Volume 41, Issue 6 - June 2006


South Side Irish
by Lyle R. Hill

“Hey, Lyle, you got a minute?” the mid-afternoon visitor asked as he poked his head into my very cluttered office. “It’ll only take a minute.”

“Of course, Dan, come on in,” I answered, hoping that he was telling the truth when he said it would only take a minute. “What can I do for you?”

He took the seat closest to the window and seemed to settle in a bit too comfortably for what was supposed to be a brief conversation.

“It’s about your articles,” he began. “The ones you write for USGlass.”

Dan Simon, sales manager for Midwest Glass, is a good basketball player, a very good golfer and perhaps one of the best salesmen in the glass business today, but none of those attributes would necessarily qualify him to be a literary critic. However … I had invited him in. 

“Sure, Dan. What’s on your mind?”

“Well, I was talking to Koziac …”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Do you mean Koziac, the Polish accountant?”

“Yeah. We’re actually close. In a strange kinda way.”

“I would have never guessed that, Dan,” I responded. “So what were you and Koziac talking about?”

“You, actually. You see, we’re a little worried about you. We think you’ve gone soft … lost your edge.”
Dan Simon is what we in Chicago would refer to as South Side Irish. Now if you’ve never spent much time in the world’s most beautiful city, this term doesn’t mean much, but it is very descriptive if you are a local.

“Why do you think that?” I asked.

“Cause in your articles you haven’t really ripped into anybody lately. I like it when you’re ripping into someone and when you’re not … well … I personally find them to be a little dull.”

The term South Side Irish refers to the very large Irish-American community that lives in and around the South Side of Chicago. Each year, on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day, the South Side Irish hold a parade that is believed to be the largest St. Patrick’s Day community celebration outside of Ireland. 

“Well you know, Danny Boy, you pay a heavy price when you go ripping into people. In fact, I continue to get hate mail from Cleveland since I attacked them last fall, I’m banned from visiting New Jersey until 2010 and the guys in Canada still won’t return my phone calls.”

“That’s no big deal, Lyle. Cleveland’s a hack town, you don’t need the Canadians and why in the world would you want to visit New Jersey?”

The South Side Irish are extremely organized and influential and even have their own song. Perhaps some of the song’s lyrics better describe who and what they are better than a thousand words written about them ever could. One of the lines goes like this, “We live on the South Side … Mayor Daley lived here too … the Greatest Irish leader that Chicago ever knew.” Another line goes, “We sing the songs our fathers sang when they were growing up … Rebel songs of Erin’s Isle in the South Side Irish pubs … and when it comes to baseball, we have two favorite clubs, The Go-Go White Sox, and whoever is playing the Cubs.” 

“Listen, Dan, I’m not always the final word on what gets printed. I was told to lighten up a bit at the end of last year. Maybe there was some concern that I was offending a reader or two, or maybe the editor got some complaints or something. But I’m okay with it. So now I’m trying to be a gentler, kinder writer. In fact, next month I’m actually coming out with my own personal list … in categorical format … of people that I like, respect and admire in the glass industry.” 

“Stop, Lyle, you’re making me sick. All this time I thought you were Irish and that you liked a good fight.”
“I am Irish, but that doesn’t mean I’ve always gotta be looking to take somebody on.”

“So does this mean you’re not going to go after the aluminum guys anymore or trash architects and consultants as in days gone by?”

“Probably not, Dan.”

“What about the surcharge thing? Are you done fighting that as well?”

“Yeah, I think so. I hate it as much as the next guy but it’s a fight I don’t think we can win.”

“And you’re not kidding about this list of good people in the glass industry thing?”

“No, Dan, I am not kidding. It will be out next month. Now I’ve got to get back to work so is there anything else you want to ask me before you leave?”

“Just one more thing, Lyle.”

“What, Dan?”

“You’re not from the South Side are you?”

“No, Dan, I’m from the West Side.”

“Thanks, Lyle. I’ll sleep a bit better tonight knowing that. So before I go, do you want to arm wrestle or something …?”
The chorus of the South Side Irish song goes, “We’re the South Side Irish as our fathers were before … We come from the Windy City and we’re Irish to the core … From Bridgeport to Beverly, from Midway to South Shore, we’re the South Side Irish … let’s sing it out once more.” 

Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago.  lhill@mthindustries.com

Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.