In This Place: March 12, 2014
Of Saints and Sinners: St. Patrick’s Day
It’s a wee bit disappointed I am. Not that me pilferings of St. Paddy’s incidentals was an abuse of me time. But I was hoping for some doings of, shall we say, a more “spirited” nature? If it’s research into the Wearing of the Green in these archives you’ll be doing, put on your Sunday go-to-meeting finery, because nary a stain can ya find ‘mongst these temperate proceedings.
Well . . . almost none!
There’s little mention of St. Patrick’s in the early decades of the News; this 1914 column (possibly Clarke Sanford) sounds as though some readers may not know about the holiday. How about a refresher?
March 13, 1914
Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day. One will search long to find history of more profound interest than that of the Emerald Isle, and the most absorbing is the era of the patron saint Patrick, or Particus, his Roman name.
A captive and swineherd in his younger days, he finally escaped and spent several years in Rome. He then returned and, against the protestations of the Druid high priest who then controlled the pagan island, spread the gospel of Christianity.
Some historians claim Christianity was first introduced in Ireland by Catholic priests from Europe, but Ireland herself accepts Saint Patrick as her national apostle.
It was Saint Patrick who first used the shamrock to illustrate the trinity and gave Ireland her national flower. The harp, another emblem of Ireland, is such because of the nation’s Bardic genius. We shall not discuss here Saint Patrick’s feat of driving the snakes from Ireland but a recent magazine of repute declares that to this day there is not a reptile on Irish soil.
Everyone’s Irish — or not! Destitute Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine faced prejudice and poor wages, but used their loyalty and sheer numbers to grow enormous political power through Tammany Hall and the labor unions. Here in the mountains, even in the depression, however, honoring Irish ancestry stopped short of endorsing unions.
March 20, 1932
Wawaka Grange Votes Against CIO Affiliation
The lecturer presented the following program: Reading, The History of St. Patrick, by Mrs. Bertha Valk; Irish jokes by Willard Sanford; Irish riddles by Mrs. Ethel Hinkley; solo, “My Wild Irish Rose,” by Ralph Eignor; duet, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” by Mrs. Hazel Kelly and daughter, Annette.
Resolutions were drawn to oppose all affiliations with the United Mine Workers.
This bit of Irish blarney came from someone with a very Italian-sounding surname. At least Mr. Rocaro’s intentions seem kind-hearted and — when it comes to the Irish mayor of New York — downright reverential. I suppose any mention of famines would spoil the mood!
March 26, 1948
(From a letter sent to Clarke Sanford)
There is a reason for everything, even for the Irish coming to America though until now that reason has been kept a secret. Here it is:
The cows of Ireland, especially County Kerry, are no larger than our sheep, legs short, having been worn by the bullfrogs jumping upon their backs and subjecting the bovines to excessive exercise. For that reason St. Patrick drove the Bullfrogs out of Ireland—to save the cattle. As for the snakes, they were wise—seeing what happened to the Bullfrogs they beat it.
The Irish were compelled to sit on the grass to milk the short-legged cows, the grass is always wet, garments became soiled, presenting an unfavorable appearance. Thus the Irish came to America, especially to Delaware County where stools are in use for the milkers.
All praise to St. Patrick on his recent anniversary. May his spirit have a home in the hearts of everyone and may the good and now ill Mayor* of New York find a quick recovery. Sincere and heartfelt best wishes that he may soon be restored to health and old-time vigor.
— Naesro Rocaro
*William O’Dwyer, born in County Mayo, was the 100th mayor of New York, having received the nod of Tammany Hall in the 1945 election. At his inauguration, he celebrated to the song, “It’s a Great Day for the Irish.” In 1948 he received The Hundred Year Association of New York’s Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City.”
O’Dwyer apparently recovered from his illness but not from a police corruption scandal in 1949. He resigned from office on August 31, 1950 and was given a ticker tape parade up Broadway.
Here’s a sampling of St. Pat’s festivities where you could bring your sainted grandmother without trepidation.
March 19, 1943
Greene Valley Grange News
St. Patrick’s Day party—Opening song, The Wearing of the Green”; “Story of St. Patrick’s Day,” read by Doris Kelly; discussion, “The Irish Potato,” best facts given by Myron Morse regarding the variety, method of planting and fertilization; Irish spelling bee, two captains chose side[s]. Nearly all words were Irish words. Each speller had to say the word pig before and after spelling each word. When contestant failed to say pig or spelled the word incorrectly he had to drop out. — Mabel Ploutz.
Please note that Doris Kelly has been in an auto accident and is recuperating in Albany. There is a Card of Thanks on page 4A of our print edition with an address to send cards and well wishes.
Irma Mae Griffin was for decades the Roxbury correspondent, and here she is also in the news. Anyone know if she was writing the Roxbury News by then?
March 24, 1944
Mrs. Hildegarde Mays entertained the Willing Workers class at the Methodist parsonage at a most enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day party. The sixteen members present all wore something green, and those who forgot were supplied with a ribbon.
After a prayer, the program began with the song “Comin’ Through the Rye.” Miss Elizabeth Greg read a comic poem, “St. Patrick’s Day.” “The History of St. Patrick” was read by Miss Irma M. Griffin, also a comic poem, “Miss Foggerty’s Cake.” There was a comic guessing game on “snakes” in honor of the fact that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland.
Despite the measles, the show must go on . . .
March 18, 1938
From “The Keyhole: The Eyes and Ears of Margaretville High School”
Saint Patrick will be honored in assembly this Friday by the third and fourth grade pupils. They had planned to give a play, but the epidemic of measles made that impossible. The program will include Irish stories, songs and dances. The chorus will sing “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms.” The “Poet and Peasant” will be played by the orchestra.
Belated consequences of too many Irish toasts? Milo got into trouble on Saturday, March 20. One wonders St. Pat’s was celebrated during weekends when March 17 fell during the work week. Whatever the case, Milo overdid it.
March 26, 1909
Officer George McCumber arrested Milo Waterman of Roxbury Saturday on the charge of public intoxication and he was taken before Justice Austin. While the hearing was in progress, Waterman’s brother Will, who had also taken a slight fall from the water wagon appeared as counsel and began to plead his brother’s case by calling the justice names that cannot be printed. The justice warned him to desist but he did not and the justice turning to the officer instructed him to arrest William also. This was done after the erstwhile lawyer made a fruitless effort to get away. The rest of the affair was that the very drunk one got 30 days at Delhi and the partly drunk one a fine of $10, which was paid.
If that was the liquor talking, Will, it was a pretty expensive drink. You could have had a martini in Public for that price.
Seeing Green? This clip looks like a news story and reads like one too, but “caveat lector,” which means, the editor printed “Advertisement” on top of it.
March 15, 1957
Thousands Expected N.Y. Parade
The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade will beheld Sunday March 17, and is to be the biggest in its history. Many area residents have already planned a trip to New York to see this spectacular and colorful parade.
In Kingston, Kaye Sportswair [sic] have just completed their annual St. Patrick’s window displays, eye-catching and colorfully decorated with everything in Kelly green — green derbies, neckties, bow ties, Kentucky Colonel how ties, sox, sweaters, and so [on]. These items are all available for purchase at Kaye Sportwair located at 46 and 48 North Front in Kingston.
It’s the “Patrick” trifecta! I guess poor Sweeney was hoping to see the parade, and paid dearly for it. Railroad historian John Ham says that a ticket from Big Indian to Weehawken (NJ) cost $7.25 in 1948. What do you want to bet Sweeney’s fine was more than the ticket?
March 31, 1950
A St. Patrick’s Day Affair
Patrick Sweeney of Big Indian was arrested for disorderly conduct on St. Patrick’s Day for trying to steal a ride on a New York train at Big Indian. Brought before Justice Donald M. Fenton by Troopers Patrick O’Hara and Jerry Mullane, he pleaded guilty and was fined $10.
Most of us are not full Irish, and many of us were not born here. But I often conjure Gerald O’Hara when I drive up the hill to my little mountain home or try to explain the loving iron grip “this place” holds on us: “It will come to you, this love of the land. There’s no gettin’ away from it if you’re Irish. To anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them — why, the land they live on is like their mother.”
Is it just me, or does everyone have Thomas Moore songs running through their heads?
I welcome ideas for topics, people or events to research. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to visit the archives yourself to look into your favorite Catskill Mountain characters: http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/middletown.