2002-03-09 / Columnists

Meet The Irish

By Harry McGuirk

President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, a Democrat, was in office. The Vietnam War raged on. His wife Lady Bird (nee Taylor) was forever at his side to assist and encourage him. They had two children.

The history books tell us that Johnson was Vice President when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. And on that date Johnson became President. It was one of the most dramatic days in American history. As we know people from all over the world were traumatized with the events of that day.

President Johnson was a Liberal who introduced extensive anti-poverty programs. He is known to have said, "I have called for a national war on poverty- our objective- total victory!"

Johnson, a schoolteacher cum politician, then president extended the war in Namm and people took to the streets in protest. It was the 1960's. These protests took many forms. The war in Namm was not going well. A quagmire it was called! Perhaps it was seeing President Nixon's book on the sideboard, "No More Vietnam's", and the viewing of "Platoon", the Oscar-winning movie on TV the other evening, which brought back the memories to us. Those were times of tears and confusion in America.

At that time we had our gift shop, the humble Irish Cottage in Rockaway. Many of you will recall we did our radio shows live from there. This was where NBC-TV found us and did a documentary on our live broadcasts that was aired coast-to-coast. The famous author Jimmy Breslin made an occasional visit. He based his bestseller "World Without End Amen" on people he met at The Irish Cottage.

You didn't have to be Irish to enjoy our live two hours on the air ballad sessions. This was a big folk era. Each song told a story. We seemed to have hit the headlines and the high spots in society. Invitations poured in from all quarters. Our show traveled far. Politicians from Ireland even came to Rockaway. It was a unique kind of magazine from the Irish American perspective.

We had tearful parents, families and lovers of armed forces personnel who were serving in Vietnam, forever on the phone and stopping in to ask us to play a request and send greetings to their loved ones. There was such an outpouring of people that we finally said okay. We made contact and offered to go and do a few shows from Vietnam with the service people "over there" sending their requests back home to the folks over here. When the President's people reviewed the idea, the President issued an order that our show be broadcast over the Asian networks. The initial show was broadcast and heard in hospitals, rest and recreational areas, as well as in the jungles and by the fleet. Also it was picked up in Australia and Hawaii.

We forget how many millions of people heard our tribute to our national Irish Saint! But you can be sure it was a lively show, not droopy, not sad, but full of love kisses and hugs by loved ones half a world away. Who said radio was dead in those days?

Judging from the sacks of mail and "thank you's" received, Margie and I know that an historic day for radio happened the day the sounds of Irish music reached the ears of Irish Americans and their companions on that Irish National holiday – St. Patrick's Day, March 17th. From the field, from the Australian personnel came the "thank you's" and congratulations. Also from very V.I.P. people in Washington, D.C. We were happy to be of service.

Our dear beloved Margie wrote the above script as if she knew dangerous criminals would be always at America's door ready to destroy this beautiful country. So Margie you taught generous children to be ready, loving to the stars and stripes of America. I explained to a friend that Margie was an American hero as she died in my arms crying to come home to her beloved home America to help the poor.

Pray for all. We all love you Margie.


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