St. Patrick’s Day is my favorite holiday. You don’t have to get all up tight about what gift to give who and you can just relax and enjoy the day any way you choose.
I don’t have all that much Irish blood coursing through my veins, but I enjoy the holiday to the fullest. People ask me frequently if I am Irish and I make what claim I can through kin who came to Ireland and then over the Atlantic to the coast of South Carolina.
When I went back to stamp collecting as a serious hobby in 1990, I was attracted to the stamps of Ireland because they were and are high quality stamps. They have been used to beautifully depict the history of Ireland and they do this well. St. Patrick is, of course, an important part of that history.
As I re-charged my stamp collecting hobby in 1990, I became acquainted with a prominent stamp dealer and writer of that time, Herman “Pat” Herst, Jr. Pat derived his nickname “Pat” from the fact that he was born on St. Patrick’s Day 1909. If you are thinking that “Pat” was Irish, you are wrong because he was a Jewish American.
Around 1990 activities for the celebration of the bicentennial of Kentucky’s statehood were beginning to ramp up. Among the things that caught my eye was the proposed image for the bicentennial stamp with a picture of Federal Hill, a.k.a. My Old Kentucky Home, and the caption, My Old Kentucky Home State Park emblazoned below it. All this was a commercial for a Kentucky State Park. It had nothing to do with the bicentennial.
I felt the state deserved a better stamp subject, not that I had anything against Bardstown or My Old Kentucky Home, but it was apparent that the stamp design was poorly thought out and with the knowledge of previous stamps depicting the state’s interesting history, I protested the stamp’s design.
Somehow Pat Herst found out about my quest and wrote it up in one of the leading stamp publications. His enthusiasm for my suggestion that another design be chosen overtook him, when in the article he proclaimed that I’d been successful in my efforts to have the design changed. It actually was too late in the process to stop the stamp and as a result, a stamp of inferior design was the result. Pat and I corresponded several more times before his death in 1999.
Over the years since then, I’ve read most of his books related to stamp collecting including his famous “Nassau Street,” detailing his interesting time in New York City’s stamp district in the 1930s and 1940s. I tell everyone that “Nassau Street” is the only book I’ve read multiple times other than the Bible.
It is a very fantastic book in my opinion. It captures Pat’s enthusiasm for life and stamp collecting in this volatile period in world history. No one could ever say that Pat didn’t live life with all the imagination and energy possible, particularly if you read “Nassau Street.”
I thought of Pat Herst last year as my granddaughter, Eden Jerusha Bartram, was coming into the world. She threatened to come into the world on March 16, but undoubtedly in deference to me, she waited until St. Patrick’s Day March 17, 2011.
Her mother is a stamp collector and one of my first wishes for Eden was that she’d have an interest in the hobby. At age one now, that urge has not yet made itself known. I plan to go down to North Carolina St. Patrick’s Day week for her birthday and perhaps we’ll talk about it then!
At our March meeting on Saturday at 2 p.m. we’ll talk about the stamps of Ireland and how its colorful history is a part of these stamps. We’ll be available to answer questions about stamp collecting and its many facets.
I encourage you to come to our meeting at Memorial Baptist Church, 130 Holmes St. You’ll learn some interesting things about stamps and perhaps win a stamp collecting prize too.
Breck Pegram is president of the Kentucky Stamp Club.