Broad Street Beat is a column and may contain opinion.
I’m writing this in the final hours of 2022 as I can’t end the year without saying “Happy birthday” to something that has made a profound impact on the lives of many people — Happy — the simple robot with a simple message.
Most people in Augusta know my brother Leonard Zimmerman as Porkchop, the face behind the buttons and stickers that have made their way around the world, spawning a documentary and bringing smiles to others.
Happy started toward the end of 2012 as a poster on an 8-inch by 11.5-inch piece of paper.
My Facebook memories in November and December 2022 have been filled with memories of those early days of Happy.
Leonard put the posters up around downtown and noticed they went missing not long after. He thought people had taken them down and thrown them away, but through the power of social media, he learned they were hanging in people’s homes.
From there, the concept made it on a few billboards around town. He’s also created stickers and buttons. And oh, the buttons!
Share a button; share a smile
My husband and I attended a performance at the Miller Theater in early December. I have several Happy buttons on the lapel of my coat. The woman who scanned my ticket said excitedly, “Oh, I have the one in the snowflake” — one of the Christmas ones. I just smiled.
I’ll never forget going to Publix one day, and the checker saw the Happy button I was wearing. I don’t remember what she said that prompted me to take it off my shirt and give it to her. But I was glad I did. She had tears in her eyes as I gave it to her, and she thanked me. That made me cry. Something so simple, but it meant something to her.
And that’s the thing about Happy. One word and one smile can make the difference in someone’s life.
It’s not going through your life with your head in the sand. This life has horrible things that it brings, but through the bad, through the sad, there is still good. And focusing on the good helps get through the bad.
I have no idea how many Happy buttons have been made. I have so many. Each one has a message around the rim. They’ve marked weddings, the births of children, even a few divorces. They’ve brought awareness to diseases; they’ve marked holidays. They’ve just been fun.
I have a few special ones. He made one in honor of my dad who died on Dec. 2, 2020. At Christmas this year, he made one with a red cardinal — a symbol of a loved one who is no longer with us.
He made one in honor of my best friend, Pam Henry, who died in August 2019 of ovarian cancer.
He’s memorialized others through the buttons.
When my son danced for Carnival Cruise Lines, he had a pinata button; and my daughter had a button made with cruise ship towel animals as the featured image.
He also has a post office box for people to request Happy mail. Send him a stamped envelope with a name and address, and he’ll send them several stickers free. That’s P.O. Box 501, Augusta, GA 30903 if you’re interested.
I’ve taken a few of those stickers with me on trips. If I see a place where others have put stickers, I’ll add one. The sign at the port in Freeport, Bahamas, and the sign at Junkanoo Beach, Nassau, Bahamas as well as a sign in Brighton, England, had a Happy sticker at one time. Leonard made a sticker paying homage to David Bowie. I didn’t have that specific one when I was in Brixton in January 2020, so I left a Happy sticker next to the other tributes at the David Bowie Mural. I didn’t peel the backing off; just placed it in the corner.
And there’s a Happy mural next to Tire City on 10th Street and a lights display at Lights of the South.
In 2021, Leonard lent the use of Happy to raise money for cancer research. Happy to Help raised $10,000 for the Georgia Cancer Center.
A smile costs nothing but can mean so much.
So, here’s to “Happy” — Happy 10th and wishing you many more. And have a “Happy” 2023.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at email@example.com. Subscribe to the free Augusta Good News newsletter here.