Training for The Peace Corps

I had been in Brandeis University as a Junior when we stayed up all night in early November 1960 as John F. Kennedy, the Senator from Massachusetts, swept the National election.  We had thrilled earlier to his charismatic speaking style, cheered his very public speech confronting the convention of Religious leaders in Texas as to why it was high time that a Catholic could be elected in these United States; we had booed his opponent, Nixon; we had gone to the mock convention held in the Gymnasium at Brandeis, where long before the election Kennedy had been selected as the Democrats party candidate.   At the televised Inauguration in January of 1961, we watched Kennedy (with no topcoat at a freezing and smoking Lectern located on the steps of the Capitol)  rail against the military industrial complex that had tried to bedevil Eisenhower, heard him call for service to the Country, and we were inspired.  Right after inauguration, Kennedy’s brother in law, Mr. Sergeant Shriver, was told by the White House to create the Peace Corps post haste, spring-boarding off an idea which Hubert Humphrey had floated during the initial primaries.  Humphrey had called for an analogue to the “War Corps” (the army/navy/air force).  The new entity was to take “high minded” recent college graduates, to put them into positions in the poorest countries of the world, to give them a few survival supplies and perhaps a very few tools, and to let them work side-by-side with the people of that country to do some task, likely involving physical labor, the building of “improvements” like bridges or wells or arable fields.  The idea was that the volunteers would export democracy, be the antithesis of our  “ugly American” tourists, learn about the cultures and languages where they were, then come back and liven up a whole generation’s inward-turning myopic view of the world.  Before I left Brandeis for the summer of 1961, a friend who was one year ahead of me, and about to graduate, sat with me one night in the snack bar.  David Matz told me he would be going to West Africa, I think to Ghana, as one of the very first Peace Corps volunteers to go overseas.  He talked of the language training, the cultural training, the physical training, and the job training that he would be undergoing in just a month or so in Puerto Rico.   In 1961-62, I and many of my classmates read letters from Peace Corps Volunteers that were in Africa, the South Seas Islands, South America, and Central America.  The letters were passed hand to hand on campus and sometimes made the student newspapers and journals of the time.   I was heavily occupied in the Student Council Committee on Mississippi Civili Rights and in finishing my three years as Treasurer of the Student Union.  I read the information with interest but had little thought of going.  By October of 1961, I thought that I would apply (tardily) to Law School and, as I remember, applied to only one, Harvard Law School.  By late January – early February of 1962 I had been accepted to Harvard Law School, as had 5 others in my class of 260 at Brandeis. I knew what I was going to be doing for the next three years and I paid less attention to the Peace Corps news as I trundled off to Cambridge, just 15 miles down the Charles River from Brandeis.  David Matz did his 2 year stint in Africa and went on into the Peace Corps staff in Africa.

The Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion occurred and Kennedy’s star seemed to fall.  Civil Rights crises brought Kennedy to the TV stations one evening and then he backed giving the protection of Federal Marshals one day in November of 1962 for James Meredith in Oxford Mississippi and two died in the riots.  In segregation struggles in Atlanta and Selma, Kennedy reluctantly stepped forward to intervene and his star rose in the Eastern States.  In the fall of 1962, when I began my second year in Harvard Law School, the Cuban missile crisis kept us all home for a long week, watching Kennedy on the tube and preparing for the end of the world.  The People’s March on Washington occurred in the summer of 1963 and I went there in a lead bus in a cavalcade of some 50 busses from Boston.   CORE and ACLU and SNCC were the organizations who arranged the busses.  I was active in CORE and was a bus captain.  Then, one day late in November of 1963, my roommate and I attended our Constitutional Law Class at the Law School, a class which was taught by Paul Freund, the famous professor whom everyone knew would be Kennedy’s next appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court.  Class was to begin at 1pm.  At that hour, Freund stepped to the podium, fought back tears, and announced that there would be no class, as Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas in an open car.  We all went to our dorms and our apartments to watch with horror as the whole thing unfolded on black and white TV.  I was dating a girl who was the heir to the Burpee Seed Company fortune.  We sat all night and watched the waves at Nantasket Beach while she cried her eyes red.  The next day, she went home to her family in Chicago, simply destroyed by the events which unfolding.  The Peace Corps slipped from view.   Johnson became President.  The very bad summer in Mississippi in 1964 led to the 1964 civil rights act re transportation and employment.  That gave way to the voting rights act of 1965.   Malcolm X was riding high in New York and there was vicious talk about black power and armed revolution in the ghettos of the big cities.   In Boston, CORE (Congress on Racial Equality) met in a contentious meeting; the attending members voted to expel all “non-negroes” and there would be no white members of CORE any more.  Gretchen Pfuetze and I rode home to Cambridge on her motor scooter and knew that we were sidelined from 6 years of civil rights work as the civil rights movement imploded around us in Boston.  Vietnam and its war were sucking up every able bodied recent graduate of any educational institution (and thousands of non college guys to feed the army’s desire to hurl hundreds of thousands of men into the battle against the North Vietnamese.

In a fluke in 1964, I suddenly was hired as a Law Clerk to Justice Paul Reardon the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, a wonderful job for my future as a Lawyer, a job that guaranteed that some large law firm in Boston would hire me when the clerkship expired in June of 1965.   But, while clerkships usually meant the draft boards would give clerks a draft deferment, it was clear that the war in Vietnam would require that, immediately following the clerkship, I would need to be in some branch of the service – or I would be inducted as a rifleman in the army with rice paddies in my immediate future.  At that point, the draft frenzy was such that many guys getting out of law schools had applied to the JAG.  Having a Harvard Law Degree no longer guaranteed  a role in some armed service’s Judge Advocate General (Legal) office.  Working through this, I found that I had some connections that would permit me to go into the Coast Guard as an officer – but it had to be for five years – and there was only a fifty-fifty chance that I would be a lawyer.  If I served as a lawyer, it would be in a small and remote installation,  But there was a fifty-fifty chance that I would be instead running an eighty foot boat on the Mekong Delta, often under mortar attack from the opposition, with a rather limited life expectancy.  The Coast Guard operated those boats…  This is the way John Kerry (now our Secretary of State ) served in Vietnam.   I had looked at Peace Corps service as a possibility, but they only had bee-keeping in Swaziland and mussel-raking in Micronesia types of programs.  It just did not look very interesting to me and there was a significant chance that my draft board in Plymouth Massachusetts would deny a deferment of draft status and I would be yanked from a Peace Corps training program to a rifleman slot…  I did all the tests, passed the physical exam, and I was ready to swear into the Coast Guard and take my chances…

At the last possible moment, 3 days before I was to swear in, the mail at 29 Putnam Avenue in Cambridge brought an invite from the Peace Corps.  They were going to try something totally new. They were going to chance putting lawyers and city planners into positions in city government administration in Venezuela.  They would take 60 potential volunteers most of whom would be from Harvard and MIT, would likely keep 30+, and those 30+folks would each serve as a “spear-carrier” assistant for a Venezuelan young professional out of the Petroleum Industry.  Those 30+ Venezuelans were already in Covina California and were undergoing training.  There had never been anything like a city manager in any Venezuelan city.  These Venezuelan guys each needed an assistant to watch their backs and to help counsel them through god knows what sort of problems they would encounter as they “parachuted” into corrupt city administrations in Venezuela and remade them each into a clean and open democratic system.  Holy smokes!   I was already fluent in Spanish – and this sounded like a heck of a good time…  You get to travel.  You get to really learn a language.  You get paid (a little) to learn and live a culture for two years.  Did I mention that you get to travel?   I notified the Coast Guard that I was passing on my swear-in, hoping that Peace Corps would accept my application to the new program…  I signed on with the Peace Corps.   They then accepted my sign-on. So far so good – but this was sort of a gamble.  If I flunked out or if the draft board said no, I was going to Vietnam as a rifleman.  I began notification to my draft board and started the application for yet another deferment, crossing my fingers that they were not going to reject that idea.  I finished the clerkship and for a few months worked my hump off in the Elliot Richardson for Attorney General Campaign.  I spent two weeks on a bicycle saying good bye to Cape Cod places and Islands (Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard) which I loved.  I appeared before the draft board and they said NO to a deferment.  I appealed – and my Dad (a World War I Vet) agreed to appear at the Appeal Board for me…  In mid September of 1966, I took a plane to San Francisco to report for training.  It was to be at San Francisco State University (“SFSU”), which was a hippie sort of place with about 20,000 students  most of whom were passionately opposed to the war in Vietnam and ready to spend most of their Saturdays demonstrating on campus or at the Oakland depot from which Marines shipped out to Vietnam.  The University was run by President Hiakawa, later on the California Board of Regents, later a famous U. S. Senator.  Hiyakawa was “at war” with the student body.  We incoming volunteers assembled at a small church perched on a knoll looking right down onto the campus and some large parking lots and some park like areas where demonstrations mobilized.  The Peace Corps had rented an aging steel colored bus that sat 60 people at a time, like a huge Greyhound bus.  We were to lodge, sleep, eat at Fort Funston, supposedly a disused National Guard barracks right out on the edge of the Ocean some 3 miles from SFSU.  With our bags and raincoats in hand, we were bussed to the barracks.

No one told the National Guard that we had arrived.  The place was full of cots, not all assembled; folded mattresses; lockers; trash, not all in buckets; and musty odors.  At 5am the next morning, as we slept on our hastily assembled cots and mattresses, a squad of National Guard with rifles at full port raced through the barracks calling out cadence as they commenced an early morning training exercise.  Classes for us began that day, with the volunteers separating into three language instruction groups.  I was in the third with 3 other folks, the advanced Spanish class.  I had had years of speaking the language with a girlfriend from Chile, after I had had some advanced classes in Spanish.  There were 13 hours spent every day in formal classes or special activities: geography, history, anthropology, surveying, construction, “cadastre” (a kind of a properties registration system used in a few South American Countries, but not in Venezuela), and language for many hours a day.  Josefina Rigg was a 24 year old Venezuelan who arrived at the church on the edge of campus and she became the teacher for our advanced language class.  We four students saw movies, we read poetry, we read newspapers and novels, we played out discussions of current events, we did scenarios for our expected work in a Concejo Municipal (Municipal Council), we drilled grammar and vocabulary, we discussed everything else taught to us in other classrooms.  It was intense.   There were physical exercise sessions and long walks.  There were field trips in the aging silver bus to weird places with small groups being dropped off in odd places and told to solve some problem together, how to bridge a stream, dismantle a barn, construct a fence.  Returned volunteers were the staff.  They were charged with weeding out ‘weak sisters” who would not last 2 years of pretty much isolation from other Americans.  On Saturday nights we got liberty, no class til Sunday noon – so we would all bus into San Francisco and frenetically see the sights, especially chinatown where enormous meals and much drink could be had very cheaply.  Every 2 weeks during 3 months a few volunteers, men and married couples (no single women in the group) were sent home.   We formed a choir and sang a cappella old English songs because one of our number had a guitar and specialized in that music.  We had a memorable trip where we were taken to the bad parts of Tiajuana, given 80 pesos, were told we might be there in that barrio for 3-5 days on our own, that we were find a place to sleep and something to do.  I repaired a damaged abandoned house, borrowed a bed and blankets, ate sparingly and waited to be picked up.  One of our guys went across the border, got a plane, and went home.  A few days before Christmas we were told that we were the ones going to Venezuela, were given plane tickets home, told to pack a trunk with short sleeve white shirts, an electric frying pan, a few kitchen utensils. and enough underwear to last 2+ years, plus a list of other essentials.  We were all to meet in Miami for a plane to Venezuela in a few days.  I went home to say good bye to a girlfriend I was breaking up with and to cram as much as I could into my 4X2.5X1 trunk.   It wasn’t that you could not get clothing or pans in Venezuela – but that sort of stuff could be expensive and we were going to be paid very little to live on…

The plane to Venezuela resulted in a 6-7 hour flight, landing in Maiquetia, the airport on the Coast 9 miles from Caracas, all straight up!  when we came off the plane, there was a circle of army guys with drawn revolvers surrounding the gangway which was wheeled up against the plane.  The eight year old democracy which had been created when dictator Perez Jimenez was deposed in 1956 (and the triumvirate of army generals and an admiral turned the country over to democracy two+ years later) was a fragile young government.  The ADECOs had had a 5 year term and were 3 years into a second term. There were 21 quarrelsome electoral parties… The army guys knew that some student radical communist organizer was coming in on the plane and they lifted him right there from the gangway.   We bussed up to Caracas, passing through two Alcabalas (checkpoints manned by 19 year orld army cadets with automatic weapons at the ready).  We lodged at the Los Pinos hotel where we stayed for almost a week, until it was the day before Christmas.  In Venezuela, there is a total paralysis of the community from about 12/20 to 1/15 every year.  Family takes over then and, as at Easter, no one does much work and all systems go on stand-down.   We were about to “parachute” into our respective work sites, some 30+ cities of all different sizes all over the country, there to lay low and quiet until the 30+ Venezuelan newly minted city managers would “sneak” into our city sites.  Then we would join the guy for whom we were to become spear carriers and he would go the City Council to announce he had arrived and was ready to throw the bums out.  The crooked tamany hall style administrations would be swept from their roles – and “us good guys” would take over their desks, bar the doors, and commence clean government from that day forward…  So you know now what is going to happen…     NOTHING is going to go according to plan and each of us 30+ volunteers is going to be helping his city manager guy wade through a lot of deep doodoo, while seeing just how well we could speak the language and follow the culture as it played out around us.

On about 12/23/66, I found myself in a small office building in Barquisimeto, State of Lara, Venezuela, meeting the volunteer at whose house I would be hiding out for about 2 weeks, one Ed Kaufman, a year or so in country, living quite a ways out on the edge of Barquisimeto in a barrio called Pueblo Nuevo, at the end of a bus line.  On my second night in Ed’s house, the Diegepol (Federal Secret Political Police) showed up around midnight to arrest Pedro, who lived across the street from Ed’s house.  Pedro was accused of being a supporter of the band of Cuban guerrillas hiding in the hills outside of town to the East.  They took Pedro away, a whole squad of them traveling in in two black vans.  There was no trial, of course.   He never returned.  I reported for work 2 weeks later – and then it got interesting.



Law Clerking

In 1964, I was in the early part of my third year in law school, usually a time when one has to “suit up” every other day and sit in a waiting area for a 20 minute interview with some pompous third year associate from a law firm in Oklahoma which is in the market for one or two “fresh meat” new hires, young folks that they will work some unconscionable number of hours and then, after the 4th year, keep only very few of them.  Third year is disjointed by the churning job hunt and third year students are on a roller coaster (“Oh, I found the perfect firm, but it is in Southern North Dakota – and they haven’t even made me an offer… On to the next preposterous possibility…).  But, things broke differently for me, purely due to Irish luck.  As I worked one afternoon in the office of the Harvard Voluntary Defenders, sorting out scheduling and trial assignments in my role as V.P. of Operations, David Bogen stopped at my desk.  David was in classes with me and we had worked together on interviews and cases related to the Harvard Voluntary Defenders.  David asked how I was doing on the obligatory job quest and I replied that I had just had a mind-bending encounter with a Buffalo law firm and the salary was up in the clouds but the prospect of Buffalo winters was appalling – and no offer had yet arrived.  David said, “I am going down to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in about an hour, as I have an appointment with one of the Justices about a clerkship there for next year.  Why not tag along with me and see if any of the other Justices might interview you on the fly.  Have you thought about a clerk position?”   My grades were only B level grades (thanks to doing paid market research work nights the first year and Voluntary Defenders work the second year) and  I had not thought about clerking.  David pointed out that clerkships were almost routinely grounds for a draft deferment, rather like a student deferment from the draft, an important matter back in that time with the Vietnam war really starting to crank up. So I tagged along with David and we rode the MTA to Scollay Square in downtown Boston and then rode the elevator to the next to the top (14th) floor of the 50 year old “new” Courthouse.  The top (15th)  floor was for the Clerk of Court’s offices, John E. Powers, a famous former kingpin legislator now made Clerk.  But, on the 14th floor, a Court Officer showed David Bogen to one of the Justice’s offices and then took my name and resume around to see if anyone wanted to interview me.   A few moments later, a blue haired lady of imposing manner and girth came and got me and she ushered me into the chambers of Justice Paul Reardon, then about  10 years on the Court.  His office was down the hall from that of Justice Cutter (whom it later turned out was an old friend of my dad) and the office of Justice Wilkins, the Chief Justice.  Both had been on the Court for over 25 years, and the Court itself dates back to the mid 1600s.

Justice Paul Cashman Reardon was a tall craggy fellow, with an easy casual confident demeanor.  He wanted to talk to me about baseball and about Hingham, Massachusetts, where I had grown up and my folks were.  Reardon was from Hingham, Massachusetts and lived a big house there on the edge of World’s End Island near downtown.  He was an Irish Catholic Republican who had been big in the campaign of Governor Christian Herter and had been cajoled out of his big-firm berth and onto the Court a decade earlier.  He was very active in the American Bar Association and the head of a prestigious ABA committee on “Fair Press – Free Trial”.  The committee was full of jurists and big name lawyers from around the country and Reardon, as Chairman, was pushing to get published a paper that would lay out the boundaries for lawyers seeking to “try their cases in the press” – which might thereby “poison the well” for juror selection.   After it became clear that my familiarity with baseball was minimal, conversation in Reardon’s chambers seemed to lag.  I went back out to await David Bogen’s emerging from his interview.  We were both donning our raincoats when a Court Officer appeared and asked to sit down and wait for a few moments.  He then reappeared and announced that we had “both made a sale today” and that each of us was being offered a clerkship which would start Mid September in 1965, some 3 months after law school graduation – and the Bar Exam.  Bogen stated that he accepted and I asked what the pay was (because I had absolutely no idea).  The Court Officer laughed and said that it was $7,200 a year, which was a princely salary in that day.  Except for the tiny hurdles of getting myself past the Massachusetts Bar Exam (about a 65% pass rate in those days) and my getting the draft board to issue me a draft deferment for the clerkship, my third year interview blues had ceased.  I was (conditionally) employed.

The rest of third year of law school, relatively speaking, I had time on my hands, so to speak.  I did not have to interview for a job!  In March 1965 the Dawson-Elkins Bar Review Course commenced.  Four days a week, we review students were in class at a Boston seedy hotel basement, with 4 huge legal sized thick books of course materials which we had to study after class.  We were learning all the practical nuts and bolts stuff of law practice, i.e. statutes of limitations for Massachusetts, rules of the commercial code for Massachusetts, criminal procedure and estates and trusts under Massachusetts common law and statutes…  We were still in third year Harvard Law classes during the days, but those classes taught us what the rule on a certain problem ought to be, or what it had once been in Indiana as compared to New Jersey, and maybe a hundred years before.   Family law, estates, criminal procedure, divorce, and other subjects had not been addressed in the lofty-toned classes at Harvard Law School.   In the middle of the frenetic pace of third year classes combined with night-time Bar Review efforts, I accidentally solved the issue of my summer employment.  Next door to the Harvard Voluntary Defenders offices, where I spent a good part of each day, was located the office of the Harvard Legal Aid Society, peopled with 30 students whose grades did not quite get them into the 30 best students who had gone upstairs in Gannett House to be part of the Harvard Law Review.  Legal Aid work was the only clinical practice (real law for real clients) opportunity other than the Defenders office, of which I had been a very active part for two years.  The secretary (Joanie) who ran the legal aid shop recruited me.  Legal Aid law students worked up divorce cases (6 grounds and 7 defenses) and landlord tenant cases.  Usually those same students took the cases before the Judges in the Suffolk County and Middlesex County Courts. During the summer, Boston law firms would loan a new hire to legal aid for a few afternoon hours one day a week, to do client meetings and such work up of cases as needed for a full time go-to-court guy to then bring the cases to the Judges in both County Courts.  Legal Aid needed to have a third year student during the summer who would take 25 or 30 cases a day to trial in the lowest civil courts in Massachusetts, the very courts in which I had been doing criminal trials for 2 years.  Joanie had seen me doing all the Defender work and she suggested me to the Board of Legal Aid for the summer go-to-court slot.  It was an opportunity to get compressed courtroom experience, judging witnesses’ credibility and eliciting testimony on the run, and coping with some of the most crusty and pompous judges in Boston.  I jumped at the chance.

In September of 1964, I started as law clerk for Justice Reardon, who turned out to be a wonderful teacher and a courtly well-connected fellow in the labyrinth of Boston’s legal world.  He knew everyone in the Statehouse and the the Legislature and he was a scholar besides.  I my first week, I was asked to commence research and the drafting of opinions on a case involving a clamp left in the abdomen of a 70 year old surgical patient whom it caused the death of, a bone lodged in the throat of a lady customer at the Blue Ship Tea Room in Boston when she ate her fish chowder lunch, and a search and seizure issue in a criminal appeal.  Justice Reardon would receive and read briefs in cases and then sit through the oral arguments in those cases.  In a conference meeting with the 6 other Justices, the Chief Justice would get the sense of what the votes and concerns were and would assign cases to one or another of the Justices for the writing of the decisions.  Reardon would call me in, hand me the stacks and piles of papers annotated by him as to each to-be-decided case, saying:  “We have got 3 coconuts and 4 good ones this month.”  He would lay out the direction for the opinion to take, suggest 3 or 5 of the key cases that charted the way in which he wanted the opinion to be arched and inclined, and leave me to it for 2-3 weeks while he went to Washington and New York for ABA committee sessions and read briefs on the next month’s coming oral arguments.  One floor below, the 13th floor, we seven clears (one per Justice) had desks in a long run-on office that had 2 dividers.  I was officed in a long room on the 13th floor divided into 3 sections, sitting with David Bogen and James Sharaff, 2 classmates of mine from Harvard.  In the Center Room was David Rideout, law clerk to the Chief Justice.  In the next room were three more clerks, one of which was the only woman clerk, Judy Olans from Boston University Law School.   The camraderie among the seven of us was great and the Social Law Library was located all around us, occupying the remainder of the 13th floor.  The experience of parsing the submitted briefs, doing the research, demolishing some of real lawyers specious arguments, finding the perfect case, writing 4 or 6 drafts of each opinion before getting to one that Reardon would then pick apart and raise to new heights was amazing and exhausting.  The blue haired lady whom I had met on the 14th floor before was Reardon’s 20 years in place secretary, Helene Flynn.  She typed everything that I wrote (word processing was 30 years away), corrected my spelling, counseled me on turns of phase that the Justice liked, made his travel plans, and shuttled papers to his home in Hingham or to his summer home on Boot Pond in Plymouth, to both of which I periodically had to journey as well to defend my writings or carry source books  to the Justice (no copy machines).

Every Friday, all of us law  clerks would traipse down three blocks from the Courthouse Building to the Locke Ober Restaurant.  Locke Obers was a very expensive 150 year old iconic restaurant in Boston but, once a week, lunch was “all you could eat clam chowder”, with all the bread you could eat, and iced coffee without limit.  We never missed it.   Well into my 9 month stint as Reardon’s law clerk, an amazing event occurred.  In February of 1966, I was working late at my desk when, at 6:15pm, all the lights went out, and not just in the Supreme Court…  All the lights in Boston and in all of New England went out.  The Northeastern power grid had suffered a meltdown and a waterfall progression had then shut down the electricity for 5 States – and for 4 hours the City of Boston and the suburbs all around it were dark.  Jim Sharraff and I realized in a few moments that some cataclysmic event had overtaken the region or maybe even the Nation.  We hunted in the dark clerks’  office for candles or a flashlight, but found none.  We mounted the back staircase in pitch darkness and arrived at the floor where Justices Spiegel and Woodbridge were at work…  They had in a desk sealing wax for applying the Court Seal to documents and some string – so we built 3 candles out of what was available.   Then the 4 of us hiked down 14 floors in the dark staircases with 70 year old Justice Woodson in the lead, holding the candle, and singing some Methodist Hymn at the top of his lungs,  til the ground floor was finally seen. The Justices shared one of the few cabs to be found.  Jim Sharraff and I walked over to the Charles Street Bridge (about 2 miles) then across the bridge past MIT (about 2 miles) then on to Cambridge where I lived at Putman Square (about 2 miles).  We did not sing – and it was a long cold walk but there were people out on the stoops of the row houses and they gave us hot chocolate and donuts.  The power was restored in the morning.

In March of 1966 I visited my good friends, Lee and Elaine Dushoff, in Philadelphia and met by chance his brother, Jay Dushoff Esq., who was visiting him in Philly.  I did not know it then, but that casual encounter would lead to my moving to a job in Phoenix upon my return from The Peace Corps in 1969.  The war in Vietnam was ramping up rapidly in 1966 and I was pondering what to do about serving in the armed services… .  When I told Justice Reardon that Lawyer Jay Dushoff had invited me to come out to Phoenix to visit so as to see the Wild West and get a sense of the law opportunities, Reardon mused: “Phoenix?  That is somewhere West of the Adirondack Mountains I believe.”  Phoenix was a long way from Boston in every sense and when I visited Phoenix in April 1966, I found it overly warm, eerily empty on its streets, and culturally a wasteland compared to Cambridge Massachusetts.   I was not very interested.  When I returned to Boston in April 1966, it was clear that God himself could not get anyone serving as a law clerk another draft deferment.  It was clear that the end of the Clerkship in July would mean that either I entered some officer corps in some service or I reported to my draft board to have an M16 placed in my hand so that I could bring it to bear upon some foe in some rice paddy in South Vietnam.  During January – April 1966, I investigated the various armed services and found that no one really want lawyers to serve in the scarce Army or Navy or Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) positions.  I looked at the Peace Corps but it only had bee-keeping in Swaziland or mollusk raking in Micronesia to offer and I was not interested… The Coast Guard has had a hallowed history in Massachusetts’ past and my Judge had some connections there.  The Coast Guard handled the patrol boats on the Mekong Delta and coast-patrol boats in Vietnam, but they had some JAG positions.  I passed the physical tests and the physical exam.  I passed the written exam and then the oral exam and I was due to step up in three days and to bring it all to a close by raising my right hand and swearing in.  It meant 5 years “before the mast”, as that was the minimum for new officers   AND   there was a big problem.  While this was the most attractive service opportunity for me, the Coast Guard made it clear that it was 50/50 likely as to which assignment I would get.  I had a 50 percent shot at a berth in the Aleutian Islands where I would be in a cold base with about a hundred-plus residents and I would handle routine legal matters for 5 years in remote isolation.     OR  I would be sent to Vietnam after a little training and I would captain an 80 foot long river patrol boat on the Mekong Delta, where the opposition knew your schedule and location at all times and like to mortar the boats at odd moments.  No one could say how long that might last (or how it might likely end).  This is essentially what John Kerry ended up doing…

Three days before my scheduled Coast Guard swear-in, mail arrived in my mailbox at 29 Putnam Avenue.  The Peace Corps had a brand new ( and radically different) program on offer!  They were going to train 60, but keep only 30, new lawyer and city planner volunteers.  The 30 volunteers would go to Venezuela and be “spear carriers” for (i.e. first assistants to) the very first ever City Managers in Venezuelan Cities.  Some 30 Venezuelan guys, selected from the petroleum industry, were  shortly to report to Covina, California to get training on how to then be a City Manager in their native country.  They would “parachute” into the chosen cities in Venezuela where the City Councils had promised to throw out corrupt Tamany Hall style administrations.  These young Venezuelan guys would be on the front lines of taking the corrupt administrations to a new clean status, something like our better managed cities in the United States.  This promised adventure and it was only 2+ years.  I was fluent in Spanish.  I wanted to travel and I wanted to learn a new culture and to perfect my Spanish.  I had had a girlfriend from Chile for several years and my language skills were pretty good.  I made a call or two, reflected on the fact that, if I failed in the training such that I got dropped from the Peace Corps program, I was going to Vietnam, likely as a grunt carrying an M16, and I told the Coast Guard that I was not swearing in …  I pitched myself onto the Peace Corps program although I knew that it was questionable that my draft board would go along with this.  If they balked and said that they would give no deferment to allow me to do 2 years in the Peace Corps, I would go to Vietnam as a grunt.  Peace Corps accepted me as of late April, and the clerkship with Justice Reardon would soon end in just 2 months then I would have 2 months or so free before starting life in the Peace Corps.  Though much of that time would be consumed in struggles with my draft board in Plymouth, in which my dad as a WW I veteran would end up taking a role for me, I needed a job for July and August of 1966.  Through the Judge, I snagged a position as the head of research for the Elliott Richardson for Attorney General of Massachusetts Campaign,  Suddenly I was running a squad of about 30 Harvard Law Students and former classmates who cranked out research papers on hot topics that Richardson needed to be prepped and ready on.  I worked like a demon and used to meet Richardson’s limousine on some remote street corner, sit in with him going over research papers written for him, getting new assignments from him, then get out at some corner in Dorchester and find my way back to Headquarters on the hill next to the Statehouse across from the Atheneum.  I would assign the new papers and chase getting them done and to Richardson.   In the closing three weeks at the end of August 1966, I sold my car, bought a bicycle, went off to the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, sleeping on beaches for 2 weeks, seeing the sights.

It all worked out.  I started training in late September 1966.  I survived the Peace Corps culture training, language training, physical training, and I ended up reporting for placement in the City Council Offices in Barquisimeto, State Of Lara, Republic of Venezuela, in mid December of 1966 after 3 months of intensive round the clock training in the San Francisco State University.  That is the subject of the next post.

Clerkships are fantastic challenging training for one’s life as a lawyer.  Justice Reardon died about 10 years ago.   Dave Bogen became a law professor.  Jim Sharraff married the heir to the Little-Brown Publishing Company and lived a great life in Boston, steeped in book-reading and learning.  Sharraff died just about the time Reardon did.  The Courthouse is there still today.  I receive invitations to go back and attend meetings of law clerks who have served the Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court – but have never gone to any of those meetings.

John Ryan

So, in my last few months in Brandeis University, I realized that my major (Child Psychology) and my minors (Spanish and Russian) were not going to take me where I wanted to go in life…  I had been heavily involved in the civil rights movement, in SNCC and CORE in the Boston area,  had been up to the moment as to events in Alabama and Mississippi, and I had come to realize that the lawyers were what moved the needle decisively.  Richard Laden from Philadelphia had lived next door to me for two years in the dorms.  Richard had known since he was two years of age that he would be a lawyer.  I suddenly (and tardily) decided in October in 1961 that I wanted to  go to Law School.  As I remember, I hastily took the LSAT (got a really great score) and only applied to one Law School (more Chutzpah).   I was with two other Brandeis students in Jackson Mississippi in a Boarding House in January 1962 when I got a call one night.  It was Richard in the dorms at Brandeis.  He said, ” you have a letter in your mailbox. It’s from Harvard.  Shall I open it?”  I had been accepted to HLS and as of January 1962 I knew what I would be doing for the next 55 or so years.  Richard and 4 other Brandeis students in my class had been accepted to Harvard (it was a bumper year for Brandeis in that respect).  In just a few days after that, Bill Higgs Esq took the three of us Brandeis visitors to Jackson up to Ole Miss in Oxford Mississippi, his college alma mater.  He took us to dinner at the Oxford home of William Faulkner, an author of whom I thought the world for his dark southern novels.  At dinner were three students from Ole Miss.  One of them was Jimmie Robertson, who was the editor of the Student Newspaper then.  He had just been accepted to HLS.  We sat across the table from each other, found that we were to be classmates, and began a connection that has lasted a long time since, past Jimmie’s returning to a big firm in Jackson, then a professorship at Ole Miss Law School, then the Supreme Court of Mississippi, then back to private practice.

Law School commenced in 1962 September and I had just turned 21 in August.  I was the second youngest in our graduating class at Brandeis and, I believe, the youngest in my class at Law School.  The class was 530 people, mostly several years older than I.  There were only 30 women in the class.  It was only ten years before that women students had been admitted.   One of our professors announced a rule the first day of property class.  He would not call on women except on one day (in February).  On that day the two or three women in the class would sit up front and answer professor-asked questions.  His name was Bart Leach (Casner and Leach on Property was the textbook).  He had been a tennis partner of my father’s 35 years before I met him, something he mentioned only once to me.  Law School was hard and it was boring.  I had a special “disability” which made things harder.  While I had a scholarship and took out a small loan from the Harvard Trust Company Bank, I simply had to work – or I could not afford to attend Law School at all.  Needless to say, essentially no one else worked while going through HLS.  In the first week of classes, a market research interviewer appeared at my door in my 4th floor walkup apartment that I shared with Richard Laden, 1.5 miles from campus at 29 Putnam Avenue, between Harvard Yard and the Charles River.  The interviewer asked me about 10 minutes of questions about some product.  I asked what they paid him to do what he was doing. When he left, I walked to the company’s office, located right in Harvard Square across from the Coop.  I was hired at $6.75 an hour on the strength of my degree and college major.  That was nearly 4 times the minimum wage at the time.  I would go out at night to specific addresses, park, walk to an address in the packet, and ask to interview (per a script) the occupant about Wilkinson Sword (Razor) Blades, or Goodyear Tires, or Chevrolet cars, then write up the interview and turn it in.  I would get home at 8:30pm and have to study extra late to be ready for class.  If you have not read the book “One L”, by Scott Turrow, you should as it is a remarkably accurate depiction of the intellectual boot camp which was Harvard Law School in the mid 60s, though it was written a decade later.  Law School was tough and I had no time for any of the extra curricular lectures or socials.

I received B grades from Harvard during the summer of 1963, lived in a crummy apartment next to MIT with Dimitri Procos (a Greek student from Brandeis whom I knew) and Hal Tzeutzler, a German student. They both attended MIT.  I worked for Hertz Rentacar at the airport with a bunch of grifters, con men, and sneak thieves who were the yard men preparing the Hertz cars to be picked up by businessmen arriving at Logan airport.  Often at night 6 or 7 of us would convoy-drive rentals back down to New York, then head back in a station wagon deadheading up to Boston, having to go to work at Hertz the next day.  It was exhausting and dangerous. Halfwayy through the summer, I got another summer job through a politician-connection, pitching hay for the State Department of Public works out on the State Highways.  I had found Law School so boring that I was thinking of not returning, til I went to dinner at the Dushoffs’ home one night just before Lw School classes were to recommence.  Jerry Friedlander, a guest at dinner and a Harvard 3L told me that there was a group at HLS that had been formed just two years earlier called “the Harvard Voluntary Offenders”.  It had been formed in response to the Gideon decision of the US Supreme Court in 1961 stating that all defendants accused of a serious crime had to have appointed legal counsel.  The Massachusetts Supreme Court had hastily adopted Rule 32 allowing Law School Third Year Students to try criminal cases in the lowest criminal courts in Massachusetts, the District Courts.  The Voluntary Defenders took 25  2L students, had them do interviews of jailed defendants who were awaiting appearance the next day for trial, then passed those interview results to Massusetts Voluntary Defenders ( who were green young lawyers paid $7K per year).  MVDs represented those interviewed defendants the next morning in District Court, relying on the student interview texts.  The 2L students also second-chaired trials that 3L students presented in District Court.  The 2Ls also wrote briefs for appeals of cases in State and Federal Courts.  If I got in (and hundreds applied to it as one of the only two clinical education endeavors in the Law School) it meant that I could no longer work.  I did get accepted and soon found myself the HVD member in charge of operations, scheduling the 25  2L students to attend to Suffolk County and Middlesex County jails for visitation.  Each student interviewed 4 or 5 jailed inmates by around 2pm, dictated that text while on the MTA subway back to the office in Gannett House at the edge of the Law School on Massachusetts Avenue.  A harassed secretary started typing madly about 3pm as the guys returned.  Everything went into a mailbox at 6:15pm right outside the office.  It arrived at the Massachusetts Defenders Offices downtown the next morning.  By 9am the MVDs were in 6 different District Courts presenting defenses for the 25 different guys whom we had interviewed, sometimes with us there in Court helping.  Each 3L was getting a trial a week to do with the help of a 2L.  The scheduling (no cellphones, texting, or email) was a crazy high pressure tornado of activity for me.  I loved the work – and it made sense out of the courses that one took as a 2L student.  I decided to stay in Law School. In the summer, I took an student internship at the Labor Department in Washington D.C.  We rented and I lived in the home of a famous column writer for the Washington Post in Chevy Chase with three other interns, one the guy who had become my second roommate along with Richard at 29 Putnam Avenue.  I worked at the Labor Department on Pennsylvania Avenue on appeals from Field Officers in the Bracero Program.

In my third year at Harvard, I did a hasty interview one Wednesday afternoon in October of 1964 at Suffolk County Jail.  The 18 year old tall blondish Irish kid (we will call him “John Ryan”) was accused of having robbed a cab driver on Beacon Hill the day before, at knifepoint.  Allegedly, John had gotten into the back seat of the cab at about 5:30pm and, when it started off toward the destination he gave, he had held a table knife with razor blades taped on it against the cabbie’s throat and had demanded the cabbie’s money.  The cabbie handed it back – but, when the robber then turned to the door to open it and get out, the robber caught the left sleeve of his black leather jacket on the handle and he struggled to get free.  The cabbie, in traffic, began jerk the cab forward  in fits and starts and the robber fell then got out the jacket and ran down the street, with the cabbie in pursuit, yelling.  As he ran, the robber snatched at women’s purses running along the sidewalk on the crowded darkening street.  The robber escaped but the jacket had John’s name and address in it.  Boston’s finest went to his family’s Dorchester apartment at 9pm, handcuffed him, kicked him down three flights of stairs breaking his nose, and booked him in the Charles Street Jail, a 200 year old nightmare place.   A lineup had been held and several women and the cabbie had allegedly picked out John. I got him the next afternoon. John had no alibi, had a juvenile record – and confessed to me that he had done it.

At 9am the next day, we were in trial.  The District Court Judges just hated it when Harvard 3Ls tried the defense cases as it meant a real (though hastily) contrived case would be presented for hours instead of the pro forma “nothing”  defenses usually put on by hackneyed appointed counsel from the Bar.   I cross-examined the cabbie,  you only got a look in the mirror at the robber?  I cross- examined the women, you only saw the back of the head of the running robber on a darkened street with the street lights shining downward and the face in shadow and facing away as he ran past you before you were alarmed?  Judge Elijah Adlow convicted John and gave him a year in Deer Island House of Correction, an island jail out in Boston Bay which was as old and just as dangerous for a young  tall fair-complected irish kid as the Charles Street Jail… Judge Adlow said as he sentenced John:  “Your best ‘witness’ here today was your lawyer  – who must believe that you are innocent – but I find you guilty and you will do one year at Deer Island”, which was a very light sentence for the armed robbery and several counts as to the purse-theft attempts… I was rueful, but John had got a good deal for what he had said that he had done.    I went on with Law School pell mell after the trial.  I interviewed (on a fluke) for a clerkship at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court – and got selected for a year of draft-deferred service to Justice Paul Cashman Reardon, a liberal Republican who was to be a mentor-teacher for me and to do something for me that was extraordinary (with his reccomendation,  I became head of research in the late summer for the Elliott Richardson for Attorney General Campaign).  As I finished Law School, I was hired as the sole go-to-court guy for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau for the summer.  It was the other “clinical” program at the Law School. For three months I tried 10-12 contested divorces a day in Suffolk and Middlesex County District Courts, regarding clients on which 20 (top) Harvard Law Students working an afternoon a week had done the work-up interviews.  There were 6 grounds for divorce and seven defenses in massachusetts (no fault divorce was 15 years in the future) and I did on your feet make-it-up as it happens trial work on divorces til September 1965.  When I was 2 months into my clerkship at the Supreme Court,  John Ryan reappeared.

The phone rang in my apartment one night in November of 1965.  John Ryan said that he was a few weeks out of Deer Island House of Correction and that he appreciated how hard I had worked on his case.. He said that he would like to do something for me to show his appreciation…  I demurred saying that I had just done my job on his case.  John persisted.  Did I have a car, one that needed some work?  I said yes, that I had bought a 1962 Super Sport Chevie White Convertible in July, and that it now appeared that it needed a valve job.  John said to bring the car to his brother’s house in Everett Massachusetts the next Saturday and that the three of us would do the valve job as shade tree mechanics.  I went..  The house in Everett was a small and a poor place, but situated on the edge of the rocky shore and in the back it looked right out to Logan Airport’s runways across the bay. John’s brother Barry was shorter and dark complected with a scraggy beard – but he seemed to be a good mechanic.  We worked from eleven til 4pm and then, with the convertible ready to go, we sat on the shaded porch on the back of the house watching the planes land and drinking Carlings long-neck Black Label beers.  After a few moments, in a lull in the conversation John, on my left, leaned forward and said to me, “You know, I didn’t do the job on the cabbie…”  I instantly told him, “Aaah, it’s old news John.  You’re done with all that…”   John sat back and turned to his brother on his left, “Tell the man, Barry,” John said.    The dark swarthy short brother leaned forward and said to me, ” I did the job on the cabbie,  I took John’s coat from the kitchen in our home in Dorchester and I went downtown to do the job.  I had a baby on the way and we had no money.  I needed the dough for my wife and me.  John took the rap for me because I had the baby coming.”

I left Everett not long after that. I went home to Cambridge to my 4th floor walkup apartment on Putnam Avenue next to Harvard Yard with the folksingers living right next door and the students noisemaking on every floor.  I thought about why we have an adversary system of criminal defense in our courts in this Country and why lawyers have to give their all every day, defending every defendant to the ultimate, cross- examining the dickens out of every witness, forcing the police to really prove their case against each defendant, even if he seems guilty- if prove it the police can.  I wondered whether John (and his brother) were lying to me on the back porch at the Everett house or whether John had lied to me in Charles Street Jail some 15 months before when he had said to me that he did it…         So I figured it out… You never know as a lawyer what is the real truth nor all the truth about the case on which you are working.  It ain’t necessarily so that your client is telling you the truth or all the truth.  You have to really probe, keep a look over your shoulder at all the other possibilities as to the facts, ask good questions and hard questions, doubt most everything, and go forward looking at other possible explanations and scenarios.  What we do as lawyers is great stuff, advocating and giving counsel, and most of the time while doing this we swim in a sea of ambiguity and “likely so’s”,   not having clear, crisp, hard facts at all.  As lawyers, our work is like what is depicted in John Huston’s famous movie with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, “Chinatown”.  There are always stories beneath stories, obscured motives, hidden agendas, and hidden interests and purposes.  Eyewitnesses are wrong 40% of the time at least.

I never saw nor hear of John Ryan nor his brother ever again.  Deer Island is still there.  I still don’t really know if John took the rap for his brother – or if John did the job on the cabbie in 1964.


Selma – and places nearby

So, a week ago, I went to the movies.  We saw Selma, on the first day it was available here in Phoenix.  It was a winner and I recommend it.   The acting is excellent.  Within moments, one forgets that it is not Martin and Corretta.  Their likenesses are so close and the cadence and tone of their speech is so perfect.  The musical score is excellent and I note that the CD has vaulted to the top of the charts.  The photography is extraordinary and the black and white footage that swoops in and out at some of the crucial moments is well done and serves to validate the movie’s authenticity as to the events on the bridge and in the streets.  I believe that the movie is one of those game-changers that we occasionally see.  We have had oblique swipes at the subject matter, in “the Butler” for example.  We have had movies on the holocaust too numerous to count.  We have not had any movie about the civil rights movement, the boots on the ground and the tough decisions wrestled over by the makers of the movement, Abernathy, King, Lewis and the others who had to pilot the movement along a tightrope wire to keep it from falling and splintering.  This is the first of what may become a string of 2 or 5 such movies, now that we are on a 50 year mark for the first Voting Rights Act…

There was a point at which I was a bit player in all that struggle in the streets, never in Selma but in places somewhat nearby.  In Brandeis, from my start in 1958 as a freshman, the student body was in the forefront of the student movement regarding the civil rights demonstrations occurring in the South.  Woolworths Lunch-counter sit-ins commenced in 1958 in Virginia and, within weeks,  students in Boston were picketing the Woolworths Stores in the Boston area. I was in our group from Brandeis and we went to different neighborhoods, getting a fairly hostile reception from the passersby, but no violence such as the students in Virginia went through.  This and things like it went on year after year.  I was so visible in it early on that as a young sophomore I ran for and was elected to the post of Treasurer of Student Council.  We had a significant fund from student activity fees and the money went for things that the University Administration got concerned about.  We had two student council committees on civil rights in the South, one for Alabama and one for Misssissippi.  I was Chairman of the committee on Mississippi Civil Rights.  In late December 1961, after he had been cashiered from his Jackson law firm, a young Harvard  Law Graduate drove onto the Brandeis Campus to start a 6 month fellowship.  I met him, Bill Higgs Esq., as he and his young wife drove onto campus and stopped at the information booth where I was working over the winter recess.

Higgs had graduated in 1959 from Harvard Law School, been in a big law firm in Jackson, and had announced that he was going to represent the Freedom Riders when they were pulled from busses and beaten then arrested for disturbing the peace in 1961.  The firm said NO then fired Higgs, who represented the beaten riders one by one as they had to return to be tried for disturbing the peace in Municipal Court.  Most would wind up in Parchman Prison serving long sentences.  Within weeks of meeting Higgs, the student council committee funded our first of several trips to the South.  We removed the back seat from a 55 Ford 4 door sedan, loaded it with student-council-printed literacy test materials and headed off to Tougaloo University in Jackson.  It was a 24 + hour road trip, one guy sleeping on the materials piled up to the seat top in the back, 3 people in the front seat. We drove the Skyline Drive through Tennessee in the night in rain and lightning.  The Tougaloo students unloaded the car.  We went with them in a series of visits to tiny Black churches in the Delta and to the North,  These were churches in which frightened and deliberate people studied to be able to pass the absurd tests that the County Registrars in the Courthouses employed to make sure no Black could vote.  I was scared every time we left Tougaloo and travelled to the countryside,  The white power structure in Mississippi was out of control.  We were dogged by the White Citizens Council who seemed to know where we were going long before we got there. The mood on the streets in Downtown Jackson was murderous and in the Churches, out on the dirt roads, the mood was euphoric and almost fatalistic.The poverty in the rural churches was beyond my wildest imagination.  People had no shoes. They had no food, no medical care, and they were regularly treated badly by racist folks with there being no chance of justice for what occurred.  I met Medgar Evers, James Meredith, and Aaron Henry, and I learned from my mentor about Missisippi survival, Bill Higgs the young lawyer.  After January, 1962, we made  several more long chancey trips down to Jackson with printed materials, materials that would not get printed anywhere in Mississippi.

I worked nights while going to Harvard Law School my first year.  I did not return to Mississippi in the summer of 1963 as I had to work to make money to return to Law School.  But late that summer of 1963, 2 months after Medgar Evers had been shot in the back , dying at the front door of his house, I captained one of fifty-five busses from Boston, busses full of folks attending the Poor People’s March on Washington.  In late August under a tree that was not far from the steps of the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C., we stood all day to hear the various speakers, including Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who gave the stirring speech that is so often quoted today, “I have a dream…”  Late in the afternoon, I walked down the mall and connected with the small Mississippi contingent, friends from the previous scary summer.   We talked about the death of Medgar Evers and the pressure being brought to bear upon James Meredith as he tried to survive as the lone Black in the University of Mississippi.  I did not return to Mississippi in the summer of 1964, either.  Instead, I held a job in the Labor Department in Washington D.C. as a law student intern, working on field office appeals in the Bracero Program concerning agricultural workers.  But people that I had known in Mississippi made headlines, none that I had wanted to read.

Bob Moses was the head of SNCC (Student nonviolent coordinating committee).  Tired of seeing his Mississippi voter registration workers beaten up in rural Mississippi with local and federal law enforcement agents sitting on their hands, Moses trained 400 student-aged people in Oberlin College in Ohio.  Early in the summer of 64, the 400 (in 2 shifts of 200 each) took up residence in Black homes and taught in Freedom Schools held in churches all over Mississippi.  The White Citizens Council (which had followed us when we were there) vowed to run them out of Mississippi and the Klan renewed its recruiting in the State.  The Klan become visible and then, a week into the venture, 3 of the 400 disappeared, Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman.  All summer the 400 workers were harassed, abused, beaten and two were raped.  Blacks attempted to register to vote and were turned away and Moses’ people taped and movied what was happening.   The disappearance of the 3 civil rights workers made the news night after night and, across the Nation, people were glued to their TV sets as searchers combed the woods and swamps, following leads and tips.  In early August the 3 boys bodies were found under an earthen damn in Philadelphia Missisippi.  The 1964 Democratic Convention commenced 2 weeks later in Atlantic City…

Moses’ people and 47 Black Missisippians appeared and held forth on National TV before the Credentials Committee.  They wanted the all white delegation from their State to not be seated and for the convention to recognize the Freedom Democratic Party of Mississippi, i.e. them.  The committee narrowly endorsed the white delegation (after President Johnson and Hubert Humphrey twisted arms) and the graphic lengthy hearings turned the stomachs of the viewers across the Country, as persecution was demonstrated by affidavit, film clip, and live testimony.  Moses’ 400 young workers had paid a high price and the 47 Black delegates then returned to harassment and persecution that you and I cannot understand.  Those who had sheltered the 400 were burned out and ruined.  My friend Higgs and R.L.T.Smith (a Black grocer at whose home I had once stayed) had their lives upended and their homes destroyed.  Medgar Evers had lost his life the year before and James Meredith was hounded out of Ole Miss – but local lawyers put their lives and their law practices on the line and out of State lawyers lined up to help.  Cases were presented to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Tuttle upheld one after another judgment against officials.  The Country changed.  The 1964 and then the 1965 civil rights acts were passed.  The South left the Democratic Party.  By 1975,  55% of office holders in the State of Mississippi were Black.  James Meredith’s son was selected by his peers in 2007   as the Outstanding Business School Graduate for that year…

It ain’t over yet –  but we are seeing the end of the beginning of the end…




Chutzpah and the Mayonaise

So, I got good grades in Hingham’s high school and a spectacular score on the SAT Exam, interviewed at colleges around Massachusetts (I was going to need a lot of scholarship help), and got into a couple of good places.  Among the interviews was one at Brandeis University and my mother, who was high up in the administration at Boston University, noted that I would get the best education of all the schools at Brandeis.  I started in 1958 and Brandeis was then less than a decade old. There had been only a handful of classes graduating before I entered – but there were teachers of undergraduate courses like Leonard Bernstein in Music, Henry Levy in Constitutional Law and History, John Roche in Politics, Heinz Lubash in History, Richard Smith in Child Psych, and Eleanor Roosevelt in … Eleanor Roosevelt.  The competition was fierce and the change in culture was dramatic.  I was an ace in Chemistry in my high school and a babe in the woods next to students from Peter Styvesant High School in New York.  My first year I studied hard but got mediocre grades. I then studied nights that summer while working days for the Trees and Parks Department in Hingham, riding my scooter at nights into the Quincy Public Library where I could listen to classical music while reading what I bought would help me in my sophomore year.  I was Deans List from there on out.  I was desperate to live and work away from home for my second year summer. I consulted with my Dad who said, “well you know something about the restaurant business.  See if you can get work in a resort kitchen, maybe in the salad bar.” I wrote 150 letters (on a manual typewriter), got 5 responses, and motorcycled up to Marblehead Massachusetts for my only interview.  I overdescribed my skills to the Owner of the resort, was hired as the salad chef at Lakewood Inn in Skowhegan Maine, that is french-speaking Northern Maine.

I reported for duty after an 8-9 hour rainy hair-raising motorcycle ride there and the Chef, just in from Florida met me as I parked the bike and stiffly walked into the kitchen of the large resort hotel.  “Tierney”, he said, “get 2 heads of lettuce from the walkin cold-box refrigerator.  I want to show you how I expect every salad to look.”  I exited the cold-box with 2 heads of cabbage in hand and the chef said:  “Tierney, it is gonna be a long summer.”  At 6am the next morning I was in the salad bar ready for work in my newly starched whites… We were to do the breakfast service, fruit, cereals, etc. then gear up for a house count of 240 plus a buffet add-on of about 80, then dinner for 240+.  I had 4 helpers, all of them Harvard kids, and I was the head guy, although just as young and inexperienced as they were.  The chef called me in and said:  “Tierney, make 30 gallons of mayonnaise.”   I left without a word, waited 10 minutes, thought to myself Helmans small bottle with a blue cap,  and went back and said:  “Chef, do you have a particular recipe that you want me to follow?”  He had expected me to have my own…  He handed me an index card, with not a lot written on it.  I went to the salad bar area, started up the big power mixer with the wisk mounted in its arm, cracked and separated 200 eggs, got 4 large cans of dry mustard, about 6 big square cans of salad oil, salt, pepper, a few listed spices, and about 3 tall square cans of vinegar.  The recipe card said nothing about the order for mixing the ingredients so a few minutes later I looked in the rapidly turning 30 gallon bowl and saw the wisk chasing around the bowl a late ball of eggs affected by the vinegar..  The Chef came over, looked in the bowl at the ball of 200 curdled eggs and said “Tierney, it is gonna be a long summer.”  And it was.  My chutzpah for trying for the top spot as salad chef had landed me in that job in a locale where there was simply no way they could replace me… They simply had to teach me every thing that a salad chef would have to know…  We (me and my 4 guys) would make 25 pounds of potato salad, 30 pounds of chicken salad, serve them plus cold meats and made to order salads and cold plates for 300 by 1pm – and be getting ready for the dinner crowd at 5pm.  It was 18/7 hours for the whole of a “long summer”.

A few days into the start in June, the Chef called me into his office regarding the noon buffet, saying,”Get a 25 pound ham and meet me in the kitchen.”  With ham in hand, I met him at the range before midmorning.  He carved on the ham a little bit then said to the head cook, “Put it in at 450 degrees, about 10 hours.”  Nine hours later he called me over and had me watch as he glazed the ham heavily before its final hour at 450 degrees.  I thought to myself, what the heck is he doing! This ham is going to be as hard as a rock, overcooked by a factor of 3…  Next day, the chef explained that this same beautifully glazed ham would be cooked for several hours and reglazed once every week for the rest of the summer.  Each day when the 80-100 noon buffet guests came to the buffet, there would be 20 different dishes and one would be a huge platter of fresh ham slices around this massive and beautifully glazed ham,  But after each noon buffet, the ham sat untouched on a shelf in the walk in refrigerator until the next noon when it would get just 2 hours of exposure before returning to the refrigerator.  In late August as the season came towards its end, I asked the chef if he had any plans for the ham.  Puzzled he said, “no plans”.  It was an exhausting long summer with a hundred things to learn and relearn every week.   There was no social life.  On the last day of the season, about August 29, 1960, my assistant and I took the ham “out” – in a rented canoe.  We paddled to the center of Skowhegan Lake, on the shore of which the hotel was located.  After a few appropriate words, we dropped the ham in the center of the Lake, where it rests today on the bottom.  It is an artifact that will confound anthropologists in 2160, an ossified ham perfectly preserved in the Lake.

I was a salad chef for one more year, on the Cape in Massachusetts at the Cape Codder Inn in 1961.  The chutzpah stuff had served me well and had passed. I never had to make mayonnaise that summer.   It wasn’t nearly as long a summer that year, in 1961.



The war – and dishwashers

The politics of the Harvard Club changed overnight by 1950. Suddenly the Brahmins were in control and it was not desirable to have an Irishman, albeit an alumnus, running the Harvard Club on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.  My dad was out of work, cashed in his insurance policies, sold his home, and chose a huge Restaurant in Hingham that he would purchase and operate starting in March of 1950.  My mother, instead of running a household of 5 with some help, would run a dining room (front of the house, as they say) in the Country Fare Restaurant located at the junction of Routes 3 and 128 in South Hingham.  The restaurant seated 220 at a sitting at the start and was in the largest (physical acreage) township in Massachusetts.  It was a long way from downtown Boston, in every way.   To manage the 20 waitresses, 3 busboys, 5 cooks, 1 baker, 2 salad people, 5 dishwashers, the staff on an early summer day, was going to be a big job and it was 24/7, living in a small apartment over the restaurant.  My dad brought in Mrs. Daley, who had run the front of the house for him at the Harvard Club.  She came by bus every day from Dorchester and returned home by bus at night.  Day by day, for two years Mrs. Daley taught my mother how to run the dining room.  The chef was Al Cosley, a tattooed wiry quiet-spoken Navy cook, only 6 years out of the service.  He hired ex Navy guys as cooks and they were all serious capable people.  The dishwashers were another story. They were all just a year or two past high school, came and went like their tribe had no limit, and they studied books when the dishes weren’t piling up.  Our family ate all our meals at a table in the dining room, New England country dishes and plenty of it.  The schools were located at the other (seaside) end of the town where almost all the residents of Hingham had rather grand houses near the Harbor.  The residents were essentially all some stripe of protestants and the social life of the town seemed to be totally wrapped up in church-related organizations.  One of the churches was made from the timbers of a wrecked ship (in 1628) and was the oldest continually functioning church in the 13 colonies.  Hingham was formerly called Bare Cove, back when the settlers in Plymouth had moved up there in 1624.

Hingham was a long way from genteel Arlington.  When I went to the closing days of 4th grade in the early spring of 1950, I wore short pants that matched my jacket and hat.  Everyone had jeans and sneakers.  It was a little hard to adjust…  Where we lived was surrounded by forests that stretched for miles with essentially no roads.  There was a lake a half mile away.  Houses and other children were few and far between.  Downtown, my peers took after school jobs in drugstores and bowling alleys.  I had a 7 mile paper route (rain or snow or heat) and then an off again on again beaver trapline.  Pelts were worth $3.oo each, a princely sum for a 9 year old.   The life saver in our remote area was the one room lending library in a tiny building up near the lake on the road to Rockland, a town full of tough mill-workers’ children.  A group of 5 women at the end of WW2 had collected their sons’ books and some donated books and there was about a 1000 book lending arrangement, nickel a week for a book, open Saturdays 2-4:30pm, staffed by the volunteer ladies.  It was mostly children’s’ books from the thirties, heavy on the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, the Boy Allies in France, the Boy Scouts in the North Woods, but some classics as well.  I got a shopping bag full about every other week riding there on my bicycle.

The rule from on high was that I had 3 choices, to study piano an hour a day, or to play football, or to clean restrooms, wash paint, and rake leaves for an hour every day.  In a brilliant move, I passed on the piano and the football, both subjects at which my father had excelled at (the Oedipus thing) and I chose to wash paint in the restaurant.  Every chair, table, banister, countertop, etc. had to be washed every day or so.  Floors had to be mopped, buffed, and polished. Every day,  after my hour of work, I was off into the forests, usually by myself.  At some point, I realized that the dishwashers were disappearing.  The United States had sent soldiers to South (and then North) Korea in September of 1950.  The U.S. regular army was down to almost no men, so we had sent out reservists and National Guard troops.  They were poorly trained and badly equipped, and not well led, it seemed.  When they got there to Korea, their places were filled by new high school graduates and then those men were called up by the thousands.  Just about every dishwasher had joined the Army reserves or the National Guard and they were called up at a great rate, “emptying the pipeline” of dishwasher candidates.  I paid close attention because I was hoping that I would not find myself washing dishes and could continue to save my skills for all the other drudge work tasks, but not the dishes.  One by one, the word came back regarding each of the dishwashers who had been working there at the Restaurant:  shot dead at Pusan, killed at Inchon,  mine explosion in Wonsan, bayonetted in Hungnam, froze to death in the 1000 mile retreat from the Choisin Reservoir in North Korea when the Chinese troops overran our troops every day so that 46 man platoons had 4 left alive at the end of the retreat.  The older ex-servicemen cooks in the Restaurant didn’t have to go, just the dishwashers – and they never came back.  Truman recalled General MacArthur and it seemed that there might be civil disobedience over that.  The schools in Hingham held once a week drills where we students were required to crouch under our desks. Rampant atomic bomb fears about a feisty Russia and serious polio scares alarmed the parents of the students.  None of the dishwashers returned.  It was the Korean “police action” and it was going very badly for a surprised and concerned Nation.  Gas rationing went into effect and the people of Boston stopped driving South towards the Cape Cod beaches.  The restaurant business got bad in 1951-52  – but there were no dishwashers.


Mom’s “gift”

My sister was born in 1943, October.  She had a habit of throwing her socks out of the crib, “booties” we called them.  I took to calling her Bootsie, and the name has stuck with her for some 70 years now.  A lot of people on Martha’s Vineyard know her only as Bootsie.   When Bootsie was about 4 years old she had a boy friend who lived just down the block.  Just past the Katanis’ fabulous lawn and brick mansion, slightly down the hill toward the Country Club in Arlington, Massachusetts, 15 miles from downtown Boston.  Andy Anderson was a pilot for Eastern Airlines and his 4 year old son, Andy Anderson Junior, had thick flaming orange hair.  The Andersons had an enormous house with a large and wholly fenced yard and the home was located on a low bluff, bordered by a fast road, beyond which was an 18 hole golf course and the Club.   On a spring day in the afternoon, I was in school and the maid (3 days a week) had the day off.  Dad was at work in the Harvard Club.  Mom was volunteering at the Heart Fund offices in Boston, something which she did from time to time and when there was the equivalent of “day care” that could take care of Bootsie.  My grandfather, Daniel, age 85, was at home.  Bootsie was down at the Andersons, playing in the huge yard with Andy Junior.  Shortly after lunch, the 2 kids found a place where the ground had sunk away from the fence and, out of sight from the porch, they slipped under the fence and went for a walk.   They slid down the bluff and walked along the fast and busy road.  Bootsie was walking behind Andy and she was struck from behind by a 10 ton trailer truck, traveling at about 50 miles per hour.  She flew a hundred feet through the air, landed on her forehead, and lay in a heap.  Drivers then cops collected, Mrs. Anderson came down from the house, and Bootsie went off in an ambulance to the local hospital (where she remained in a coma for months, eventually waking up and amazing everyone by being AOK but with a scar on her forehead to this day).

In Boston, at a time that had to be when the accident occurred, my mother put down her pencil, got up from her desk, went to her supervisor, and stated that she had to go home immediately “because my little girl has been hurt.”  Oh, said the supervisor, “did someone call to tell you?”  Mom said, “No, I just ‘know'”. She drove home, as she had the 1939 Buick convertible with her that day at the Heart Fund Offices.  She arrived to find only Grampie at the house on Falmoth Hill Road and she then drove straight to the local hospital in Arlington. She climbed the stairs, got off at the landing at floor 3, and asked the nurse for Marietta Tierney’s room…   No one could ever explain how it was that she had “known” to just leave work and come home or explain her going to the right hospital and the right floor.  It was just folklore in the family that she had a “gift” and no one made much of it or spoke much of it.

In 1957, I was 16.  I had worked three summers as a Dairy Queen iced-milk maker and soda jerk.  Now,in my senior year of High School, I was working two afternoons a week helping pump gasoline at a service station just across busy Route 3 from my father’s large restaurant, the Country Fare located at 1217 Main Street in Hingham Massachusetts.  It was just a moment after 5pm and almost time for me to quit and go home to supper at the family table in the front of the restaurant.  A drunk in a 1956 Blue Buick four door hardtop was speeding North and, just at the gravel apron driveway to my Dad’s Restaurant,  directly in front of the gas station, he sideswiped a green Pontiac,  hard.  It rolled over and over and across the gravel apron kicking up a huge amount of dust. Traffic snarled and my coworker, Gino, a former policeman from Colorado yelled to me, “get in the car”. Gino ran to his 1957 Chevie Black and White Impala 2 door.  When I ducked in, he swerved out of the Esso gas station, heading left and North, hot on the trail of the Buick’s hit and run driver.  As we headed up the long hill, Gino yelled, “get his number”.  I had no pencil and I had no paper – but I had a jackknife and my wallet.  When we passed 100 miles per hour, I was hard a work carving the number in my wallet.  About 7 or 8 minutes into the chase, we were right close behind the Buick, which was all over the road and doing 90 mph.  At about the border between Weymouth and Hingham, Route 3 takes a sudden and pronounced veer to the left.   The road veered – but the Buick did not.  At the far right edge of Route 3, there was an open and deep granite quarry.  The Buick made it quite far out into space before it went 65 feet down to the bottom of the quarry, essentially flatly pancaking on the rocks forming the bottom of the unused quarry.  We braked and the Chevie skidded to a stop at the edge of the road, up on the verge,  where we stood and watched the smashed Buick just starting to leak smoke.  Cars began to collect behind us.  Gino began to climb down the wall,  the blocks of the quarry where irregular cutting had left ledges. I followed and, in a moment, we were below and at the car. With windows smashed and doors crumpled, it was starting to leak smoke from the engine compartment and through the dash into the car, where two forms were crumpled in the front seat.  Gino hollered that I should go get the extinguisher.  I went up the wall of the quarry then down with the extinguisher and he flushed the small flames from the crumpled front of the car,  and then began breaking the safety glass windows on both sides with a large rock.  Flames began to lick from the bottom of the Buick and Gino reached in and pulled out the male driver, bloody and smelling of smoke and alcohol.  I took the woman.  We inched back up the wall with our “packages” and there were a lot of faces at the top of the quarry, with the sounds of sirens coming closer.  The Buick began to really burn and we struggled up.   And then I saw my mother.

She had been at dinner with my father at 5:15pm.  As he told it, she put down her fork.  She said:  “David is in trouble.  We have to go, right now”, and got up from the white table, walked ten steps to the doorway out of the restaurant, and walked out toward the car, standing looking North then South then North…  My Dad followed, his keys in hand.  They got into the old red 1948 Mercury 4 door that my Dad drove and she told him to go North on Route 3 (instead of South out the other driveway to Route 128.   They drove for about 15 minutes (at a sedate pace) till they came across the knot of people and police cars.  When I came climbing up over the lip of the quarry with the bloody form of the woman passenger in my arms and hands reached out for that woman, my Mom was standing a few people back, arms crossed, saying not a word.  I rode home with my folks an hour or so later.  My mother never talked about the incident – and but there were two other occasions which gave her a chance to exercise “the gift”, though the incidents involved less events, and both times involved my sister.  It didn’t always work.  When I was almost killed in 1981 December by a drunk driver in Phoenix, she had no “vibes” back on the East Coast in Hingham and she learned of it a day later on the phone.

The woman passenger lived and the male driver went to prison, as he had sideswiped more then one car driving drunk out of Plymouth, heading for Boston.   Gino came to a bad end after some events with a woman.  The quarry is still there and the road still has the bend to the left in it, as it did in late 1957.


In 1915, just after the start of the War to End All Wars, the one in which my father served in the Navy, a second child was born to Frank and Bessie Twining in the City of Torrington, Connecticut.  They had a small farm just 30 blocks from downtown. Frank delivered the U.S. mail but soon started at the brass mills operating a lathe.  The mills had poured and ladled, then ground, sanded, and polished metal parts for a hundred years.  Most of the guns used in the French Indian Wars, the Revolution, the War of 1812, and those used by the Union side in the Civil War had come from the towns and Cities up and down those small river valleys in Connecticut.  Rivers provided torque for gears and belts then lathes.  The forests provided endless wood for furnaces to melt the ore found in mountains from Kentucky to upstate New York. Grandpa Reynolds lived with the family of four, Bud having been born two years before Virginia.  Grandpa hunted and fished.  Bessie worked as a saleswoman in a small department store in the town of 4000 folks. By 1920 Frank had bought a big touring car. The family went on long twenty mile trips, hiked, Picknicked, boated.  Grandpa Reynolds could craft and make anything and once built a clock which kept good time when I visited in the mid forties.  Virginia was an avid reader, bright, appeared in school plays, went to Methodist church socials, and on turning 18 went off to school.  Torrington was a small Protestant community, almost no immigrants and almost no Catholics in town. Virginia went to Boston University and her brother Bud was at Babson Institue, also in Boston.  It was a long auto ride to Hartford, then a long train ride up to Boston.  Virginia graduated in the Class of 1937, having starred in school plays and earned top grades.  She applied for a secretarial job at Leverett House in Harvard University’s administration office.  Nearly 4 months later, a former Harvard football star who was managing the Harvard Business School dining halls across the Charles River came by about some payroll issues.  The paper landed on Virginia’s desk and pretty soon the Irish catholic fellow asked her out.  Her school friends didn’t really approve as he was 21 years older than she.  He changed jobs later in 1937, leaving the Harvard Business School dining halls to manage the Harvard Club in downtown Boston.  The club had purchased a large building at Commonwaelth Avenue and Marlborough, ten minutes away from the best homes on Beacon Hill.  Harvard guys ran the Banks, insurance, food supply companies, importing firms, and just about anything that made money in Boston.

It was remarkable that the the newer members of the club had voted to have an Irishman run the club, even if he had been a star football player and a well known coach at Harvard.  Club politics ebbed and flowed but it was a challenge twice a year to fend of the old guard Brahmins who wanted to throw the Mick out and revert to one of their own. The Harvard Club was where you stayed when in Boston if you were a Harvard guy, up from New York or Philadelphia.  In August of 1940, Virginia ( my mother) married Charles Tierney (my father).  Her parents were dubious and concerned for the age difference and especially for the religious difference.  My father bought a 1939 Buick convertible, a four bedroom house in Arlington, Massachusetts at 27 Falmouth Hill Lane, where his father Daniel would live with them, and the newlyweds went on honeymoon to Mexico City.  Entranced with the floating gardens of Xochimilco, they went boating day after day, failing to get to some sights North of Mexico City which they had meant to go visit.  I was born one year later, four months before Pearl Harbor, on August 18, 1941 in Cambridge at Mount Holyoke Hospital.

Grandfather Daniel had raised several siblings in the North End of Boston, as both his parents had died when he was 15.  Those siblings all had large families.  Daniel ran the candy store in the basement of Fanieul Hall, near the Centers of power in Boston.  He was friend to many Irish politicians and, in particular, Mayor Michael Curley.  Curley went in and out of power and once for three years he went to prison in Danbury, Conecticut.  He was always welcome Chez Tierney.  When I was a child, he would come in a huge shiny black car, sit in the living room, drink, and sing with my grandfather at the top of their lungs as my father played the piano in the living room and I watched from the second floor bannister.  In 1940, my father’s best man had been Dan H., a big beefy red faced irish fellow.  Dan H. had been a Boston College footballer with Dad in 1916, had a knack for mastering foreign languages, and had become an accountant.  In early 1940, he received an official looking letter which instructed him to appear at the US Post Office in Boston at a certain room.  When he complied, he met two men  from the OSS and the FBI.  They requested that he take a job in Chicago, join the German Bund, pass on information to them about Germans being brought into this country as spies, and eventually go overseas.  Dan told no one, as ordered, went to Chicago and rose fast in the Bund.  When World War 2 commenced, he was in Germany, working with the Nazis at the highest levels, and was labelled a traitor by his former neighbors in Boston.  My father alone resisted the rumors.  When Dan H. eventually  testified at Nuremberg and it was revealed that he had been a spy in Germany, people in the Irish community in Boston were amazed.  My father was not.

My father was drafted in 1941.  He reported (age 47).  The recruiting office allowed as how there had been an error in paperwork.  They were desperate for machinist mates ( his World War 1 status) but had missed his age in the files.  He ran the Harvard Club during World War 2, coping with shortages of meat and butter and gasoline.  My mother saved tin cans, raised a garden in the backyard,  hunted earnestly for metal toy cars for her son ( which could not be found anywhere), and kept house in Arlington with folks from the Club coming by any hour of any day.  They entertained often in the evening.

Grandfather Daniel Tierney travelled often to Boston by bus then subway.  He had friends working in the boats along the several piers off Atlantic Avenue in downtown Boston.  He would take me with him at age four or five, dressed in short pants, and a matching jacket and cap.  We would walk down T wharf and he would chat with the men on every trawler tied up to the pier, then take me though Haymarket Square to what used to be Scollay Square ( now Federal Centre and Quincy Market).  He would drink coffee with old friends then take the MTA back to Arlington, the bus to the foot of our street, then slowly (he was in his middle eighties) up the long hill to our house.

Dan H. Was given the rank of Commander in the Navy because of his OSS service during the war.  He stayed in the OSS til it became the CIA, then went on in the CIA til the mid sixties.  I visited him and his wife and son (who was in the Navy) in the early sixties in Virginia.  He spoke 20 languages, had run posts in Africa, and East Berlin, was on many lists written in hostile foreign languages.  I read his unpublished manuscript with secrets from dangerous post war years. He never forgot that, when his friends in Boston dammed his eyes as a traitor, my father had said to all who would listen it could not be so and there was something everyone was missing.  It was a lesson taught to me in the very early forties in my house:  you choose your friends by character.  If they have it, then you give them loyalty through all that then comes to happen.  Those choices, if well made, are to last for all time.  The war ended in 1945.  I remember my mother on her knees, picking rhubarb to make a pie, telling me slowly and gravely that the war was over – and that life was about to change.



Wow. Unexpected and invited gift – and a new challenge. I mean, what if I make typos and what if it is not that interesting? So, here is a start, an old story about my dad, Charles, born 1894 in the North end, then the Irish ghetto near where Logan airport is in Boston today. The Irish had just become so numerous by the end of the 1800’s and so organized that they were getting close to taking over the apparatus of the City of Boston – but it was still nearly 2 decades before that would occur. One by one, they were taking over the wards. As of 1916 my father enrolled in the only college that would accept the Irish, Boston College. He attended nights as a freshman. In the afternoons, he played football for B.C.His position was tackle and he was really good. They played with no pads and skintight leather helmets.
President Wilson gave in. The U.S. stopped just supplying shells and guns and meat to the Brits. Our army was tiny and essentially all on the Mexican border. The Navy was puny. Everyone enlisted. Training was minimal. My dad went into the Navy as a seaman, and promptly was selected for training to be a machinist’s mate on a hundred foot boat. He knew nothing about machinery. The boats were hastily mass produced and were crude things, designed to hunt subs in the North Atlantic. No aspic. No sonar. The plan was to cruise endlessly and spot a periscope (the other side didn’t have sonar either)… At that point, using signal flags, one rushed the boat to the site of the spotted periscope and four of the crew went to the stern. Depth charges were ashcan sized metal drums, packed with TNT, sealed tight and weighted. You wound up the ticker- fuse (setting it for 400 or 500 feet depths) then kicked the ashcan off the back of the boat. The boats had a crew of 18-20 and crude crew compartments. There were two 16 cylinder motors and they ran on gasoline and spewed out fumes.
Two years after the Halifax disaster ( where 5 munitions ships blew up in a Canadian harbor and flattened everything for 25 miles around) dad’s boat and a hundred others sailed for a Bermuda rendezvous with another hundred of the same. You fueled when a launch loaded with fifty gallon drums of gasoline pulled alongside and a pump and hose was inserted in a drum and some sailor turned the eggbeater handle and pumped gasoline up, cross deck, and into your tanks. With 200 boats in harbor, all needing gasoline to go to the Azores then North to Cobh (now Cork) in Southern Ireland, sloppy work on the fueling lanches led to a thick film of gas and oil on the harbor in Bermuda. Fire started late one afternoon and the slick burned furiously with choking smoke. All the boats were loaded with ashcan depth charges lashed to the decks. Every captain made haste to get out of harbor.
In Cobh (the Irish were still ruled by Britain and were giving the U.S. A Naval base there) the boats were three weeks out then I week at the base. Wherever they docked the boat, when the crew got liberty, my father was a favorite. He played the piano by ear and could play anything and could play for hours without repeating his repertoire. He did not drink so the others got free drinks while he played in bars in Ireland and in England. The usual duty was to sail East then North up through the Irish Sea, East again over the top of Britain, til on station in the Baltic, near Kiel, from which German submarines left to hunt merchant ships in the Atlantic which coming to supply the Brits and our tiny army, newly in France in the trenches. The boats operated in extreme cold with no insulated crew quarters. The Navy paid the Captains a sum to provision the boats so the crew could eat. The Captain of my dad’s boat was a drunk and a womanizer. He used up the food allowance for the crew on other pursuits and the crew was always short of food. Often, the duty was to minesweeper, as mines were sowed everywhere and were a constant danger. They were just a few feet below the surface, carefully weighted, attached to long chains with anchors below. Two of our boats would attach a chain to the stern, spread out a quarter mile apart, then proceed carefully into a minefield, spotters on the bow. The long chain would drag, then sever, the mines’ chains. The mines would bob up on the surface, floating free and pitching in the waves. A dozen boats would enter the wave-swept quarter mile full of bobbing mines. In ten degree weather, wearing pea coats, watch caps, and a mitten with one hole in it three of the crew were issued Winchester rifles and a box of ammunition. Standing on a pitching deck, they shot mines. When you hit a plunger on the mine, it exploded and a geyser of water went up.
My dad’s boat got lucky with a depth charge run. The U32 was damaged, came up onto the surface, and commenced a life or death deckgun duel with a half dozen of our boats. U32 had a 3 inch gun. Our boats had 2 inch guns each and ineffectual machine guns. My dad’s boat was hit. He worked down in the engine room which filled with choking fumes – but ceasing to man the engines was not an option. The black gang worked on in darkness and fumes to keep the boat operating and moving until U32 sank.
The boat then came down the English Channel and put in at a French port where there was a huge field hospital near the shore. Several sailors and my dad went ashore and checked in at the hospital, gassed by the fumes in the engine room from the boat having been damaged in the encounter with U32. Days passed. Bored, and feeling restored, the several crew members conferred then forged passes and went off base from the hospital to see the earlier and now emptied battlefields. The War was entering its close in 1918. The field hospital was immense and the crew members figured they would never be missed for few days.
Meanwhile, my father’s father (Daniel) operated a candy and cigars store in the basement of Fanieul Hall, equidistant from the Boston City Hall and the State Legislature, about five blocks from each. He was friends with Martin Lomasney, Honey Fitzgerald, and other Boston pols, later with Mayor Curley, who was not yet on scene. President Lowell of Harvard was debating on the front page of the Boston Globe with an unknown young law professor at Harvard Law School, one Felix Frankfurter. The dialogue was whether Harvard should admit Jews and Irish “on quota”. Debate was intense but then Lowell yielded and ’twas done. Daniel went to Lowell’s office and told Lowell that he had a great tackle that Lowell could have for the asking… producing some clippings raving about my father’s prowess on the gridiron. Lowell bit – and called a young under-secretary of the Navy, one Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt signed orders that Charles Tierney, as a matter of National security, was to be returned by ship immediately to the the Naval base in North Boston and discharged. The telegraphed orders reached France and hospital staff searched for Tierney, who could not be found for several days. When he was found, the Navy decided to make no issue of his having gotten lost for a few days… They simply shipped him home – before a hundred thousand doughboys waiting for their travel orders.
Charles Tierney’s paybook was lost but orders from Roosevelt resolved the snafu and he was discharged in time to report to the football squad in late 1918, class of 1922 at Harvard. It was a famous class at Harvard. On my wall in my office at home hangs the team picture from the 1919 Harvard Yale game. In white on the ball in front of the team, it says Harvard 9, Yale zero… In the top row, third from left is a clear eyed smiling Charles Tierney, starting a three year storied career as a star tackle. He later became the line coach at Harvard, and there is a fat book of rotogravure clippings to attest that he was a successful coach.
By the way, Frankfurter, Lowell, and Roosevelt went on to do pretty well in their own right. Charles Tierney finished at Harvard Football in 1929, went to Venezuela in ’29 on a venture involving buying Panama hats in bulk for resale to the U.S. , managed the Commander Hotel in Cambridge til 1933, managed the Harvard Business School dining halls til ’37, managed the Harvard Club in Boston from ’37 til ’51, owned and managed the Country Fare Restaurant in Hingham Massachusetts til ’62, died in 1988 at 94 years of age. In all the years after he left the Navy, he had difficulty whenever sitting in a darkened movie theatre, remembering a frightful few hours working on the engines in smoke and darkness, while his boat chased U32 around the surface of the Baltic hoping to survive a three inch deck gun’s pounding.
I saw the movie Unbroken today. It was a good account of young men doing difficult service in war. This is a story with some of the same content, just a little earlier in time.

Dave Tierney

UPDATE 12/26/14 by Sean: I haven’t taught my Dad how to use the multimedia features of WordPress yet so I’m appending these primary source materials. Below is a scan of the actual furlough order from Roosavelt that he mentioned.

roosavelt-order-grampeeAnd a few other awesome news clippings involving my grandfather:

Convincing the big guy to write publicly

This is Sean Tierney, David Tierney’s son. Unbeknownst to my Dad I’ve set up this blog as a Christmas gift for him this year. I’ve been encouraging him to write publicly for awhile now and I’m hoping that by presenting this as a gift he’ll be more obligated to accept the challenge and start writing.

I won’t write a huge intro here but I wanted to say a few things:  my Dad has read more books than you have probably seen on shelves in your lifetime. When you read as much as he does (primarily historical nonfiction) you form an incredible breadth of knowledge spanning a variety of topics. My Dad can begin talking to you about the battle strategies employed in the Crimean War and transition in the same breath into a discussion on how those strategies are applicable today in the context of a trial defense in a construction litigation. Beyond book knowledge though my Dad is a “do’er” involved in somewhere on the order of twenty pro-bono volunteer efforts around Phoenix, AZ. He works daily behind the scenes in all kinds of capacities to make the City of Phoenix a better place for everyone.

I know I’m inherently biased here because I’m his son but he has hands-down some of the most fascinating stories to share. He’ll tell you about getting shot at while smuggling books to minority voters in Mississippi back in the 60’s, developing the vehicular traffic infrastructure for small towns in Venezuela while in the Peace Corps, BS’ing his way into becoming a salad chef as a summer job to pay his way through Harvard, defending underdog clients against well-funded bullies… and winning.  Anyways, he’s got stories.

I’ve seen him speak at his Hon Kachina award acceptance, the Justice Learned Hand award acceptance and at the Harvard Club in Phoenix.  The bottom line here is he has a wealth of experience and ideas to share but is humble to a fault and therefore needs to be coaxed into writing publicly.  I’ve been fortunate to glean some of his wisdom over the years through dinner conversations and hot tub sessions and I’m hoping with a little chiding here he’ll see this blog as a unique way to both share stories, OpEd and insight on the causes he works with from the Irish Cultural Center to the ACT Health Fair to the Tool Bank project, RJRC and numerous other endeavors.

So here’s what I ask you to do: if you know my Dad (or even if you don’t yet) leave a message below on this post so when he gets this on Christmas morning he’ll see that he already has a few readers. You can tell him what you want to hear about, just say hi or anything really. He’s been winding down his caseload with Sacks Tierney the past year, shifting emphasis more to the pro-bono endeavors and therefore finally has some time available to write. My goal is to “prime the pump” with a few readers so he gets excited about posting here regularly. The stories I’ve grown up hearing over fishing trips and dinner conversations will blow your mind. Let’s convince him to share them here with everyone else.


Sean and Dave