Saturday, July 28, 2012

J.P. Patches - R.I.P.

He was a beloved clown. J.P. Patches was part of the Pacific Northwest's cadre of children's entertainers - those who came to fame in the early days of television. TV's in every room, in cars, on your telephone - in high-definition color with pictures beaming instantly from all corners of the Earth - no-holds-barred programming. That is today - not even mentioning the phenomenon(s) of personal computers and the internet - that is how children grow up now. It is no wonder the 1940's and 50's are viewed as innocent and guileless.

So we say goodbye to J.P. and recall others. Sheriff Tex, Wunda Wunda, Howdy Doody, Cecil and Beanie, Brakeman Bill, Captain Puget, and, of course - Stan Boreson - who skittered across our black and white screens - we loved them all. Television on the Island was a trial. Reception was rarely clear unless located in a house with no interference matters like trees, hills, and of course, rain didn't help. Snow, ghosts, wavery lines, interruptions were a constant. Most sets were controlled (term used loosely) by "rabbit ears," a couple of antennas wired to the TV. "Don't touch the rabbit ears." Usually the patriarch of the house was the grand master of turning, twisting, and swearing at them in the ongoing effort to improve or at least maintain picture quality. Some houses sported expensive roof-top antenna contraptions that were a proud announcement of a home's superior TV watching. Having a TV at all was a sign of superiority. They were expensive.

But back to our childhood heros. There were four main television channels - yup - four - KING, KOMO, KIRO, KTNT - all spinoff's of radio stations. The first kid's show was Sheriff Tex's Safety Junction. He played his guitar and sang songs such as "Who Broke the Lock on the Hen House Door?" Best of all though, was his hootin'nanny. We loved it - car horns, wash boards, clackers, wind-up sirens - a marvelously loud contraption.

"Zero dacus mucho crockus halaballooza bub," there wasn't a kid who didn't know Stan Boreson's Klubhouse theme song. Stan was(is) a daffy Swede with a big heart and talent for being goofy. Playing his accordion and singing songs like "I Left My Heart in Mukilteo, "Frieda My Clam-digging Sweetheart," "Who Hid the Halibut on the Poop Deck," and "I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas." There was standing room only at the back of the high school gym, where I stood with my grandmother clapping and laughing at Stan's performance. He played a lot of rural venues before he landed his TV gig.

Bob Clampett introduced us to Beany and Cecil, hand puppets. Beany, the boy with the propeller poking from his cap, and his sidekick, Cecil the Sea-sick Sea Serpent, jostled their way across the screen with Cecil more often than not, saving the day for Beany.

Wunda Wunda was sort of like Mr. Rogers with her gentle personality. Her theme song was soothing and inviting. "Wunda Wunda is my name, oh boys and girls, I'm glad you came."

No room for mistakes - they were live shows. Television became wildly popular very quickly. Hollywood was taken by surprise; scrambled to lure audiences back to movie theaters with extravagant films, Technicolor, (no color on TV's for many years), 3D (primitive and didn't last long). Lynwood's Saturday matinees continued to engage us kids. But it was not long before movie and radio heros galloped, flew, and otherwise raced to the new medium. Sky King, Hopalong Cassidy, Bobby Benson of the B Bar B, The Lone Ranger,

More memories another day!

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