strike Three.” Ford played it cool, but Mantle was so happy that they had won the bet that he ran home from center field hopping and clapping as if they’d just won the game.

The second story happened in January of 1974. I was researching my book about the Giants when I came across a newspaper column about another event that occurred that day. The Hall of Fame had just announced that both Ford and Mantle had both been inducted as part of the Class of 1974. A news conference was hastily put together in the Royal Box, a nightclub in the Americana Hotel to honor the two stars in a light-hearted manner.

“Another legend, the saloon keeper emeritus, Toots Shor, held court: ‘Put a glass in their hands,’ Shor shouted, ‘they don’t look natural”

“Somebody did even though it was only 11 am. Bloody Mary’s were procured.”

Among the subjects raised,  the press wanted to know how the two players  overcame their different backgrounds to become such good friends. Ford was a Queens kid from the streets while Mantle was a country boy from Oklahoma.  A reporter put the question to Mantle this way: “What  was the chemistry of your friendship with Whitey?”

“We both liked Scotch.”

RIP Whitey Ford

Foley’s NY: Part One

The Announcement

Late in the morning of May 28, 2020, I was sitting at the kitchen table working on a new piece for my weekly blog when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the phone number from Caller ID, so I answered carefully with deliberate annoyance in my voice.

“That’s a hell of a way to answer your phone.” The caller defiantly replied passing judgement on my phone etiquette. His words were laced with a distinctive Irish brogue, so I asked: “Shaun, is that you?”

“No, it’s the king of bloody England! Of course, it’s me.”

“Sorry, Shaun, I didn’t recognize your mobile phone number, What’s up?” Immediately, fearing the worst, I waited for his answer. It came swiftly: “I am closing Foley’s. I don’t have a choice. It’s bleeding money and there is no relief in sight. Either I close or lose everything. I kept the staff on as long as I could but there isn’t any chance for re-opening any time in the foreseeable future. I wanted you to know before I made my announcement later today. Please make sure you tell Mr. Scott and give him my apologies for not telling him directly.”

That was the message. I thanked him for reaching out to me. I asked about his dad, Papa John, who caught a bad case of the flu in January. Shaun had sent him back to Cavan, Ireland and the Clancy clan to recuperate. “He’s fine. He recovered nicely and he’s up and about.”

Before we signed off, Shaun practiced his new mantra that he would refine and repeat to the media, friends, associates and all those he knew in the baseball and sports community: “This is not the end of Foley’s. It’s the end of our existence on West Thirty-Third Street. I am looking forward to Foley’s 2.0. Where I don’t know, perhaps Vegas, or Tampa, or perhaps another format. Time will tell.”

That was a sad day in my life and the end of an era for Mike Scott and me.

Discovery

That era began in 2009. I was working on my third book about the lean years I suffered through with my beloved Football Giants from 1964 to 1980. I decided to use newspaper accounts as my primary source, so I utilized the main branch of the New York Public Library’s microfilmed copies of all Metropolitan newspapers, living and dead. This graveyard of newspaper past and present and their brilliant scribes provided me with the insight I sought into the that period.

This was a tedious process and I settled on researching and copying two different seasons per visit to the library. Normally, after completing my task, I’d catch a bus just outside the main exit on Fifth Avenue for the trip south to Penn Station.

One session in the spring of 2009 changed my routine forever. When I exited the library on what was one of the ten best days of the year for weather in NYC, the afternoon was so pleasant that I decided to walk down Fifth Avenue past the Empire State Building to Thirty-Third Street where I headed west toward the main entrance for Penn Station.

Something made me look, “eyes left.” Perhaps it was the fire-engine red façade? Perhaps it was the American and Republic of Ireland flags flying in the wind above the façade, or was it the serendipitous bicycle mounted above the sign? 

That sign read: “Foley’s NY Bar & Restaurant.”

I jaywalked to the south side of Thirty-Third Street where my eyes locked on to two vertical baseball bats mounted on the doors that substituted for handles forcing a big smile to fill my face. I stepped inside to a sea of memorabilia that overwhelmed me, so I turned to the bar, found a vacant stool, sat down and ordered a pint of Guinness.

The bartender was a tall, thin and blond young woman named Ailis (Alice). Friendly and at ease, she chatted me up with her thick brogue while letting my stout settle. The saloon was empty, this being about 3:30 in the afternoon, too late for lunch and too early for happy hour. I told her the place was remarkable. “Well,” Ailis replied, “Shaun Clancy, the owner, prides himself in operating ‘An Irish Bar with a Baseball Attitude,’ and, ‘where everything is 6, 2 and even.”*

I enjoyed my chat and my Guinness while I made two vows. First, I would replay my visit each time I left the library with two seasons of newspaper copies in my bag and second, that I would tell Mike Scott about my find.

Mike and I had been meeting in Manhattan for several months since his retirement spending our time finding new and different places to eat and drink. I called him the next day and simply said, “Michael, I believe I have just found our new Manhattan luncheon home.”

We agreed to rendezvous in Penn Station the following week. Memory doesn’t do justice to that first visit, but I guarantee that, first off, we both were overwhelmed by the amount and variety of both baseball and other sports memorabilia crammed  into the bar and dining room.

But it was the owner, his father, the staff and the regulars that impressed us the most. We looked at each other on our return trip to Penn Station and agreed, “We just found our luncheon home in the city.”

  • Six, 2 and even is a horseracing term that describes the odds for the expected first, second finishing horses in the next race and alerts the bettor things are as they appear to be.

(To be continued)          

The Covid 19 Blues

Don’t you find from time to time sometimes unexpectantly, you are assaulted by an attack of The Covid 19 Blues? You feel angry or plain lousy: The Covid 19 Blues:

Once I built a railroad,

I made it run,

made it race against time.

Once I built a railroad,

now it’s done.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al.

It was Al all the time.

Why don’t you remember,

I’m your pal,

Brother, can you spare a dime? 

In retrospect, it seems that we went from a normal existence into full Covid shut-down in the blink of an eye. I’m reading a book about the fall of Poland to the Nazis and the Soviets that parallels what those of us in the tri-state region who are overwhelmed by lost  battles followed by retreat, followed by another battle lost, etc. etc. until final surrender. A total shutdown of almost everything was ordered. In New York, effective at the close of business on Friday, March 20.   

March morphed into April. Hording became a mantra, shelves emptied, as people began to die in serious numbers. The virus spread with an uncanny speed and the death rate rose in New York City and state at an alarming rate. Mistakes, lack of preparation, lack of understanding and bad luck conspired to exacerbate the volatile spread of the virus.

As a Nation, we grounded to a halt. Education, business, entertainment, sports, commerce, travel, hotels, stores, shops and even entire malls were forced to close. Exceptions were granted for those establishments offering vital supplies like food and, thankfully, alcohol.

My first attack of the blues hit in late March as I watched a weekday local morning news show. Their camera presented a view of The Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Ave.) looking north from Forty-Eighth Street up to Central Park at Fifty-Nineth Street. As I took at the scene, I exclaimed, “OMG, there is absolutely no traffic in sight, not one bus, taxi, private auto or truck on the roads nor any pedestrians on the sidewalks.” Shockingly. I realized; Manhattan was a ghost town!

Since then reminders of what has been lost and the losses that are still to come grabs at me when I allow my mind to go to that place. I dare not think what the future holds. There is going to be a reckoning in the short to medium time frames as New York City, CT, NJ and NY as local cities and counties run out of money. In fact, they have already run out of money, but they can rely on enough fiscal manipulations to play with before payroll checks start to bounce in October or November.

However the outcome of our presidential election is decided, Uncle will be hard pressed to be able to write a check to cover the outstanding debt of so many states, counties and municipalities/ The future is scary. No wonder we get depressed.

These blues can keep me awake at night when I allow them to invade my psyche or I dwell on the crises enveloping us. The virus is paramount because it hangs over us. Not just the present attack, but, when will the second-round strike and will the promised vaccines be a Godsend or a fraud? Add to that, a stew of racial strife, worries about loss of jobs, layoffs, the confusion and conflicts with school re-openings and closings and our upcoming election conspire to produce a perfect storm for insomnia and depression.

Fortunately for my wife and I, regardless how hard the night, our morning stirrings usually attract the attention of two old friends, a eleven-year-old Yellow Labrador by the name of Tessie and a ten-year old Golden by the name of Max. These two very best friends invade our sleeping quarters and separately or together, put on a show to remind us that they are happy to be alive for another day and so should we.

Their gentle souls liberate us to remain optimistic and steer toward a good horizon. The Covid Blues are real and continuous. Every day it can seem there’s another thing. Such is life, but we can choose to deal with it, shake it off and move on. Think like a retriever:

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.

I can see all obstacles in my way.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

Just When You Thought It Could Not Get Worse

Oy vay, what’s next? A life-ending comet strikes the earth. Yellowstone National Park morphs into super-volcano saturating most of North America in rocks, ash and lava, or an earthquake swallows the West Coast?

Day after day,

The people moving to LA.

Please don’t you tell anybody

The whole place slipping away.

Hurricanes abound, Covid stalks the land while we are clueless what will happen next. To top it off we are experiencing a raw, divided and divisive presidential campaign. Damn, what other crises abound?

Then just like that, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. RIP Justice Ginsberg.

OMG, OMG!

The election is five weeks away. Unless President Trump is re-elected, his term in office would end on January 20, 2021. However, the new Congress will be sworn into office on January 3, 2021.

Politics in the land of US is so partisan, nasty and radical that common sense, meaningful debate and compromise are out of the question. In ordinary times, the nomination of the new justice would be delayed until the new Congress was installed and the president was inaugurated. I believe that is the proper way to steer our country. Expediency is the enemy of our Republic.

The idea that the GOP could put a nominee on track for Senate confirmation prior to the election, seemed to me a fool’s errand, but that’s exactly what the GOP plans to do. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, says he has the votes to confirm Trump’s unnamed nominee (as of this writing) and he is ready to proceed.  

When President Barak Obama nominated Merrick Garland as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in March of 2016, the same Senator McConnell prevented Judge Garland’s confirmation from ever coming to a vote. I disagreed with these tactics even though I understood what they were doing, preserving a seat that had belonged to a conservative justice, Anthonin Scalia.

I can just imagine the kind of tactics Senator Chuck Schumer, the Minority Leader, and the activist Democratic Senators will resort to derail the nomination? First off, they are trying to turn two additional GOP Senators to join  Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who have already announced their defection. Failing that, I expect the Democrats will dig up as much dirt as they can or threaten the use of a nuclear response like packing the court.

I already feel badly for the unfortunate woman who Trump selects who unwisely accepts his nomination. At least the Republicans were polite assassins when it came to Judge Garland. This time it promises to be a complete sh** show.

Football Magnified

Nineteen Sixty-One one of those remarkable milestones in my life, especially the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of college. That summer, I travelled coast to coast and back by train to visit my father in Riverside, California and most importantly, the summer I discovered the team I came to love, the Football Giants. Love at first radio broadcast!

I attended my first live game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, October 22 versus the Los Angeles Rams. It was a perfect fall day, what I call, football weather. My friend, Jimmy Pace and I made the all familiar subway journey from Ridgewood, Queens to Yankee Stadium, but for the first time, not for a baseball game.

We didn’t have tickets expecting to buy them at the stadium’s kiosks located outside the various entrances. Randomly, we headed to the gate behind home plate and joined other fans seeking game day tickets. As we advanced, we noticed a disturbing development; other sellers were closing their kiosks and shooing potential buyers away. They had run out of tickets. Fortunately, our seller remained open as we reached his window.

“I can give you two box seats behind the Yankees dugout. That’s all I have left. They are $5 dollars each.”

“We’ll take them.”

Our tickets would have been incredible for baseball, but the way the football field at Yankee Stadium was laid out, we were located directly behind the end zone at the closed end of the ballpark. The good news was we’d be up close and personal when the teams were at our end of the field, but when they were at the other end, they might as well be playing in Los Angeles.

However, I happened to have in my possession, a pair of 7X50 Omega binoculars given to me by my father during my California visit that summer. (Actually, they were a bribe by my old man. In return I agreed to ship my Lionel electric trains out West for my half-brothers and sister now that I had outgrown them.)

The images I witnessed looking through those magnificent lenses was beyond all I could have imagined. My glasses gave me incredible close ups for plays at our end and terrific views of formations and plays beyond the opposite 35-yard line.

By the end of the game I was hooked, both on Giants football and using binoculars to witness the contest. I became season ticket holder in 1962.

Back then, none of the NFL teams showed players’ names on the back of their uniforms, but The New York Times published the active roster for both the Giants and their opponents each Sunday during football season. The size was perfect to cut out and tape onto the barrel of my binoculars and I grew to enjoy this cheat sheet. After each play, I could look down to see the name of the opposition player who number matched who I watched in the last play. I’d say out loud to my seat mates: “Karas made the last tackle.”

Over time, I moved on to 7×35 binoculars that enhanced my field of vision at the expense of seeing those tight views of great football plays. The trade-off was worth it because the number of plays I missed with the 7×50 tight views far exceeded the ones I caught.

I was always protective of my glasses and if someone asked to borrow them, I insisted they wear the strap around their neck before I agreed to their request,

Once again, time marched on morphing me into the realm of dinosaurs. I continue to view the game through a pair of Nikon 7×35 glasses when I find it appropriate. I choose this path despite the overwhelming presence of multiple monster color video monitors that allow patrons to witness every play after the fact multiple times including different angles, close-ups and slow motion.

Of course, I watch this additive siren, but, when the Giants, break their huddle and get into formation, I take off my eye glasses, put them into my left hand for safe keeping and raise my binoculars to my eyes for the next play.

No game today is the new normal for 2020 as the stands will be empty for all of Giants home and away games. Next year will be my 59th as a season ticket holder. My hope is being able to return then or in 2022, with binoculars in hand with my mates to the roar of the crowd and the game on the field.

The Ubiquitous Blimp

After the loss of the USS Macon on February 12, 1935, the US Navy’s Lighter- Than-Air operations ground to a halt.

The threat of a war in Europe was emerging with the rise Adolph Hitler and his burgeoning Nazi regime. As Hitler’s power increased, America rejected involvement in the possibility of another European war. The aftermath of World War I hung heavily across the USA still mired in the Great Depression. It seemed that “The war to end all wars,” was nothing more than a slogan used to entice public support to send American boys to their early graves in a conflict that was none of our business.

America turned inward and isolation was our calling card. Any effort to expand our military or to consider aid to Europe was anathema and Congress passed laws to prevent the President from aiding any potential belligerents. FDR knew the risks from these actions, but his own party controlled both houses of Congress and he understood they would cast him aside if he defied them.

It was not until the fall of France in June of 1940 that FDR forced Congress to come to terms with the pathetic state of the Armed Forces and authorize expenditures to modernize and expand the army and navy.

Paramount in these acts was the authorization for “A Two-Ocean Navy,” a fleet capable of defending both our Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This legislation appropriated the funds to build 11 new battleships, 11 new aircraft carriers, 52 cruisers and 155 destroyers as well as multiple numbers of other ships and boats of every size and description.

The navy asked for and obtained authorization to purchase six K-Class Blimps for its Lighter-Than-Air Branch to patrol the coastlines and hunt for mines and submarines. This authorization was soon increased to include new blimp bases near Boston and Norfolk in addition to dormant bases in Lakehurst, NJ and Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The number of new blimps was increased to 48 to be constructed by the Goodyear Corporation.

Ultimately, 134 K-Class Blimps were produced which operated out of ten fields in the United States, one in Jamaica, one in Trinidad, two in Brazil and one in French Morocco.

One airship was lost through enemy action, the K-74. On July 18, 1943, the crew detected and attacked a U-Boat using radar. A gun duel silenced the boat’s guns, but the blimp’s bombs failed to release. The K-74 was brought down by renewed gunfire. Nine of the ten members of the crew were rescued.

The slow-moving blimps were not adept at sinking U-Boats on their own, but, once a U-Boat commander saw one near his submarine, his only choice was to dive as the blimp commander was already transmitting the sub’s location to avenging boats and airplanes.

The blimp played a vital role in picking up downed pilots and dropping life-saving supplies to stranded merchant mariners who had survived the loss of their ships.

After the war ended, the need for lighter than air operations evaporated and by 1956, only two bases remained, Lakehurst, NJ and Weeksville, NC. Twenty-six blimps remained in operation, mostly the now venerable K-Class Blimps designated as belonging to the Airship Patrol Squadron. By 1958, seven new blimps were on order from Goodyear, designated as the Z-Class, they were designed to replace the Ks that were retired in 1959.

The hoped-for Z- Class Blimp renaissance did not materialize. By 1961, the navy brass accepted the fact that both helicopters and land-based, long range patrol planes could easily fulfill their role.

On August 31, 1962, Blimp ZPG-2 ended the 47-year saga of the US Navy’s Lighter-Than-Air operations with its last flight at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station.

Goodyear continues to fly their own advertising fleet. Others come and go and a sizeable “what if crowd,” cries out for new applications from time to time, all without success.

May we enjoy the few blimps that continue to fly and accept: “That’s all folks!” 

A Time of Rage: Part Three and the End

Friday morning, I followed my usual routine, walking south along Park Row from the Chambers Street subway station. As I passed City Hall, I sensed an ominous difference. Construction workers had gathered at City Hall Park. They loitered there talking, smoking and drinking coffee. “Funny,” I thought. “Shouldn’t they be at work?”

When I reached the office, I mentioned this to my boss, Don Lamont.

He replied, “You know John, I came from the PATH Station and I saw the same thing by the construction site for the World Trade Center. I didn’t see anyone working. Instead the men were milling around at ground level.”

“Don, do you mind if I don’t go on any surveys today? I have a funny feeling this is related to the scheduled protests and I want to go out on the street to see what happens.”

“Okay, but for God’s sake, don’t get hurt.”

I promised him I would be careful as I left the office. I crossed Park Row and joined the construction workers gathered in City Hall Park. It was about 10:30 AM. Many had abandoned coffee for beer. Since I was dressed in a jacket and tie, I did not try to mingle with them, instead I listened in to snatches of conversation as I walked toward Broadway.

That damn Lindsay has the flag at half-mast.”… “The union wants us to show Lindsay what they think of him.”… “Too bad the Guardsmen didn’t kill a few more of those punks.”… “We are supposed to go to Battery Park at 11:00 AM.

They were angry, very, angry. These snatches of conversation with their expletives deleted barely reflect the extent of their anger.

The Times reported that the mayor’s office and the police had received warnings Thursday evening that a massive counter-demonstration by construction workers had been planned for Friday involving carpenters, iron workers, electricians, tin knockers, plumbers and masons. I don’t have a clue how it started.

 I do know these men considered themselves fiercely patriotic, hard-working Americans. It was their brothers, cousins, sons or friends who were slugging it out in Viet Nam while these “children of privilege” and their “Negro friends” demonstrated, protested and rioted. They boiled every time the evening news showed students denouncing their own as “baby killers” while trashing the beautiful campuses these working men would never experience. They boiled watchingtheir flag, their country, their values being trashed by malcontents that they could not understand.

The shootings at Kent State were not a tragedy to them, no siree, “It was payback time, baby.” They didn’t care how the media reacted because they didn’t trust the media. But when these kids started taking to the streets, their streets, it was time for them to take back their streets.

I made my way south on Broadway toward Battery Park, but I stopped when I reached Wall Street where a group of student protesters was gathering. They were already blocking Wall Street from Exchange Place to Broad Street. I walked over to watch, most sat on the pavement, peaceful and quiet. One of their leaders distributed instructions explaining how to act when the television crews arrived. Others gave out written instructions on what to do when arrested including phone numbers for the ACLU and other like-minded organizations. I was handed a copy and I recall thinking how professional it seemed to be. The police were there in moderate numbers. They stood in groups, talking with each other in that bored cop fashion. None wore helmets and I did not see riot control gear although it could have been concealed near-by.

A buzz began to make its way through the demonstrators. Construction workers were massing at Battery Park and were going to break-up this protest. A sense of determination followed. The crowd drew closer together taking strength from each other. Feeling the tension, I decided I did not like where I was standing. The streets were too crowded as office workers on lunch breaks had filled the intersection to observe the demonstrators. If there was panic, I would be trapped. My escape instinct led me to walk over to a nearby subway entrance that led to the mezzanine level. I popped down to confirm it was deserted and provided a passageway that headed north under Nassau Street. Here was an escape route.

With this knowledge, I re-emerged from a different staircase, this one next to the J.P. Morgan Bank directly across from the Subtreasury Building. I stood on the top step and leaned on the Morgan Bank wall.

It was shortly after noon when the construction mob boisterously made its way up Broad Street. They wore hard hats and carried sticks, bats and tools. Onlookers and office workers parted as the mob approached Wall Street. They reached the intersection, hesitated and stopped. They chanted “USA, USA, USA”, but a thin line of police stood between the hard hats and the protestors. Behind the police, a mixed crowd occupied the steps of the Subtreasury Building.

The steps were crowded with onlookers surrounding the bronze statue of George Washington. I watched as a solitary figure stepped out from behind the statue. He was nondescript, short, slight, wearing glasses, a sports jacket and a tie. He looked like a college professor. Standing in front of the statue, he drew an American flag from inside his jacket and unfurled it. The beginnings of a cheer started from the construction workers and onlookers, but then the man extracted a knife from his pocket. He held the knife over his head then, he hacked at the flag ripping and tearing it.

 “Jesus,” I said out loud, “are you nuts?”

The workers closest to the steps broke through the police, grabbed this guy and dragged him down from the steps beating and clubbing him as they threw him to the ground. The police picked him up rushing him to a waiting patrol car. He was a mess, bruised and bleeding, his clothes were torn and stained with his blood.

That was all that the construction workers needed. In a rage, they charged into the protestors, cursing and kicking while swinging clubs and bats. The students were standing by then and scattered in front of this onslaught. The lucky ones ran north on Nassau Street. Most tried to retreat west on Wall Street to Broadway. Waiting for them was another worker contingent who had marched up Broadway.

 These patriots did their best to beat as many of the radicals as they could reach

.

The crowd was out of control. Cops could not contain the melee. So, instead, they formed a line diagonally across the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets forcing the crowd to separate and move in different directions. I decided it was time to leave and I re-entered the subway making my way north along the still deserted passageway under Nassau Street away from the fighting.

My intention was to tell Don what I had experienced, but when I turned onto Park Row, I saw the mob rushing Pace University’s main building adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge. A peace banner hung from the roof and students stood in front of the building. The mob assaulted milling students, scattering them. The doors were locked, so they smashed the ground floor windows to enter the lobby. Several men made their way to the roof and cut the banner loose, sending it to the ground where it was torn apart and burned. Injured students dazed and bleeding made their way south on Park Row.

A young woman cried out to me as I passed her, “Why is this happening?”

The mob turned its attention across Park Row to City Hall and its flag hanging at half-mast. Hundreds of construction workers reached a line of wooden sawhorses the police had hastily erected. Maybe two dozen cops stood between the workers and City Hall. The workers chanted, “Raise the flag, raise the flag, raise the flag.”

To their delight, a custodian emerged onto the roof and raised the flag. Cheers erupted until an aide to Mayor Lindsay, Sidney Davidoff, crossed the roof and re-lowered the flag to its previous position.

Davidoff’s action produced an instant of silence. Then an animal sound erupted as the men broke through the wooden horses and assaulted the steps. The police could not hold and were pressed against the doors. Desperately, their commander begged the mayor to raise the flag.

 Unfortunately, this moment of crisis found Lindsay not at City Hall, but miles uptown at Gracie Mansion. Deputy mayor, Richard Aurelio, chose to heed the police. Another custodian accompanied by two plain-clothes policemen raised the flag and the cops remained on the roof to assure that it remained at full staff. The mob stopped and cheered. They stood hats in hand to sing our National Anthem as alcohol fueled tears coated many cheeks. Contented with their victory, they broke into chants like, “ USA, USA, USA” and “Lindsay’s a Red” before dispersing to local bars.

The city was in shock. The scenes at Wall Street, Pace University and City Hall were replayed repeatedly on both local and national news. Relations between the Mayor and the police department were already strained. Now, Lindsay assailed the police performance. In return, the PBA blasted Lindsay. Essentially a no-win situation.

The reports on television were broadcast with the same tone of disbelief that followed the shootings.

But something had happened that day, something hidden in our psyche something we wanted to be alien to the American experience; “class warfare.”

The news had a strange effect on most Americans. They did not view the construction workers as thugs, nor the student protestors as innocents. They too had become fed up with all the attention college protestors were receiving. A groundswell of support for Nixon grew as millions of Americans watched the news from New York City.

 Somebody in the Nixon camp gave it a label. A label to describe this growing force that up until now believed it was ignored by the media, ignored by the courts and by their own elected officials. A force here-to-fore without clout. A force that was considered old fashioned and out of touch. A force that on  Friday had revealed itself in all its tainted glory. The label was “The silent majority.”

Part Four, After

   The silent majority began to flourish that weekend.

Lower Manhattan was deserted over the weekend. On Monday, the construction workers roamed the financial district looking for non-existent radicals. This time they were joined by longshoremen whose union leaders ordered them off the piers and onto the streets. Lindsay had enough. By Tuesday, lower Manhattan was a police state. Helmeted tactical police force units lined the sidewalk temporarily preventing New Yorkers from engaging in their favorite pastime, jaywalking.

The following week, the trade unions were rewarded with a noisy parade down Broadway. Newly painted, freshly washed dump trucks, low boys, cement mixers, garbage trucks and other heavy-duty machines paraded down the “Great White Way.” Flags and patriotic slogans adorned the vehicles while “heroic” workers waved to the cheering crowd.

Nixon found his silent majority and an election landslide in the making. Lindsay slipped another notch in the eyes of most residents and four families remained on the sideline in mourning having buried their lost children shot dead at Kent State.

Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it.

George Santana 1869-1952  

A Time of Rage: Part Two

Part Two, The National Attitude

How could volunteer citizen-soldiers deliberately shoot thirteen American college students on the campus of their university? If you did not live through the upheavals of the 1960s, you cannot imagine how divided our country had become by 1970.

Beginning in 1963, “baby boomers” reached college age and by 1967, they flooded every grade level making the college population a significant part of American society. They were unlike the smaller, docile classes of “Depression born” or “War babies.” These boomers made demands for radical changes that these institutions had not experienced before and were ill equipped to understand.

It began with freedom of expression and racial equality. Dress codes, appearance codes, types of organizations permitted on campus and acceptable behavior were challenged.

Even though the Supreme Court had declared segregation and “separate but equal” null and void in 1954, it had taken ten years for an effective Civil Rights Act to be passed and for segregated colleges in the South and “lily white” mainstream universities in the North to open their doors to black students. Once they gained admission, African Americans also demanded a greater voice, a greater presence, and the creation of programs that focused on issues important to them. Other issues followed pertaining to sexual liberation and gender equality.

But the greatest anger and protests were reserved for that “damn war” in Viet Nam. Protests erupted on colleges across the nation from Berkley to Columbia. Administrators reacted by attempting to crush them and restore order, first with campus guards, then by summoning local police, then escalating to include state police and finally, national guard troops. Radical students countered with their own escalated upheavals. They seized offices and buildings daring police and troops to come and get them. Some of the riots ended peacefully after demands over real or imagined injustices were met. Others ended in assaults using tear gas, Billy clubs and brutality. Hate was the winner.

 I graduated in 1965 when most college campuses remained as dormant and politically uninteresting as they had been since World War II. “Better dead than Red” and the question of defending the islands of Quemoy and Matsu, a divided Berlin, Cuba and the missile showdown with the USSR were major debatable issues. Only President John Kennedy’s assassination darkened our days, but that was a national tragedy that united us in sorrow.

 I was five years out of college in 1970, married with a six-month old daughter. We lived in Middle Village, Queens, a mostly conservative, Irish-Italian-Catholic and Jewish community of attached one-family brick houses. I worked as a cargo surveyor for an independent firm based on Park Row across from City Hall Park. My biggest concern was how to make ends meet on one salary now that my wife had stopped teaching after the birth of our daughter.

I had also joined the New York National Guard in 1965 to avoid the draft. My unit was based in an armory in Hempstead, Long Island. My commitment to serve for six years. However, my outfit had been federalized because of a mail strike and, in return for this short spell on active duty, my commitment was reduced by one year. Even though my military obligation ended in 1970, I still related to the shootings in Ohio.

 Fortunately, our unit had never been activated to deal with student or racial unrest, but following the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, we underwent riot-control training.

Because Hempstead was a town with a sizable African-American population, local politicians wanted to keep this training quiet. Instead of practicing in the open equipment area behind the armory, we were trucked to a Naval Reserve site in trendy Sands Point on the so called “Gold Coast” of Long Island for training. We constructed streets and intersections using sticks and tape. One third of the fellows stripped to their tee shirts and played the rioters. The rest of us, in full gear including gas masks, fixed bayonets to our M1 rifles formed “V” shaped skirmish lines and marched in a slow cadence toward the rioters.

 Perhaps it was because we were one unit. Perhaps we didn’t know what to do and there were no professional policemen to guide us, but we were unsuccessful in moving the rioters who simply sat down. Tempers flared as officers and sergeants became impatient. One lieutenant struck a “rioter” in the face with the butt of a rifle to get him to move. Rather than having the desired effect, the “rioters” became enraged and the lieutenant had to be removed before a real mutiny ensued.

Two other things struck me that day. The first involved our location, the Naval Reserve Center fronted onto Middle Neck Road, the main thoroughfare that cut through Sands Point. It was a gorgeous sunny day and young male and female Sands Point residents parked their Corvettes, Thunderbirds and Mustang convertibles along the road. Having these preppy, pretty, wealthy children observe us as they relaxed on the hoods of their cars with their backs against the windshields made a weird experience weirder.

The second was troubling. On one occasion, I found myself at the point of the V. Wearing a gas mask limited my field of vision preventing me from seeing the soldier on either side of me, not even their protruding rifles and bayonets. This gave me the nagging feeling of being all alone. To my horror, I realized I would have been petrified if this were the real thing!

It was unfathomable to consider that if this were a real riot, those in command would issue live ammunition to ill trained and undisciplined troops like us.

We returned to the trucks for the ride back to the armory. As our two and one-half ton trucks headed south on Port Washington Boulevard, residents looked at us quizzically wondering what this troop movement was all about.

Part Three, Black Friday

New York City

Violent demonstrations spread throughout the land as radio and television broadcast the news about the shootings. The news on Wednesday included stories of students leaving their schools to take their rage into the hearts of the cities; their aim, to block traffic and disrupt business. Faculty members and administrators gave students tacit approval to boycott classes for the remainder of the week.

On Thursday, May 7th, thousands of students from New York City and suburban colleges joined two massive protests, one at Battery Park, the other on Wall Street. They ultimately merged at the Sub Treasury Building at the corner of Wall, Broad and Nassau Streets, the heart of the financial district. Plans were made to escalate the protests on Friday, blocking highways, bridges and tunnels.

Mayor Lindsay ordered the flag on City Hall and all other municipal buildings lowered to half-staff. He asked the school chancellor to close all city schools on Friday, May 8th, declaring it: “A Day of Reflection.”

The student protestors had captured the sympathy of the press and city government. Newspapers, television and radio depicted the story of student outrage. Lindsay chose municipal guilt and mourning.

Friday morning, I followed my usual routine, walking south along Park Row from the Chambers Street subway station and past City Hall. I sensed an ominous difference. Construction workers had gathered at City Hall Park. They loitered there talking, smoking and drinking coffee. “Funny,” I thought. “Shouldn’t they be at work?”

When I reached the office, I mentioned this to my boss, Don Lamont.

He replied, “You know John, I came from the PATH Station and I saw the same thing by the World Trade Center construction site. I didn’t see anyone working. Instead the men were milling around at ground level.”

“Don, do you mind if I don’t go on any surveys today? I have a funny feeling this is related to the scheduled protests and I want to go out on the street to see what happens.”

“Okay, but for God’s sake, don’t get hurt.” I promised him I would be careful as I left the office.

A Time of Rage: Part One

Preface

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santana 1869 -1952

I wrote the original version of A Time of Rage in 2003 to leave a record of that time in my life when I personally witnessed events that would sorely test our domestic tranquility to the point that the situation was close to being in doubt.

America was being consumed by hate, strife, conflict and rage. The war in Viet Nam was the prime mover, but racial turmoil exacerbated our national fear and loathing. The assassination of Martin Luther King set inner cities a blaze throughout America as his voice of non-violence was superseded by madness and wanton destruction.

It seemed our perceived national identity had been lost.

Viet Nam ended our innocence. We went to war based on a “Bright and Shining Lie;” a lie so fundamental that it wasn’t only deceitful, it was a crime. Both President Lyndon Johnson and President Richard Nixon knew and understood that this was a war we could not win. Still LBJ had our Navy formulate the Gulf of Tonkin incident to commit what turned out to be over 500,000 of our youth and our national treasure to a lost cause. Nixon persisted in continuing it.

A revolution had been set in motion and in the spring of 1970, Nixon knowingly or unwittingly, stoked the flames bringing our country to the brink by sending our troops into neutral Cambodia thereby expanding the war.

My purpose for re-publishing this piece now is that I believe our country is once again going down a similar path.

When I wrote: ”A Time of Rage”  my goal was to report it without taking sides.

Being a life-long conservative, my reactive side was to blame the left. However, I sought to leave  my opinion aside and tell it like it was as objectively as I could. So here it is my take on that time and my part in it without edit except for style.

Part One, The Shootings

Kent State University, Kent Ohio

          It was the photograph that told the story in a way that words could never explain. On Tuesday, May 5, 1970 The New York Times front page headline read:

4 Kent State Students Killed by Troops

      But it was John File’s iconic photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a fourteen-year-old runaway, totally distraught, screaming as she knelt over the body of Jeffrey Glen Miller, killed by .30 caliber bullets fired by Ohio National Guard soldiers’ M1 rifles. The explanation: The Guard had returned fire after being shot at by a sniper.

There was no sniper.

Twelve casualties, four of them dead: Glen Miller, 20, from Plainview, Long Island; Allison Krauss, 19, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sandra Lee Schreder, 20, from Youngstown, Ohio, and William K. Schroeder, 19, from Lorain, Ohio.    

Trouble first began on Saturday and the initial story appeared below the fold on Page 5 of The New York Times on Sunday, May 3, 1970. The lead story, at the top of the page, reported that Columbia University had decided to suspend classes for one day on Monday to protest the incursion by United States military forces into Cambodia. This related story originated with the Associated Press:

A fire, deliberately set, had destroyed a one-story wooden

ROTC building at Kent State University in central Ohio.

Students cut hoses and threw rocks, hampering firemen

from fighting the fire. Earlier that day 2,000 students

from the university had clashed with police in the town

of Kent.

This was not an isolated incident of protest. Four days earlier, President Richard M. Nixon addressed the nation explaining the scope and reasons for the Cambodian invasion. Prominent  statesmen such as former Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, and politicians including Nixon’s predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson, supported the President’s actions. But student protestors reacted angrily following Nixon’s speech. Radical student leaders-initiated violence at Stanford University but, because of the time difference, the news of their rock-throwing protest didn’t make the East Coast papers until Friday’s editions. The Times reported:

The Times banner headline that morning was about the war, not the protests:

NIXON SENDS COMBAT FORCES TO CAMBODIA

TO DRIVE COMMUNISTS FROM STAGING ZONE

Colleges were in turmoil. Before Nixon’s speech, Ohio State students had already clashed with more than 500 Ohio National Guard troops and state police over the war and civil rights issues. The news story stated that, in the melee, the Guardsmen had fired tear gas while the police fired shotguns, though no pellet wounds were reported. One hundred protestors were arrested and 13 were injured.

But the biggest concern for public safety that weekend was in New Haven, Connecticut, where 20,000 people were expected on Saturday to protest the murder trial of the Black Panther’s national chairman, Bobby Seale. Seale, and eight other Black Panthers, were accused of the torture and murder of Alex Rackley, a 24-year-old Panther. Connecticut’s governor, John Dempsey, was so concerned whether the state police and the national guard could maintain order that he telegraphed attorney general John Mitchell to request federal troops. Mitchell dispatched elements of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg and elements of the 2nd Marine Division from Camp Lejeune to federal facilities close to New Haven. However, these soldiers were not needed as only about half of the anticipated 20,000 protestors rallied on Saturday and the organizers decided to end their protests, so they could instead support Seale’s call for a nationwide protest of Nixon’s expanded war.

The organizers were mindful of the rage that was building over the Cambodian incursion. That weekend, protests spread to additional colleges and universities including Princeton, Maryland, Cincinnati, Temple and Rutgers. President Nixon responded by calling the student radicals, “bums,” in a speech given at the Pentagon.

Sunday was relatively quiet. The Times did find enough interest in the wire service piece about Kent State to dispatch their own reporter, John Kifner, to expand the details of the AP report. His story appeared on Page 11 on Monday, May 4th under the headline:

TROOPS SUBDUE

 STUDENTS IN OHIO

Third Straight Night of

Unrest at Kent State

Kifner reported that trouble began Friday evening when 1,000 students marched in protest joined by an equal number of young people from downtown Kent who had been drinking at local bars with names like Pirate’s Alley and J B’s. The mob tore down billboards, benches and fences to build a bonfire on the main street, smashed the windows of banks, shops and an armed forces recruiting station before being stopped by city and state police.

Ohio’s governor, James A. Rhodes, dispatched 600 national guardsmen who had already been activated to control a wildcat Teamsters strike in Cleveland. The guardsmen arrived Saturday night and prevented students from storming the home of university president, Robert I. White. Police accompanying the soldiers fired tear gas driving back the students and dispersing the crowd. Kifner ended his article by observing that the campus was quiet on Sunday.

Despite a planned noon rally on Monday being banned, students began to gather on the Commons to continue their protests. Removal of the national guard was added to their grievances. Shortly before noon, General Robert Canterbury decided to disperse the demonstrators. When the order shouted by a state trooper through a bullhorn had little effect, Canterbury ordered his men to lock and load their weapons and to don their gas masks. Tear gas was fired onto the Common as the guardsmen began to advance in a skirmish line. The crowd gave ground as the line of soldiers advanced down Blanket Hill and onto the football practice field. Here they found themselves in what amounted to a box canyon as the field was surrounded by fences. Isolated and scared, they reformed the skirmish line and retraced their steps back up Blanket Hill.

A group of demonstrators followed the guardsmen and it was at the top of the hill that about a third of the soldiers turned and fired in this group’s direction killing four and wounding nine.