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.