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!

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