• The History Project

    The History Project was the vision of Steve and Kathy Kratftmiller and has since acquired a handful of dedicated members who feel strongly about documenting the trials and tribulations of our founding members. In addition to conducting interviews of the founding members of the club, the History Project plans to interview members of the club who are either first generation Irish or whose ancestors came from Ireland and settled in the Milford Area. The History Project is always looking for additional members who have a passion for family and Irish history. To join the History Project or add your family’s story, contact the Irish History Project Co-chairs at ihsmhistoryproject@gmail.com.

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    Click on the link above to listen to the audio presentation:

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  • After ten years of tireless effort and commitment, the Irish Heritage Society of Milford celebrated the opening of its very own clubhouse.

    On May 22, 2016, the formal dedication ceremony was held. It opened with a procession lead by bagpipers, followed by the national anthems of Ireland and the United States, sung by members Dave Conroy and Mike McCabe, respectively.

    Participants in the ceremony were IHSM President Ed Mead, Master of Ceremonies Mike McCabe, Milford Mayor Ben Blake, club co-founders Marty Hardiman and Chris McEnerney, poet Lisa Taylor, and honored guest, Irish Consul General Barbara Jones.

  • Interview of Maureen Richetelli

    To follow: Interviews of two original members of the club at the Irish Heritage Society of Milford’s clubhouse.
    1) Maureen Richetelli – Charter Member of IHSM.
    People present are Maureen Richetelli, Michael McCabe, Sheila Johnson, Bernard Keilty and Sheila Danehy.
    Main interviewer: Sheila Danehy

    Interviewer: We are interviewing two people tonight. Our first interview is with Maureen Richetelli. She’s one of our original members and we’re going to ask her some questions. Are you ready, Maureen?

    Maureen Richetelli: Yes!

    Interviewer: OK. Maureen. How and why did you first get involved with the Irish Heritage Society of Milford?

    Maureen: Well, I have always wanted an Irish club. My mother always said that I was more Irish than the people that got off the boat and she could never figure it out, and quite frankly, I just had it in my heart. I just felt I was special. I was an Irish girl and I always acted that way, and that’s who I am.

    Interviewer: Sounds great. Proud to be Irish.

    Maureen: Very proud to be Irish!

    Interviewer: What was the biggest challenge in the beginning for the club when getting the club started?

    Maureen: Well, we had our first meeting at the West River Convalescent Home. There was an ad in the paper that said that anybody who was interested in joining an Irish club should please show up at this West River Convalescent Home. I was like getting so excited, and I could not wait to go. When I got there, I was so shocked! I saw all these people that were just as excited as I was. As far as the difficulties, I don’t think we had that many difficulties, because everybody was so open to getting this thing started. I guess the biggest problem was that we really no clubhouse, so we jumped around to different bars in town, and we kept outgrowing them, but as far as difficulties, I don’t really think we had difficulties, because everybody was so happy to start this club and to be involved in it. So, I just don’t think we had a lot of difficulties, no matter what some people say.

    Interviewer: What are some of your early memories?

    Maureen: Early memories…I remember so many people being so happy and going to meetings. In the beginning, we had board meetings at different houses. One was the McCabes, and they were always so gracious. Tracey would cook up all these wonderful things, and we would sit around and have a lot of laughs and plan what we were going to do next. It was just a wonderful thing. I still remember meetings at my house that went on until midnight. We had great discussions that went back and forth. We didn’t always agree, but we loved each other. We loved our Irish club, and we always worked it out. We just enjoyed the whole idea of creating an Irish club, no matter what.

    Interviewer: Wonderful. Was there always an Irish menu?

    Maureen: An Irish menu? No, not always. We would make baked brie or brownies, you know. It was just great. Everything we did was great. I mean I just love this club so much.

    Interviewer: Well, it loves you back!

    Maureen: Well, I hope so.

    Interviewer: As far as your personal experience and involvement with the club, what would you say that’s been like such as the different titles you’ve held or personal triumphs for you?

    Maureen: I was very involved in just about every committee that there was. I was one of the first trustees and did that for three years. I was pretty much on every committee such as membership, social, scholarship. I also helped out with the corn beef dinners and the festival. Everything there was, I was involved in. I even used to pick up the mail every day at an office we had. Marty started out picking up the mail, and somehow, I ended up with the key. I used to walk down to this office where we had a mailbox. I can’t tell you how many times I set the alarm off at that place! This guy would come running out and say, “Oh, no, not you again!” Oh, my gosh! I used to be terrified, you know, because I worked at the police department and I didn’t want them to think it was me setting off the alarm. The next thing you know this guy would come over and shut it off. So I’d go out and walk home like nothing ever happened.

    Interviewer: What else did I do?

    Maureen: The festival was a big thing…getting that started. Myself and Maureen Moore were in charge of the food vendors and getting the people to sign up was hard; trying to find people to sell their wares because we didn’t know people that sold Irish clothes and things like that. I even had my cousin Peggy O’Neill down from Yonkers working on it for me. She found a vendor from the Bronx that came up. I actually have the cutest little beaded pocketbook with a shamrock on it from that vendor. I still have it to this day, and people always comment on how adorable it is. The next time there is a function I’m going to wear it so everyone can see it. Anyway, so we ended up getting a few vendors. We had a couple within the club, too. Pat Francis was a vendor. Mary Neshtke showed her pictures and Rosemary Markham – she’s still in the club – showed her paintings. We didn’t have many people within the club, but we managed to get enough to look like we were professionals. And we were! I’m telling you that first festival was unbelievable! It was fabulous. It was small, like a big wedding party. That’s why I love our festival to this day, because it was small. It’s not like what Fairfield puts on with those big grounds. It’s not good. By the time you get your sandwich and your beer, and then find a place to sit, you’re spilling your beer, and your sandwich is cold. They just don’t have a nice set up like we do. We have a great set up, and I think that’s why people like it so much too. It’s intimate. It’s like a big old house party in your backyard.

    Interviewer: I know you had talked in the past about the weather that day. Do you want to expound upon that?

    Maureen: Oh, yes. That weather! It rained the day before and it poured! When we went down there in the morning, it was still raining. The ground was mush. I mean you sank into that grass! All I did was pray and pray. I’m in charge of prayers at the club. I was in charge of the weather for the festival and for the golf tournament. That’s my job because I have a connection (to God). I do! (laughter) I prayed for good weather. As far as the golf tournament, I was sick for it, but I still prayed while I was up in bed! So, on the day of the first festival, I’m telling you, the sun broke through, and the people came, and all I could think of was how the good the Lord was for saving the day. We were so happy as the people were coming in. We were just shocked and thrilled. We were like little kids on Christmas morning, so ecstatic. And we did so well that day. That’s just how we were about our club, and I hope we still are. I mean, we had our differences and own opinions and things like that, but in the end we all loved each other and we loved this club. I remember, I went to the planning and zoning meeting when they were going to bring us up to become a club, and I was sitting there like a little scared little person until they passed it. I got so excited. Tears were running down my face because I was so happy and so thrilled, and it still makes me cry to think that we finally have a wonderful place that we worked so hard to get. I mean, it took us ten years to do it, and I honestly and truly thought I would not live to see the day. Now, I’m hanging there with many club years ahead! Anyway, it’s been wonderful thing.

    Interviewer: That’s great. Now we’ve just passed the ten-year anniversary of the club. Do you want to talk about the growth that you’ve seen thus far, and where you see the club going over the next ten years?

    Maureen: Well, I finally have seen some young people joining the club, and I have felt very strongly that in order for this club to go on we had to have young people come in because us older people can’t do as much as we’d like to anymore. I have always felt that we needed the younger people and now I see yourself (Sheila Danehy) and Amanda and Mike who’s going to be our Sergeant at Arms and Lisa Aliberti who is not on the board but is doing a great job with the activities committee. It was time for some young people with different ideas to take over. I do think that the older people are getting up there. You know, we worked really hard to get this club started – we really did – and we enjoyed every minute of it; I’m telling you, we worked very hard. We worked our tails off to get it started, and that’s why we appreciate it so much. And we hope that the younger people coming in will love it as much as we did and treat it the way it should be treated. The one thing I worry about is that people will get the idea that it’s just a drinking club. I just don’t want people to come in and think that the bar is all there is to do when they come here, because some people always think the Irish drink so much. Of course, people like to have a little drink now and again but the Irish don’t drink the way people think, and I want people to get involved and participate in the activities and do the work that the older people started. Because that’s the only way the club is going to thrive. We have to have the young people come in and work as hard as we did. It’s a wonderful place, but as far as the club house, I think we’ve already outgrown it. I always thought that before we even moved in. But we had to start someplace and with the help of the young people and with their ideas and with their strength we will be able to expand or get a bigger place. I have visions of a place with our own property where we can have our own festival on site, or our own big picnics, so we don’t have to rent another spot. So, we’ll see. I’m sure that with the young people who seem to be very interested in our Irish culture that it will survive and do just that. I mean, I’m sure it will survive, but I want it to get bigger and better. I really do.

    Interviewer: That sounds like a good plan.

    Maureen: I’ll be there watching even if it’s from upstairs because I know I’m not going down. God wouldn’t do that to me!

    Interviewer: Well if you’re going down, then I don’t know where I’m going! Thank you very much, Maureen. We greatly appreciate it!

  • Interview of Mike McCabe

    2) The second interview is with Michael McCabe, our President-elect to be sworn in next week, charter member, and first treasurer. Date June 20, 2017.

    Interviewer: OK, Mike, we have a few questions for you. First off, how and why did you get involved with the Irish Heritage Society of Milford?

    Mike McCabe: Well, like Maureen, I’ve always had an interest in all things Irish. Back when I was younger and in Norwalk, I was involved with the Hibernians and the Irish American Unity Conference, but then I moved to Milford and really didn’t have an outlet for that. I wasn’t familiar with the New Haven clubs. I had been to the Fairfield GAC, but I really felt that it was just too far away to be an active member down there. I thought about getting involved with the parade since I go to the parades though. But then, as Maureen said, there was an ad in the paper. I couldn’t go to the first meeting in April because I had something else to do, but I was able to attend the second meeting in May. It was down at the Stonebridge. I guess there had been many people for the first meeting so they decided to bring it downtown. They had the back room at Stonebridge reserved for us. This was May of 2006. Billy Donaldson from Keltic Kick performed as a solo that night. I walked in and I didn’t know a soul. I’d only been in town for about six years, so, I didn’t know a lot of people. To give you some context, my twins were only two years old, so Tracy stayed home with the twins and I went to the meeting. I had a nice conversation with Emmett Kelly and his wife Shelly who were neighbors of Chris McEnerney’s. The bar was open and Chris and Marty were running the meeting. I don’t remember a lot of what was going on other than being excited that it was happening, and that it was a nice crowd. Danelle Sullivan, who was the first membership chair, was taking dues that night. I remember going up to her: I gave her my dues, I gave her my card, and I said, “Here’s my dues, and I’m happy to do whatever I can for this club.” And not long after that Danelle called me and said, “We’d like you to think about being our treasurer.” Now again, I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me, but I guess they figured we might as well have a lawyer as treasurer. So, she said, “Can you just give us a little bit of background, so we know whether you have experience with this stuff,” and I told them I had a lot of experience with nonprofit boards and organizations from being involved in the Hibernians and being a treasurer of certain things, being a financial secretary, all of that kind of stuff.

    I believe the first meeting of the board was at Danelle’s house. It was the first time I met the rest of the board. At that point, it was Chris and Marty, and Dan and Danelle. Now, I don’t I think we were actually forming the board, because the first board really wasn’t elected. It was kind of chosen because we didn’t have bylaws; we didn’t have anything. So, we had the first meeting and I remember sitting in Danelle’s kitchen meeting the rest of the people, again, not knowing anybody. And then I remember — I don’t know if it was the next meeting or whatever — but I remember going to Seth Cohen’s office. Seth was a lawyer here in town whose wife was native Irish so that’s why he got involved. He was the one that formed the corporation and did all the legal groundwork for the corporation. He also created the draft of the first set of bylaws. I remember meeting at Seth’s office and I think we were talking about the bylaws with another member named Priscilla James who was also there. The bylaws committee was a small group. I wasn’t on the bylaws committee. It was Seth, Priscilla and another member named Wells was on it. If I recall, the next membership meeting was at Charlie’s Pot Belly Pub or something like that. We held a few meetings there before he foreclosed. I think it was called a number of other places. As word spread, we were getting eighty people at our meetings. Chris McEnerney did a fantastic job communicating with people in terms of getting out emails and I assume there was an ad in the paper, too. I honestly don’t remember. I believe our next month meeting was at Remy’s and I remember that the new board met right before the main meeting. We (the board members) were in the back room while everybody else was in the front room. I’m not sure if you guys know what building it was; it’s currently vacant and it’s right on the Post Road. It’s the building Arnold Peck owns next to Patriot Bank. It has been several working restaurants. It was a barbecue, an Italian restaurant, Checkers and Mustang Sally’s among other things. Anyway, when we went there it was called Remy’s and there was a big bar room in the front and another small dining room in back and the board met in the back dining room. I remember because we had to open a checking account and take the first dues that we collected to put it into the checking account. I remember sitting there at the board meeting coming up with my first treasurer’s report. When we had the meetings at Remy’s, again, there was another nice crowd because normally the restaurants would put out food. The deal was the restaurants would put out the food for us for free, and then obviously they would get the bar revenue. I remember all sitting around at the front bar room that night at Remy’s. I think that’s the first meeting where it came up about having a festival. I remember we argued about it and some people thought it was scary because it was already July — June or July — and here we were proposing a festival for September. Chris McEnerney had a knack for convincing people that we could do anything, we could just do anything! He had his dreams and he sold people on his dreams, so he convinced most of us that we could do it.

    Before the day of the Irish Festival in September though, we wound up working at the Oyster Festival in August where we sold corned beef sandwiches and chowder, I think. Oh, and we sold beer. Back then, nonprofit organizations were still allowed to sell beer. The first year we added green food coloring to the beer. So, we kind of stopped that because what happened was it turned out some under-age people wound up with green beer, so we didn’t want to have any more trouble with that so we said no more green beer. We can’t do that anymore because we didn’t want to have it traced back to us! So, obviously the Oyster Festival was a big success. And I remember Lyle James, God rest his soul. Now this is only a couple months before he passed away. He was out there as one of the greeters because we had such long lines because of what we did which was different from the other nonprofits. See, we put our kegs in coolers to keep the kegs cold. Most of the other people were just leaving them out without any insulation at all, and, of course, they got warm and so we were pretty distinctive and people were saying, “Yay! You guys have cold beer!” I mean everybody else had tepid and warm beer, so we did have lines. So, anyway, Lyle James was one of our greeters out front and we had our large signs advertising the Irish festival coming up. Well, Lyle had had too much green beer so he had green teeth. I remember that night, I was in the back of the tent counting money, collecting and giving out change and whatnot because I was treasurer at the time, and I remember at one point, Priscilla sat Lyle down next to me. And said, “Lyle, you just sit here.” This was right before she had to take him home. But the Oyster Festival was a big success and invaded made about six thousand dollars that first place to festival which. Was a was a great success. It was like a million dollars and, of course, my earlier concern of trying to get to through the next month before the Irish festival was over. But we had no clue how many people would show up at the Irish Festival or anything, and so I remember like maybe a couple of days before the festival…now this is a fact…we only had a Saturday festival from like eleven to six or something like that…very, very short…so I remember a couple of us sat down on Wednesday or Thursday before the festival at the Remax office there. May be where Ned Riley worked or something. And we had a festival committee meeting and my big concern was, obviously, do we have enough money to pay the bands, to pay the cops, to pay all the expenses of the festival. Well, we made the $6,000 at the Oyster Festival, so I finally felt we had enough money even if nobody showed up, we can pay all the bills so I said that’s all I was worried about because we had no clue what would happen that September at the Irish Festival. And, again, no clue what would happen at the Irish Festival. So, we had a much smaller footprint at the front gate back then. We were pretty much contained around the pavilion where we are now and not so spread out. We didn’t have the basketball courts, and we didn’t have the parking lot. So, the front gate was pretty much where the sidewalk that you walk up to the bathrooms is. And so, we had the front gate there, which was basically a table and a couple of chairs. Linda Hardiman who’s done the front gate from day one was there with her volunteers, and I was the treasurer, and I’m sitting kind of behind her out in the open, counting the money. It was a beautiful day and the people came in droves. We had no idea how many people would show up. So much so, that we wound up having to basically scramble and come up with a larger front gate to have two tables, so we could meet the people that were just lining up out in the parking lot to get in. And, of course, I totally underestimated the money and so on. So, I’ve got like pockets full of money. And I have no finance committee, because I was it! I was the Finance Committee back then. I had nobody else helping me. The other thing was, I never had enough change! I never had enough tens and fives. It was ten bucks to get in, I think, I can’t remember that well. Whatever it may have been like five bucks to get in but of course everybody’s coming with a twenty and I had no tens and fives. I had no anticipation of “change” and so I’m constantly running around to the food vendors and the craft vendors to find change. I felt like I was going too fast. Fortunately, I had my car close by, so, every once in awhile, I’d kind of saunter over to the car and like put the cash in the cup under the mat. So, the first year, we made, I think, about sixteen or seventeen thousand dollars and it was just like winning the lottery as far as we were concerned. We could not believe how many people came! So, I’ll shut up and you can ask more questions! (Laughter)

    Interviewer: I actually wanted to ask you a question about financials. Do you remember offhand what the initial dues were?

    Mike McCabe: We’ve only raised dues once in eleven years. So, a family was fifty dollars. A single was thirty-five dollars. A single senior was thirty dollars and a senior family was forty dollars. We’ve gone up five dollars on each of those categories once. And then we instituted the initiation fee once we opened the clubhouse which is a one-time fee.

    Interviewer: OK. So, you talked about some of your early memories. What did you find to be some of your biggest challenges in the making? I know you talked a little bit about it, but can you say more?

    Mike McCabe: Well, the one thing I think we were all united on is that our goal was a clubhouse. I think almost unanimously that was the common goal not only of the board but of the very active people in the membership. That was the goal here, that’s what we were saving for, that’s what we’re putting money in the bank and raising funds for. Of course, we did all our other various activities and charities, donations and whatnot, but most of the money went into the bank towards a clubhouse. We had no sights set on a property, really. We would go to property, after property, after property looking at things like leases, purchases, anything that anybody thought might be possible; we would try to take a look at. So, our army was busy. To me, it was almost magical. I mean we had such cohesiveness. We had so many people looking for an organization like this in town that nobody wanted to fail. As Maureen said, we’ve had our differences, but there were no fundamental differences from the very beginning. You know, we had a goal of a clubhouse, but, you know, one thing that has helped us over the years is that we’re not a religious organization. We have no religious affiliation, we have no political bend whatsoever in this order, and we’re coed. I mean, those three things is where you see a lot of organizations dying, and because of that, I think that’s why it helps us to thrive. The only qualification is to demonstrate your Irishness. So, we had no political agendas, we had no religious agendas, we had no arguments about those issues, and I think that helped us. We were in it for the music, the theater, the culture, the history, the literature and the social aspects of it. The crowd you see in here now, is the crowd we used to get. We consistently get seventy-five to one hundred people at every meeting. You look at other organizations, and they scratch their heads wondering how we do it. I’m the one who says, “It’s simple. The answer is, free food helps!” (laughter) Free food helps bring people in, but it is more than that. People look forward to it, and when Chris McEnerney was running the meetings, he always tried to come up with a little Irish history lesson or a little biography lesson or just something so it just wasn’t all business. You know, so many people had their own interests to share also. For instance, the first book club took off in the first year. The Tara Theater Company was established the second year.

    Well, we were at Remy’s until it closed. Our next stop was at the Orange Ale House and we were there for several years. Jim Hassenmeyer was the owner up there. He was a member of the club, and he was very, very good to us. Of course, a lot of restaurants offered the room for us, because it was a Tuesday night and if you bring in seventy-five people on a Tuesday night, they’ll be happy to give you some free food. We had the side room there at the Orange Ale House for years until he erected some booths and that kind of killed it for us. It was kind of hard to conduct a meeting with some of the people sitting in booths. And so that’s when we went to Daniel Street which was the old Daniel Street nightclub which is Eli’s now. Richard Conine owned Daniel Street. At that point, his son was running it and that was a pretty nice place when they started off. I think they felt they didn’t make as much money on us as they thought they would, because the food started getting sparser and sparser. One hundred people would come and they all started complaining because they were hungry. As you know, we feed people pretty good now but I remember many times going out to dinner after the meeting because I was still hungry. It just annoyed everyone. For Tracy and me, it used to be a pretty expensive night. Keep in mind Tracy came to almost every meeting as well. We’d get a babysitter and this was a social night out for us. Obviously, now we had friends and whatnot in the club so it was a great night out and you looked forward to the meetings. I look forward to the meetings now, too. It was always a good time, even if we had some arguments or whatever.

    Same thing with the board meetings. I always enjoyed our board meetings because they were a lot of fun. I mean again we’d have some arguments, but every board member took a turn hosting it and you know we’d all bring over some beer or wine or whatever we’re going to drink and normally the host would provide a little food or snacks or something like that. And if you folks have ever sat down across from Chris McEnerney, you know he’s blessed with the gift of gab! Let’s put it this way: his meetings can run long! However, it didn’t matter. I mean you know my wife would be calling up saying, “Where the heck are you?” But we’d still be having a good time. We’d do some business and chat and gossip and tell jokes and eat and drink and it was a fun time. We’d get Chris out there, doing the door, talking with him but I’d have to leave. But that’s the other thing too with Chris McEnerney, you couldn’t leave. My wife would call me up, because I’d be in somebody’s driveway still talking to Chris, and she’d say, “You were leaving a half hour ago!” I’ve learned over the years, many times, I would have to schedule my phone calls and conversations with Chris, because you knew they were like a minimum of twenty to thirty minutes. I tried to schedule them when I had a long car ride, or at the end of the day, when I had more time to talk to him. But, I mean, that’s not a fault because he and I always chatted about so many different things and threw around a lot of ideas and whatnot. I guess I have lost track of what we were talking about…OK, yes, the biggest challenge was we wanted to get a clubhouse. We always had that goal, you know, so even when this property was presented to us….

    Interviewer: …we’re talking about 131 Bridgeport Avenue — our IHSM clubhouse — also known as the old Star Cafe?

    Mike McCabe: Yes, we had looked at this property before. It had been on the market for quite some time, and in our travels to look at another property, Lynn Walsh pointed out to us that it was for sale, and that originally the guy wanted six hundred fifty thousand dollars for it. So we just kind of wrote it off, even with the house behind. It was just way out of our league at that point. Do you want me to go into how we came after that?

    Interviewer: I was going to actually ask that!

    Mike McCabe: Ok so now we’re up to 2013. We had really set our eyes on the Old Rivercliff Yacht Club. Dan Bakley who owns Off the Hook across the street from us or one his partners owned the Village Marina and the Rivercliff Yacht Club building. I guess it was an old yacht club back in the day like an actual Yacht Club. And I’m not sure how it came to us. Ed Mead might know how it came to us but they were up for lease. It was a much smaller building than this. It had a bar and it had bathrooms. They did a nice job renovating the place. It was a nice space, and the rent was affordable, and he really wanted to have some occupancy to get that monthly check in. And it had some grounds there we could have a picnic on, maybe not a formal picnic, but you could go down, and have a cookout or have a picnic of your own. We did have to share the bathroom with the boaters and the parking was a challenge there, but we were looking at it anyway, and it was looking pretty good. We had a big ‘Open House’ down there on a Sunday afternoon where we actually stocked the bar and kind of made it like it would look as if we were having a meeting there. We had a trial run and we had quite a few people show up. We presented the pitch in terms of what the terms were, what the finances were. It was definitely something we could afford and so that’s what we were working on

    Now the club was of two minds: it was tight in there. It was probably the size of the bar room and this middle room and there was one big room and a bar along one wall. The bathrooms were in the back. Anyway, I was for renting it and so I said, “We need a home and this is something we can do and we can build from there.” Well, I took it upon myself to I bring down some of the older gents in the club. Bill McNamara, God bless his soul, Tom Craig, and Tom Sullivan. And I said, “Listen, let’s you guys and me go take a look at the place.” Now this was probably November of 2013. I said, “Let’s go have lunch at the Bridge House across the street, and then I’ll take you over there so you can take a close look at the place.” Well, the Bridge House is owned by Christopher Saley. He was a member of the club, and I don’t think – between you and me and the tape recording – I don’t think Chris was crazy about us being there and having a hundred people parking around his restaurant on a Tuesday night. (Laughter) Anyway, he was there, obviously, and I told him what was going on and he said, “You know what? The Star Cafe is for sale.” I said, “Yeah, I know but it’s way too expensive.” “No, he’s dropped the price a lot. He wants three hundred thousand dollars for it.” He said, “Listen, I’m planning to buy it, but I’m going to give the club first dibs. If you guys are interested in it, I will put up the deposit. I will secure the deal, so it gets off the market, and basically if the club decides not to do it, I’m going to buy it myself anyway.” So, I’ve never been in the Star Cafe before. We had decided to come here on a Saturday afternoon, maybe a late Saturday afternoon, for the first time. I stood out like a sore thumb, and Ray who was the owner of the Star Cafe, was like, “What are you doing here? You look like a lawyer,” and I’m like, “Yeah, I am.” At the same time, we didn’t want him to know that the club was interested in buying the Star Cafe. As far as he was concerned, Saley was interested in it, and it wasn’t known until the club decided to buy it. At that point, when we bought it, obviously, he was told that this was happening, and Chris Saley signed the contract over to us, and he didn’t have a problem with it. We just thought from a negotiating standpoint, it would not be a good idea. He would be better off dealing with a businessman as opposed to a club because when you deal with a club, everything’s done by committee, and things run a little more slowly. So, then we actually had a vote. I thought here we are, we are going to rent a yacht club, or we are going to buy this place (Star Cafe), or we are going to do nothing. I think those were the three options. At that point we were at Costa Azzurras.

    Maureen Richetelli: Well, Mike, you went on Saturday, but Maureen Moore and myself came down here on Sunday. And I remember Ed Mead calling me saying, “You’re not going down there by yourself, are you?” and I said, “Maureen will come with me.” So, we walked in and three guys were at the bar and they said, “Are you here for the billiard competition?” And we said, “Oh, no, we’re just here to have a drink.” So, Ray, the owner, was here all right. So, he must’ve known immediately that we were scoping out the place because he even opened up the place and turned on the lights and showed us everything. Now, we had no idea of how bad it was, so we were like oh my God, but, you know, when you open the lights in the back room, you could see there were a pool tables, and I could imagine it better. So, Maureen and I were kind of walking around back there and we saw the arches and we thought, “You know, we could see possibilities here,” and when we got out we said, “We think it could work!”

    Mike McCabe: Yes. I know they had Christmas lights to save electricity. I remember the first time I was here, the men’s room was over where the ladies room is now, and it was so dark in there. I couldn’t find a light for the men’s room. I couldn’t find anything, so I wound up basically leaving the door open, so I’d have some light in order to do what I had to do. But anyway, Ray and I struck up a bit of a friendship, and that’s how I learned to like Tullamore dew because Ray liked Tullamore dew, and any time I came in here to talk about this, that, and the other thing, he’d say, “you want a shot?” and, of course, I’m going to be polite! He’s the guy I’m trying to buy the property from! I’d say, “Sure.” Now he had shot glasses and they were like thimbles. There must have been half an ounce in these little tiny shots. When I saw this, I agreed to have one, and so he’d pour a little Tullamore dew for each of us and we’d have a shot. Normally, I’m not a shot guy. So, I was expecting the worst, but I was like, “That’s pretty good!” It was pretty smooth, you know. So that’s how I’ve learned to like Tullamore dew. That’s all thanks to Ray.

    Anyway, I remember at one point, we had a group of us come down here. Tom Nelson, who was Noeleen’s husband at the time, and Ed Mead, and a bunch of handy guys maybe Kevin Fox walked through the place, walked around the first floor, walked down the cellar. Part of the problem was we couldn’t get into the house, because there were tenants in the house, and they wouldn’t let us in. I think they allowed us into certain rooms at one point though. We did manage to get permission to go in and walk around a little bit, but we didn’t see all the rooms because it was not allowed. But the determination of the guys who knew what they were talking about was that this was doable. It’s not an easy job, but you know, it’s something we can afford to do. And little did we know, when you peel back one layer of the onion, there were two other things to do, and it kept going on and on and on. Of course, I was looking at it from a financial point of view. I basically was like, “Listen, let’s slap a coat of paint on the place, get a liquor license, and get opened, Okay? Let’s start selling it, and then once we start making money then we can start doing all the little projects we want to do.” Well, most people wanted to get it done the right way, and then open up, so I lost that fight. But I was worried because we were down to our last twenty-five thousand dollars. Fortunately, I had arranged maybe six months before with the Chamber of Commerce to come to the IHSM club. Of course, by this time — just to give you a timeline — we bought the property in July of 2014. And then we focused on the renovation of the house first in order to get tenants in there, to get a rental income coming in. And then we focused on the bar. So we had a lot of problems with the city and the fire marshal in terms of our plans that stalled the project in the bar room but we were able to get the house up and running. I think our tenants moved in in January of 2015. Well, of course, everybody in town would say, “When are you going to open up that clubhouse?” I’d say next month…I just kept saying next month….it will be open next month! (Laughter) I really thought we’d be open for the Super Bowl. We bought it in July of 2014. I thought we’d be in for the Super Bowl in January of 2015. That’s how optimistic I was!

    Anyway, so the next month the Chamber of Commerce contacted me. You know, the Chamber of Commerce goes to various restaurants and whatnot because they have the Business After Hours, so they do cocktail parties or networking events, and so they came to us and said, “We’d like to have a Business After Hours at the Irish Club.” I said, “That’s a great idea! What do you think? When can you put us on the schedule?” They said. “How about November of 2015?” I said, “Sure, no problem at all.” So, we signed a contract with them for November 18, 2015, and if it wasn’t for that Chamber of Commerce event on our calendar looming over our heads, we wouldn’t have been ready. That was the target at that point. We had to be open for that event, because otherwise we thought we’d be very embarrassed about not being ready. As people will tell you, we got our Certificate of Occupancy the afternoon of November 18, 2015! We were open that night for the “Business After Hours” at five o’clock pm. But I tell you, if we didn’t have that on the calendar, I don’t know what would have happened, because there was always something else to be done…oh, let’s get air conditioning; oh, let’s convert from oil to gas; oh, let’s put a handicapped bathroom in; oh, it just doesn’t end. We were down to our last twenty to twenty-five thousand dollars. Of course, fortunately, the one good thing about the Irish Festival was we knew every fall we’d come into a good, you know, twenty thousand dollars of income to help keep this going. Keep in mind that back then, we were still around four hundred members and so dues were not a big money maker. Dues is now the number one source of revenue for our club. We made about forty thousand dollars on dues last year, followed by the bar. The bar makes not quite thirty thousand, but back then the Festival used to be our big money maker. Am I keeping you up? (laughter) I feel like I’m rattling on.

    Interviewer: Oh, no, no! But I think this is going to be your final question. You’ve talked about the steps in the club but what were some of the physical aspects of renovating the club?

    Mike McCabe: Well, I did some work, but I’m not a handy guy, so I was not involved in building it. I was involved in the financial and legal aspects of all the various things like getting all the various zoning permits. To talk about the actual renovations, what you’ve got to do is sit down with Ed Mead. He’s the number one guy on that, as well as Brian Murphy and Kevin Fox. Peter Purcell had a big, big role, too, especially on the house side. They can tell you more about the people that worked here.

    Sheila Johnson: Well Vern and I used to come and visit on the weekend and Ed Mead was so proud of what was going on. He’d bring us around and show us not only what was done, but tell us what the plans were. There were holes in the floors that went down to the basement.

    Mike McCabe: Yes, there was a trap door that went down into the basement.

    Sheila Johnson: Yes, Maureen you remember taking staples out of the walls!

    Maureen Richetelli: oh, geez yes and scrubbing these seats because we got all these chairs second hand. Yes, these green chairs are hand me downs and that’s why they’re so heavy. We had to take what we could.

    Sheila Johnson: Yes, I remember people at Costa Azzurras saying, “Oh we’ll pay for some chairs; we’ll pay for this or that.” Members were just coming up and donating.

    Mike McCabe: At one point we did have a campaign where you could donate some stuff like the tables, and even though we were using second hand stuff in here, the decision was made to have brand new stuff in the bar and that’s when people were buying chairs and buying tables and, you know, pledging money towards the bar. That helped a lot. Everybody could see it was coming together. At first, obviously we were buying furniture for the place. The rest is history.

    Maureen Richetelli: Yes, we did it! We did it!

    Interviewer: OKay, Mike, as the newly elected president, what’s your vision for the future or your hopes for the future.

    Mike McCabe: Part of my goal really is to stay cohesive. You see a lot of organizations become political. Divide off into factions. And I’m concerned about that for our organization. I see little signs of that sometimes, and I think probably that’s my number one goal is to make sure of that. I mean, we’ve been so cohesive for so long, but I’ve seen organizations tear apart over politics. And I think that would be terrible for our club. We’ve always had disagreements, but you don’t make a person an enemy. You know, you sit down, have a drink with the person and at the end of the day, you get along. I mean I’ve had arguments with Maureen Richetelli, I’ve had arguments with Maureen Moore, I’ve had arguments with Danelle Sullivan, but at the end of the day, you just forget about it and have a joke and a smile. So that’s what I’m concerned about. I want to make sure that there’s a good atmosphere. I think I’m just going to try to keep an eye on everything and try to nip things in the bud if I think things are going askew.

    Obviously, I want to continue to grow the club. We have such a full calendar now, I don’t know how much more we could fit in here in terms of activities! The one thing I think we’re lacking and it’s a challenge I’m trying to work on is Irish sports. That is a big challenge. We tried to do some work last year with the New Haven club in order to try to get some kids involved, and I find since I wasn’t raised with Irish sports, it’s hard. I don’t know a lot of people in our club that were raised with Irish sports and so that’s part of the problem. You know, we really have to get some members that are off the boat and who were raised with it. Or that are from New Haven or from Fairfield or from Rockland or whatever that want to jump up and get that going. One of the problems was that people would have to go far. That is very hard for people with families to have to leave Milford to join up with them. What we need is like one person to come up and say, “How come you guys don’t do Irish sports?” And then maybe they can get something going here. That’s what we need in terms of Irish sports. I think if you’re raised with Irish sports, it’s just second nature, and that’s just the way it’s played.

    Anyway, my motto has always been, and some of you may have heard this: none of us are getting paid here, so we might as well have a good time! And if this stops being fun for us, then that’s the beginning of the end as far as I’m concerned. So that’s part of my job, too. It is to make sure that the people are still enjoying themselves. I remember the days when I used to look forward to board meetings and coming to meetings, and it wasn’t a chore. It was fun, and I hope I don’t impose chores on people; I hope people do things because it’s fun.

    Interviewer: The pressure from the outside world and from out of towners, or the city…how did you deal with it, and what kind of feedback did you get from them?

    Mike McCabe: Well, I think, in terms of other Irish organizations you’re talking about? I think, and I can only speak for myself, other Irish organizations have known what we’ve been trying to do here for eleven years, and I think they’re very impressed with what we have here. Another one of my goals is to raise the profile of the club on a regional basis, on a Northeastern basis. To make sure that people in New York and Boston know this is a place. I think the traditional music helps us tremendously to get the word out because there’s such a large network of musicians that come throughout the tri-state area. Hopefully, we can expand that to Boston and Rhode Island and beyond. I think people, in general, we all belong to clubs and organizations. I’ve done it all my adult life, and, you know, it’s very hard to get people to come out to a meeting. It’s amazing that we do get the numbers we do, but keep in mind if we get a hundred people at a meeting, there’s a thousand people that still said, “No.” But that’s always the way it’s going to be. You know it’s tough to compete with the ninety-three million channels on T.V. especially for families. Many people can’t do what I can like get a babysitter like Tracey and I used to do, we’d get a babysitter, but then some can’t afford it. I mean between food and drink and babysitting, we could spend a hundred dollars just going to a meeting. So, I’m not sure what people can afford. But I think just the fact that we were able to take up a nub of an idea back in 2006 and it blow up like crazy. And it’s still going today. It has been very good to see. We were just talking about the next generation coming up at Slainte last night. You look around the table, and we are lucky to have some young people on this board because not all of us want to keep doing a golf tournament and whatnot, so hopefully that’ll come into play. I’ve been really heartened to see — and Sheila can speak to this because it’s the Thursday night Trivia, I think that is really the genesis of that — and I think you got to bless my wife for putting that out there and sticking with it when a lot of people really didn’t think it was a great idea. Now there is a consistent trivia crowd. And Sheila can speak to that. I think a lot of the steady crowd didn’t know each other until they started coming to trivia.

    Sheila Danehy: Yes, it’s so similar to what you were saying. I’ve made lots of good friends just from having been a champion and you can just see how friendships are blossoming. It’s the same group with some newbies here and there, which is good. It is a mixed crowd in terms of age, too, which I think is one of the reasons I was happy with it. It’s not all twenty somethings and not all seventy somethings; it’s a nice mixed bag, which is hard to come by. It’s definitely a success, and it’s fun. It’s our favorite thing to do here, to be honest. Glen and I love it, and we hate when we miss it.

    Mike McCabe: There’s many times when I just try to take in the accomplishments that have happened. It is something else. Some of the nights when we have the traditional music, or we have a great band going on, and everybody’s having fun, or the dancers are up dancing, or whatever, I say this is why we did it for. This is why we’ve spent all that money, and time, and effort to have a place where we have our own community and to be able to say that these days, is very unique.

    Sheila Danehy: Yes, for myself and Glenn, we’re social people. This is like where we go now! It’s gotten to the point where we come here all the time. We live up the street, that’s part of it, but in general, it’s like where we’re going to go. You know there’s really never a question for us doing something different though, of course, sometimes we’re going to go to a movie or we are doing something different, but if we’re going out to meet some friends, or listen to music or have a drink, THIS is where we’re coming.

    Mike McCabe: Yeah, but there’s one other challenge I have, and then I’ll shut up after this. (laughter) I have two thirteen-year olds at home, and many times they don’t like this club, because it takes mom and dad away from the family. They don’t see the benefit of it, because there’s not a lot here for them and if I do anything over the next year, it’s to try to get kids like that involved because that’s the next generation. My kids have been raised with the Irish club and to hear them now basically say, “…there’s nothing for me down there…” really, really hurts. I really want them to say this is part of their lives; this is part of their memories; this is part of their upbringing. Now that they’re thirteen and until they go to college, I want them to be a part of this, and so that’s part of my job, too. It really is going to come down to finding out what they’d like to do. So, I asked Katie and Owen. I said, “OK, Katie and Owen, “tell me what’s going to bring you down to the clubhouse.” And Katie came up with a whole bunch of ideas, and I presented them to Jen Hussey. Katie thought about putting video games up on the big screen, and one of the ideas I’m going to pursue right off the bat is to have a Family Friday Night where families can bring their kids down and the kids will do something designed for them and hang out and the parents can still hang out and socialize as well. So, we’ll see if that works for them.

    Bernard Keilty: Right now, this Friday night there’s a band coming from Ireland and they’re young kids. I mean not everyone is into music and not everyone is a musician. But it’s young kids, and my thing is the kids. And the way to get to the kids for me is through music or sports or whatever some of these other activities are.

    Maureen Richetelli: You hit that gap though. I mean my daughter Eileen’s kids, my grandchildren, they love coming here. And Catherine, too, she’s going to be sixteen – I can’t even believe it! She’s at that age where she’s in need of something.

    Mike McCabe: And, yes, so sports we could look at that could fill that need. And maybe music is something that we can look into again. We haven’t talked about the pipe band. We had a pipe band for a while, and we started having some kids interested in that, and if we were able to keep that going that might have been a way to help.

    Bernard Keilty: Maybe having a Children’s Committee could help.

    Mike McCabe: That’s what one idea is. I basically said to my kids, “I’m talking about this family Friday night, but you guys are running it, so you tell me what you want here. We’re not going to tell you what we’re going to put on for you. You tell me what you want….do you want to do karaoke? Do you want to have a deejay? Do you want to play movies? Do you want pizza or popcorn? I mean you tell us what will bring you in.” Hopefully, that is working out well because here they are!

    Interviewer: We thank you both for your time and your insights and your explanations of how things happened and thanks for working so hard and making it a great place!

  • The Co-Founding Fathers of the Club

  • Click below to go to Marty’s Interview:

    Co-founder, past president and Charter Member of the Irish Heritage Society of Milford
    Saturday November 19, 2016

    Main interviewer: Nancy Smith

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  • Click below to go to Chris’s Interview:

    Co-Founder, past president and Charter Member of the Irish Heritage Society of Milford
    Friday, January 13, 2017

    Main interviewer: Bernard Keilty