By June Kosier of East Greenbush, NY


Do you know what koumpounophobia is? I bet you don’t and until recently, neither did I. I was amazed to find out what it is and even more stunned to know that there is such a fear especially since I collect the objects that are feared and belong to a club that centers around the objects—–buttons.

The word Koumpounophobia is derived from the Latin Koumpouno, meaning buttons, and Greek, phobos, meaning fear. This phobia is experienced by almost one in every 75,000 people. People suffering from Koumpounophobia tend to avoid clothes with buttons. Just the thought, discussion or sight of buttons can trigger a full-blown anxiety attack. A traumatic event in childhood may trigger this fear. Choking on a button, having grandma’s button box fall from a closet shelf spilling on one’s head, or having difficulty fastening buttons on one’s clothes leading to bullying are examples of such incidences. Childhood abuse by someone wearing buttons can also trigger this phobia. Some people may have koumpounophobia triggered by an event they cannot even remember.

There is a novel, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, which was also made into a movie in which the lead character, Coraline, develops koumpounophobia. Coraline discovers a parallel universe with sinister characters resembling her parents but having buttons for eyes.


There are different signs and symptoms of people with koumpounophobia. Some are afraid of all types of buttons. Some are afraid of buttons made of a certain material, such as plastic. In extreme cases, saying the word “buttons” or writing it down can send a koumpounophobic into hysteria. Some become nauseated with a button encounter. Some won’t attend formal events because there will be participants wearing clothing with buttons. Some individuals wash their hands repeatedly upon touching buttons unknowingly.

A famous person with this phobia was Steve Jobs. Do you ever remember seeing Mr. Jobs in a shirt with buttons? No, he always wore turtlenecks. Because of his koumpounophobia, the Apple Pro Mouse and the Magic Mouse don’t have an actual looking button, and iOS devices didn’t come with many buttons like traditional phones.

Fortunately, I don’t know anyone with this phobia. My home is filled with knickknacks made with buttons and I often put buttons on my needlework. At Christmas time, I have a tree decorated with ornaments made with buttons. I also make and wear jewelry made out of buttons. I have earrings, rings, bracelets and pins made with buttons. Coming to my home would be a nightmare for a koumpounophobic.

There are two button sayings which are: “Button, button who’s got the button?” and “Cute as a button.” I guess a koumpounophobic would not have a button nor consider any button cute.

By June Kosier of East Greenbush, NY


I was born in 1905 in Muscatine, Iowa and I was one of 1.5 billion of my kind born there that year. My mother was a freshwater mollusk found in the Mississippi river and harvested by one of the town’s citizens in a flat-bottom boat. I was cut, drilled and polished by machine and that was a bit scary. I am a cool dude. If you hold me next to your face, you will feel how cool a dude I am. I was put on a small card with five others just like me and sent to a dry goods store.

About six months later, the card was purchased by a farmer’s wife. She spent her time at night knitting and we were put on a white sweater she knitted and there we remained for about 40 years. The sweater got old and raggedy because the farmer’s wife wore that sweater almost every day; all day in the winter and during cool summer evenings.

In 1946, her granddaughter got married. The six of us were sewn on to the back of her wedding dress which was made by her mother. There was a lovely church ceremony and a reception in a hall afterwards. All the guests brought a covered dish or dessert and there was dancing with a paid band. The bride was complimented on her wedding dress and especially the six buttons on the back. Everyone mentioned how beautiful we were and how we stood out when she stood at the altar with her back to the guests. The bride told everyone who complimented her that the wedding gown was made by her mother and her grandmother gave her the buttons.

A year later, the new wife had a baby. For some reason, she cut up her wedding dress and made a Christening gown for her child. Us buttons were put in to service again. That Christening gown was worn by nine babies in all; seven boys and two girls.

When the girls got married in a double ceremony, their mother gave each of them three of us for their wedding gowns. This time we were used on the front of the dresses. There we stayed for another 20 years.

Then the daughter of one of the girls took her mother’s dress and had it remade into a more modern wedding dress with no buttons. I was one of the buttons removed from the original wedding gown. We were put into a metal can for safe keeping. The can of buttons was recently sold at a garage sale and the buyer is sending all of us to the Holocaust Museum in Visalia, California. They are collecting 6 million buttons, one for every person who was killed in the Holocaust. They want school children visiting the museum to see just how many 6 million is. It is a very worthwhile project. I suspect this will be my home for many years.

I have had an interesting life. I have been a family member for over a century and now I will be part of a museum.

About June: June belongs to the Mohawk Valley Button Club. She started collecting buttons back in the 90’s to use in her counted cross stitch projects, but got really busy collecting around 2004 after she retired. June lives in East Greenbush, NY.

Kathy Doody – Proud Winner of the Ugliest Button Contest

Looking for a fun idea for an upcoming club meeting? Consider a hunt for the ugliest button. The Fingerlakes Button Club did just that.


At the June meeting, members enjoyed presenting their ugliest button for consideration, and everyone got to vote for their favorite. The vote ended in a tie until the mail carrier stepped in and broke it.


Kathy Doody took home the coveted award. The rule is that the winner must keep the award on display in their home for all visitors to see for one year. Then she will bring it back for the next person who wins.

 

Last week Linda Hickey of the Rochester Button Club was invited to give a talk to residents in the town of Irondequoit on the history of buttons and why people love to collect them as a hobby.

Most everyone knows of at least one family member who has a jar or stash of buttons in their house. But how often do people think about where the button came from, or who wore the button? This everyday object is treated much like a worthless penny. But when one considers how long the button and other closures have been around, the vast quantities, and multitude of materials a button is created from, one starts to think about a button in a more appreciative way.

When Linda presents, it’s not a ‘death by PowerPoint’ slide presentation. Linda supplements her talks with her own personal collection of buttons, books and crafts that she displays on several tables making it easy for her to show real examples of the various types of buttons collectors love. She has everything from metal picture buttons to bone underwear buttons. And Linda encourages attendees to pick them up for a closer look.

Where a lot of collectors look for ‘pretty’ buttons, Linda likes buttons that she believes most people would consider ugly. She also prefers collecting more modern buttons. Despite what she likes to collect, she has a big selection of many types of antique, vintage and current day buttons on cards. Everything from calico buttons, military buttons, celluloid, Bakelite, glass of all colors, vegetable ivory, bone, horn, shell, and then all of the various metals – brass, silver, pewter… the types are endless. In her talk she shares what was popular during various centuries and what’s popular today.

At this session, the attendees expressed a new found appreciation for buttons, and all agreed it was a presentation worth hearing and a hobby worth considering.

If you are interested in having a button club member provide a similar demonstration about buttons, don’t hesitate to contact a club president in your area. The New York State Button Society Presidents are listed in this website under ” Our Clubs.”

 

This week I received an email from Gavin asking for some button research assistance:

“Hello my name is Gavin and I found a New York State seal button metal detecting. I’m not sure what period it is from and who would he wearing such button. I was wondering if you could help me out and do some research on it. I’m having a terribly hard time finding it online. The back mark says “superior quality.”  Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you.” 

New York State Seal Cuff Button

Button Back – “Superior Quality”

 

I shared Gavin’s email with the Google Group “ButtonBytes” and J. Fraizer provided an answer – mystery solved! 

 

“Your cuff button is a “New York City Seal” button from 1920’s and continued for some time. It would have been worn by uniformed city employees. Police and Fire Dept. had their own buttons. The “Superior Quality” backmark was used by all the major button manufacturers. Hope this helps. J. Frazier”

 

 

Meet Edith Krystan – 97 Years Young – A Member of the Rochester Button Club since 2010

One recent 96 degree evening I had the pleasure of interviewing Edith Krystan – aka my mother-in-law – for this button bio. As the ‘senior’ member of our club, Edith was chosen to be our first ‘buttion bio’.

Edith has been associated with buttons for longer than I have known her, in fact, even longer than I have been alive. For years and years (actually since the age of 6) she sewed and knitted everything from hats and scarves, to dresses, aprons, and totes – all adorned with buttons. Most of her handiwork would then be donated to the town for delivery to those less fortunate. Unfortunately, some good things come to an end as her arthritis has curtailed this endeavor.

One day my mother, Alta Doty and my wife, Kristine Doty (members of the Rochester club) introduced Edith to the amazing world of button collecting and the ‘unique’ members of the Rochester Button Club. And so her collecting adventures began…..noting how surprised she was to sell over $100 of buttons at her first meeting!

What does she enjoy collecting? Her current passion is for 3 holed buttons – proud that she has 3 so far, but we notice that she is also quick to check out buckles – any size, color or shape. Her favorite material to collect is shell / mother of pearl ….because light splits when it hits them like a prism. Her collection has been built from garage sales, other members, and sales at our area summer picnics…..never spending more than $2.00!

Ask her how she promotes her button hobby and she will tell you that she gives many away and repeatedly tries to get family members to look thru her ‘treasures’. So just what does a 97 year old do with her buttons? Some are sorted into plastic cups, some are sorted into her ‘button box’ drawers for use as a fastener or embellishment, some go onto cards for personal enjoyment, many get stored in mason jars for decorating around the house, and the rest are destined to be given away.

So, as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story…….

Prepared by Dale Doty