By John F. McMullen
On the third Thursday of every month at noon, approximately forty people come together at “The Heritage Bar and Restaurant” in Yonkers (960 McLean Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10704; 914 776-7532 -- heritagebarandrestaurant.com) for the monthly meeting of “The Narrowbacks.” A Narrowback is a term, usually associated with Irish-Americans, referring to the second generation of immigrant families; the first generation, the “Broadbacks” were the ones who had to do the “heavy lifting,” taking manual, often construction, jobs so that the next generation could receive an education and become Narrowbacks.
The organization – and it is not a formal organization; people just show up -- was started by retired New York City Police officer “Danny” Lynch and is composed of ex-police officers and other civil servants, writers, attorneys, bar owners, union members, stock brokers, academics, ex-military, and, as stated above, people who just show up.
The meeting begins with a bagpipe call to order by piper John Rinciari, retired Yonkers police officer who has been a member of pipe band local and national competitions. The music is followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and then general announcements.
In 2015, the name of the group was changed from “The Narrowbacks” to “The Narrowbacks – PFC Thomas Minogue Chapter” in honor of a Vietnam Army Hero and Distinguished Service Cross recipient (posthumously) who gave his life to protect his platoon leader and indirectly saved his platoon from being overrun and slaughtered. Tommy Minogue was the brother of member Jack Minogue, the son of an NYPD veteran and friend of Danny Lynch, and a native of the Inwood section where a number of the luncheon attendees are from. There is strong feeling within the group (and with many others, including Congressmen) that Tommy’s valor deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor and that, only the fact that a number of others from his battalion had previously received the medal precluded him from receiving it (even though recommendations for the award had reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff) so the initial announcement often is a report on the progress (or lack thereof) in pursuing the award.
The announcements are followed by members getting up to sing, tell stories, or read their poetry (that’s where I come in). The songs vary from meeting to meeting but always include attorney and ex-judge Edmund Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Long Black Veil” (dubbed “the anthem” of the group).
Over lunch (a flat fee of $25), there is usually a presentation of some aspect of New York history, often related to crime and law enforcement – every presentation that I have been there for in the over two years that I have been attending the luncheons has been interesting, in depth, and entertaining.
The organization’s tradition has been to hold the August meeting in Long Beach, LI where a number of the members live. In summer 2016, we had two meetings “away from home” – the July meeting was at the Island Park, LI home of writer and ex-New York Post Editorial Page Editor Steve Dunleavy. Steve is a longtime supporter of the group.
The August meeting was held in “The Saloon” in Long Beach and featured a running presentation of “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” (goo.gl/mp9LEB), the story of the delivery of six packs of beer by then merchant seaman John Charles “Chick” Donohue” to friends from “the old neighborhood” (Inwood) serving on the front lines in Vietnam. Chick’s story – high school dropout, US Marine, Merchant Seaman, Bar Owner, “Sandhog,” Labor Political Activist, Harvard MPA (without the benefit of college), Teamster official, Sandhog once again, and world traveler -- is the subject of a soon-to-be released book co-authored by Chick and ex-New York Daily News columnist Joanna Molloy.
The group is now back home at our Heritage location and I hope you’ll join us – the food is good and the company is better!
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John F. McMullen is a writer, poet, college professor and radio host. Links to other writings, Podcasts, & Radio Broadcasts at www.johnmac13.com and his books are available on Amazon.
© 2016 John F. McMullen