First off, as several speakers noted, Bolling was the only member of the Black Caucus to show up at the affair. Mel King, Doris Bunte, and company were conspicuously, almost painfully absent, presumably signifying their disapproval, if not of St. Patricks, then at least of Bolling’s plan to run for the first black Senate seat in the history of this Commonwealth in the fall. Joseph Kearney, a good hearted, if not notoriously liberal, State Representative from Hyde Park, came by and said a few words in favor of racial harmony and good will, but he was the only Boston legislator to show his face -- where, one might ask, were the great firebrand liberals of the Boston delegation? John Businger (D-Brookline), a candidate for Secretary of State and an outspoken liberal in the House, was the next closest thing to a genuine city liberal on hand. Paul Cavanaugh, a Democratic Rep. from Medford who owed Bolling a favor from his last campaign, took the stage to make a few good natured jibes at Bolling (“Speaking of Royal, I hate to term it calling a spade a spade,” he quipped, and miraculously, got a laugh from the largely black audience.) Chester Atkins, the liberal State Senator from Acton, rounded out the legislative delegation.
It was obvious that Bolling’s friends had let him down. Bolling did not get to be Assistant Majority Leader of the House without acquiring a lot of friends along the way, but political friends are the least dependable in the world, especially when they smell controversy. The only controversial figure at the Bolling head table was Jeremiah Sullivan, the Police Superintendent who is locked in combat with Commissioner Robert diGrazia; Sullivan’s presence in a place of honor could be read as a message to Headquarters that he had some friends in politics.
If the politicians hadn’t shown up at Bolling’s party, we reasoned, they must all be in South Boston, so we hied ourselves off thereto. There were more spectators -- and indeed more horses -- lining the parade route than one could find at the Galway races. On a typical St. Paddy’s Day in Southie, a gross or more of politicians would pile out of Drogan’s after lunch and cram themselves into cars, shilleleaghs in hand, for the long march past 200,000 cheering spectators. The reviewing stands would drip with politicians. Sound trucks and limousines, horsecarts and floats would proclaim the presence of “the Honorable Francis X. Somebody, Bookkeeper and accountant General of the Commonwealth, the Democratic Party’s Choice for Governor,” or some such. But on this St. Patrick’s Day, the most familiar faces one could see for miles belonged to the Budweiser Clydesdales, snorting in ill humor as their sledge piled down on them during the descent from Dorchester Heights. Near the opening of the parade, Kevin White, accompanied by the Manager of the South Boston Little City hall, -- not to mention the Police Commissioner, the Globe, and the New York Times, waved and chatted with the crowd.
White had decided at the last minute to join the parade -- fully expecting to be hit with heckles and brickbats, confiding, according to one reporter, “I feel like Lindsay walking through Harlem.” It was, with obvious relief that White reached his reviewing stand and ducked inside the South Boston Municipal Building for a sandwich before returning to wave at the crowds some more.