TAHLEQUAH (AP) - John Price thought skipping class Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, was OK, given the anticipated events of that particular day.
After all, getting a glimpse of then-President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, departing Air Force One after arriving at Dallas is something he can still picture in his mind.
“I can still remember watching the president and Jackie coming down the steps,” Price said. They were met by a crowd of others, waving furiously with excitement.
Price and a friend had ditched class at Southern Methodist University's seminary to see the spectacle.
When the two decided to leave, they were stopped to make way for the Kennedy's' car.
“To think his car drove right by us - it was right there,” said Price, motioning with his hands, “on the way to the parade where he died. We, of course, didn't know about it until we got back to campus.”
The day of Kennedy's assassination was a “rough day” for Dallas and the nation, Price said, and an especially bittersweet day for himself, because it was the day he went on a first date with his wife, Elizabeth.
Air Force One, carrying the man who had been suddenly thrust into presidency - Lyndon Johnson - flew right over us” while they were having dinner, he said, en route to Washington after a day of activity that had sent the nation into a tailspin.
“This is an icon of the experience,” Price said as he held up an old poster promoting Kennedy and Johnson as candidates. “The item itself is an icon of experience that was important in my life.”
He owns hundreds of political memorabilia items, including posters, matches, watches, bumper stickers, newspaper clippings, books and buttons dating back as far as 1859.
“I'm embarrassed that turnout in our national elections are so low,” Price said. “I think our kids need to be engaged in the process.”
Generations past were involved through these items, said Price, but today, young voters are often introduced to politics through other media, like the Internet.
That's OK, he says, whatever it takes to draw involvement.
His collection of historic political items includes a book from 1859 introducing a list of men with the potential of being named president during an 1860 election - men frequently written of in history books and others whom many people today may never have heard of.
The one name not in the book?
Abraham Lincoln, the Republican who led his party to victory that season and became one of the most talked-about presidents in history.
“We do a lot of polling right now,” said Price. “But this just goes to show you, you don't always know how things are going to work out.”
Buttons and bumper stickers from years past aren't much different than those of today, said Price.
“America needs (George) McGovern,” one reads. Another: “We can't afford four more years of Nixon.”
“The more you read, the more it sounds familiar,” said Price.
A full-page Dallas Times Herald advertisement on Nov. 1, 1964, for Barry Goldwater's campaign and targeting opponent Hubert Humphrey, had a block of text deleted by the newspaper “on advice of legal counsel.”
The ad also claimed Humphrey was in favor of socializing the U.S.; recognizing Red China; aid to communist countries and turning the Panama Canal over to the United Nations.
Another full-page advertisement in support of Gerald Ford's campaign against Jimmy Carter portrayed a copy of Newsweek, which had recently interviewed Ford, and a copy of Playboy, which had interviewed Carter.
When picking a president, Ford said the U.S. citizens could read the Newsweek interview or the Playboy interview, the latter of which was a controversial move during the ‘70s.
“Buttons first date back to George Washington,” said Price.
One of the first read: “G.W., long live the president!”
“In 1896, they really began to be used extensively for campaigning,” Price said. “They were much smaller in the old days.”
His oldest campaign button is one for Grover Cleveland.
Others cover local and national politics, from simple messages to more in-depth issues.
“This one was ironic,” Price joked, holding up a button that claimed, “Nixon's the One!”
“It was put out by the Nixon campaign, but after it became more clear what he was doing,” said Price, referring to the Watergate scandal, “I admit, I pulled it out and started wearing it.”
One button simply read “.59” and referred to a time when women were making that amount, compared to a man's $1.
Another, he said, proved Democrats do pray: “Please, God, no more Republicans!” and to be politically fair, another read: “Happiness is voting Republican.”
Dispersed among his table of goodies were other interesting artifacts. A particularly notable one was an edition of “Weekly World News” from 2000, depicting George W. Bush shaking hands with an alien and claiming “Space Alien Backs Bush For President!” and, of course, noting the same alien helped Bill Clinton secure the position in ‘92. There was also a George W. Jack-in-the-box, along with stacks of cartoons.
And wristwatches, too.
“Spiro Agnew was the vice president under Nixon,” said Price. “I had a Spiro Agnew wristwatch that I wore, and the week he was forced to resign, the watch stopped working,” said Price. “True story! And I could never get it started again.”
Through all the messages, Price said one thing is certain through generations of political races and popular or unpopular conquests.
“Negative campaigning has always been around,” he said. “We're not always dealing with brand-new issues. And as you look at history through these icons, we see how much going on today was going on then.”
A small portion of John Price's political memorabilia is on display at the Tahlequah Public Library, and will be available for viewing throughout October.