Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Happy Days" Casey & the St. Patrick's Day Parade

CA. 1850 6 July 1942
Lowell Sun image, 1928
Thomas Casey was born in Ireland – date unknown – place unknown.  He kept that information to himself. He came to Lowell in the 1860's and worked as an expressman. He acquired his nickname at a picnic in the 1890's when he offered that toast. That was the end of Thomas – now he was “Happy Days”.
 With his horse and wagon, for 30 years Irish laborers, mill workers, teamsters and their children contacted “Happy Days” when there was a chest or trunk to be moved.  When one disputed his Irish birth, he would invariably tell that person something of his or her family back in Ireland, which would leave that individual dumbfounded – HOW could he know that!?” –  and never again doubt Casey's Irish origin.  He was known for his long white hair and full white beard. 

There was one day of the year, however, when he put on a quite distinctive appearance.  That day of course was St. Patrick's Day.  He would don his best cutaway coat and top hat with of course a touch of green in his lapel.  That took care of his attire and appearance.  He would then go to the stable and properly adorn his horse.   After saddling his horse, “...with affectionate hands he would further embellish the silvered trappings with everything green that he had laid his hands on over a period of months – green and gold.  Across the horse's long nose would be found the Harp of Erin, rescued from a Hibernian's discarded sash.  The animal's mane would be trimmed carefully in braids of green silk.  There's even a large bow of silk on the flowing tail.” (SUN 7 July 1942)  Thus equipped and adorned, he was off to join the parade leading such groups as the Meagher, Wolf Tome and Sheridan Guards through Lowell.  St. Patrick's day did not end for Happy Days when the parade was over.  He, and his horse, then went on a 'tour' of several drinking establishments.  When he entered, he was mounted on his horse, and fittingly asked for a beer for his horse as well.
Casey' Grave, St. Pat's Cemetery

During one St Patrick Day parade, Mary O'Malley described him thusly to a group of boys, ''There's Happy Days Casey, he's St. Patrick when you look at him in summer, and Santa Claus when you look  at him in the winter. Wouldn't you wonder, now, whether the man was ever born, but just came here from nowheres?'' (SU N 7 July 1942)   Happy Days was a beloved character such as we shall not see again.  He was struck by a bus on 6 July 1942 and died that day.

I am indebted to two articles which appeared in the Lowell SUN: 14 July 1928, and 7 July 1942.  Both have a photo of Happy Days with his wagon and horse. Submitted by Walter H.

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