The Early Years: A Retrospective Told in Buttons and Pins


Like most kids I collected various things throughout my childhood, including stuffed animals, horse figurines, knives with antler handles, stamps, and a button collection. Most of my collections were given away or sold at garage sales over the years as they lost meaning or garnered scorn for their age inappropriateness (although I still keep my prize horses boxed up in the basement). Somehow, my button collection escaped the purging episodes of my mother, myself, and the multiple moves I went through.

So when my buttons resurfaced recently, I wondered…would they reveal anything about my childhood that I had forgotten? Would they say anything about my current state, 20 years later? Given the current button craze, how would my buttons stack up? Was it time to finally purge my button collection, two decades too late?

Kermit the Frog, I Partied at Pietro's, Oh Happy Day, I Got My Shot, Bee Happy, a bear with balloons, a monkey with a green bowtie, a blue ice cream cone, a pink T-Rex, a pinker brontosaurus, a unicorn with a "G" on it, Boss Snoopy
I believe I gathered these buttons of my own volition.

I compiled my favorite buttons (namely, the ones I actually remember) into a mini-autobiography. Come on, nobody else was going to write it, so I took matters into my own hands. Turns out, most people like it when you hand them an autobiography instead of a business card.

The 45-second story of my life from 1981-1989, told in buttons & pins.

Wooden Oregon pin, horse pin, State of Oregon seal pin, I Heart Oregon, Buffalo Power: MHS, Madras White Buffs
I grew up in Madras, Oregon.
Bikathon Rider, Max Out, Without Geography You're Nowhere (two of them), McGruff the Fire Dog (two of them), Save the Earth, Just Say No (two of them), You and Me Drug Free
As a youngster I participated in things, including a bike-a-thon on a hotwheels tricycle, geography bees, fire safety training and coloring contests about staying drug free.
I'm Trilling, Keyboard Carnival, Home Brew is Good For You, a puffy plastic button with a cat on it eating a toothbrush and spitting out a yellow fish (cat button courtesy a Japanese exchange student
Random buttons. I do like to trill and might attend a keyboard carnival again if asked. I don't like home brew (or brew of any kind), and I definitely don't like it when cats brush their teeth and spit out fish bones.
Velkommen til B&O Oplevelsesshow, Hug Me I'm Danish, I've got a liking for a Viking!, Come to Bed: Scandia Down Shops, Din Smarte Sweater, Aalborg Lufthavn, Dane for a Day, Teddy Bear Club
I spent a good amount of my childhood in Danmark, where apparently they give out buttons like candy: at concerts, at the down comforter store, at the airport.
TWA wings, SAS wings, an Idaho potato button, Discover Oklahoma!, Idaho The Great Getaway, Welcome to Beautiful Union County, Vienna pin, Berlin Jewish Museum pin, Oregon Trail pin, Statue of Liberty pin
Traveling as a child was mostly determined by my parents. Danmark, Idaho, Danmark, Idaho, New York. I've never been to Oklahoma; I'm not sure where that pin came from. Maybe a trucker?
Speed Control (two of them), Ask me about AAUW, no biggy, Academic All Stars, Kids first, Boardhan 87, Invest in Yourself, Childcare...so Oregon can work, Treasuerer 88 Tony Meeker, No on 5, Now is the time, Alliance for early intervention, It's time to settle, You gotta have art, it's you and me kid, 100th Anniversary of the bill of rights
My parents also gave me lots of buttons to fill out the collection. They weren't cool then, they aren't cool now. Thanks mom and dad.

While I’m pretty sure I’ll never wear both of my “With Geography, You’re Nowhere” buttons around town, I think I’ll hang on to the collection for a bit longer…just in case Idaho has a button shortage and wants their spud pin back.

6 comments on “The Early Years: A Retrospective Told in Buttons and Pins

  1. Hard to pinpoint (yes, pun intended) just one fave out of all these, but “It’s Time To Settle” is pretty fantastic. Is it some sort of promotion for mediation services? Or just a semi-pessimistic view on life? Either way I am infatuated with its mediocrity. Thanks for curating such a splendid collection!

  2. WOW WOW WOW. I’m astounded by your button collection. And that’s a great life story book you made. As a hoarder, I commend you for actually doing something with a collection that’s survived this long. Perhaps I can commission you to make something cool out of my sticker books.

  3. I believe I’ll need to dig up some competing and just as absurd buttons from my own collection. Maybe we can start trading?

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