Archive for Monday, October 27, 2008

Political memorabilia: That’s the ticket

October 27, 2008


Bill Peak, of Tonganoxie, and his wife, Kathy, have visited presidential estates around the country, and have dedicated a room in their home to political memorabilia.

Bill Peak, of Tonganoxie, and his wife, Kathy, have visited presidential estates around the country, and have dedicated a room in their home to political memorabilia.

When Bill and Kathy Peak were married 14 years ago, they, as any couple, planned out their honeymoon.

The Bahamas? Nah.

Europe? No way.

Try the former homes of dead presidents.

In their 14 years together, the Peaks have planned vacations geared toward visiting such destinations.

Of 38 deceased presidents, the Peaks have visited the homes of 31 of them, including their gravesites.

The couple were married in Massachusetts and visited various historic sites in New England before heading to Andrew Jackson's Hermitage in Tennessee.

"It sounds a bit morbid, but they make great vacation places," said Bill Peak. He and his wife now live in Tonganoxie and are formerly of Lawrence.

Kathy said their first road trip on their honeymoon was for three weeks.

"Not the romantic getaway," she said with a laugh.

"For us, taking a road trip is like a real highlight for us. We really enjoy it."

Political, historic interests

Bill has been interested in history and politics since high school. He credits his teacher at Paola High School, Earl Ventura, with getting him interested in history, noting his teacher "was excellent; he tried to show both sides."

A high school junior in March 1968, Bill was in Lawrence to hear Robert Kennedy, who was running for president at the time, speak at Allen Fieldhouse.

"I was lucky enough to see Bobby Kennedy at KU; a friend got me in," Bill said.

Less than three months later, Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.

In 1969, he attended the funeral of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Abilene. The funeral had a major impact on Bill, who saw former President Lyndon B. Johnson there, along with President Richard Nixon, who was serving his first term at the time.

More recently, Bill has seen Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama on presidential campaign stops. Bill saw McCain earlier this year, and this month was in Kansas City, Mo., to see Obama.

"Honestly, I see the candidates just to see the candidates because the stump speech on both sides, they're going to tell you what you want to hear," Bill said.

Pushing the right buttons

Bill has become a collector of political memorabilia. He has plenty of political buttons, as well as an 1892 election ballot and other memorabilia.

He considers himself a moderate Democrat, but his memorabilia doesn't follow a straight ticket, as he has buttons of past and present Republican, Democratic and Socialist candidates.

Some buttons in his collection:

¢ Two buttons opposing Franklin D. Roosevelt that read: "No Third Term."

¢ An elaborate button shaped like a lock that reads: "White House lock, Bryan holds the key. 1908." It was a button supporting Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan.

¢ A Barack Obama button: "Half Honky, All Donkey."

Bill said his favorite button is a "To Hell With Hitler" button. He's also partial to a coin that granted people admission to the United States' 1876 centennial celebration.

Overall, Bill likes collecting buttons and other campaign memorabilia because it reflects how people felt during the time of those elections, noting the importance of knowing there are always two sides to each issue.

He never knows what he'll find, either. Kathy found an "Alf Landon for President" hand fan a few days ago at a store in Lawrence. On the back, hand-written, it was dated "July 23, 1936, Oneida, Ks."

Online, through auctions or garage sales, or at a store, Bill is eager to find buttons and the like.

More than politics

Bill and Kathy's home has a room reserved for display of Bill's memorabilia, which also has a photo of them with John Edwards, whom they saw a few years ago at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. There's also a photo of former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev that Bill captured during Gorbachev's 2005 visit to Kansas.

The couple has become involved in genealogy studies as well. Bill has traced his roots to 1730 thus far, while Kathy's been able to research back to 1629.

Today, though, the topic at hand is the Nov. 4 election.


donnamatthias 9 years, 6 months ago

And you couldn't mention that you were on the way to see another amazing thing! You're cousin getting married in PA to a confirmed batchelor???? Great article, I'll keep my eye out for addtions for your collection!!! Love ya both!! The new bride and groom!!!

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