Buttons from a great career

Posted 4/1/18

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Jasper and had a little time on my hands. It had been a while since I’d talked to my friend Yvonne, so I gave her a call. She seemed a little down. She and her …

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Buttons from a great career

Posted

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Jasper and had a little time on my hands. It had been a while since I’d talked to my friend Yvonne, so I gave her a call. She seemed a little down. She and her husband Charlie were together over half a century. This month marks the third anniversary of his death. 

She struggles at times. During our conversation, she mentioned a box of buttons. They were souvenirs that Charlie had collected through the years. She asked if I’d like to see them. That seemed like a perfect reason to visit an old friend.

Their Chihuahua Cookie met me at the door and barked me up. She’s as “old as the hills” as they used to say. We sat down at Yvonne’s kitchen table and talked. Her son Randall listened from the couch in the great room.

“Let me show you Charlie’s buttons,” she said. Pulling a cardboard shoebox out, she opened the lid. In the box were hundreds of buttons that Charlie had collected through the years.

Charlie served as field representative for Congressman Tom Bevill of Jasper. When Congressman Bevill could not attend a function in the area, Charlie was on hand. He became the congressman’s voice in the district. This job put him and Yvonne in the public eye for many years. 

The box contained buttons from the Arley Chitlin’ Festival, grand openings, and one from the Centennial Festival for Nauvoo, Alabama. A big red button said, “Love is ageless, visit a nursing home.” He saved buttons given to him by Miss Alabama. Others were from Walker College, the Lion’s Club, and a button promoting the 1980 Census.

Yvonne and Charlie joined Congressman Bevill for the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway celebration in 1985. There was a souvenir button in Charlie’s box that organizers gave him that day. Yvonne clanked through the box and pulled the memento out to show me.

Neither Yvonne nor Randy realized that Charlie had kept all the buttons until recently. Not only did Yvonne lose a husband of 58 years, but later that year, a fire damaged their home. 

Movers took their possessions from the house while workers made repairs on the house. It was when they were moving their belongings back in the house that they came across this box of mementos. 

Yvonne said she wasn’t sure why he never mentioned the souvenirs. Randy said he figures his dad didn’t think keeping the buttons was that big a deal. 

But flipping back through the box, it is evident that every button told a story. Keeping those buttons was a record that he was there. Yvonne and Charlie witnessed some of the most significant events in the state during those years he served.

He kept buttons to prove it. After our talk, she walked me to the door. “I still miss Charlie so much,” she said. Finding the buttons made her feel a little melancholy. Some of her friends tell her that she needs to move on with her life. I told her that’s easier said than done – especially when you’ve led an extraordinary life with someone you love.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@homefolkmedia.com.