Dallas' St. Patrick's Day Celebration Used to Involve Actual Irish People

IrishSuperman.jpg
Danny Hurley
Frank E. McGowan is appalled.
Let's be honest: Apart from some obligatory references to the Emerald Isle's patron saint and the enthusiastic embrace of Ireland's most famous pastime (binge drinking), there's nothing terribly Irish about Dallas' St. Patrick's Day celebration. For revelers, it's about getting hammered; for the Greenville Avenue bars and restaurants that sponsor the event, it's mostly about making money.

Nothing wrong with either of those things, but it's worth remembering that it hasn't always been so. In 1960, for instance, there was real concern -- and a serious dispute -- over the authenticity of Dallas' observance of the holiday.

In one corner you had Fred E. Goodridge, third-generation Irishman, card-carrying member of the Irish-heritage group Sons of Erin and organizer of Dallas' 1960 St. Patrick's Day Parade. In the other was Frank E. McGowan, second-generation Irishman, member of the rival Irish-heritage group the Ancient Order of Hibernians and organizer of an Irish-only ball at the Statler Hilton.

McGowan was of the opinion that his soiree was the only legitimate celebration of Irishness to be had in the city. "There aren't enough Irishmen in Dallas to have a legitimate parade," he told legendary newsman Jim Lehrer, at the time a cub reporter for The Dallas Morning News. "What's he want us real Irishmen to do ... stand on the corner and wave green flags as he rides by on a red fire truck."

Goodridge was more concerned with throwing a bitchin' party: "Let everybody who wants to wear the green march in the parade," he said.

He called McGowan a "sorehead." McGowan declared Goodridge to be "no more Irish than Castro."

Goodridge, according to the vintage news articles posted today on Flashback: Dallas, was ultimately victorious, both over McGowan and the city bureaucrats who refused to allow parade organizers to paint a green stripe down Main Street.

Goodridge ignored McGowan's insults ("He says I'm no more Irish than Castro. I don't even wear a beard," he "hooted.") and moved forward with the parade. The green stripe appeared overnight after various city officials, including Mayor R.L. Thornton, refused to allow it. Walter Conroy, the "Irish mad" Irishman who had previously threatened to "go down there at 4 in the morning and paint that stripe" claimed to have had nothing to do with it.

"I don't really see why everybody's blaming me," he told Lehrer. "It could just as easily have been the Leprechaun and Thornton Paint Company."

(h/t Flashback: Dallas)

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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25 comments
CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

"No more Irish than Castro" ... that is a gem of a razzing from yester-century.

monstruss
monstruss

It took me way too long to realize that guy has shamrock nipple pasties, and is not in fact lactating Guinness. 

ruddski
ruddski

Now about Cinco de Mayo, which originated when the Mexicans stole the recipe for Mayonnaise from the French, who stole it from the Spaniards, leading to the parades and mayo-based festivities in which everyone is Mexican for the day, wears white, and assaults any Frenchman foolish enough to venture out.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

Great story Eric! and thank you St. Goodridge, patron saint of Greenville Ave debauchery!

ruddski
ruddski

@Cogito

Fidel is forever in the hearts of modern progressives.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@ruddski It was the Belgians. They put it on French fries, hence the confusion.

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@ruddski I always thought it was to celebrate the day when Mexican saboteurs destroyed the French cruiser Le Mayo in Vera Cruz harbor in 1862.

preemodallas
preemodallas

@TheCredibleHulk @preemodallas I just wish the article was more positive. I am part Irish. I mean, look at those glorious chops!

Irish nationalist Thomas Davis once said, "It is not blood that makes you Irish but a willingness to be part of the Irish Nation."


ruddski
ruddski

@BuffaloPrinter

The most interesting beer in the world? Hmmm...

I prefer Tres Equis myself, more wallop for the peso.

ruddski
ruddski

@Cogito

Can't help ya there, bro.

ruddski
ruddski

@iwearblack

To paraphrase somebody...

"if you encounter a Belgian on the street, slap him. He'll know why."

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