For someone who says as a young man he had no real qualifications, Patrick Murphy’s journey through life has been an interesting one. His new book, Candy Men, chronicling the life of his Great Grandparent’s candy empire during their quest to capture the American dream, has hit the bookshelves and is doing remarkably well.
But to understand what brought Patrick to this point in his life, we have to go back to the ’70s to his accidental introduction into the world of the entertainment business.
“When I got to school in 1970, I was in my early twenties, not really qualified to do anything and wanted to see the world, so I lived in Europe for a few years, hitchhiking and doing odd jobs,” Patrick recalls. “When I came back, I worked a factory job at a tuna cannery in L. A., repaired gas pumps for Missouri farmers, and washed dishes at restaurants.”
By the time he heard about a news opening at the local radio station KWMU, he knew it was time to buckle down and get serious. And he had found something that was not only fun but something he loved.
“I was terrible, but the salary was so low that they hired me anyway. They asked if I knew how to work the radio board and I said, 'Yeah, sure', when I really had no idea,” laughs Patrick. “My shift started at six a.m. on a Sunday with the first 30 seconds of dead air, so I figured if I messed up, nobody was listening,” he mused.
Patrick’s parents both worked in radio when he was a child, but he says it wasn’t ever something he thought about doing while growing up. But here he was in radio, now shifting from news to rock and roll at a number of stations until 1981 when he was hired as the announcer between programs at Nine PBS. He would come to be known as “The Voice of Channel Nine.” By watching others, Patrick says he learned to produce documentaries, and from 2000 to 2015, served as the station’s vice president of production.
”I also signed with a talent agency and joined AFTRA, the union for the American Federation of Television, Radio Artists, screen actors guild, which led to all kinds of work," explains Patrick. “I thought, wow, I can actually make a living reading narration, appearing on camera, and selling products...I like that.”
Forty years later he is still producing shows for the station, but now through a mutual agreement, only a limited number per year. That gave him more time to write about the Irish ancestors he’d heard so many stories about.
“I actually felt like I knew people who died before I was born because their stories made them seem so real,” Patrick explains. “My grandfather's brother, my Uncle Fred, worked at the factory around the turn of the century and he used to tell us marvelous stories,” he added.
In 1967, Patrick’s father actually interviewed Uncle Fred on tape discussing the intriguing family saga.
“I couldn't have written the book without him, and that's priceless,” Patrick recalls. “I know my father would be pleased that I’m letting the world know the Murphy's were a part of this story,” he added.
The book, filled with pictures and drama, recounts the story of two temperamental, Irish families in search of the American dream. Patrick’s rebellious great-grandfather comes to America with candy making as the only skill under his belt, marries Margaret Switzer, teams up with her brother, and the Murphy-Switzer Candy Company is born. Through two World Wars, a depression, a bankruptcy, an explosion, and a buy-out, Patrick does a terrific job of recounting the trials and the tribulations of three generations of these two families.
“I always felt it would be interesting to write a book about them because it's a story with a lot of drama,” says Patrick. “So, I did a lot of research, got all fired up, and thought I can do this,” he added.
As far as his personal life, Patrick and his wife Annie, as he lovingly calls her, live in Webster and will soon celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary.
“We met at a magazine photo shoot, and it was love at first sight. I asked her to marry me on our third date,” beams Patrick.
When it comes to retiring, Patrick says not to expect it anytime soon. He is currently finishing the film adaptation of Candy Men that will air June 10 on Nine PBS, writing a second book to come out in the fall, and working on a Missouri 200-anniversary celebration show at the Sheldon. And in his spare time, whenever that is, he develops his artwork, exhibiting and selling his watercolors and woodcuts in galleries and at art fairs.
So is there anything this multi-talented man can’t do well?
“I've been trying to become a decent guitarist for 50 years and I’m still not there. That's the one thing that I wish I could do, but I haven't given up, there's still time,” Patrick laughs.
I guess you could say that Patrick, like his great grandfather before him, is also living the American dream.
The book Candy Men can be purchased at CandyMenTheBook.com.