Wednesday, March 17, 2010

17 March 1956 “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”

Here is a 1950’s Celebration of St. Patrick in Ireland.


Richard J. Daley became Mayor of Chicago in April 1955.  The very next year, the city's newspapers announced he was planning "a parade" for March 17--St. Patrick's Day.

Other American cities had a history of grand St. Patrick's Day parades.  Chicago's Irish had staged a few parades on-and-off since the 1840s, and there was a long-running event on 79th Street.  But holding a major, city-wide parade for the  feast day was not a Chicago tradition.

3-17--early parade.jpg

March 17 fell on a Saturday in 1956.  Led by the mayor, the City of Chicago's first official St. Patrick's Day parade stepped off from State and Kinzie at noon.  The route went south on State to Adams, then continued west on Adams to Des Plaines Street and Old St. Patrick Church. Today, Chicago goes so far as to dye their river way green!

southboston50s This photo of two young Irish-American’s in the South End of Boston during a 1950’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is rather good, I think. South has for quite some time been a highly concentrated area of Irish Americans. What is rather sad is today, as much is the case around the country and world really, the increase in property values and need of space pushes out the poorer old neighborhood residents to make way for high-end condominiums and housing. Many places are losing their ‘local color’ and merely becoming homogenized versions of everywhere else. Much like the continuity of the big business  from one city to another, so to do we accept the ‘gentrification’ of various parts of cities.

A few years back, hubby and I had made a trip with the intent to buy a home in Savannah GA. It was a lovely city and many of the older houses were so beautiful and being fixed up and the city really having  a rebirth. One day, with our Real estate Agent, we were being shown around the city. There was almost an exact line where you could go to one street and it was fancy fixed up houses and the next would be rather run down and a bit scary. She was showing us a darling Victorian house on such a street. It was literally the next street after a ‘fixed up’ street. I remember getting out (we three white people) and many African Americans sitting about on porches and really looking at us. I felt, for the first time in my life, frightened by that racial difference. I asked our Real Estate Agent what was going on. She said they were upset because of the gentrification. She said, ‘Don’t worry, this is the right place to buy, you can get a good price now and others will follow”. “But what happens to those who already live here” I asked naively. “I don’t know,” says she, “they’ll find somewhere to live”. That was the moment that hubby and I knew we could not make the move. The thought of having to both be the object of their anger and hatred and also to know we actually DID contribute to their need to be moved out of their neighborhood was the last straw for us. We enjoyed the rest of our trip and decided to stay New Englanders. That is not to say that is not happening all the time here, though, so don’t think I am saying it is a Southern thing. We just seem to be displacing people.

The Irish were once on the very bottom rung of social order. After the Potato famine of the 1840’s, thousands fled to America. In one year Boston’s Irish Population jumped from 30,000 to 100,000! Many turned to servitude for employment and 70% of servants in Boston were Irish, two-thirds of which were female. Indeed, many of that time considered the Irish a ‘servant race’ in a sense.

The established working classes in America resented the influx of the Irish, as they would work for anything. And, though many Irish were servants, Employers would place signs with NINA scrawled across the front which stood for No Irish Need Apply.

We can look back now and be appalled by the blatant ill treatment of the Irish influx of people, yet places like the South End in Boston that had been the stronghold of the ‘undesirable’ Irish is now being taken over by development. Those, indeed many who are not Irish nor have that heritage, are moving in as they can afford the high rents and taxes, while the old families, now that their once ‘slums’ are desirable, have to move out. It is true, that if they owned their property they could make money from its sale, yet have to give up their place, home and cultural identity to that location. Such ill-treatment, then, still exists, it just has a different face and name.

Really, our country is made up of various groups of people who came here to leave hardship behind. Once established, they seem to forget their own plight and are happy to then oppress the next influx of people. Today there is still much talk of African American and Native American unfair treatment, but we must remember that almost all the various races that were forced here underwent ill treatment. We seem, we humans, to have short memories. Perhaps, sadly, it is just human nature. Rather a grim St. Patrick’s Day post, but the Irish are such a part of Boston today, that they are hardly considered a lower social order anymore.

Here is an old record from 1950’s about Southie town in Boston. A remembrance of pride and feeling of belonging to your neighborhood, even if it were a poorer area of town. The end makes me almost tear up when they talk about the fighting in world war II and there stands the Irish lad from Southie.

irishsodabread Sticking with the theme of the day, here is a rather good Irish Soda Bread recipe. I am not sure how common this type of bread is throughout the country, but around here, it is fairly common to buy Irish Soda Bread, particularly in March.

Nora's Irish Soda Bread

Mix Dry Ingredients

  • 3½ Cups flour

  • 4 Teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/3 Cup sugar

  • ½ Teaspoon baking soda

  • 8 oz. Raisins, softened (soak in hot water, drain)

  • ½ Teaspoon salt

  • 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds

Mix Wet Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs beaten

  • 1 Cup sour cream

  • ½ Cup buttermilk

  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter

  • Combine wet and dry ingredients, knead together

Add to greased, floured 9” pan. Cut an “X” in the top.

Bake 55-60 minutes at 350°

greendress Wouldn’t this be a  lovely dress to wear today, showing the green? I am going to be wearing a green cotton dress (the one I wore in the photo for the TimeWarpWives interview-though it is B&W there, it is actually a soft green cotton)

Are any of you doing anything special for the day? Any particular way your area celebrates the day?

Happy Homemaking and keep those Apron Strings Tied!


  1. I am proud of my Irish ancestry :) I've traced them back to Kilkenny County Ireland, they came over in 1832 :)

    If I go to the same village that my ancestors were born in I would definitely meet up with some distant cousins there, as the name is still very much local :)

    Mom in Canada

    Happy St. Paddy's Day everyone.......

  2. what, no pinches for 50sgal?

    there is no St. Patty's without the pinching~!

  3. Actually, hubby had today off, so we poked around our little town. Walked in the sunshine, sat by the mill pond, even frequented my favorite little antique/thrift shop. I had forgot to iron my green dress, so instead was dressed all in blue. When we stopped for lunch and tea at our little tea shop, the owner (who knows us) was going to pinch me, but I showed her I was wearing Green eyeshadow. So, I escaped the pinches!

  4. When we were living in Boston I made corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day and red flannel hash on the next day. My ancestry is pretty much 100% Swiss German and now that were back home in PA I've kind of gotten out of the habit. But what a delicious habit to get back into!


  5. well i have not a single drop of Irish in me. im half Welsh and half Croatian. my husband and children though have a bit of Irish in them, but my husbands family does not do anything to calibrate that heritage. in fact, i cant think of a single thing that we do that reflects any of our heritage! a bit sad i think. i may have to look up a few things and find us some traditions we can start with our family.

  6. some fabric to recreate that green dress:

  7. 50sGal, do you find yourself spending your 'days off' in 1956 much differently than before you commenced your 50s journey? eg What would you have normally been doing on St Patrick's Day or other holidays that are celebrated in America? I know your everyday 'leisure' is totally different with lots of productive activities involved. Would your time-out away from household duties (as great as they are, everyone needs a change) be enjoying the simpler things... 'smelling the roses' so to speak? Pass-times that I would have thought boring years ago now seem to hold so much joy and preciousness. Linda

  8. Linda-very much so. This St. Pat's day, hubby and I (he had the day off) went for a walk around our little town, went to our little antique shop and bought some books and such. Had lunch at one of our tea houses, that sort of thing. Pre 55 we would have most likely gone out to eat a more expensive dinner (we just went out for lunch rather rare for us these days) and maybe gone to the city or party etc. I find myself much more a 'home body' and rather enjoying it. I am not sure if it is even on purpose, it just sort of evolved and feels right. I spend do much LESS money than before 1955 and yet feel more fulfilled and happier.
    suspiria-I love that lawn fabric. I bookmarked that site. That is an amazing price for that cotton, thanks.

  9. Texas Accent In SydneyMarch 19, 2010 at 4:54 PM

    As an American in Australia, the natives look with amusement on the many holidays I celebrate ... I'm a small candle burning in the darkness, demonstrating how we celebrate Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween ... I'm a redhead and my maiden name began with Mc so I used to have big fun on St. Patrick's ... but I can't have that same kind of fun now ... baked cookies for my daughter's class at school ... found a vintage shamrock cookie cutter on Ebay, rolled out shamrock cookies, frosted green ... previous years made cupcakes and piped shamrocks on top ... daughter and I do the wearing of the green, husband less enthusiastic ... did a little pinching, but only to grownups who actually knew and did not comply, not kids or the unaware ... 50s Gal, just green eyeshadow?

  10. that's a bit strange. i thought that Australia had many Irish immigrants during the 'old' days.

  11. Yes, I know, I should have been pinched, by I did have a green bow on my hat, as well, does that count!

  12. Hi there 50sGal,
    I don't know if you've seen this, but it made me think of your blog:
    British restaurant serves WWII rations

  13. Hi 50’s gal!

    Thank you for the informational post.

    We attended our local St. Patty’s Day parade with daughter and family and Mom and Dad. It is always so fun to watch the little people (put pix on my blog).

    Our state has the second largest Irish celebration in the world (according to my brother who researched it). We were in that town one year, and the Queen of Ireland was there.

    I have Irish in me but didn’t think I had much since I am 75% German, and the remainder is split between Irish, Scotch, and Welch. Just a couple of months ago, however, someone commented on my hair (Dad and I have reddish under tones, and my hair is very wiry and bushy) and said that it was from the Irish in me. So, I guess the traits do come out.

  14. That dress is beautiful!!
    I would really love to wear it...

    By the way, I am a 19 year old student who adores the 1950s. I have also been reading your blo since last year.

    You are an amazing person, 50s gal!

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