Remembering the “So-Long Gang’

Activists Carl Mau and Robert Anthony annoyed just about everyone.

Activists Carl Mau and Robert Anthony annoyed just about everyone. There were a lot of people like that in the 1960s. A gung-ho veteran of the World War II school, Mau decided it would be a great idea to offer coffee, doughnuts and a comfortable place to draftees waiting outside the Media Selective Service office. From there, buses would take them to the induction center and, in some cases, on to Vietnam. Mau dubbed it “Operation So-Long Gang.” But he couldn’t help turning it into a spectacle.

It was all too much to resist for Anthony, a Quaker, a WWII conscientious objector and a perennial antiwar protester. During the project’s five-year span from 1968 to 1973, Anthony and other protesters showed up often to challenge what the draftees were told. A regular feature: Mau and Anthony, nose to nose. Even draftees were annoyed.

“Mau and Bob just had this … thing,” recalls Bill Smith, a fellow protester with Anthony who remains active in the peace movement. “It was like two old men in different ideological corners who’d just rub on each other.”

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Born in Wilkes-Barre, Mau grew up in Forty Fort, Pa., where he exhibited an early determination. As he told the story years later, Mau warned his high school baseball coach that the ball diamond had been set up too close to the school building. The coach ignored him, and Mau proceeded to prove his point. Over the course of the season, he knocked out 47 windows.

Mau came to Delaware County in 1942, according to his obituary. He served in World War II and, upon coming home, became the publisher of two small weeklies, the Delaware County Press and the Marcus Hook Herald. The papers didn’t last. Mau was most successful as publisher of the Delaware County Yearbook, which collected information on municipalities.

Always audacious, he ran for governor soon after getting out of the Army. “I figured it this way,” Mau told Delaware County Daily Times columnist Martin Halstuk in 1977, “I’d start at the top of the tree and, if I didn’t make it, I could grab a few branches on my way down.”

But he never grabbed any branches. Over the years, Mau ran for the state legislature three times, for sheriff twice, and for Congress twice, but he never won anything. For this, Mau credited his political independence. “I’ve always been an independent Republican,” he said. “The organization was always against me. I couldn’t stand by and make deals.”

Others might have said that Mau was not a team player. During the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign, for instance, he printed a batch of Nixon stickers and offered them to Republicans to raise money for local races. Those in Delaware County rejected the proposal, but others bought in. When some of those “other” Republicans’ stickers ended up in Upper Darby, local politicos slammed Mau for siphoning off their financial support.

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Having burned bridges with local pols, Mau embraced his role as an outsider. Billing himself as the “Idea Man of Delaware County”—a phrase now on his grave marker—Mau spun off proposals by the dozen. Most were charitable funds for children touched by tragedy and earthquake victims in Italy. He helped settle a 1966 strike at the Westinghouse plant in Tinicum and originated the Christmas light display at Rose Tree Park. In the early 1970s, he headed a committee that tried to generate interest in a bicentennial exposition on Tinicum Island.

Patriotic causes, in particular, got Mau’s blood racing. Immediately following WWII, he campaigned to save the homes of several veterans after the contractor ran into difficulty. He was always active in Memorial Day and Veterans Day activities, and he came up with the proposal to rename a portion of South Avenue in Media “Veterans Square.”

Mau’s politics were right of center. During the 1960s, he hosted a talk show on WXUR. Faith Theological Seminary owned the radio station and campaigned against the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to present both sides of issues. 

Robert Anthony was a different breed entirely. Born to an Episcopalian family and raised in Touisset, Mass., he earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1931 and later worked for utility companies. 

Anthony originally came to the region to perform alternative service. In the process, he discovered Quakerism, settled in Moylan, and joined Third Street Friends Meeting in Media.

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In 1951, Anthony earned a master’s degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and worked as an art therapist. According to his obituary, he taught painting to patients at Eugenia Hospital and worked with mentally disabled children at Devereux schools.

Mainly, though, Anthony was an activist. He fought construction of the Blue Route for 25 years, once chaining himself to a tree to block its progress. The road opened in 1991, but opponents caused long delays and reduced its size. Anthony conceded in 1996 that the road wasn’t as bad as he’d feared, but he avoided driving on it. He also resisted construction of the Limerick nuclear plant.

Without question, Anthony’s top issue of concern was war. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, he seems to have lived at sidewalk protests. In 1969, he was one of a half-dozen Quakers arrested on the Capitol steps in Washington for reading the names of the Vietnam dead from the Congressional Record.

Anthony also began a long battle with the IRS, claiming a “war crimes deduction” that reduced what he owed to zero. When it was denied, he refused to pay the portion of his taxes that funded the military. Doing so, he said, would violate his religious freedom. A U.S. Court of Appeals eventually ruled that religious belief did not affect the responsibility to pay taxes. “He lived for causes,” recalls Peg Linvill, a Media Quaker and owner of Linvilla Orchards. “No matter where you went in those years, if you were a Quaker and a pacifist, he was there before you.”

In September 1968, Mau learned that local draftees were boarding buses near the courthouse every month without fanfare. Media Selective Service was lukewarm about Mau’s proposed cere-mony. “I don’t really think [draftees] want it,” board chairman Allen Clark told the Daily Times. “We’ve had no requests from the boys.” 

But Mau was not one to be deterred. “No one can tell me that a kid doesn’t like a pat on the back,” he said.

Within days, it was arranged. At 6:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, draftees arriving at the first event were offered coffee and doughnuts at the Towne House restaurant, next door to the draft office. The Sun Valley High School band performed, and the Salvation Army gave out shaving kits. Members of the Marple VFW, the Media Lions Club, the American Legion, several Rotary clubs and other groups were present to cheer on the boys.

Before the first event, Anthony showed up at Mau’s office to propose a debate. As he described his encounter with Mau to the Daily Times, Anthony said he was “threatened with violence” if he tried to speak. Mau’s version: “I pointed my finger in his face and I advised him if he or his ilk did anything to demoralize these kids, he’d live to regret it.”

A crowd of 300 met 25 draftees that Friday. “Spirited songs, words of patriotism, and eye-catching majorettes all played a part,” reported the Daily Times, which also described antiwar demonstrators passing out leaflets. “Get away from me,” said the mother of one draftee to a demonstrator. “I’m going to smash your face if you don’t get away from me.” 

One draftee folded a leaflet and put it in his pocket; another threw it on the ground. Someone offered a leaflet to Mau. “I ought to put this on your head,” Mau told the demonstrator.

And he did just that.

Anthony was back in November. “I don’t want you fellows to go,” he said to a handful of draftees, telling of a “brave Catholic priest” who had destroyed draft records. “Play a little louder, will you, and drown this guy out,” shouted a veteran at a musician who’d shown up to play his accordion. Anthony’s words, he said, were treason. “And the penalty for treason is execution,” he said.

Most draftees went into the Towne House, ate doughnuts and listened to Mau’s exhortation. “You may go through a gauntlet of second-class citizens trying to give you literature,” he said. “Pay no attention to them.” 

Later, as they boarded their bus, Anthony stood at the door, wished them luck and said he would keep “working to bring you home.”

Like Vietnam itself, So-Long Gang events became scenes of a grinding war between the two sides. In February 1970, when the ceremony was moved into the warmth of the Towne House, Anthony and several protesters followed to ask for equal time. Mau had police haul them out.

In March, Anthony asked the school board in Nether Providence (where he lived) to withdraw the high school band from the events. “Anthony described it as an intrusion on a private and personal experience for young draftees,” reported the Daily Times.

In February 1971, Anthony and about 50 demonstrators picketed the Bell Telephone office to protest a phone tax that financed the war. Mau appeared and said the demonstrators “needed two things: a haircut and a psychiatrist.”

Later that month, the ecumenical Media Ministerium announced that its clergy members would no longer participate in Mau’s event and called for its discontinuance. Mau called the ministers “despicable.” He soon had them replaced with clergy from the Delaware Valley Evangelical Fundamental Ministerium.

Dueling letters to the editor took apart events and participants from every angle. In 1971, “Mrs. Frank McDonald” of Newtown Square described one draftee’s reaction: “Late last year, when my son was due to report for induction, he refused to go to Media and ‘have to listen to all that junk.’ We drove him to [the induction center] ourselves rather than have him subjected to same.”

Mau blamed Anthony’s protests for such reactions. “I feel these young men are upset enough without injecting a last-minute catalytic agent into their nervous systems,” he wrote the Daily Times.

Increasingly, though, observers seemed to conclude that the So-Long Gang was really about Carl Mau. Among them were some draftees.

“You couldn’t print what I think of Carl Mau and his activities,” said draftee Edward Colletta in March 1971, to which another nodded. “I don’t see any point to all this. It’s too much noise too early in the morning. I see no purpose in having a band here.” 

Another draftee watched 15 girls on the Penncrest drill team march back and forth and remarked, “How can they do something like that at a time like this?”

The So-Long Gang disbanded, along with the draft, in 1973. Mau moved on to other causes, including a momentary alliance with anti-gay-rights crusader Anita Bryant. Anthony continued on with the peace movement.

Not surprisingly, neither ever won any popularity contests.

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