Where was everybody on St. Patrick's Day?

Where's the (political) party?  
By MICHAEL RYAN  |  August 31, 2009

This article originally published on March 26, 1974

We piled into a car, we three intrepid journalists, and set out from the Back Bay Sunday morning to find our way to Royal Bolling’s party. “Roxbury’s Salute to St. Patrick’s Day,” as Bolling called it, should be easy to find, we reasoned. After all, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. A.F. & M., was located at 18 Washington Street. All we had to do was follow Washington Street, right?

Wrong. We three representatives of two publications with the word “Boston” in their names, accustomed as we were to commenting knowledgably on the pitiable state of the city, found ourselves in Dedham before we figured out that something had gone wrong. What should have been a short drive over from Beacon Street took us an hour, before we finally realized that Washington Street in Roxbury is not the same Washington Street which leads from City Hall to the suburbs.

Evidently, a lot of people had the same problem. The guests expected at the Masonic Lodge must, by all appearances, have gotten lost on the way and given up; at the height of the festivities, there were never more than 200 people in the room, and a healthy minority of those were from the press, freeloading on the brunch of corned beef and cabbage, black-eyes peas and fried chicken. Dutifully, the television cameras recorded the hijinks at the head table, where Bolling and company traded quips, and the Corcoran Brothers singing team provided the closest thing to Dorgan’s style entertainment the affair had to offer. Tastefully, they avoided recording the fact that many of the tables around the room stood egregiously empty throughout the proceedings.

Bolling’s party, as we reported here two weeks ago, was scheduled after William Bulger, the State Senator from South Boston, had cancelled the traditional St. Patrick’s Day party at Dorgan’s restaurant on Columbia Road. Bulger, in canceling, was attempting to draw attention to his contention that South Boston would be irreparably damaged as a neighborhood, its cohesion destroyed and its spirit shattered, if the forced bussing plan for school integration were to go into effect as scheduled in September. Without modifications to take into account the feelings of the community, Bulger contended, his neighborhood could erode completely.

Partly in Jest

Bolling -- reputedly still a friend of Bulger’s -- scheduled his party partly in jest, partly to foster a sense of unity between the two communities of Roxbury and South Boston. Originally scheduled for Estele’s Restaurant in Tremont Street, it was moved to the Masonic Hall where Bolling anticipated a large turnout.

What was remarkable about Bolling’s “Erin Go Bragh and Right On” party was neither the low turnout -- who could be expected to show up at 10 in the morning at a party hald a world away from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade -- nor the heave press coverage -- the Harvard educated Bolling is one of the canniest media manipulators in the Legislature. What was remarkable was the turnout of politicians, or lack thereof.

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