By Candia Dames
WASHINGTON – James O’Toole doesn’t care for the beer-filled bashes that have come to characterize St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. But this weekend, the Baltimore resident is trying to “build up the nerves” to pull out a dusty pair of green leprechaun shoes.
“I’ve gotten tired of people thinking the Irish are all drinkers,” said O’Toole, a former president of the city’s Emerald Isle Club. “Many Irish think the Germans, Polish and French are even bigger drinkers.”
But he said the revelry is all in good fun, so long as party-goers don’t drink and drive this Sunday.
O’Toole, whose father came to America from Ireland in 1903, said he planned to have a blast on St. Patrick’s Day, even though he wanted to avoid green beer and smoky joints.
Larry Smith, another Baltimore City resident of Irish descent, doesn’t need a special day for a party. “I like my beer any day of the year,” Smith said.
He said his great-grandmother, Julia Quinn, was aboard the “Scotia” when it pulled into Baltimore Harbor in 1854. But he insists he isn’t that far removed from the Emerald Isle.
“I’m more Irish than the Irish,” said Smith, 73.
He’s not big on leprechaun shoes, but on Sunday he will pull out a crocheted shamrock he said he has worn every St. Patrick’s Day since he was in the fourth grade. His old green jacket has seen its fair share of parties, so Smith will wear a blue blazer and a tie with a golden harp on it.
Then he will join a St. Patrick’s Day parade with members of the Irish Northern Aid Committee, where he plans to carry an “England Get Out of Ireland” banner, proving that the day also has a political cause.
Merrymaking is low on Randolph Healy Cecil’s agenda. Cecil, a spokesman for the committee, said he has a problem with the image of St. Patrick’s Day being a day of “let’s go out and drink and have a ball.”
“St. Patrick was known for good works rather than for good times,” he said.
Members of the U.S.-Ireland Alliance also planned serious work on the holiday. Alliance President Trina Vargo, said the group is raising money to send families of firefighters killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on a weeklong Irish holiday in the summer.
Ireland wants to reach out to America, she said.
“It’s not just about shamrocks and green beer.”