The Button Box

I use it now to hold current memorabilia like favorite concert tickets and postcards. Along with a cotton boll my mother gave me years ago to remind me always of Mississippi. My daddy’s glasses and his old elementary school report cards (Junior Kerr, Burnside Consolidated School, Fifth Grade, 1929). And even though those things appear to fill it up, the Button Box has a bottomless capacity for memories.

Louisville, Mississippi (pronounced “Lewisville”) is where both of my parents were raised. My dad was known as “Junior,” and his three sisters, my aunts, were Kat, Dinky and Dot. And my grandmother was known to the children as “Mema.” The seven first-cousins on the Kerr side of my family would converge on Mema’s house all at once or in separate visits and turn the old wooden Bloodhound tobacco box upside down and pour out its treasures. Empty and full thread spools, odd buttons that didn’t match any others in the house, keys that went to long lost locks, and a broken watch which, as the saying goes, was still right at least twice a day.

My grandmother had a television in the 1960s, but the reception resulted in a snowy, hissy picture with a blurry, black and white image, at best. She had a contraption on top of it that was supposed to aim the antenna toward the nearest TV station, though it appeared from the picture on the screen that the gizmo was mainly for looks.

The Button Box

That’s where the Button Box came in. It was better than TV, which we could watch at home anytime. I can vividly remember the anticipation of playing with all the junk in that box whenever it was announced that we were going to visit Mema. Even with enough manufactured toys to stock a small store in my room in Jackson, my mind immediately began to envision the treasures held in the Button Box when we started driving to Louisville.

How Mema came to have that particular box we don’t know. But my cousins and I are certainly glad it came to her. The tax stamp on the entire box which had held who knows how many plugs of tobacco was a whopping five cents. The stamp is still on the box, along with the red image of a hound going after its prey. And inside are a million childhood memories that seven adults spread from Philadelphia, Mississippi to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania still cherish.

The original song, “The Button Box,” by Les Kerr is available on I-tunes and other music websites.  Autographed CDs available at www.leskerr.com.
Text and photograph copyright 2011 by Les Kerr.
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About Les Kerr

Les Kerr is a songwriter, recording artist, journalist and author originally from the Gulf Coast now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn More about Les at www.leskerr.com
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2 Responses to The Button Box

  1. Melissa L. says:

    I think we all had those that we played with back then. There was a dark green Singer heavy duty cardboard box, a wood carved box, a beige plastic box, and of course the sewing baskets/totes.

    My Mawmaw Presley lived outside Louisville proper, out by Nanih Wayah. It was SO hard to get any decent tv but she insisted on watching Lawrence Welk but we could rarely get things us grandkids wanted to watch so we had to create our own fun.

    I still have several old button boxes from relatives. Seems I must be the only one collecting junk that seems worthless to the rest of the family. I was just going through one the other day. It had nurses scissors (it was one from my other grandmother who was a nurse), the start of a fine crochet lace piece probably for a doily or table cloth, a couple of really old touristy match books among other things. OH and my grandfather who died long before I was born, made all sorts of things – a potato curler that made the piles of curly fries (he made that by hand over 65 years ago), wood pieces, and these yarn kittens out of wool yarn. The ‘jig’ or ‘pattern’ that he made out of thin pieces of wood were in there. So I now have one of the kittens and the tool he invented to make them.

    I used to sit for hours going through sewing boxes – Uncle Jim (really a cousin) would carve old wood spools into tops for me and put a match stick in to use to spin them. So I was always looking for empty spools. And I loved wrapping all the loose thread and then catching the ends in the little notches. Oh, and pinking shears – loved cutting scraps with them. And the gold turtle pin cushion with an avocado green velvet back and a head and tail that bobbled around. There was even a rattle snake tale in a clear tube in Mawmaw Presley’s.

    Not only were they entertainment to us as kids, but maybe more importantly, they are full of wonderful memories to us as adults.

  2. the south in my mouth says:

    Your post really resonates with me. I have a little “Cinderella” tin made in England that holds all the tiny plastic toys we would get in Cracker Jack boxes as a child. I still play with them!

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