“My Mother’s Button Box ” – Leonard Sullivan
Mother’s button box was similar to the can a fruit cake might come in today. The “can” was probably twelve inches in diameter and five inches deep. This little “treasure chest” held every color, shape and size button ever designed. If a button was lost off a garment, there was always a match, or near match, for the missing button in this colorful collection.
On rainy, snowy or extremely cold days when a child was homebound, the button box would provide some entertainment. The button box could be poured out on the floor and sorted by colors, sizes, and shapes. Buttons could be strung to make bracelets, necklaces, and other creations. A spinning toy could be made from a large button and a loop of string. You must realize children were much easier to entertain before television and cell phones. I am certain that parents would receive a warning from Washington today, “Don’t let your children play with buttons. They might swallow them and choke.”
I asked the elderly lady who was checking me out at Hancocks, with my one button, if she had made a spinning toy from a button and a piece of string. She said yes, she had, but she had never bought a button. She always got a button from her mother’s button box. I could not believe how much I paid for that one single button. Based on the cost of that button, mother’s button box contained about three thousand dollars’ worth of buttons, making it a real “Treasure Box”.
I must explain where all of these buttons came from. They came from clothing items that were beyond mending and patching. These button-free garments were rarely thrown away. The materials were cut into squares and saved for use in a future quilt. The legs from jeans or overalls made perfect mop rags. This was when a mop was a clamp on a handle. The mop purchaser supplied the mop rag. White shirts were torn into strips and saved for bandaging cut feet, fingers and other wounds. This was a time when thrift was considered a virtue.
We must remember that the children that came out of the Great Depression are now called the “Greatest Generation”.