Op-ed: When we were kids, J.P. Patches was our rock star
J. P. Patches had a greater emotional impact on more people in the Puget Sound area than anyone over the past 50 years. He wasn't there for just part of our childhoods; he was there for the whole stretch.
Special to The Times
I MISS J.P. Patches. But it's the good kind of miss. When people important in your life passes you get to relive all the good stuff they brought to the table, and boy howdy did J.P. bring a lot.
Chris Wedes, the man who played J.P. Patches and who left us last weekend, was an outstanding man, helluva guy and the most talented person I ever met. But today I write about J.P. I think Chris would understand.
Several years ago I had the great good fortune to write a book about J.P. Patches. Throughout that experience I had a front-row seat to how big a deal he was to so many people.
At every book signing, the line of people wanting to meet J.P. would snake around corners, bookshelves and coffee stands. Hundreds of middle-aged Patches Pals gladly stood in line for hours to get his autograph, snap a photo or shake his hand. This more than two decades after his show went off the air.
From 1958 to 1981, the "J.P. Patches Show" was my generation's must-see TV.
If our family had been destitute and forced to burn every stick of furniture to stay warm I would have thrown myself on the fire before I let them touch the television. It was the center of my kid universe.
J.P. Patches had a greater emotional impact on more people in the Puget Sound area than anyone over the past 50 years. He wasn't there for just part of our childhoods; he was there for the whole stretch. Outside of our parents, he may have been the most consistent presence in our lives.
Fifty years from now, the term "Patches Pal" won't have much meaning. We'll be the worse for it. For the time being it still carries it's own unique cachet. If you're a Patches Pal, or even God forbid, a Boris Buddy, it means you're from these parts. It's the Puget Sound litmus test for Northwest natives.
Being a Patches Pal means you grew up with a role model who never once held out for a contract extension or threatened to move to another city. Being a Patches Pal is a badge of honor that no one gave to you but yourself.
It's hard to explain to people who didn't grow up around here how big a deal the clown was. They find it quaint. But to put it in perspective, I tell them how a friend of mine once summed up the whole phenomenon: "When we were kids, J.P. Patches was our rock star."
Most of us will never experience what it feels like to bring a smile to every person we meet. But for one Seattle resident it was business as usual. Regardless of the economy, business was always booming.
Thank you Julius Pierpont Patches. You lived the kind of life we all strive for. You were truly a great man.Bryan Johnston is a Seattleite and Patches Pal. He has been a television and video writer and producer for 27 years and is the author of "J.P. Patches: Northwest Icon."