November 19, 2020
“Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?” Do you remember that childhood game? While attending country school at Oak Creek during the winter months, we would play all sorts of games that were enjoyed while remaining inside the warm schoolhouse. Some of the students would stand or sit in a circle with their hands in a prayer-like position. A person would place a button in their hand, also in a prayer like position, and walk around the circle moving their hand in between each person’s folded hands. Only the person placing the button and the one receiving the button would know where the button was. After going around the circle, the person who knew it was placed within their hands did not let on. Then it was time for the person who was tagged “it” to have to guess which person held the button. With all hands remaining folded, it made it hard for the “it” person to guess who held it. Someone would call out “Button, Button, Who’s Got The Button?” The guessing would be made but they were only allowed so many guesses. It was a fun game.
Along with those cold winter days while attending country school, I remember my mother checking our winter coats as we prepared to leave for school. That must be a “mother” thing as I did the same thing with my sons as they prepared to leave for school or when going outside to play in the snow. It was a caring gesture as my mother would reach down and make sure every button was fastened just so. It was another button memory.
Then there were the button stashes. Most grandmothers in years past had a button collection stash. My Grandmother Daisy kepte her button stash in a round metal container with a metal lid, much like a purchased fruit cake would come in. She kept the container in her foot stool where most of her hand sewing things were kept. The foot stool was in her living room. Whenever a great- grandchild came to visit, they got to play with her button collection. Of course the youngest ones weren’t allowed as it was afraid a button would be placed in their mouth, but the children from about three to 12 enjoyed looking and playing with all the different shapes and colored buttons. My sons went right to Great-Grandma’s foot stool seeking out the button stash when we visited her.
Not sure where Grandmother Daisy’s button stash ended up, but I inherited another button collection, or stash, from my husband’s grandmother. It’s kept in a glass jar so by just lifting up the jar and looking, a person can admire the different buttons. It was those sweet and frugal women who raised their family in the 1920s through the 1950s who knew buttons were costly and hard to come by so they kept them. These women sewed for their family, making shirts, dresses, jackets, suits and coats. Whenever a garment wore out, the buttons were clipped off and stashed away in the button container so they could be used again. The buttons came in handy when a button was lost off a garment and needed to be replaced. Most of today’s garments are store bought and so button collecting has become a thing of the past.
As I check out the button stash I had inherited. Buttons can be found in all sizes and shapes, colors and styles. There is a two inch, yellow colored “Bakelite” button that was made out of early plastic from around 1920 to 50. There are some metal ones in different patterns; some white pearl like ones; and some jet black ones. There are brown ones that feel heavy, almost like they are made out of stone. There are buttons covered in fabric that probably once matched the material of a garment. There are bright colored small buttons that once went on a little girl’s dress. The small brown, white or black buttons probably went on a man’s shirt or a woman’s dress. There are are some termed to be of the “Art Deco” style that once were on a 1930s women’s suit jacket or on a stylist dress. One thing that fascinated me in that jar is a string of many neutral colored buttons, much like a “choker” necklace. Maybe they were sold that way to be taken off the string one by one. I treasure these buttons!
A few button collectors and books address the value of many of them. While attending estate auctions, these button stashes can be found in small buckets, jars and cans but you have to seek them out.
In time, the zippers replaced buttons. Collecting the buttons for future use has stopped. Stashing buttons is now a thing of the past.