Racist, probably

Our budget-conscious mother sewed, cobbled together, or recycled our Halloween costumes, which by 2017 standards isn’t just Earth-friendly, it was life-saving.

Instead of shipping us out the door sheathed in flammable plastic to walk amongst a dark neighborhood rife with candles, she sent us into the night well-equipped to flee the potential razor blades buried in the tiny Mr. Goodbars. And, you see, I have lived to tell the tale. My sister’s children not only have cuddly, maskless costumes, but they tend to ride onto the shelves of Wal-Mart so indestructible we should probably use them to construct hospitals.

This 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids Halloween costume, for example, consists of my own sweatsuit, modified with a mop and cardboard on a string.

Also by 2017 standards, this probably somehow racist and sexist and appropriating the culture of orphans raised amongst vegetables. You couldn’t get away with this today.

Another thing you couldn’t get away with today?  A men-only, straight-up religious ceremony in the middle of an MLB ballpark.

This happened.  This happened on a regular basis at

Altar at second base, Crosley Field, 1955

Crosley Field, each October. The all-Catholic, all the time Annual Parade of the Holy Name Society–the Holy Name Parade–wound its way through the narrow German streets and ended with all-Catholic, all the time Benediction at second base. (In hindsight, this perhaps explains something about the mysterious greatness of Joe Morgan.) This is the modern-day equivalent of performing a bris before the coin toss on the fifty yard line of Paul Brown Stadium: A 2017 impossibility.


It was the Catholic social event of the fall for decades. There were bands and flag corps and entire parishes turned out “to renew their Holy Name pledge against unclean speech and receive the blessing of their God at the altar.” That this took place at a sporting venue was done entirely without irony and without Redzilla. The Archbishop showed up. It was broadcast on the radio. People brought snacks.

People also thought absolutely nothing of mashing a religious moment into a secular place, but in our past, in Cincinnati, this is what we did. Parishes from white, black, Irish, Italian, German, and

Hispanic neighborhoods walked together from the earliest moments of the twentieth century. No one rioted. No one thought this an inappropriate de-compartmentalization of religion, baseball, and civic life.

Most astoundingly for our 2017 sensibilities, the Holy Name Parade wasn’t staged as a cultural takeover. The event was so well-populated between the men who marched and the women who met them for Benediction that joining forces at the nearest outdoor gathering space, Crosley Field, simply made sense. Not only were there enough seminarians in the Archdiocese to fill the parishes, they formed an entire parade bloc. It was an annual event sufficiently weighty to not only appear in my mother’s 1955 scrapbook, but to command several pages of it.

The Holy Name Parade vanished around the same time Crosley did, just as the Church loosened, then entirely lost, its grip on the social doings of American Catholics. Scandal and living-room sanctuaries took the place of lace cassocks and meatless Fridays, and for some the rolling of the political Twitter feeds have taken the place of even the Godliest church, temple, or mosque. I leave it to you to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing—or a bit of both.

The modern Faith Day Concert at Great American Ball Park is perhaps

“Singing Seminarians” and Benediction

the vapor trail of the Holy Name Parade, but this is a general Protestant event, a catch-all Christian contemporary concert which is more live music attraction than religious ceremony. It seems no more denominational than NASCAR events or the all-pop-culture-on-deck Star Wars Weekend. Still, it’s shocking to see such a thing directly tied to ticket sales, and I wonder how much longer it shall live.

All I know is I married a Lutheran in a Catholic ceremony without much ecclesiastical fuss, an unthinkable event when my mother pasted her photos in 1955. He has allowed himself to be absorbed into Reds fandom with little complaint.

I also know the Holy Name Parade returned in 2015. These days, it starts at one Catholic church and ends at another.

11 Responses

  1. TR

    I enjoyed your write up of the religious/cultural scene of Cincinnati and the metro area of 60 plus years ago. As a boy growing up at that time I was often confused by the animosities I heard about Catholics and Protestants especially since many of my boyhood friends were Catholics. But much of that was put to rest by the great work of Pope John XXIII and others. At this point in life I prefer a spirituality of an unorganized nature, But I am glad that the Holy Name Parade has returned.

  2. Scott Carter

    That was a simpler time and dare I say better time because of the spiritual influence the church (both Catholic and Protestant) had in peoples lives.

  3. Mary Beth Ellis

    Oh my goodness, NOTHING, I hope!

  4. jmussa2015

    What a wonderful, evocative piece. Thanks for the memory.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thank you for sharing– I’m glad you were able to be there.

  5. Mary Beth Ellis

    No hailing, please. I don’t have a batting helmet

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Many thanks for stopping in 🙂

  6. John Kelly

    Surprisingly, considering what a big event it was in the Catholic community for much of the 20th century, there doesn’t seem to be much of a communal memory of the Holy Name Parade. Erardi and Rhodes, for example, in their mid-90’s book about the history of Crosley Field, do not mention the event occurring there. Also, the parade seems to be confused in some recollections of the local past with Corpus Christi celebrations, which would have occurred at a different time of the year.

    I myself remember marching in the parade in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s. The parade in those years began somewhere around Music Hall and ended just south of St. Peter in Chains. I didn’t know that it had a history at Crosley until I read about it years later.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I’m so glad you brought that up. Communal memory is vital, and things like this should be preserved and passed down. I can understand why a book about Crosley wouldn’t include a non-baseball event, but I would hope it would at least be considered since it shows how much Crosley, and therefore the Reds, was intertwined in everyday life in Cincinnati. (In fact, when the Holy Name Parade started going there, it was still Redland Field!)