A memo went up on the bulletin board at the Citizens’ Voice sometime in the 1980s during the still heated days of the labor strike. It looked kind of authentic — until you read it through to the end.
The memo noted that a new byline had appeared in The Times Leader — that of Trout Pomeroy, a staffer who came to Wilkes-Barre. The memo said this was a deliberate attempt by ‘the other paper’ to attract some of the CV’s most loyal supporters — outdoorsmen and retail shoppers. Trout Pomeroy? Really?
“To combat this, starting tomorrow, O’Boyle’s byline will run as Mackerel Boscov,” the author wrote.
The note had been written by Mike McGlynn.
McGlynn and I shared bylines at the Wyoming Valley Observer, the Wyoming Valley Times Journal and finally the Citizens’ Voice. I sat next to McGlynn in the CV newsroom for nearly 12 years and never was there a dull moment. McGlynn was one of the smartest, wittiest and funniest columnists I’ve ever encountered. McGlynn’s column had the title of “The Cabbage Patch,” inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.”
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax, Of cabbages — and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot, And whether pigs have wings.”
His columns always nailed the point and in a manner that was not only funny and informative, they were downright spot on.
For example, in the aftermath of the local public waterborne giardiasis outbreak in the mid-1980s, McGlynn wrote in his column about Pennsylvania Gas & Water Co. and its corporate failure to provide good, clean, safe water to its customers. Profits were little on the water side of the company, so things like watershed maintenance and safety precautions amounted to little more than “the chlorine will get it” philosophy of the company and its board of directors.
So in January, 1984, McGlynn, in typical style, said it was time to determine if our water should be publicly owned.
“Sure the water system could end up being guarded by a bunch of goofballs and political hacks,” he wrote. “But they would, at least, be goofballs accountable to the public, rather than to stockholders who care more about profit than pollution.”
And then he ended the column in classic McGlynn style: “If you can’t provide clean water, you shouldn’t be in the business of providing clean water.”
McGlynn’s forte was politics. He loved to write about the antics and buffoonery that too often typified our local, state and national elected officials. He would lay it out there in a style that made you angry, embarrassed and hysterical with laughter.
The CV recently excerpted a New Year’s Eve column in 1996 when McGlynn wrote that had Luzerne County officials been in charge of decorating the Sistine Chapel, “they’d have had Michelangelo out painting faces on fire hydrants and given the inside job to somebody’s nephew Simp, whose only other such undertaking was spray-painting the city streets green for St. Patrick’s Day.”
The humorous antics weren’t limited to the news pages.
A die-hard New York Mets fan, McGlynn knew the intricacies of the game and he bristled when a player or manager would perform ineptly.
McGlynn particularly bristled at Tommy Lasorda, the iconic manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and a native Pennsylvanian. Lasorda had on several occasions mis-managed his team to the benefit of the Phillies and other rivals of the Mets — causing McGlynn’s favorite squad to drop further in the standings.
McGlynn dealt with his frustration by writing letters to Lasorda detailing his mental shortcomings and urging him to resign for the betterment of the game. These letters, we all assumed, went unnoticed by Lasorda. Or so we thought.
One night McGlynn’s phone rang and he listened, all the while laughing so hard that his face became red. He waved the phone at me and indicated I should listen in on the same line.
Sure enough, Tommy Lasorda was screaming at McGlynn from his office in Dodger Stadium.
Lasorda, known to be a master of vulgarity, berated McGlynn, calling him every filthy name in the book and even threatening to come to Wilkes-Barre — “Wherever the **** that is” — and kick McGlynn’s ***.”
The phone call lasted several minutes. McGlynn never had the opportunity to respond. Lasorda finished his tirade and hung up.
McGlynn reveled in the moment. He had managed to provoke Lasorda enough to have him call and that made his day.
Now the time has truly come, as the Walrus said, to talk of many thingsof cabbages and kings.
Mike McGlynn was one to marvel at, but to never try to emulate. He truly was one of a kind.
Farewell, my friend, until we meet again. To you, I raise a pint.
Bill O’Boyle, a Times Leader staff writer, can be reached at 829-7218.