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Pushing their buttons
Collecting clubs extol virtues of the button
These are buttons are from a tray of buttons that depict Lover/ Couples.

Consider the button. Crocia Robertson has. So have other members of the Tennessee State Button Society and the General Coffee Button Society.
If you’re thinking round, functional, plain, simple and plastic … well, you don’t know buttons like these ladies know buttons.
“I always said that joining a button club is like starting college again. There’s so much to learn,” said Robertson of Winchester, who joins these two button groups when they have monthly meetings at Morrison Library.
She and her button-gathering companions have prize-winning collections to prove it.  They have square buttons and triangle buttons. They have buttons made of metal and glass, wood and porcelain, coconut shell and acrylic. 
They have carved buttons, hand-painted buttons, baked enamel buttons. They have buttons featuring animals, fish, vegetables, bugs, famous places, sports and military motifs, among hundreds of others.
And yes, their collections contain round buttons that are unique in some way.
Every one tells a story, said Debbie Stribling of Manchester, president of the General Coffee Button Society.
“You might find out about a button company that was in London in the 1800s or even earlier. It takes you down the past and you read all kinds of stories about all kinds of people. The people that invented the button … you learn a lot,” Stribling said.
Local members of the state society and the General Coffee Button Society have been meeting in Morrison since 2000. They usually have a dozen or so to attend, coming from as far as Cookeville and Winchester.
“We wanted to learn about the materials, the history, the customs, and the culture,” says Judy Worthington from Manchester.
 At its most recent meeting, many members of the group brought their entries they have prepared for the National Button Society’s competition in August.
Contestants are given categories such as “couples in romance,” “green,” and “fish” and are required to provide 20 or more examples which are judged based on material used, decorative finishes and rarity, among many other criteria.
“You’ve got to try to get as many different materials and embellishments as you can find,” said Linda Rhodes of McMinnville, president of the Tennessee State Button Society. She pointed to an ornate green button made of wood and metal, with red rhinestones circling the image of a man and woman singing. “This right here, they’ll (the judges) love this one because it’s got so much junk on it.”
Buttons prepared for competition are affixed to thick white paper, on which squares are printed. On each square a different button that represents the theme is glued. Underneath all of the buttons are short descriptions.
For instance, “Getting acquainted” is a description of a golden-trimmed button made of porcelain. There is a woman in a dress, looking up grinning at a man who is grinning back at her. He is wearing all purple. The background is made to resemble grass.
Another button is described as “trying to kiss.” Two rotund cartoon figures depict a man and woman trying to kiss, but can’t because of their large bellies.
“We wanted to learn about the materials, the history, the customs, and the culture,” says Judy from Manchester.

Members of the two button societies range in age from 50s to 80s, which is one reason why they sponsor a joint education project. They take their show on the road, so to speak, making presentations in hopes to get younger folks interested. They will have another exhibit at the Mountain Festival, held at Fall Creek Falls State Park, in September.
For Stribling, collecting buttons is a way to expand her mind.
“I think the things you learn through research, just bits of information you would have never known, is rewarding,” she said.

Shaina Johnson is a journalism student at MTSU. She was one of several students who spent a week in Warren County writing stories for the Southern Standard.