On the Road in 1962
With St. Patrick’s Day coming up soon, let’s take a Roadtrip-'62 ™ look at St. Patrick’s Day parades in 1962. First, a look at St. Patrick’s Day parades along our US-23 roadtrip, then elsewhere around the country.
Bay City, Michigan’s St. Patrick's Day parade began in 1955. Today, as it did back then, the parade proceeds down Center Avenue, a street of beautiful, historic homes. Since it’s beginning, it has expanded to include a pre-parade event with dinner and dancing the night before. You can find more info about this year’s parade at the Bay City St. Patrick’s Day Association website.
Farther south along US-23, in Columbus, Ohio, the Shamrock Club of Columbus has been holding a parade since 1936. The current parade route crosses US-23. The day begins with a Procession to Mass, followed by Mass at Holy Cross Church, the first Catholic Church in Columbus. After the parade, they hold an Irish Family Reunion. The club bills itself as Central Ohio's Largest Irish Organization.
The 7 Nations Celtic Club of Southern Ohio will hold it's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Portsmouth, Ohio. Here’s a parade highlight from 2011, featuring some fine bagpipers heading right down US-23 to Tracy Park.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Atlanta, Georgia is the farthest south I’ve found along US-23. Atlanta held its first parade in 1858. It proceeds down Peachtree Avenue toward Woodruff Park and in one recent year, Ireland’s Consul General was the Grand Marshall. The parade has had over 200 units, which I’m guessing makes it the largest parade on our route! It was originally held by Atlanta’s Hibernian Benevolent Society and is now produced by Atlanta St. Patrick’s Parade, Inc., formed of representatives of several local Irish societies.
And there are parades along our US-6 route also. Scranton, Pennsylvania’s first St. Patrick's Day parade was held in 1962 by the St. Patrick's Parade Association of Lackawanna County. The Scranton parade is also preceded a Mass, at St. Peter’s Cathedral. This one claims to be the second largest parade in the country, as measured by participants per population of the host city. Savannah, Georgia is first and New York City is third.
Denver, Colorado, which is also on our US-6 roadtrip, will be hosting their 55th annual St. Patrick's Day parade this year, so we could have seen one in 1962. The parade dates back to 1889, when Denver held its very first St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It continued until 1921 and was then interrupted until 1962. That year, a visit to Denver from the Lord Mayor of Dublin, prompted the welcoming committee to transport the Lord Mayor from the airport to Duffy’s Shamrock Tavern for dinner via motorcade. Today, Ireland's first Consul General to the U.S. Southwest attends the parade held by the Denver St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.
I’m sure that everyone has heard of New York City’s Patrick's Day parade, but did you know that Newark, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River, also has a parade? It claims to be New Jersey’s first, founded in 1936 and now in its 82nd year. Their celebration is so big that they paint Mulberry Street green! Newark also starts the day with a Mass, and their parade features the Newark Firefighters Pipe Band and the Knights of Columbus 4th Degree Color Guard.
To the east of Newark out at the tip of Long Island, Montauk, New York’s parade was founded in 1962! You won’t get here by any US-numbered route, as the closest one is across Long Island Sound in Connecticut. The original organizing group, the Montauk Friends of Erin, consisted of only 12 members. Before the parade, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce will be serving hot soup in your very own St. Patrick’s Day Parade souvenir mug.
Also in New York state, and also well off any US-numbered highways, is the parade at Alfred. Reader George Lane sent us a photo of the parade he took in 1961 or 1962 and notes that the parade is a tradition at Alfred University beginning in the 1930s. As it happens, St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of the Ceramic Engineers, and the State University of New York College of Ceramics is at Alfred University.
At Savannah, Georgia’s Patricks Day parade, you might see the famous Clydesdales clomp by. They have appeared in recent years, pulling their Budweiser Beer wagon. Today, the parade features more than 350 marching units and up to 15,000 people. But when it started in 1824, it was more of a military parade, with soldiers from different regiments marching in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Even today, the Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee honors the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, in the armed forces of the United States of America.
Out west, Houston, Texas holds a St. Patrick's Day Parade dating back to the 1880s. As might be expected with something having a tradition that old, it has been interrupted several times since. It started in "Irish Town" by old St. Patrick's Church and originally continued until World War I. It was revived in 1960 by local radio personalities, Tim Nolan and Bob Bryant and has since grown into one of the city's largest parades. The Houston St. Patrick's Parade Commission notes that this two-hour parade has historically been one of the largest in the U.S. and each year includes over 100 entries.
And of course, the biggest and best known of St. Patricks Day parades is that held in Chicago, Illinois! It has been marched continuously since 1957. The day’s events include dyeing the Chicago River green, which they’ve done since 1962! I hope you’ve enjoyed this special St. Patrick's Day article from Roadtrip-'62 ™ and visit one of the parades next week.
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2017 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
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