Seattle's beloved television clown, J.P. Patches, was famously known as the Mayor of the City Dump. His shack appeared to be furnished from discarded household objects. His clothes were pieced-together rags. The buttons that adorned his patchwork jacket looked as if they'd been snatched from a garbage can and pinned on with pride.
Seattle’s beloved television clown, J.P. Patches, was famously known as the Mayor of the City Dump. His shack appeared to be furnished from discarded household objects. His clothes were pieced-together rags. The buttons that adorned his patchwork jacket looked as if they’d been snatched from a garbage can and pinned on with pride.
So when friends learned that Chris Wedes, 83, who played J.P. on the long-running children’s show and is battling cancer, would appear for a final broadcast Wednesday night, they wanted to honor him one more time.
City Council member Jean Godden, a friend of Wedes’, suggested renaming the North Transfer Station, the place between Wallingford and Fremont where garbage trucks unload and residents haul their trash, after J.P.
But Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) — which manages the city’s solid-waste disposal and vigorously promotes reuse and recycling — balked.
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“It’s not a dump,” said Bob Hennessey, the council liaison for the utility.
Instead the utility agreed to name a new education center in the transfer station, which is being redesigned and reopen in 2012, after the clown.
“The idea will be to show how thinking about solid-waste management has evolved over the last several decades. The education center will teach the next generation how to reduce the amount of materials we put into landfills every year,” said Hennessey, who claims to be a Patches Pal but admitted to liking J.P.’s burly sidekick Gertrude better.
Godden’s own children were Patches Pals. She remembers them sitting on the living-room floor cracking up at J.P’s slapstick antics. She uses air quotes to describe Gertrude, played by Bob Newman, as J.P.’s “girlfriend.” She remembers that J.P.’s humor made adults laugh right along with the kids.
Asked if the SPU’s decision might be too politically correct, Godden put her head in her hands.
“It is PC,” she said. “The dump. We aren’t to call it that anymore.”
But Godden is a gracious politician. She works with the folks over at SPU. She agreed to draft a proclamation declaring the city’s intent to name the North Transfer Station Education Center after J.P. and got all eight council colleagues to sign on.
Other friends of J.P.’s, who planned to be on hand to present the proclamation during the KCTS pledge drive Wednesday night, were less conciliatory.
“I appreciate that SPU stepped up to name the education center after J.P., said Feliks Banel, a local writer, producer and Patches Pal who has worked with J.P. on events for charities and community organizations for nearly 20 years.
“My secret hope is that people will call the whole thing “The J.P. Patches City Dump.” He envisions civil disobedience by Patches Pals. Defaced official North Transfer Station signs. An “Occupy the Dump” movement.
“Patches Pals, we are EVERYWHERE!” he said.
Radio and television personality Pat Cashman, who introduced J.P. to the public television audience Wednesday night, said Wedes is one of those rare childhood heroes who never disappointed in real life.
Cashman reminded viewers that J.P. was “Mayor of the City Dump.” He presented the framed, signed City Council proclamation, skipping quickly over “North Transfer Station Education Center.” To J.P. he said, “You and I know it’s the dump.”
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.