Paul Gunner, left, jokes with his nephew Charlie Hendley of Belleville, Mich., as the extended Gunner family reunite for their 45th straight year at OB's Bar & Grill. Mr. Gunner has been spending St. Patrick's Day at the bar since he was old enough to drink beer.
There's nothing else like a first love. And for Irishman Paul Gunner, that first love is OB's Bar & Grill, a West Toledo Irish joint that celebrates St. Patrick's Day with a fervor.
For the last 45 years, Mr. Gunner has made himself a fixture at OB's on St. Patrick's Day.
"Because it was my first bar," he said, seated on a tall stool on the overflowing deck facing Tremainsville Road. "I've never been to any other bar on St. Paddy's Day," said Mr. Gunner, 62.
It was at OB's after classes where he learned to drink, back in the day when 18 was the legal age for drinking 3.2 beer that was 3.2 percent alcohol.
The Gunner St. Patrick's Day is a family affair, with brothers, sisters, an aunt, and nephews and nieces joining the fun.
The former Toledo resident and Central Catholic High School graduate makes the annual St. Patrick's Day pilgrimage to 2243 Tremainsville from his home in Troy, Mich., in large part because "I get to see a lot of classmates and friends here. It's just like a homecoming," he said.
Mr. Gunner looked the part of the Irishman, wearing a green hat, green-and-white-checked shirt, green beads, and a note pad hanging from his neck that bore the request that anyone finding Mr. Gunner return him to his home in Troy.
Joining him on the patio was his aunt Gwen Gunner, 84, of Lambertville, puffing on cigarettes and enjoying the attention of well-wishers on this holiest of Irish holidays.
"She's the adopted grandmother of a lot of my friends," said granddaughter Melissa Gunner, 30, who doubles as her driver and near-daily companion.
Melissa Gunner of Toledo gives her grandmother Gwen Gunner, 84, of Lambertville a kiss at OB's Tavern in West Toledo on St. Patrick's Day.
Mr. Gunner's St. Patrick's Day traditionally begins at 6:30 a.m. when family members pile into his sport utility vehicle for the trip south. First stop is Bob Evans for a hearty breakfast. The day wraps up with a stop at Rudy's Hot Dog before heading north.
Getting to OB's poses a challenge on St. Patrick's Day, when cars are parked for blocks on both sides of Tremainsville and on side streets.
That scene is repeated elsewhere in Toledo, where festivities clog bars and nearby streets. At Manhattan's Restaurant on 1516 Adams St., a more sedate crowd packed the outdoor patio as well as the inside.
Owner Marty Lahey said that although Manhattan's is not a traditional Irish tavern, his family heritage and traditional Irish recipes overcome that. Unlike the scenes at other Irish-for-a-day bars, Mr. Lahey said, "It's really a family atmosphere" at Manhattan's. "But I'm Irish."