was described to me as something like an Irish Mardi-Gras.
Somewhere in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, in a town I had never
been to, I would find a St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebration that
would be nothing like anything I had ever experienced or even heard
of. It would be difficult to find a room, perhaps even harder to
around this little town, but we just had to see it to believe it.
According to the legend, there was even a woman they called the “Shot
Lady” who handed shots of whiskey out to the parade participants.
I really want to do this? Would a man who prefers a nice quiet
barstool to a crowded party really like this type of raucous
And tell me again where the hell is Jim Thorpe, PA?
BROADWAY IN JIM THORPE
Normally these questions
would have kept me away from such a
celebration, but this was St. Patrick’s Day and my friends were excited
about the idea. Who was I to be the bore on my favorite
after all, there really couldn’t be a “Shot Lady”, now could
So off we went, my wife and I, the day before the parade deep into
Carbon County, Pennsylvania to meet our friends. Driving to Jim
made me wonder what we were doing out here. It looked like a
nondescript place, much like home. What could be so fascinating
us out here when we could just as easily be at my local Irish pub
enjoying the day with the other regulars. But as the road winds
the mountains towards town, the surprises begin. The railroad
along the opposite side of the Lehigh River gives us our first hint
that Jim Thorpe was once something much more prominent then my memory
yields. The 19th century train depot, gorgeous European
and prominent downtown hotel offer the next hint. As you turn to
up the main street, you eyes dart to a quick glimpse of gothic mansions
on the hill and then you are overwhelmed by the Irish flags and banners
that seem to color the whole town in green, orange and white. (We
have a little fun after all…maybe.)
YES, THERE IS A LEGENDARY
( . . . shhh! it's just Sheila all gussied up.)
we found our bed and breakfast, called the Gilded Cupid, our
friends were waiting for us. They included my Editor Chris Poh and his
wife, as well as contributing writer John West and his wife. They
all fellow pub lovers who prefer a good conversation on a barstool as
opposed to the noise and confusion of a rowdy crowd, so I knew that my
reservations would probably be echoed by my cohorts.
But it was instantly clear they already were having a blast. They
raved about the town and our accommodations. Before we were
to the owners, Chris pulled me aside holding back laughter and said,
“Not only is there actually a ‘Shot Lady’, but the owner of this B
& B IS the ‘shot lady’!” He also noted that I should prepare
myself for being pressed into service, helping Sheila hand out her
whiskey to the parade participants and then even tend bar
“Tend bar? Where”, I asked.
“She has a bar in the back with a keg and bottles of whiskey to serve
her friends and guests.” Chris replied. “I volunteered the two of
to work behind the bar.”
Things were really starting to look up, but tomorrow is when things can
get hectic. My judgment was still being withheld.
and Bob own a magnificent place, and made my wife and I feel at
home right away. We all sat around that night listening to them
debrief their guests on what the next day would entail. It was
that Chris and I had volunteered for an important job. We were on
front lines of making this gathering, something that was obviously very
important to Bob and Shelia, their loved ones and neighbors, a big
success. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but we were excited.
THE BACK BAR AT THE GILDED
I awoke on the morning of the parade, Jim Thorpe was alive with
excitement. You could feel it in the air. Downstairs The Gilded Cupid
was buzzing. I pulled on my best Celtic Football jersey and dove
the fun. Before lunch we were all at least a half a dozen drinks
well acquainted with our new friends, and laughing almost
Bob informed us that time was short and we needed to start to prepare
nearly 200 shots for the parade. I was not totally aware of it,
was having a good time.
The parade was an amazing display of Irish culture and local
But what was most impressive was how each marcher stopped in front of
the Gilded Cupid, not only to get their drink, but to thank Sheila and
express their sincere love and gratitude to her. The “Shot Lady”
much more than just a free drink stop. She was an institution
this route, and one that brought respect and heartfelt warmth from all
who paraded by.
THE GRAND MARSHAL'S
somewhere out of view, further back in the parade line, a loud
blast rang down Jim Thorpe’s Broadway. My wife said to me, “What
hell was that?” I told her it sounded like musket fire, but that
was too far away to know for sure. Whatever it was, it was
Around the bend and down the hill came a company of Union Civil War
re-enactors, muskets on their shoulders. I was silently hoping
their next blast would come close to our perch. How great would
be? As they came closer, the parade slowed for the kind of normal
traffic one encounters during parades. I wanted to get a closer
at their uniforms and firearms, so I grabbed a tray full of Irish
whiskey and walked up towards them. At that moment I could hear
yelling to me from the porch where he was pouring more shots.
Dave! A shot for a volley! A shot for a volley!!” I
myself, what a fabulous idea!
I turned to the man at the head of the regiment and repeated Chris’
suggestion. “A shot for a volley, gentlemen?”
“Oh, that’s no problem!” was the immediate response.
A VOLLEY OF MUSKET SHOTS
WHICH WERE OFFERED IN
TRADE FOR A VOLLEY OF IRISH WHISKEY SHOTS
they tossed back their whiskey, the muskets came off their
shoulders. Commands were shouted with perfect precision, and a
bang rang through the streets of Jim Thorpe. The crowd cheered
excitement and appreciation. I thanked the man for the volley and
invited him and his fellow soldiers back to the Cupid for a drink or
two afterwards. I thought it was the least I could do.
these guys had just provided us a terrific story we would tell for
years to come.
When the parade had finally passed us by, we all went inside, and Chris
and I manned our stations behind the bar. Bob and Sheila have an
incredible antique wood bar and it provided the perfect backdrop for
the laughing, singing, and camaraderie that followed. There were
firemen, family, soldiers and more. Some in kilts, others in
but all with some sort of tribute to Ireland displayed about them.
THE AUTHOR (RIGHT) AND OUR
EDITOR AT THEIR STATIONS
BEHIND THE BAR AT THE GILDED CUPID
was particularly pleased to see three men in blue Union uniforms
making their way to the bar. We once again applauded their
contribution to the day’s joy and offered a drink. They were all
happy to accept, and even happier to be so appreciated. They told
about their regiment, and my wife even found out that one of them was
from a town near where she grew up and they had mutual
I guess more people had heard of Jim Thorpe, PA then we thought.
All the elements of a perfect St. Patrick’s Day celebration were found
on that afternoon at the bar in Bob and Sheila’s Gilded Cupid. My
and I arrived in Jim Thorpe with reservations about what we might find
there. But we left with lifelong memories, great new friends, and
event that would become a tradition we look forward to every year.
AYE, THE PIPES AS ALWAYS
ROMANTIC AND RESTFUL RESPITE
IN A HISTORIC AND BEAUTIFUL DELAWARE RIVER VILLAGE
THE WIDOW McCREA