johnmac's rants

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I recently wrote about the Gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of my graduation from All Hallows High School (then called "All Hallows Institute"). On the following Wednesday, I was confronted with another milestone I attended the funeral of Ellen Mulderrig, the mother of one of my oldest friends, Frank, and his younger brother, Peter. Mrs. Mulderrig was 95 and had been in poor health for a number of years but her death, coupled with the remarks made by Frank at the Gate of Heaven gravesite, brought down the curtain on another chapter of our lives.

Frank pointed out that his mother was, with the exception of Jim Connors' mother, now living in Ireland at 95 and in poor health, the last of our group's parents -- a generation that did not accept their predetermined "station in life" but, rather, pushed themselves upward and provided both an example and an impetus to their children to go higher and higher -- a very small minority of my group's parents went to college -- only John Muccia's, Jimmy "Hobart" Lambert's and Kevin Buckley's fathers come to mind -- yet, with little exception, all of us did.

While I appreciate all of my friends' parents, Mrs. Mulderrig (along with Bill McLoughlin's father, Bill Sr.) held a special position. She was quick and had a real wit that could, at times, be caustic. When we were growing up and of "drinking age" (in Inwood, that was about 15 and up), she often treated Jim Connors and I as though we were the prime corruptors of her innocent son. Years later, she told both of us that she had always know that Frank was a co-equal corrupter.

At our get-togethers, I tell many "Mrs. Mulderrig stories" but one that went on for almost 24 hours particularly sticks out in my mind. One Saturday evening, Frank, Jim, and I spent hours playing cards, talking, and drinking wine on the enclosed roof landing of the "Park Terrace Gardens". When the wine was finished and we were close to that stage, we headed for home. Jim dropped off at his house and, as Frank and I were crossing Seaman Avenue, we see his mother stopped with their dog, Tara, talking to a man, also with a dog. Frank whispered "There's my mother. Straighten up!" just as she called us over.

She introduced us to the dog walker and, I assume, because she felt that it would be unseemly to praise her son to the neighbor, begins praising me, telling the neighbor what a good friend I was to Frank, how smart I was, and how much I read -- all both embarrassing to me and to great to hear. When the neighbor has finally had enough and wanders off, she turns to Frank and says "Now, I know you've been drinking -- because this bum has!" BOOM! I crash-landed quickly on that and murmured "Good night" as she took Frank off to home.

The next day, Frank and I went off to the New York Football Giants - Chicago Cardinals (yes -- the Arizona Cardinals were the Chicago Cardinals even before they were the St. Louis Cardinals) football game at Yankee Stadium, talking with us a bottle of Canadian Club that I had won at the Good Shepherd Bazaar. When we returned home from the game, I was, while not "falling-down" drunk, certainly in very bad shape. My Uncle Frank, my mother's brother, was visiting from Washington and my mother would be mortified if I misbehaved in front of him -- so, when Frank went up to his apartment, I sat on the steps of his house, 571 West 215th Street, hoping to reach some degree of sobriety.

Frank soon came back downstairs and said "My mother wants you to come up and have some soup". I replied "I'm going up there -- she called me a bum last night". He persisted "She really wants you to come up. She knows that your uncle's in town and doesn't want you to go home like this."

So up I went -- she told me to call my mother and say that I was having dinner there -- but then decided after listening to me that it was better that she call -- then she fed me soup -- had me take a nap -- woke me up and had Frank march me around the block in the cold -- checked me out out and sent "the bum" home, confident that I could carry it off. How could I not love her?

The luncheon following the funeral and burial was bittersweet -- sad because of the death but sweet because of the gathering of old close friends -- in many case, friends of over 50 years -- Jim Casey, Kevin Buckley, Ed Winne, Dan Sheehan, Warren Hennessey, Kevin & Maura McLoughlin, Jim Connors, Frank, & I spent a few hours enjoying the company as we celebrated Frank's mother's life.

The nostalgia time continued today when I went to lunch at Mario's on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx with fourteen other veterans of the now-defunct Cardinal Farley Military Academy. The group ranged from members of the high school graduation class of 1953 through that of 1957 and included Steve Brennen, Pete Brennen, Tony Giannini, Serge Sterelli, Joe Cussen, Peter Fearon, Steve Fearon, Bob Doherty, Jack Kelly, Richie Flanagan, Hank Mosley, Michael Cohalan, Mike Horowitz, John Gallagher, and myself. The lunch was wonderful and went on from noon to 3:45 -- but one of the things called to mind was that we (and the others who weren't there) are the end of the Cardinal Farley Alumni -- after us, there ain't no more!

Next Wednesday's "Monthly Inwood Luncheon" will wrap up three weeks of joy in the years of over 50 years ago -- great times then, great memories now, and, yet as we think of those no longer with us, reminders of what my friend, Terry Sughrue, often points out -- "We're all on line; we just don't know where is line we are."

Be grateful for what has gone before -- but enjoy the now; we don't know much now is left!


  • Good day, sir. I am writing because of the blog where you mentioned being a former student at Cardinal Farley Military HS in New York. My father, Robert (Bob) Knam also attended school there. I am trying to find people who knew him. He passed away many years ago when I was young and I really don't know much about him. If you could, let me know if you were a classmate of his. I would be interested in any information you have about him. Thank you. Erik Knam

    By Blogger erik, at 7:08 PM  

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