Corned beef and cabbage and potatoes and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Channel 11, hosted by Captain Jack McCarthy. Irish LPs playing sad, sad songs on the stereo, followed by The Quiet Man on television. That was St. Patrick’s Day in our household.
There was always green beer around the house, courtesy of my father and some food coloring. I asked several times, okay, perhaps dozens of times, if I could have some green beer but year after year, I went without a sip.
But the year I turned 10, I asked again and my dad shrugged and said I was old enough so he gave me a glass. I was so shocked that I hesitated.
“Well, if you don’t want it,” he said.
Oh, I wanted it! I grabbed it, took a deep breath and swallowed it whole. When my dad offered me another, I drained that glass, too. I probably had another one later on; I sort of remember a toast and some singing. Then I felt tired and lay down.
Later, I found out that my father had put some green dye into some club soda for me. That ended any desires I had to drink alcohol. Well, for a few years, at least.
But my favorite was the music. Sure enough, a lot of the singers played in our house were Scottish, but a lot of the songs were old standards, popular in both cultures. The recordings were done in music halls, where the audiences cheered and sang along.
By the time the parade was over, mom and dad were singing along with the audience and, once in a while during a ballad, they’d dance in the living room.
Those were happy times in our house, a perfect blend of love and song and food and laughs.
This Saturday, we’re getting a head start on St. Patrick’s Day, holding a celebration and party a week before everyone else.
It starts with the rededication of Father Lawrence E. Lynch Memorial Triangle on Saturday. Many of you have read the details before. For those who haven’t, here’s the short version:
Local Irish kid (he lived on Elderts Lane), grows up and becomes a beloved priest in WWII, serves with the Fighting 69th and is killed at the Battle of Okinawa. City mourns and names triangle in his honor, but over time people forget about the priest and his sacrifice and the triangle sits unnamed and forgotten for decades.
The Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society and American Legion Post 118 brought this information to Councilman Eric Ulrich and, thanks to him, on March 9 at 10 a.m., we will see the honor that was given to that piece of land restored when it becomes once again Father Lawrence E. Lynch Memorial Triangle.
The triangle is at Atlantic Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard, so you’ve passed by it a million times. If you go to Atlantic Avenue and 80th Street you can’t miss it.
Father Lynch’s life was immortalized in a wonderful book that took its title from the nickname given to him by the soldiers – Father Cyclone. The name fit because he was always active and always running off to do something else.
For example, during a posting on the island of New Caledonia, the men noticed that Father Lynch would disappear for a few hours three or four days a week. It turned out he was helping a local group of lepers rebuild their village after a storm.
It was no surprise to any of them men that Father Cyclone was often found at the front lines, where the danger was. That, he felt, was where he was needed.
He was a great man of honor and he treated everyone he encountered with respect and dignity. The neighborhoods of Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Cypress Hills are gaining something special with the naming of this triangle.
Afterwards, we’re going to have a St. Patrick’s Day Party in Father Cyclone’s honor at Neir’s Tavern at 87-48 78th Street, just a few blocks away. That party is free and everyone is welcome. Come join me in raising a toast to Father Lynch.
And if you come and see me drinking something green, I’m telling you right now it ain’t going to be club soda.