Stadri is pleased to have a very special guest author writing a series of articles for us—Paul Elshoff, Founder and First Officer of the Winnipeg chapter of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club. In addition to riding motorcycles, Paul has served in various armed forces and cadets and is a licensed private pilot. Since these are all areas that rely heavily on custom embroidered patches, we couldn’t think of anyone better to be writing for us!
What is an embroidered patch truly worth?
After all, embroidered patches are merely a few square inches of cloth and thread, right?
Well, let's look at other little pieces of cloth. Let’s start with a light blue ribbon containing a group of white stars. It represents the Congressional Medal of Honor. How about the simple maroon ribbon, representing the Victoria Cross—the highest military honor awarded to armed forces members in the British Military? Merely little pieces of cloth? I don't think so.
Now I realize you are highly unlikely to ever see either one, but imagine what it took to earn one, and the pride with which it is worn. Shortly before his death, Canadian Victoria Cross winner "Smokey" Smith said he wore his not for himself, but to honor those who gave even more but didn't survive to wear one themselves. I've never met a holder of a senior military decoration who didn't think he wasn't worthy of it or who wasn't humble about his holding it.
Ask any Victorian Cross or Metal of Honor holder "How much?" pointing at his ribbon and you may get his answer applied to the end of your nose. These are priceless, as they should be, but all they are are specialized patches.
In my own experience, I hold my wings. I earned them with the help of a Royal Canadian Air Cadets scholarship back in 1963. When I passed my exams and earned my private pilot's license I was presented with a set of wings by our chief instructor. They were lovely, with gold braid on a black background with "BNAC" for the Brant Norfolk Aero Club. I wore them with pride for many years, but back in the late 80's the jacket they were sewn on was stolen from the cloakroom at a club I was visiting. Now many of you would say, "Go buy another set." Aside from the lost sentimental value, there's another problem. The club went through a re-organization and renaming. They are no longer the BNAC and they have none of the old wings left. Every year, I sent a note to the manager asking to put a notice on their bulletin board to see if anyone has a set they'd be willing to part with, but to no avail.
Those wings probably cost the flying club a whopping $2 back then, but they meant a lot more than that to me. Since none of the old timers who earned their wings back then have been willing to part with theirs I'd say I'm not alone in that sentiment.
Some of the patches I've worn with pride include:
- Royal Canadian Air Cadets, 172 York Squadron
- BNAC wings (Brant Norfolk Aero Club)
- Air Cadets wings
- Royal Canadian Air Force (blazer pocket patch)
- Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment (band patch worn with civvies)
- Southern Cruisers Riding Club (11 inch back patch from our US headquarters)
- "Meet in the Middle" patch (Stadri, my first order)
- Southern Cruisers Winnipeg Chapter patch (Stadri, second order)
What is a patch worth? Not much in cash, but it can be a hugely valued keepsake to the wearer, calling up memories of how they came to have it, from the Victoria Crosses and Medals of Honor to the union member who has traded his apprentice one for the journeyman's version, to the vet wearing his Veterans of Foreign Wars branch patch. You can't measure the value of a patch in money. It must be measured in pride.
Paul Elshoff was born in Toronto but has been a resident of Winnipeg since 1976. He has been a motorcyclist since 1961 and is the Founder and First Officer of the Winnipeg chapter of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club. In addition, he has served in various armed forces and cadets and has been a licensed private pilot since 1963.