By Kevin Fox
"I would go to bed on March 16th, the eve of St. Patrick's Day, filled with the same anticipation that I did the night before Christmas!" stated Marcia (Kirchner) Hardin.
It's impossible for many of us to imagine that kind of excitement at the prospects of St. Patrick's Day, but if the holiday was a family tradition and a part of your earliest childhood memories, then you can quickly see it's importance.
Marcia grew up on a farm about a mile from St. Patrick, one of ten children of Clarence and the late Nancy Kirchner. After Marcia had moved away, the family home burned, and Clarence and Nancy moved to St. Patrick around 1976 in the former home of Marcia's great grandparents (Mr. & Mrs. John N. Kirchner) and grandparents, (Joe & Nellie Kirchner). But even living on a farm a mile outside of town, it seems that Marcia grew up in the shadow of the shamrock.
Marcia stated, "St. Patrick is always a huge deal for my family and I. There would be a huge dinner and dance. The dance would bring people in from all over the area. The highlight of the day would be the St. Patrick Day Queen contest. Everyone that came in and bought a dinner ticket also got a ticket to vote for a queen and it was decided by the popular vote. I even won the queen contest one year. My earliest memory was when I was perhaps six and I had gone to stay all night with my grandparents (Joe & Nellie) and they took me over to the dinner. All the littler kids had to stay home. I put on a nice dress and got to go to the dinner and hang around a little later and see some of the entertainment. As a small child I also remember dancing on the lunch counter a couple times. When I was a kid St. Patrick's Day and 4th of July were just two huge events because we didn't have a lot of other things to take up our time like kids do today. To me it seemed bigger than the fair. The excitement of that day has not dwindled one bit. It's just a great time for people who do not live around St. Patrick anymore to come back and share their St. Patrick memories. I have never been anywhere else but St. Patrick on St. Patrick's Day and I never will. The thing that I want to stress about St. Patrick's Day is that it's a religious holiday and that should be remembered first and that's the way that it's celebrated in Ireland and that's the way St. Patrick, Missouri would like to celebrate it as well. But with friends and family coming back for the observance it also takes on a sort of homecoming fun atmosphere as well. The importance of family and friends and getting together on St. Patrick's Day is something that I have tried to pass on to my daughter, but kids are busier today, so I don't think she quite has it yet. Over the years I have also given tours of the Shrine although I'm not as gifted at it as others such as Jason Richmond are. But if I'm in St. Patrick and someone new stops in and they want to see the Shrine, I'll give them a tour. I do not let anyone out of town without seeing the Shrine.
Of course, a lot of my current memories are revolved around the Old Irish Gift Shop that my family runs. The store itself was built around 1914 and was owned and ran by my great grandfather John N. Kirchner. The store also had a post office in it, however it wasn't where the present post office is located in the rear of the building. Instead it was at the front of the building where the large windows are located in the west. The general store was in the large portion of the store and there was a tavern at the rear of the store. In 1983 or 1984 my sister Mona and I started the store that you see today. The reason we built up the store was the fact that the store was vacant and in such a state that we didn't want to see it fall down. We started the Old Irish Antique Shop. That business went well, however we both worked full time and when she moved away it became more difficult to run the store and keep antiques. So we switched over to Irish gifts. When mother was still living, it was open every day, but since she has passed away we are open very day in March. On an average St. Patrick's Day that falls on a weekday we will have around 600 people visit the store and as many as a thousand when it falls on the weekend. It's a lot of work, but never dread it. We get to see a lot of old friends that make it back every year or some that do not come back quite that often. This is the second year of being in the store without Mom and it's really tough because people still come in and ask about the nice lady that they would sit and talk to. She loved to talk and visit with people. She loved people and always said that she didn't know what she would have done if the store wasn't there when she retired. But we have gone on because she would have wanted us to. And we have started some new traditions as well, for example last year Santa paid us a visit dressed in green and I have been told that he will be here this year as well. He will be passing out presents once again. There will also be prizes given away on the hour."
Marcia lives in Canton with her husband Edd and they have one daughter Leslie.