Saturday, August 27, 2011

John McCann Somers Point Mayor (1972-1974)

John McCann, Jr.

Before Bayshores was demolished and the Waterfront built, one of its last owners was John McCann, Jr., the son of the long time owner, former bootlegger and Philadelphia beer baron John McCann, Sr.

The McCanns lived in a big historic house on Bay Avenue across from Smith’s Pier where they had built a Olympic diving pool for McCann’s daughter while McCann, Jr. was reared to take over the nightclub business.

John McCann, Jr. grew up working at Bayshores and the Dunes, and could often found sitting on a stool at the front door with a wad full of money in his hands, taking the cover charge to get in.
After college he became a successful businessman and following George Roberts, was elected mayor of Somers Point (1972-1974). He served as mayor while at the same time directing a Pittsburgh company with his brother-in-law. On occasion he would fly in by helicopter to attend city council meetings before eventually relinquishing his local post to concentrate on his Pittsburgh business.

The Dunes after hours club in Egg Harbor Township was sold to State Senator Pat Dodd, who also flew in by helicopter to oversee the Dunes before that too was eventually sold to the N.J. Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, going from one wildlife to another.

Like his father the bootlegging beer baron, John McCann, Jr. became something of a pirate himself, as his financial success, it turned out, was based in part on smuggling cocaine from Columbia via Panama. In Panama, where he refueled, he personally brokered a deal with then dictator Manuel Noreaga with a $200,000 bribe. Once when McCann visited Panama, the dictator showed him his CIA file, which also indicated the CIA’s support for Noreaga. Both appeared to have the Reagan administration’s support to smuggle the drugs, possibly as part of the CIA’s contra operations in Nicaragua.

But after one of McCann’s planes crashed in Mexico, McCann and his wife and two children disappeared, mystifying his Pittsburgh neighbors. After a federal warrant was issued for him while he was on the run, a former Somers Point neighbor on vacation in Canada ran into him stocking the shelves at a convenience store. McCann was later arrested while trying to cross the Canadian boarder back into the USA, and he later died at the Federal Penn at Merion, Illinois where Noreaga is now living.

A local wake was held for McCann at the upstairs loft at the Waterfront, the site of the old Bay Shores, and he is remembered locally as a good guy who got involved with some bad people and paid his dues for his mistakes.

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