by Chris Clemens
I love finding other New Yorkers who are passionate about discovering some element of our state’s heritage. I also love finding others who have interesting hobbies and collections. When I find someone who has an interesting hobby or collection directly related to New York, I’m all in.
That’s why when I discovered Kyle of Syracuse on Instagram and his collection of municipal patches from local responders, I wanted to know more. He was kind enough to indulge my curiosity and shared a bunch of photos and answered a few questions. Checkout the designs on some of these patches! I had no idea we had Fire Departments and Police Units with such unique art!
Kyle is a Senior Patrol Leader for his Boy Scout Troop 220 in Syracuse, as well as the Lodge Historian for the Order of the Arrow Lowanne – Niamt Lodge. For his collection, he focuses mainly on New York State Fire and Police agencies, New York City and State agencies, as well as Syracuse and Onondaga County patches. He also collects patches from California state level agencies, and from Los Angeles.
What is it about patches that has you so interested?
Honestly, it’s just fun. I enjoy seeing the patches from all across the United States and the World.
Is there a particular type of patch that you seek?
I look for any New York State agencies. Fire, Police, EMS, and state level agencies, as well Los Angeles City and County, California State level agencies, and any city I’ve visited.
What was the first patch you got, and how long ago was that?
I got the current and old style Syracuse Fire Department patches from my dad when I was very young because he was on the job and just like every little kid, firemen were my heroes and I wanted to be one.
How many in the collection total?
An ungodly number, haha. Probably somewhere around 230!
What’s your favorite?
I have to pick just one? I would have to say the vintage Syracuse Fire Department patch I received from my grandfather. It was on his uniform, so the patch even pre-dates my dad being born.
What do you intend to do with all these patches?
My favorites (the local agencies) are hung up on the wall in my bedroom. The rest of the collection are stored in a couple of old ammo tins I got from my uncle.
Do you have any particularly rare patches? What makes them rare?
I have several particularly rare ones. One is an old Monroe County Sheriff’s Pistol Team patch. I also have a Lake Placid Police Patch, current issue, which is rare because they don’t usually give them out to the public. When I saw the Lake Placid patch online, I had to have it. I also have a few defunct Onondaga County Fire patches, and the afore-mentioned vintage Syracuse Fire Department ones.
Where do you get your patches?
I started out with about 5 patches from my father and grandfather’s career. I trade any duplicates I had in the early stages of collecting. I’ve purchased a few here and there. Some folks have given me a few freebies because they liked seeing young kids interested in it, or wanted to help me start my collection.
Are there any patches you really want but haven’t been able to find?
My “unicorn patch” is the New York State Police 1980 Olympic Task Force patch. I saw it in a display case in the Whiteface Mountain Lodge with ski patches. I’ve searched high and low, and can’t even find it online!!
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens