NEW YORK: Bugs in the Bronx

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In a Bronx saloon one night last week, something large and loathsome zoomed through the air, plopped on the bar, waved long, quivering antennae at Customer Michael X. McDermott. Customer McDermott, who had drunk two beers and was looking forward to more, changed his plans in midswallow and beat a hasty departure.

Back in the safer precincts of his native Manhattan, Customer McDermott told friends he had been attacked by a flying cockroach, two inches long, with scaly brown wings and hairy legs. They scoffed. "All right, so it didn't fly," said brooding Mike McDermott. "Then it sure jumped a hell of a long ways."

Next day Mike McDermott was vindicated: New York City newspapers were full of stories of The Bronx's flying cockroaches. They came up from the sewers at night, took off, landed indiscriminately on bars, dinner tables, department-store counters, people.

They frightened children and ruined business. Borough President James J. Lyons made an official investigation, discovered the cause ("We've been having nice weather for cockroaches") and promised a cure (gallons of insecticide to be poured into the sewer openings).

Newsmen, calling Bronx citizens, got day-by-day communiqués on the battle. They also got a few rebukes. One citizen shouted into the phone: "Listen, mister, this is a delicatessen. With all these people lined up for cold cuts, I should talk to you about cockroaches!"