Early 1900 St. Patrick’s Day Parties in North Yakima

In the early 1900’s it was common for people throughout America to open their homes for various forms of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Several residents of North Yakima (now Yakima, Washington) were among those hosting private holiday celebrations in their homes. Often such parties varied in theme, as well as form.

In 1906 Dr. and Mrs. John Banks opened their home for a St. Patrick’s Day and birthday celebration. John Ellsworth Banks was a prominent North Yakima Dentist who lived with his wife Lucinda and their two young daughters at 106 North 6th Street. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1906 the couple not only opened their home for a celebration of the holiday, but also as a celebration of the birthday of Martha Pickett, Lucinda’s mother. The event was noted in the Yakima Herald as having had seventeen well known guests attend the festivities. Guests were treated to a salad and a desert consisting of cake and ice cream in the families elaborately and highly decorated home. The event was reported as being successful.

The following year, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, a group of ladies from the Fairview District of North Yakima gathered at the home of Cicero and Cassandra McWhorter to celebrate the holiday in the form of a “tacky” party. (The Fairview District was a neighborhood located in the southeastern section of North Yakima. Tacky parties are parties that attendees purposely wear tacky clothes with prizes given accordingly based on the outfit.) Cicero and Cassandra McWhorter lived on a ranch in the Fairview District and were well-known early pioneers of the area, arriving in the Washington Territory in the 1880’s. The St. Patrick’s Day tacky party held at their home was hosted by their grown daughter Bessie (McWhorter) Brandenburg with the assistance of mesdames Slanchers and Burwell. Attendees of the event were reported as enjoying potatoes, eggs, candy, cookies, and teas. Most guests were predominantly dressed in green outfits, although other colors were also worn. Of the attire worn to the event, prizes for the tackiest dress and best animal clothing were awarded.

George and Helen Rankin on their 50th anniversary in Yakima, 1920, contributed by Robin Rankin-Coffin. Photo courtesy of the Yakima Valley Museum and Yakima Library Memory Search website.

In 1908, a St. Patrick’s Day gathering occurred at the 16 South 6th Street North Yakima home of George and Helen Rankin. The Rankin’s arrived in the Yakima area in 1892 where they became active in not only business, but community minded activities as well. George worked in the hardware industry and served as the President for the Yakima Hardware Company and as the Vice President of the Yakima Valley Transportation Company. Helen hosted the St. Patrick Day celebration at the Rankin’s home with the help of two assistants, Bessie Hall and Edna Robertson. The festivities included a “12 cover” luncheon event with twelve well-known Yakima area women attending. (The term “covers” was often used for special gatherings where meals were served, with the number referring to the number of meals served.) The guests were served foods typically consumed to celebrate St. Patrick Day at tables decorated with shamrocks and Irish author quotes. The event appears to have been a success.

Over a century later many still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day although the location and form of celebrations are much different. The elaborate decorations and festivities held in private homes are not as common, nor are they reported in local newspapers as they once were.

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