Hugo N. Frye

The candidate was walking the streets of Olympia about 35 years ago, leading with his chin as he was rounding the SW corner at Washington and 5th heading south. He was short and rumpled, his hair was white and unkempt. He had an ill-trimmed beard in an era when beards were rare in Oly. His big black-rimmed glasses were crooked.

I stopped him and mentioned I was planning on voting for him in the upcoming primary (it was either for the U.S. Senate or Governor). He seemed quite friendly when he asked if I subscribed to his periodical, The Saturday Evening Free Press.

I was not a subscriber. Now a real salesperson would've taken that opportunity to lure me in. But instead, his mood completely changed within nanoseconds-- the candidate/editor exploded at me in a scene-causing rage. After unleashing a long list of expletives, he stormed off screaming at me over his shoulder, "Don't waste your vote on me, you little punk! Give it to someone who wants it!" Holy Tourette, Batman, what in the Hell was that?

I just had a John Patric encounter.

He's been gone for over two decades now, but if you were a Washington State voter between 1960 to the early 1980s, chances are you had the opportunity to cast your vote in the primaries for John "Hugo N. Frye" Patric. Yes, he frequently used that pen name in quotes on the ballot. "Hugo N. Frye." Get it?

John Patric (born 1902) grew up in Snohomish. His father ran a hardware store, his mother was the town librarian. During his high school years, John was President of his student body, the only election he ever won. He was also editor of the school magazine.

Patric had an interesting career as a struggling writer. His bread and butter was in the writing of magazine articles, and he was a regular contributor to National Geographic. He is probably best known as the author of the book, Yankee Hobo in the Orient, (later released under the title, Why Japan was Strong) and co-author of Repairmen Will Get You If You Don't Watch Out.

In 1957, after years of wandering and writing, John returned to Snohomish, which he called "Sodomish," and observed, "When I came back I found the most rotten, corrupt political situation I've seen anywhere in the world. It was like a big stinking thunderjug with the lid clamped down. I was forced to do the only thing I could-- since all other avenues of protest were closed to me. I went down and bought a ten-dollar typewriter which you see there smashed up by the cops. I got some hectograph gelatin and made some copies. That's how I got started."

This proto-zine was called The Snohomish County Free Press, and by the reference to the typewriter being smashed up, you can guess Mr. Patric caused quite a stir with his publication. It took only 9 issues before John was arrested on an insanity charge. He was held in the Snohomish County Jail and then in the (now defunct) Northern State Hospital.

At the 1959 Washington Superior Court 4-day trial, John was defendant, attorney, and expert witness. In spite of getting branded a "schizophrenic, paranoid type," and described as "dangerous and may erupt into violence someday" by Northern's superintendent, John gave an effective defense of every American's right to be strange. Actually, in 1959, that was novel. And he was found sane by the jury, who took only 10 minutes to decide.

Due to the national media coverage of the trial, John renamed his publication The Saturday Evening Free Press (less provincial sounding, apparently) and continued to raise Hell. At one point his home was invaded and he was severely beaten.

John's real political career as a statewide figure began in 1960 when he ran in the primary against incumbent Gov. Al Rosellini. This was a typical Patric formula, to file against an unbeatable incumbent in the primary. He usually filed for high profile offices, like Governor, U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressman. For many, John "Hugo N. Frye" Patric's name on the ballot was the same as "None of the Above." I voted for him myself more than once.

As I recall, Patric usually made news whenever he filed as a candidate with the Secretary of State due to the fact he paid his filing fee entirely with loose change. He also got into a little trouble one year when he used his "Hugo N. Frye" name on a petition.

Here are some choice Patric quotes I gathered in the course of digging through his public life:

"What happened to me could happen to any of you"--To the jury in his 1959 insanity trial

"Americans have the right to be different."--1959 trial.

"Who owns the Post Office anyhow?"--Defending his decision to frank his own mail, just like members of Congress.

"The last time I won an office was when I was elected senior-class president in high school. That got old real quick."

[On his newspaper]: "I try to keep it slanderous. Failing that, I strive for blasphemy. Anything but the truth."

"Taxellini"--Patric's name for Gov. Rosellini, 1960.

[In response to reporter's question as to why he is running for Governor]: "To be a nuisance."--1964.

[In response to a reporter's question about what his program would be if elected Governor]: "That's my business."

"Dandy Evans, Greatest Governor in Washington History"--Description of Gov. Evans, 1968.

"I am very careful not to be elected to anything. When the Big Bust comes, the boobs are going to blame the Ruling Classes. They always do, and often they are liquidated, as in Russia and France in recent times."--1968.

"I regard women as a deterrent to getting anything done"--1967.

"Violence is stupid, no matter who uses it."--1967.

"Most peoples' word isn't worth the powder to blow them all to Hell."--1967.

"I'm just doin' what I Goddamn please, that's what I'm doin'."--1967.

[In response to a reporter's question if he would change things in Washington, D.C. should he defeat Scoop Jackson]: "You know better than that. But I'd make sure they all knew I was voting No on most of the issues. And I'd refuse to join a committee-- there's nothing that says you have to be on a committee. And no stationery. Wastes money."--1970.

"You can't lose a race you didn't run for. Hell, I didn't even crawl. I left that for the candidates with all the money to buy fancy posters and TV ads"--1978.

"You can't criticize the rulers of this country unless you are willing to take on their responsibilities. I knew I couldn't win. So I won't even talk about what if I had."--1978.

"I run for every office available. Wait, check that. I file for every office. I don't run. I don't even crawl. It's just sort of a public service in case someone wants to vote for me."--1980.

"It's more fun to lose. That way you have something to look forward to next time."--1980.

"Lord, against Maggie [U.S. Sen. Warren G. Magnuson] in 1974 I got 20,000 votes, now that's funny."--1980.

"I just don't believe anyone has the right to criticize our public officials unless they are willing to face the grave responsibilities our elected officials face. I don't want those responsibilities but I'm making the offer to accept them. If the people want me, I'm here. I hope they don't."--1980.

"I was the only candidate who could prove he was sane, the others could only claim it."--1980.

Reporters loved John Patric and the colorful copy he provided. Clayton Fox of The Daily Olympian enjoyed describing Patric with phrases like, "the bearded bard of Snohomish, gadfly of golliwoggs and gooser of governmental gophers," or "Politicians cringed in their overstuffed chairs and early-morning habitues of The Spar started over their coffee cups as the bearded bard of Snohomish County, the editor-publisher of The Saturday Evening Free Press, the pricker of political stuffed shirts, the scourge of junkmailers, implacable foe of pollution and corruption, aider and abetter of bees, trees and ocean breezes, made the Olympia scene with hirsute stare and barbed tongue."

John Patric's last statewide primary was in the Oct. 1983 special election for the U.S. Senate. Out of 33 names on the ballot, Patric came in at number 30, with 211 votes, or 0.03%.

Patric died in Sept. 1985. He had fallen at his home and died as a result of complications during a brief stay in an Everett nursing home. Reporters and columnists gave extensive coverage to his passing, recognizing the ballot box would never be the same without Hugo N. Frye.

There were two odd bits of trivia to emerge after he died. First, although he said on more than one occasion he had nothing but contempt for the Social Security system and refused to get a number, you can find his name on the Social Security Death Index. Secondly, one of his associates, Caroline Diamond, told the Seattle Times on the occasion of Patric's passing, "I almost hesitate to tell this. But ... John won something. He was elected a Democratic precinct committeeman recently. Who'd of ever thought? John Patric went to his grave a winner."

For several years after John's death, his brother, known as Bill Patrick, continued the tradition of filing for office in Snohomish County and never winning. He kept his brother's memory alive by distributing copies of Yankee Hobo in the Orient. Bill died in 2005 at the age of 86.

Comments

"I regard women as a

"I regard women as a deterrent to getting anything done"--Hugo N. Frye, 1967

Heh, I wonder how Frye would react to see a woman Governor, two women U.S. Senators and four women on the State Supreme Court in contemporary Washington state. There is even a female frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Would his head explode?

I regard women as a deterrent

Well, having known and worked for Mr. Patric....and having monitored the metrics that offer some measure of the performance of said women...... I am pretty certain that he would say "They have proven my point!"

John Patric

I knew Mr. Patric for nearly a quarter of a century, beginning with my high school years in Snohomish. He contributed much to my education at that time by recommending a series of books to read, from which I learned more than from much of my regular studies.

He told me he came back to Snohomish to start his paper, because that was the only place where no one could tell him: "Go back where you came from!"

He did not have much respect for the Seattle dailies, referring to them as the "Pea-Eye" and the "Seattle Crimes". But he did read the Daily Olympian. He once took me to Olympia and introduced me to editor Dean Shacklett, for whom he had respect. The Olympian and the Saturday Evening Free Press exchanged subs for some years, even up. Patric had more imagination and interesting experiences than any other ten men I have met. Just the Hugo N. Frye petition story could have been the basis for a small book. Its origins go back to Patric's high school days, and a letter he sent to the great Edmund Meany, who was then teaching history at the University of Washington.

His and Riis's Repairman book began as a project in the old Readers Digest, and the issue in which it appeared sold more copies than any previous issue of that magazine. Patric knew DeWitt Wallace, and how the genius Wallace began a new magazine in the middle of the depression, when many other magazines were going out of business. Like the old Digest, the Free Press had absolutely no advertising, so that its publisher could print anything he pleased.

Thanks!

Great information. I remember Mr. Shacklett as editor as well. I seldom agreed with his editorials, but met him a couple times and could see he had a sense of humor that could connect with Mr. Patric.

Patric's trial and his victory for the right to be odd sounds worthy of a whole book just by itself. 

Aaaah Dear John

I knew him in the early 1970's. In fact was something of a companion. I was almost 30 at the time. I think I can explain some of his excentricities as he disclosed a lot, I was a good listener. One of his ancestors (great grandfather) founded the town of Snohomish. He looked on it as a personal place not just a town. The town of Snohomish sits on the Snohomish river, at one time navigable to Pudget Sound and a stopping point for steamboats who went "up river" from Pudget Sound. Not sternwheeler steamboats but propeller driven ones. John had been a great lover of the Saturday Evening Post which his mother subscribed to when he was young. For him it was truly a love affair. He learned to love writing and being a writer from it. Hence later the Saturday Evening Free Press, an echo of the name. John was a High School graduate and went to work as a newspaper reporter. He worked for a number of major newspapers in Washington State. In the 1970's newspaper reporters loved him because he always provided them with a story when they had gone bone-dry for ideas. They made their editor happy with something always "news-worthy" and John was always "news-worthy". He knew how to tell his side with literary finese (albeit without delacacy). You never forgot his description. He covered many major criminal trials in the 1920's and told me, "Never be afraid of the judge or the lawyers in a courtroom. Most people lose because they are." True to form he wasn't afraid of saying anything pertaining to the charges or subjects brought up. Hence, he was "out-spoken", a polite term for his style. He became, in the 1930's, the "lead writer" for the National Geographic magazine. Another of his reading materials as a youth. He was very proud of that, for "lead writer" meant that when his article was published in the National Geographic it was the first article of the list, the "lead" article. He helped found the Readers Digest Magazine. He wrote for it until they began to accept "hootch" (i.e. booze) advertising. "Hootch" being his favorite term for distillants, he had seen the 1920's "hootching age", and was adamantly opposed to "hootch" it's producers and any advertising for it. He quit the Readers Digest over its advertising the stuff. His claim was he was promised by the founder that they never would accept "hootch ads" but when the magazine became successful the owner "betrayed" his promise. John wrote his book, "Yankee Hobo in the Orient", in Oregon and published it himself. He not only wrote it, he printed it and even bound the books himself and then peddled them out of his "old valise", a old battered, bruised, brown leather atrocity with a rope handle, broken latches, and held closed by an old piece of laundry line properly knotted. He loved to bring it, bulging with improprieties, into Courtrooms as he was defendent with legal defense being pro se (for himself). As far as I know, he never lost a Court case. He returned to Snohomish to retire he said after a life of world wide travel and writing. As he put it "like an old Salmon returning to its spawning grounds to die". He found the town under the heel of "political corruption", in fact the whole county and was willing to act against it. His "spawning grounds" had become polluted. So he founded his news-letter, which he called a newspaper. 8 1/2 by 11 inch sized because he could get the paper cheap and in bulk. His press was an old letter press which could be run manually without power if needs be using the large flywheel on the side. Spin it and the press worked. He had a line-o-type machine, Serial number 9, probably one of the first ones made. He had learned how to setup all the machinery and run it from various places he worked. Experienced men taught him when he was younger because he wanted to learn. All his gear he bought at auctions at the State Peniteniary since "old stuff wasn't good enough for convicted criminals". It was good enough for him. He always ran for Governor of Washington. His reason was that he criticized the politicians so much he ought to be willing to be elected to office. As Governor he would seek to abolish the office as it was nothing but a money sieve on the treasury and the State could do without it. Besides he didn't want all the work. Sad to hear "old John" has gone to his reward. He fought corruption with a vengeance and his opponents knew it. He was incorruptable.

WW

Great stuff! Thanks for contributing. 

Questions about John Patric

I thought John Patric was from Frying Pan Creek, Florence, Oregon. I even went there in 1997 - Frying Pan Creek turned out to be a pretty dismal place, heavily wooded, not much of a creek, very primitive road at creek-side, mailboxes along the road every quarter mile or so (but the corresponding houses could not be seen through the bush). It was like something out of James Dickey's "Deliverance." Indeed, I had to do research in the local public library to even find it as no one in Florence seemed to have heard of Frying Pan Creek. Interestingly, the librarian told me someone had been through there a month earlier trying to find out about Patric. More importantly, what ever happened to his other book, "Hobo Years"? It was supposed to be finished except for illustrations when "Yankee Hobo in the Orient" was revised.

Hardcore Patric scholars can

Hardcore Patric scholars can find some of his papers and publications in State Archives. He certainly deserves more recognition than my minimal coverage. He was a true Washington State original.

The Top 20 Satirical Candidates Of All Time

The Museum of Hoaxes counted Patric as # 9 in the Top 20 Satirical Candidates Of All Time.

Nice

Your a Internet citation. Congrats. I think.

Patric's infamous nicknames

I lived in Snohomish through the 1970s and was well acquainted with John Patric. He was hard to avoid, particularly since I worked for the local weekly newspaper, The Snohomish County Tribune, or as Patric called it, The Sodomish County Flattersheet, then owned by Bill (“Bigdome Billie” [see below]) Bates. Somewhere, I still have a photograph of the first house fire I ever covered as a reporter/photographer. The house was his. 

Recently, while clearing out my archives, I ran across about a dozen copies of The Saturday Evening Free Press. I read them all looking, hoping for the one edition in which he blessed me with an official Patric nickname, but it wasn’t there. He named me “Bred Ferd”. My real name is Fred Bird. His nickname for me was quite tame compared to the many semi-libelous nicknames he created for folks who irritated him and it hard to not eventually irritate him. Still, I was honored with being anointed by Patric as a member of the local ruling class, although you would never have known that by my salary. 

I know some of those infamous nicknames, but it would be fun and a historic challenge to collect them all. Contact fredbird46@gmail.com.

Thanks Fred

What a fun project. And feel free to share more Patric memories any time here on OlyBlog.

john patric

 Well folks, I am John Patric's niece and let me tell you growing up in Snohomish in the fifties and sixties with him running loose was not easy.  My life took a serious social nosedive.  Because what defense does one have to having relatives whose behavior runs the gamut from eccentric to downright crazy?  And I won't even get into his brother, my father, Bill Patrick.  Eccentricity, when squelched, oozes out someplace else.  I've been fighting it my whole life.  Along with all the rote labeling of being a mental case.  I'm charmed to read how others found his being a crackpot endearing.  I have a cache of letters written by him but am looking for an elusive 6" stack, typed on onionskin of course to save on postage, that he wrote to the editor of the Snohomish Tribune, an incredibly delightful 87-year-old that it has just recently been my pleasure to make the acquaintance of. Who cetainly jousted with the Patric(k) brothers on a regular basis.

Welcome to OlyBlog

and thanks for commenting, Mary. Given your unique perspective, I think you have the makings of a very interesting book.

yeah truly, He seemed quite

yeah truly, He seemed quite friendly when he asked if I subscribed to his periodical, The Saturday Evening Free Press.

yuvutu

solved

Many years ago it mustve been around 79 or 80, i was in the Everett public library. There was an older man in there desheveled,beard ,white hair ,glasses.He had a copy of Yankee Hobo In The  Orient in his hand,and was telling another man that he was the author.It  sounded interesting and wished to learn more about the book. When the opportunity arose i said "hello."In response i got a somewhat hostile Why did you say that?" i was only about 20 and not a little bit intimidated as he went on a diatribe about how he didnt know why id said what i did , but he defended my right to say it .Anyways i quicly left the scene but always wondered who that was. Reading the above posts i have no doubt it was Mr John Patric