Currents
A Time for Buttons and Off-The-Cuff Remarks
Some of the topics we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

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    “Being with likeminded people and the camaraderie that has come with being a member of a Texas button club is a prize in itself. It’s heartwarming to see a grandmother and granddaughter having a discussion over such a small little object,” says collector Marlene Tucker of Axtell, a member of Navasota Valley Electric Cooperative. “Buttons can bring history close enough to hold in your hand.”
    Silhouette: R. Kathesi | Shutterstock.com. Button headdress: Sayanjo | Shutterstock.com
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    After LBJ so forcefully rejected Peter Hurd’s official portrait of the president, a running joke started that “artists should be seen around the White House—but not Hurd.”
    frame: karinaBak | dreamstime.com. LBJ: Estate of Peter Hurd | Courtesy National Portrait Gallery
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    Are you up to the challenge of setting your personal electronics aside for the National Day of Unplugging?
    Megapixelina | Shutterstock.com

Buttons are things of beauty to collectors, who gather for a show every year. This year the show is in Waco. Folks gathered for a show in 1967 in Snyder to see something ugly—or at least what the president called ugly. It was Lyndon B. Johnson’s own portrait, which he wanted nothing to do with after he saw it.

 

Gluttons for Buttons

Some people collect buttons as a hobby—but not the plain buttons that the rest of us lose off our clothes from time to time. Their quest involves historic, distinctive and rare buttons.

“Buttons hold history, art, materials, workmanship, whimsy, sentiment, social expression and the imagination of the button-maker,” says Marlene Tucker of Axtell, a member of the Brazos Button Club in Waco who owns about 1,000 buttons.

“Hunting for buttons in antique shops across Texas is one of my favorite things to do.”

The Brazos club this year hosts the Texas State Button Society’s Annual Spring Show, March 31–April 2 at the Hilton Waco.

“Buttons are made of some of the oddest things. Have you ever heard of a button made of human hair?” says Tucker, a member of Navasota Valley Electric Cooperative. Buttons come in glass, metal, horn, ivory, bamboo, cork, fabric, leather, paper, pearl, rubber, jade, Lucite, vegetable ivory, wood, turquoise and coral, she says. “My personal favorites are the china and bone underwear buttons and the Goodyear rubber buttons.”

 

Did You Know?

Buttons made news 25 years ago. Felicidad Noriega, wife of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, was arrested March 20, 1992, in Miami and charged with stealing 27 buttons from expensive clothing. She and another woman allegedly clipped $305 worth of buttons, causing $1,321 in damage to clothing.

 

Portrait Vetoed

Famed landscape artist Peter Hurd was commissioned 50 years ago to paint the official White House portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson, but upon seeing the tempera painting, LBJ rejected it, calling it “the ugliest thing I ever saw.”

Hurd disagreed and decided to show it to the public. The portrait debuted March 12, 1967, at Diamond M Museum in Snyder, attracting the largest crowd the museum had ever seen. Later, Hurd donated it to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, where it still hangs.

LBJ didn’t make it easy for artists to capture his likeness. He granted Hurd only two sittings for the portrait, and he nodded off during one of them. The president also posed for Norman Rockwell but tried to rush him through the 20-minute session.

“I decided to do the best I could, but he was just sitting there glowering at me,” Rockwell recalled.

 

Worth Repeating

“Electricity is the only thing that’s fast enough to carry the messages that make us who we are.” — Dr. Rodolfo Llinás, Neuroscientist

 

Here They Come

Spring break is this month, and two Texas destinations show up on many lists of the most popular getaways: Austin (music, food, high-tech vibe) and South Padre Island (beaches, swimsuits).

 

Disconnect To Reconnect

The first Friday in March is the National Day of Unplugging—a 24-hour period when people unplug, talk, relax and do things not involving electronics and social media. Ironically, disconnecting helps people reconnect with each other and allows time to unwind, relax, reflect and get outdoors. Unplugging helps reduce the electric bill, too!

This year, the holiday from technology begins the evening of March 3 and ends the evening of March 4. Before you shut down your computer, visit nationaldayofunplugging.com.

 

By The Numbers: 12

If the University of Connecticut wins the Women’s Final Four—March 31 and April 2 in Dallas—it will extend the Huskies’ record to 12 championships in the sport.

They have won the past four women’s basketball titles and have been to the past nine Final Fours. UConn also won the past two Women’s Final Fours in Texas—2010 and 2002, both in San Antonio.