St. Patrick's Day
in Los Gatos
by Tom Ovens
Recently one of my customers called me over and asked me to tell his friend about those relay races that John and Chris used to put on back when they owned Mountain Charleys.
"Hold the phone!" I said. First of all, they did not own Mountain Charleys and secondly it was Johnny that was the springboard for the races. I
realized then that this little gem of local lore was being forgotten and distorted. And so, having been present at the creation, Ive taken it upon myself to tell the story of the beginnings of the way St.
Patricks Day is celebrated in Los Gatos
(as I remember it):
My first bartending job was at the
Gazebo Restaurant in Old Town, in the spot occupied by the California Cafe. On St. Patricks
Day 1976, I showed up for work wearing a derby and a vest, a clay pipe properly clamped upside down in my mouth, and a mesh bag holding 6 bottles of Guinness. I was greeted with blank looks by staff and customers. St. Patricks Day was no big deal in Los Gatos. If folks wanted to whoop it up, they usually drove all the way to San Francisco to do so. Johnny Hannegan, at the time bar manager at Mountain Charleys, thought it was time to change this. The next year he called a meeting to discuss what to do about this neglect of
his heritage. The meeting was held at Number One Broadway which had opened its doors in
May of 1976. Present were Johnny,
Bill Moreland - one of the original owners of Number One, Jon Steil - our salesman who handled Jameson Irish Whisky, and myself.
We came up with the idea of a relay race. It
was to be Olympic style walking. Teams came from 5 local establishments. Contestants would down a shot of Jamesons Irish whisky then head out the door, walking Olympic style, carrying a
lime on a spoon (not an egg as some remember -
that would not have lasted down the steps of Number One Broadway). Shot glasses filled with Jamesons awaited each team member. They
rested on 3X5 inch cards upon which were written Irish sayings (not full limericks) such as Erin Go Bragh or May the Lord Take a Likin to Yeh. We read out loud whatever was under our glass,
downed the shot and headed off to the next stop. We called it the Shot and Trot Relay.
The first years race started at Number One Broadway with a shot, down to Poco Loco (a small bar which sold only beer and wine) for a small beer, up the steps to Mountain Charleys, down to the Chart House (which had recently opened in the old mortuary), up to Carry Nations (which had also recently opened on the site of the old Park
Lounge), then back and up the stairs to
Number One for a final shot and a tag to the next runner/walker. We had 5 shots and a beer.
And, being the good naturedly sadistic types we were, the shot glasses were filled to the brim, which meant 2 ounces of whiskey pershot. So...10 ounces of Irish whiskey and an 8 ounce beer were consumed in 15 minutes. There were referees posted along the route to keep the
intersections open as contestants strode through and to make sure that no one cheated/ran. Even so there was controversy that first year.
On the day before the race, Bill Moreland and I had quickly walked the entire route to get an estimated average time for the contestants. We figured it would take from 12-15 minutes to complete the circuit. The first Chart House team member was back in 7 minutes and they very handily came in first. When the referees met they were all in agreement that the Chart House team had run the entire circuit, much as kids do at a swimming pool with their arms and legs straight. So we disqualified them. They left yelling and cursing us and Number One Broadway was declared the first
winner of the
Jameson Irish Whiskey Perpetual Trophy.
Number One Broadway's Team 1977
Marty Reilly, Jon Steil, Tom Ovens and Al Shull
seated: coach Bill Moreland
Go to Year 2 - 1978