Saturday Morning Kiddie Show

This is going to be VERY obscure to someone who wasn’t a child in Toledo, Ohio, in the 1970s and 1980s: Patches and Pockets.

And unfortunately, due to the locally produced nature of the show, I’ve found very little information about it.

First and foremost, it was produced specifically for Toledo, Ohio’s Channel 11 in the 1970s and 1980s, and was cut some time around 1988(?), when the affiliated national network (I think it was CBS, at the time, but I know some time in the early 1990s the network affiliation for either Channel 11 or Channel 13 switched with Channel 24 — unless I remember wrong, and it was Channels 24 and 36 that traded networks) decided it would be cheaper to broadcast the news or syndication programmes in the early a.m. hours than fund locally owned and produced programming for children. Considering how low-budget the show apparently was, utilising a nearly-bare stage with a plenthora of props and cheap “sets”, including plywood stand-ups, so that’s saying something. There are no DVDs of this to speak of, which I find to be really quite sad. Also, one of the women who was behind this, Sue Donner, who played Patches (the sister doll, with the yellow hair), died at the age of 78 exactly two years ago this coming Wednesday (26 June 2011). Apparently the show was noteworthy enough, having run eighteen years and being one of the longest-running local children’s shows, and not to mention one of the last (especially for a VHF channel), to earn a Wikipedia page thag hasn’t been flagged for a merge or removal.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember as much about this as I’d like to. I remember it existed, I remember who was Patches and who was Pockets (the brother, with the red hair), and I remember the living in a toybox concept. I also remember that Pockets put his shoe on his head a lot, as his “thinking cap”, and I remember that I mimicked that periodically, myself. I remember that I liked the show a lot, but damned if I can remember what I liked most about it, other than the thinking cap.

About six years after Patches and Pockets ended, a similar Canadian program, The Big Comfy Couch appeared on PBS. Now, it was similar, but not really a copycat program. On The Big Comfy Couch, a grown woman in her twenties portrayed Loonette, a clown child approximately three to five years old, and a puppeteer operated a doll puppet, and the show mostly took place on an oversized couch set; Patches and Pockets were a pair of dolls based to some extent on Raggedy Ann and Andy, and the show generally took place in the studio “neighbourhood”, but sometimes there were whole episodes filmed at Toledo locations, including the Toledo Zoo (rated #2 in the country, behind only the San Diego Zoo, throughout the 1980s), the main branch library, the Toledo Museum of Art, and other places. The Big Comfy Couch also had an expanded cast of recurring characters; Patches and Pockets really didn’t have any other characters. There’s not really enough of an overlap to claim in no uncertain terms that one programme influenced the other, but I noticed similarities immediately after I saw my first episode of The Big Comfy Couch, whilst babysitting.

  • Panda Rosa

    I remember Patches and Pockets, and the gentle fun of the two rag doll siblings. It is such a shame there’s no recordings of it beyond the snippets seen on YouTube.
    Living in Sandusky, I was also fortunate enough to get Barnaby and Captain Penny, both out of Cleveland.
    There are certain treasures only a Northern Ohio child of a certain era can know.

    • Ruadhán J McElroy

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if most episodes are still in the Channel 11 storage vaults or something, and I would certainly love a DVD, if one were to be released.

      A couple cousins of mine grew up in Detroit in the early 1970s, and so I’m aware of The Friendly Giant (who taught kids about the animals and plants in his garden), Kidbits (a science show), and a few other shows I seriously only just now misplaced the names for. Unfortunately, it seems that the rise of cable television inadvertently killed the market for locally-produced, low-budget children’s television. While I certainly appreciate the imagination and creative budgets in a lot of modern children’s programming, I think the locally-produced stuff like Patches & Pockets, High School Quiz (especially when a friend of my eldest sister was on a team representing Libbey High, one time), and others certainly did instil a sort of fondness for the city that I didn’t get anywhere else, cos the local focus and low budgets meant that, yeah, sometimes it was economical, as well as educational, to film an entire episode at the museum, or the old Portside Marketplace (which never did become the COSI extension they had planned), or the downtown library, and as a kid, I got to learn about places that made the city a nice place to live when my parents were too busy to remember those places existed.

      I don’t see a whole lot of that, anymore. The locally-owned UHF station is almost extinct, and Cable Access stations (at least in my own experiences) focus mainly on programming oriented toward adults.