Irish eyes aren't smiling when they catch sight of O'Kozlowski
Believe me, my partly Irish eyes were not smiling the time my fraternity brother and I tried to stage a St. Patrick's Day party at the fraternity house.
I'll admit he had a slightly more Irish name than mine since he was christened G. Patrick Connors, but even that didn't help him or me as we tried to track down music and decorations for the party in Morgantown, W.Va.
If Pat was back home in Harrisburg or I was home in the coal region, there would have been no problem. We could have found Irish recordings by the dozen and paper shamrocks by the barrelful.
I don't want to exaggerate, but the only green decorations we could find were a couple moldy papier mâché jack-o'-lanterns we found in a closet in the fraternity basement.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, so when the party goers arrived that night, they were rendered speechless by the sight of our St. Patrick's Day decorations - Pat and I had strung up boxes of Irish Spring Soap duct-taped to a cord, sort of like Japanese lanterns.
(It probably was not a good idea to start throwing Lucky Charms cereal as confetti at midnight.)
Of course, my involvement as a semi-son of the Auld Sod has left many people speechless. With a last name like Kozlowski, I have been accused of being someone who jumps on the ethnic bandwagon every March 17th.
I feel I have that right based on two very good reasons. The first is that I am one-quarter Irish due to the fact that my mother was one-half Irish.
(I must apologize to my third-grade teacher Miss Frumpwaggle, whom I told that I would never need to use fractions in real life.)
The second reason is based on the other three-quarters of my ethnicity. My dad was 100 percent Polish, which didn't help him when he had to repeat first grade in parochial school because he failed Polish.
My mother's dad was Slovak. I'm as proud of being Polish and Slovak as I am of being Irish, but there really aren't special days celebrated in America by the general population.
St. Stanislaus and St. Casimir are just two of many worthy Polish people to celebrate, but when was the last time you saw any St. Stan's decorations?
It's even worse for SS Cyril and Methodius, the big names in Slovak sainthood. The Greek brother missionaries, patron saints of Slovakia, have the misfortune to share their feast day with the only saint whose day is more popular than St. Patrick - St. Valentine on Feb. 14.
But the one-quarter Irish part of me had other advantages over the Polish and Slovak sections.
As part of our holiday commemorations at Philander K. Knox Elementary School, we sang a variety of Irish songs in Miss Frumpwaggle's class.
"McNamara's Band," "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," "Harrigan," "My Wild Irish Rose" and others were featured in the third-grade song book. I think "Harrigan" was also in the third-grade spelling book since the lyrics required you to spell the name.
As you might expect, my favorite song was not high on the list of Miss Frumpwaggle's hit parade. I was partial to "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?"
My brothers, sister and I grew up listening to polkas in our home on Sunday afternoons, but I can't recall a single one that had to do with Poland - except perhaps, "Who Stole the Kishka?"
(That song is runner-up behind "Who Threw the Overalls" in the category of my favorite question, ethnic songs involving food.)
I'm sure there are many fine Polish and Slovakian songs; it's just that there were none printed in my elementary school music book.
As far as ethnic dancing goes, my skill is equal for Polish polkas, Irish jigs and Slovak folk dances. I look as though an army of ants has crawled up my pants legs and I am trying to shake them out.
Then there's the matter of films - or the Barry Fitzgerald factor. Fitzgerald was an Irish actor who specialized - not surprisingly - in playing Irish parts in movies.
His melodious brogue was featured in many films, including his most famous role as a cute-as-the-devil priest Father Fitzgibbon in the classic "Going My Way."
I have a lousy American accent, so I'm just about hopeless when it comes to imitating foreign accents. It doesn't matter if it's Italian, Polish, Slovak or Ugandan; it comes out sounding as though I'm taking a pair of $3 dentures out for a test talk.
But Barry Fitzgerald made his Irish brogue so irresistible that I couldn't resist trying to imitate him.
I have matured a bit since those early years, but if you have the misfortune to be around when my brothers and I are together, you are doomed to hear me ask in Barry's brogue, "Where did you get the turkey, boys?" from "Going My Way."
If it's around the holidays, you might even see one of my brothers trying to hit me with a turkey drumstick.
In the final analysis, Poland gets the blame for me 364 days of the year because there is a ski at the end of Kozlow.
I'm only a stain on Ireland's honor one day a year when I'm O'Kozlowski.
Talk about the luck of the Irish!
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)