There is no question that the Prize Patrol has become an American institution since its debut in 1988. They are the quintessential example of the phrase, “often imitated, never duplicated.” Since that first delivery in 1988 – to the Yancys in Texas – the stage was set for hundreds of classic winning moments to follow, such as the near-fainting of Thelma Seidenburg in 1988 to the unmitigated joy – and screaming – of Juanita Gray, another Texas winner, in 2017.
During the past 30 years, it’s estimated that there have been more than 2,000 Prize Patrol deliveries – in every state of the United States (as well as Canada, England, France, and Germany), to winners young and old, from all walks of life. And believe it or not, through the magic of video I’ve been able to see about half of them.
One of the most amazing things about all of these winning moments is that no two are the same. Sure, many of them share similarities – laughing, crying, screaming, disbelief – but each winning moment belongs to the individual winners, and it is they who make them not only special, but also classic.
Classic Winning Moment – John Wyllie, 2012
On August 31, 2012, the Prize Patrol travelled to White City, Ore., to present John Wyllie with the first-ever “Forever” prize. To me, this is a classic winning moment because of the outright, honest emotion John displayed with nary a thought about himself. Here’s how it unfolded:
Within moments of meeting Dave Sayer, John’s nervous energy took over. And with the realization of a win starting to sink in, John was overcome with emotion and immediately began to think of things he could do for others. With the “Big Check” in hand, John proudly announced, “Thank God, I can buy my dad a new house.” After being presented with his first $55,000 up front, John – who was on the verge of tears – said, “I’m going to try and help some other people if I can.”
Classic Winning Moment – Grace Webb, 1991
For the second classic winning moment, we have to travel back an additional 21 years to 1991. Dave and the Prize Patrol were in Michigan to surprise Grace Webb with a choice – accept a check for $25,000 or take the keys to a brand-new Nissan 300ZX!
Grace’s utter exuberance and joy would later cause Dave to remark that Grace was easily the loudest PCH prizewinner he had ever met. While she seemed somewhat skeptical to begin with, once Dave announced that she was a winner, Grace loudly exclaimed, “YOU”RE KIDDING!” After that, Grace was overcome with such emotion that she was laugh-crying – hardly able to control her tears and definitely not able to control her joy.
To me, the unrestrained emotion is the essence of a classic winning moment. Just being able to witness the cornucopia of feelings and seeing how – once again – the Prize Patrol has changed someone’s life. And it’s another reminder why the Prize Patrol has become such an indelible part of American culture.
Want more classic winning moments? Then stay tuned because on August 23, I’ll take another look back at classic winning moments from the 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s!
Here’s hoping your winning moment is on its way,