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June 04, 1976 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-04

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Recalling the heroes at Duffy Square

By JEFFREY SELBST
Last sotwo paints
ATH 1 DUIY-F was a Catholic priest, beloved and
F reknowned for his small acts of heroism. It wasn't
his braving the trenches to tend the wounded or ad-
ministering rites to the dying that won him the place
he held among the people of his time-it was kindness
and simple humanity. No less an old curmudgeon
than Alexander Woollcott waxed gooey and sentimental
when speaking of this man on Woolicott's radio pro-
gram of the early forties, "The Town Crier."
There is a slab of concrete in Manhattan, a busy
traffic island across from Times Square, known as
Duffy Square. In it stands a green statue, paid the
casual disregard New Yorkers reserve for their treas-
ured monuments.
And each Memorial Day, a ceremony takes place
around the base of the immobile Father Duffy. The
Father Duffy Post of the Catholic War Veterans pays
its respects to the glories of war dead with a program
of speech and prayer.
Vast Sunday I observed this rite, conducted by
Joseph Meehan, past Commander of the Post, and in-
cluding the guest speaker, Joe Riley, current Com-
mander of the Post, himself a veteran of the War to
End All Wars.
JOE MEEHAN is thick-waisted, with bristly, short,
whitish hair. He stands in old but respectable cloth-
ing, his blazer straining to encircle his stomach as he
hobs with dignity, talking to the audience standing in
line to buy tickets at the half-price theater ticket booth
on the Square. He asks for their attention.
They have come from New Jersey, from Queens,
Brooklyn, and Westchester to buy the best seats in
Broadway houses for a seeming pittance. They are
tied together by a love of the stage-or at least a love
of the chic. And here, unfolding before them, is a live
theatrical presentation and all the more chic for being
camp.
They are bemused. One has only to watch their
stupid languor to know that they will be entertained
twice that day. But nothing sinks in-in fact, almost
nothing can be heard. A man smokes a pipe, a thought-

ful look crosses the face of another. They are bound
together in disinterest as well,
So they give their grudging attention, faces licked by
cool, after-rain breezes. Meehan has begun to sweat.
A cadre of fellow-members and well-wishers has form-
ed a tight group in front of the memorial, calling their
support and praise with tightly-knit good humor. They
tell him not to be nervous, that he's doing fine, but he
is not used to public speaking.M
Meehan calls on Riley, the current commander, to
say a few words. Riley is short, also white-haired, mus-
tachioed. He looks to have been a quiet man, proud of
what he has done-he wouldn't have had it any other
way. Meehan loks younger, and was probably a hell-
raiser.
'The subway, lifeblood of the city
of New York . . . lives at the very
foundation of the statue. As Riley com-
mences, an IRT local passes under-
neath. The noise is deafening; the
crowd, bored, turns away, for they
cannot hear a thing. And in a city
where so much happens, so little is
really seen.'
RILEY OPENS his mouth, and the crowd continues
its animated murmuring. He stops and waits as
a schoolteacher might, but no one ceases to chat iHe
strains, he raises his voice inside his head, and then
begins to speak.
The subway, lifeblood of the city of New York, main
artery of transportation, lives at the very foundation
of the statue. As Riley commences, an IT local passes
underneath. The noise is deafening; the crowd, bored,
turns away, for they cannot hear a thing. And in a city
where so much happens, so little is really seen.
Riley raises his voice; this cool little man has also

begun to perspire. The well-wishers become mo
raucous, but it is as watching an old, silly silent. Com
gestures for people who are celebrating what wa
perhaps the most important moment of their live
They will not forget, but the city already has,
The line for tickets is moving slowly. I am standin
waiting for tickets to Pacific Overtures with a formt
Daily staffer and her parents and aunt. They are cha
tering about the show, reviews, newspapers -a
around them the conversations are scarcely differen
The presentation of the floral wreath. It is a cross
white flowers, and where the two bars meet, there
a fine circle of red carnations. The stand on which
sits is covered with greenery. Even more than Easte
the festival of Memorial Day is one of life-contrasts
with death. But life is prevalent. Across the countri
matrons are digging out white shows and planni
afternoon barbeques for it is the season. Father Duff
gazes impassively down. Why are the dead honore
after they're gone? How will it do them any good? 'h
was a feast, in honor of the only man present w
would've enjoyed it.
TRAFFIC IS SCREAMING around Duffy Squar
across from Times Square. The city, at least her
never sleeps. There are theaters, restaurants, hooker
fronts, parties, gays, straights, lots and lots of neO
It is a festival by itself.
The men of the Father Duffy. Post of the Cathos
War Veterans pack up their things and get ready
leave. The crowd has paid scarcely more attenti
now than it ever did. I approached Joe Meehan, to
him I was a reporter, and he asked me where I w
from.
"Ann Arbor, Michigan," I replied.
He said that he thought they had a post there,
well as at that other big Michigan city-what was i
they made cars there .. .
"Detroit?" I ventured.
"No, that doesn't sound right," he said, vaguely.
But Father Duffy wouldn't have cared.
Daily Arts Editor Jeffrey Selbst spfen l roril D
eekend in the Big Apple.

The Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by Students at the
University of Michigan
Friday, June 4, 1976
News Phone: 764-0552
Sheriff Reagan riding hg
RONALD REAGAN is a frightening character. The Daily
has said it before, and if this burnt-out Hollywood
refugee wins the Republican nomination for president
it will certainly say it many more times, but seldom has
there been stronger provocation for such a stand than
Reagan's latest statement on the possibility of U.S.
assistance to the minority white regime in Rhodesia.
Reagan's infernal philosophy of foreign intervention
has produced yet another jewel: he told reporters Wed-
nesday that, if asked, he might send troops to keep the
peace during a transition of power if the government of
Prime Minister Ian Smith "said that a taken show (of
force) . . . is necessary."
"Whether it would be enough to have simply a show
of strength, or whether you have to go in with occupa-
tion forces or not, I don't know," Reagan said. While one
hesitates to throw about such an overused and nebulous
term as "imperialism," it is impossible to resist the urge
in this case.
Whether Reagan thinks that he could keep the U.S.
out of war in such a situation or not, his position is one
of interference in the affairs of a nation which has the
right of self-determination, and a Reagan "peace-keep-
ing" force would almost certainly favor the minority
regime which has stifled self-determination all along.
TODAY'S STAFF:
News-Michael Blumfield, Jay Levin, Ken Parsigion,
Tim Schick, Michael Yellin
Edit-Joy Levin
Arts-Jeffrey Selbst
Photo Technicion-Steve Kagon

Mailbox: On ballot laws, filth
at the Grad, and wagons '76
election law there will be no toilet paper, the soap will
o The Daily: be gone and paper towels will be scattered
Those thousands of city students and oth- about the floor.
rs who signed petitions to get one of several Considering the amount of money the Uni-
ninority parties on the ballot in November versity has put into renovating the library,
hould know that these parties may well be I wonder why it doesn't at least put ie
arred from ballot status anyhow. Last month, effort into keeping it clean?
new Michigan election law was passed, cre- Fiona Manupelli
tin, new additional reuirements for No. June1

T
el
m
sF
a
a1

gil1, 117 , qVld g l G1G1J 11 IV
vember ballot status.
Fearing that voters might take the "fight
for independence" too literally, pro nent
of the aew law offer the following rationale:
"There aren't enough slots in the ballot boxes
to accommodate all the parties; thus, some
parties must be eliminated for a better fit.
Besides, it'll save the taxpaypers' money."
In the spirit of S-1, the law restricts the
use of people's democratic rights, as voters
and as independents who might want to start
new parties where the old ones have failed.
The law has been opposed by several mi-
nority parties and others concerned. The ACLU
is presently challenging the law, Tonight at
7:30 in the Michigan Union, the threat posed
by the new law and the move to stop it will
be discussed at a forum with Zolton Ferency
(SHRP), Perry Bullard (Dem.) and Tommy
Dennis (Communist). The program proenises
to be worthwhile for those who find the new
law disturbing.
Mary Nash
Marxist Forum
June 2
filth
To The Daily:
Just once I would like to go into the
Graduate Library knowing that the women's
bathrooms are clean. During the four years
I have been at this university, the Graduate
Library has been consistent in seeing that its
bathrooms are filthy.
Each weekend, one-can rest assured that

To The Daily
Regarding the Bicentennial Wagon Trai
(Wagons roll into Clinton, May 25) and it
glorification: Two hundred years ago, mart
or less, white settlers rode westward acros
this continent, massacreing any Natives wh
stood'in their way, burning their homes an
ravaging their sacred places. Now wagon
roll eastward, as part of a great nationa
"celebration." It might be well if they -
and with them any other firm believers in
Manifest Destiny - continued rolling into the
Atlantic Ocean. Maybe in this way some lad
could be freed for the use of the origina
inhabitants; far too many of whom now lit
in crowded ghettos and reservations.
Jennifer VanderWall
May 25
Letters should be
typed and limited
to 400 words.
The Daily
reserves the right
to edit letters
for length
and grammar.

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