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James Dempsey's wry treatment of the brick wall event glossed over enduring consequences of that night, more than 40 years ago.
At the time of the prank, my uncle was a middle-aged priest residing in a dormitory and pursuing his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience amid a herd of raucous students less than half his years. Father John was a burly ex-athlete, who would vent his displeasure upon them if the noise level got too high. The article derides him for that, but remains blithely non-judgmental about a student using a false confession as a ploy to cut his phone line.
The shameful brick-wall event is unworthy of the slightest whiff of legitimacy, never mind designation as a legend. Father John was a vibrant priest who encouraged his students, his siblings, his nieces and his nephews to do well. He came from a generation that learned to shave with a straight razor and speak bluntly. The cast of mind that tolerates situation ethics made his skin crawl. For Rev. Brooks to imply that those traits made him deserve to be so victimized is wrong, even maliciously wrong, and is the defamation of a good man. As for his jolly band of dormitory pranksters, all they have to show for that night are a few synthetic laughs and a permanent stain on their characters.
Joseph A. Crowley '66
San Jose, Calif.
The article about my uncle, written by James Dempsey, is a misguided attempt to spin a sordid episode into a benign prank. The College of the Holy Cross should be deeply ashamed of this tale, since behind it lurks the Jesuit Community's refusal to do anything about it at the time. I wonder if there was a single student leader in Lehy in May 1964 who voiced opposition to this crime. I also wonder if the students involved in the stunt developed as leaders in business, professional and civic life; whether they have lived by the highest intellectual and ethical standards over the years. Somehow, I don't think I'd be surprised by the answer.
Fr. John is interred at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology. He doubtless would have preferred to be buried on Mt. Saint James, since he loved Holy Cross, but he had been transferred elsewhere because of the rift created by this incident.
That your publication would lend credibility to the idea that he deserved the brick wall treatment—and by extension what came afterward—comes as a shock. A fitting end to the story may arise if miscreants from the Class of '64 write in to admit contrition. Yes, that would be fitting indeed.
John Dennis Crowley II
The gleeful "Immurement of Father Crowley" remains as evidence of a cruel student prank for which there were no penalties paid. The ultimate repercussion is that Holy Cross today has less stature than it did in the mid-1960s. At the time, it was widely viewed as the most academically distinguished of the Jesuit colleges. Now it has lost considerable prestige on several counts.
My uncle, Father John Dennis Crowley, was a born teacher. He did not suffer fools gladly, and he fully enjoyed the dialectic of the classroom. Unlike many modern priests who have personal insecurities about their vocation, Father John was committed to an informed Church, which could thrive on dissent with logic as the underlying structure.
As I understand the episode, our uncle concluded that the highest and best revenge was not to bellow, as the article erroneously states, but to walk out of the "entombment" with his head high and not a word on the subject. He did not want to give satisfaction to the disgraceful students who masterminded this incident. The College did not punish the students and, to my knowledge, used it indirectly as a means to have Father John transferred elsewhere. It is ironic that in the year 2006, Animal House-like stories make what passes for good press, while the legacy of a remarkable, tough-minded, intellectual is lost.
From my adolescence, I remember Father John visiting us often on Sundays to teach my two younger sisters and me the rules of debate. He also selected one hundred best books of fiction, non-fiction, classics and otherwise for our home library. In my later college career as a young scholar, I remembered him as brilliant, very much alive, with a booming sense of humor and charm.
I hope there are students who experienced our uncle, Father John Dennis Crowley, at that level and not merely as a victim of a cruel prank.
Barbara Geddis Wooten
I thought I'd put in a few words for another side of Fr. John Dennis Crowley (featured in your winter issue article, "The Immurement of Father Crowley"). I first met him when I lived on his corridor—I don't at the moment remember whether it was in Lehy, but it was about 1955—and I immediately fell under his spell. I say "spell" because there is no other way of explaining the influence he exerted over my formative years at The Cross. He struck me as one of the most humane, and human, men I had ever met—and a Jesuit to boot!
We became good friends. I served his Mass every morning in the Chapel basement. I took steps (rather difficult in those days) to extricate myself from the pre-arranged, "streamed," philosophy section to which I had been assigned to take his course in Natural Theology; a truly "liberating" experience (pun intended). At a crucial juncture in my intellectual life (between third and fourth years, as it happened) he gave me a piece of specific, and salutary, advice. When about five years after graduation I got married, I took my wife to meet him in Rome one summer, where we three spent a memorable moonlit evening at the Tre Fontane piazza. When I went back to The Cross quite a few years later I learnt that he had left to go back to Fairfield, which was nearer, I believe, to his home, and that he subsequently died. I made some not very strenuous efforts to learn how this happened, and where he was buried, for I had intended to visit his grave and say a prayer of thanksgiving for having met this remarkable individual who took me under his affectionate spiritual wing and helped me (to use a not very original phrase) "find myself."
In the period that I knew him, the mid-50s, I never heard him referred to as "the Dancing Bear" (although he did insist that the study-time and lights-out rules be observed on his corridor, thus making it possible for the majority of us who wanted to do so to live close-to-normal lives). Probably Fr. Brooks (whom I knew slightly and admired) has grounds for his assessment of Dennis as an "aggressive and hard-charging personality," but I can honestly say that in the two years plus in which I became very close to him, I never saw anything to corroborate such a verdict. Perhaps Fr. Crowley changed considerably in the '60s. Or perhaps his "bearishness," too, is just a myth.
Tony Podlecki '57
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The I-290 Bend
I do have some background information on one of the myths—"Interstate 290 Was Altered To Avoid Fitton Field." You are correct in recording this myth to be true. Here are some further facts that will add detail to a wonderful act by a terrific person: My mentor in the commercial real estate business was Thomas Horan, president of Meredith and Grew in Boston. Tom was considered the dean of real estate in Boston in the 1960s and '70s, a well deserved reputation. Among other distinctions, Tom handled all of the real estate for Harvard (his alma mater) and MIT. He was a man of great integrity and a highly accomplished real estate expert.
When Interstate 290 was in the conceptual stage, Meredith and Grew was hired to do appraisal work for the property takings. When Tom looked at the plans, he recognized the serious negative impact that the taking would have on the College. He immediately felt that it was wrong and went to Fr. Swords' office and informed the president of the problem—and then stated that he would represent Holy Cross in order to right the potential wrong. I believe that he added, "You won't have to pay me for my work."
Tom then took the proposed highway layouts and spread them over his living room floor. The Fed's route, of taking Fitton Field, would preserve the carpet factory, an A&P store, several tenements and a factory near Freshman Field. Tom's layout preserved all of the above except for a corner of the carpet factory. He convinced the Feds that this was the right thing to do ... and they did it!
That was Tom Horan! He always did the right thing. In addition, Tom became a supporter of the College, joining the President's Council when it was first formed and continuing membership until his death.
I was blessed to have Tom as my mentor very early in my career and frequently recall different pieces of advice that he shared with me some 40 years ago.
William H. Farley '58
The Brockton Prankster vs. Fr. Desautels
Surely you will be flooded with mail from the Class of 1961 verifying the cow story in Hanselman. It was our senior year and Fr. Desautels (chairman of foreign languages and director of the new language lab) was the corridor prefect on Hanselman 4. He had been taunted for weeks by a well-known Class of '61 prankster from Brockton, Mass. Stunts included toothpaste on the underside of the doorknob to Father's room, women's underwear put in his laundry bag typically hung on the door knob at the end of the week, and Playboy centerfolds under his door. Fr. Desautels took to pacing the hallway at night after "lights out." Someone gained access to the elevator key, brought the cow in at the basement level, pushed the button for the fourth floor, and sent the cow on its way. The frightened cow came quickly off the elevator and confronted a decompensating Fr. Desautels. It is true that there was considerable "soiling" of the corridor requiring a "good deal of cleanup." If memory serves me, Fr. Desautels was thankfully relieved of his duty as corridor prefect.
I'm not sure of the role of the "Brockton Prankster" in the cow incident, but he is
well known to the members of the Class of 1961 and was a formidable adversary for
Fr. Desautels! Another stunt included sneaking into Kimball Hall early in the morning to add green food coloring to the milk for breakfast Friday morning on the weekend that almost the entire school left for New York City to watch George Blaney, Spencer Thompson, et al., play in the first round of the NIT.
While I'm at it, streaking began in our junior year. A senior streaked down the path above the quadrangle in front of Kimball between the Chapel and Fenwick. Unfortunately, a group of nuns visiting the campus was walking in the opposite direction. The senior was asked to leave the Class of 1960 and the following year was readmitted to the school as a member of the Class of 1961 for his senior year.
Finally, you missed the story about the week ROTC put a tank on display in front of Kimball Hall with the turret pointing at Alumni or Carlin. Monday morning the turret with its gun barrel was found pointing at Fr. Swords' office.
Richard A. Wiklund, M.D., '61
North Falmouth, Mass.
The "True and False" myths about Holy Cross were interesting and entertaining. But I must take issue with one reported as "True," about "a pirate radio station that operated on campus in the '60s." The article states, "‘Radio Free Holy Cross' operated for a full decade out of the basement of Alumni Hall," a joint effort of WCHC and the Amateur Radio Society, and "knocked commercially licensed stations off the air."
I was a member of the Amateur Radio Society from 1962-1966, and president of it in 1965-66 (which surely qualifies me for the nerds Hall of Fame), so I was bemused to learn what we were supposedly up to. And as a psychologist now (in case you wondered what nerds do when they grow up), I'm intrigued by how rumors can spread. The allegedly hidden antenna across the Alumni roof had been there for years, totally in the open, and was for normal ham radio frequencies. I do recall blowing some local Citizen's Band radio operators off the air (statute of limitations is expired on that), but nothing so seditious as jamming licensed broadcast stations. I'll spare you nerdy explanations of why that probably wouldn't have been technically feasible. Students in the Quad who saw Joe Roy '65, actually walking out the 8-inch-wide roof ridge-line of Alumni to get to an antenna must have assumed we were up to truly esoteric things, and conjured up some good stories.
Of course, while I'm sure there was no pirate station for a "full decade," I can't be sure what happened after I graduated—D. Richard, were you jamming stations?
John G. Guinan '66
Confirming a Myth
The one myth and legend in the winter 2006 issue that was neither affirmed nor dispelled was the purported painting of the Linden Lane guardhouse, the only myth to receive an "unconfirmed branding." After 20 + years it is probably safe for me to set the record straight. The deed was done on April Fool's Day 1985 when I and two co-conspirators (one of whom graduated with a 3.99 GPA) decided to improve upon an inferior effort the year before. The malfeasants of the prior year used a water-based pink paint which was easily removed with a pressure washer before classes were under way the next day. Mindful of such folly, we were very careful to use an oil-based paint. Accordingly, we respectfully request the status of this myth be changed from "unconfirmed" to "true."
Edwin J. Tobin, Jr. '85
Castleton on Hudson, N.Y.
Your "Myths and Legends" article was very enjoyable. Perhaps I can help with some information on one myth: the painting of the Linden Lane Guard shack. I don't know if that particular shack was ever painted pink, but the shack that existed at the northwest corner of O'Kane was painted green in the early hours of March 17, 1967.
Prior to that academic year, the first semester ended in January, and during the second semester, in mid-March, we had a week free, which the administration hopefully called "Reading Week." Coincidentally, it was also both NIT week and St. Patrick's Day in New York. And since the New York Public Library was not far from Madison Square Garden or the start of the parade, there was a synergy to Reading Week.
That year, however, the schedule had been changed. First semester ended before Christmas, second semester started in late January and "Reading Week" was no more. St. Patrick's Day would be a normal class day.
In protest at our inability to read with our fellow scholars from Notre Dame, Manhattan, Marymount, St. John's, etc., at the Blarney Stone, some decided on a quiet protest. Thus the shack next to O'Kane became green, and there were shamrocks stenciled at various points on campus.
The Celtic Culprits made only one mistake: they had purchased oil-based paint and forgotten to buy paint thinner. And there were no women friends on campus with nail polish remover. Despite the moderate weather a number of students wore gloves around campus.
So, for sure, one guard shack was painted, not pink but green.
Somehow the dean and assistant dean of discipline, both Irish, never caught on ... or did they?
Matthew J. Coffey '67
White Plains, N.Y.